‘Greeters’ slated for downtown Springfield
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | August 24,2013
SPRINGFIELD — Taking a page from their own Sunday services, volunteers from Springfield area churches will be “greeters” in downtown Springfield every evening — a new method of trying to stem crime.
The Rev. George Keeler of the North Springfield Baptist Church told members of Not In Our Town Springfield on Thursday evening that the Association of Springfield Area Churches had come up with the idea during a brainstorming session.
Greeters will be in the downtown area every night from 6 to 9 p.m., on foot and wearing T-shirts saying “Pride in Springfield” that will identify them as Springfield volunteers, he said.
The downtown greeters will be patterned after church greeters who are meant to make newcomers “feel they have a personal connection,” Keeler said.
By greeting people, he said, townspeople will defeat fear and violence.
“(Criminals) want that anonymity to provoke fear,” he said.
It’s important, he said, that people “live the change” they want in their town.
He told the gathering at Riverside Middle School that the church group had met with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Springfield On The Move to see if they agreed the innovative plan would work.
Keeler said the “greeters” would act as good-will ambassadors, and would greet everyone they saw, regardless of age. ‘‘Seniors or youth,” he said.
He said the greeters would have information about activities in town, as well as social services.
Earlier in the meeting, others said a sense of community and communication among all residents was key to a town not defining itself by its troubles.
Bill Brown said all towns have drug addicts and drug dealers, but a town should not let those problems define it.
Keeler said about a dozen area churches are members of the group, and enrollment is open to all churches.
He said the group will now meet to “flesh out” the plan, and try to have it in place in the beginning of September. He said they hope to kick it off by Sept. 7.
And he said for people who don’t want to walk around the downtown area, volunteers are also needed at the Eureka Schoolhouse, the state-owned historic site that acts as an information area for people visiting Springfield.
Not In Our Town Springfield was formed in the weeks after the June 19 drug sweep by Vermont State Police and other law enforcement agencies. A total of 32 Springfield area residents were arrested that day on charges of selling heroin.
While attendance at the Not In Our Town meetings has declined since its original meeting, which attracted more than 200 people, many in the gathering urged leaders to start taking action, rather than talking about issues.
Anyone who is interested in being a volunteer greeter can contact Keeler at 886-2672.
“We are recruiting from the community,” he said.