Dan & Whit’s Takes a Central Role in Norwich COVID-19 Response

Dan Fraser, owner of Dan and Whit’s general store in Norwich, is posting often on the Norwich Discussion List these days, usually opening with an inspirational quote. “‘Leaders never use the word failure. They look upon setbacks as learning experiences,’  (Brian Tracy).” “‘The true test of leadership is how you function in a crisis,’ (Brian Tracy).” “‘The three C’S of leadership are consideration, caring and courtesy. Be polite to everyone,’ (Brian Tracy).” Who is Brian Tracy? Dan says, “I have no idea who he is. He just has a lot of motivational quotes that seem to apply.”

Dan’s dry sense of humor is obvious on the phone as well as List posts. “I think it’s good to poke fun at ourselves, a little bit,” he told me, “to give some sense of normalcy to this time when there is no normalcy.” The List posts are more than motivational, though. They keep Norwich updated on the many projects Dan & Whit’s has undertaken for the community.

They’ve started a grocery delivery fund for folks who have lost their jobs, and a Feed the Front Lines fund through which people nominate medical professionals to receive free dinners. Another program allows community members to anonymously buy lunch for police officers, firefighters, and postal workers. Dan is collecting milk bottles for McNamara Dairy and Strafford Organic Creamery, and raising money for a Victory Gardens Fund, which will help community members establish gardens. More donations have been used to purchase groceries for the Haven. Dan & Whit’s is also encouraging Norwich residents to display unity by putting white ribbons up in their yards, and eggs in their windows for a local Easter egg hunt. For many, the crisis has only emphasized the importance of a town general store. “People are realizing that we are here for them, and that as much as they need us, we need them,” Dan said.

As for what folks can do to support their local businesses, Dan told me the most important thing is shopping locally and helping others if you are in a position to do so. “We’re all in this together, and sometimes you’re gonna need some help. And if you can help someone else, that’s great too. So it just depends which side of the coin you’re on at the time.” Step aside, Brian Tracy, because Dan’s sentiment would be a great motivational quote for a Community Discussion List post.

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Vital Communities will be posting periodic updates on local businesses who have adapted to continue providing services for the Upper Valley. If you have a story for us to share, please email info@vitalcommunities.org.

Family Project: Write a Quest For Your House!

Over these past few weeks I have experienced waves of anxiety and sadness, and at the same time such gratitude. I can’t imagine going through this crisis in any other part of the world. The Upper Valley is an amazing place filled with amazing people and places. I have the ability to walk out my door and witness first-hand the coming of spring as the buds emerge and the mud slowly dries. We invite you to take this coming week as a chance to celebrate the Upper Valley and our bonds to it. As part of this celebration consider discovering a local Quest or creating a Quest on your own.

We may not be able to leave our property much and we may not be able to visit our favorite Quest, yet we can find our own special places on our property or in our neighborhoods. This past week my kids and I decided to create a Quest of all the places that are special to our family on our property. It took us a couple of hours and once we were done we sent my husband out to follow our newly formed Quest clues.

Developing the Quest was fairly easy. First, we each made a list of  our favorite spots on the property. We decided where the Quest would start and walked to each of our favorite spots, figuring out the best sequence to follow. Once we had the sequence, we headed back inside to write our clues. The clues made us practice lots of rhyming as well as decide if we wanted to teach a few things along the way. We also created a map with illustrations and directional arrows. Once it was pulled together, we sent my husband out to test it. The kids loved watching their dad read their Quest and discover their special places on our property. They are also excited for their cousins to try the Quest (when they are able to visit again).

Try this out with your own family. Even if you don’t have a few acres you can do the same thing around a neighborhood, or inside your apartment. We all have a spot or two that we find special and everyone loves a treasure hunt. Send along a picture of your maps, clues, or Questing, or tag @vitalcommunities. We would love to see how you are celebrating your special places.

Steps:

  1. List your special spots.
  2. Walk the route you would like to take.
  3. Write your rhyming clues. Try to add some teaching points along with directional clues.
  4. Draw a map of the area.
  5. Test out the Quest.
  6. Save your Quest to share with others who visit once social distancing is relaxed.

Also check out our website for step-by-step videos on how to create a Quest.

Collier Quest April 2020

Start your adventure on a seat that swings.
Don’t wait too long and head to a place that could sting.

Head out to the deck.
Hang a compass around your neck.

South you will head as you leave the house.
Cross a field that certainly has a mouse.

Stop at the place honey is made.
In the hive you could find workers and drones that she laid

With the bees at your back
Compass you should not lack.

Go 60 east till you come to a tree with trunks of six
This white pine has lots of sticks.

Go down the hill to the fourth apple in the row.
How many apples do you think it will grow?

Move 28 steps to walk on water.
Check in the pond. Do you see an otter?

With your back to the dock walk north to the water that runs.
Your kids visit here and come home with wet buns.

Move upstream till the house is near.
You are almost done. Do not shed a tear.

Stop at the newly fallen tree.
Up the hill to the compost you see.

Go up hill to the place where veggies are grown.
You are almost there, don’t start to moan.

Look for your treasure where the hose hangs.
End your quest with the Collier gang!

From Fashion to Face Masks

On March 4th, Fat Hat clothing in Quechee was on track for its most profitable quarter ever. The brand’s easy-to-wear designs were in catalogues, such as Artful Home, and over 200 stores. That day, a truck left Los Angeles loaded with fabric destined for Fat Hat’s factory in New York City. Shortly after, California declared a state of emergency, and by the time the truck arrived in New York, a state of emergency had been declared there, too.

“It got to New York to unload and there was nobody there,” says Joan Ecker, founder and designer at Fat Hat. “Nobody was allowed to be. The elevators were shut down and the guy’s in the truck with all the fabric, with no place to go.” She couldn’t send it back to California, so the cloth sat in the truck for four days before she found someone in Long Island who could hold it. It’s still there today, waiting for the economy to reopen. Unable to continue production, and with further shutdowns closing their sales outlets, Joan and the Fat Hat team found a new direction: using their existing fabric supply to sew and donate face masks to those in the Upper Valley who need them. 

The face mask project emphasizes the family in family business. Joan cuts and irons the fabric herself, which her daughter’s boyfriend Leon Guedel then sews. Her daughter Jen organizes mask delivery while her other daughter Sara comes in once a week to staff the phones. Fat Hat’s main sewer, Lak Vorachak, and her sister-in-law, Linda Louangkhoth, continue to work from home. Another employee, Erica O’Hara, cuts more fabric in the basement. Fat Hat has already produced over 1,300 masks, which have found their way to housing developments, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Veterans Administration Hospital, local grocery stores, the correctional system, and more.

Community members can support Fat Hat’s efforts and help keep them in business by purchasing gift certificates. Fat Hat is also gladly accepting phone orders for clothing that they have in stock. “We are sitting here waiting for those phone calls happily, and we love to hear from people,” Joan says. “We’re like personal shoppers.” Given their expert questions about fit preferences and custom alterations, Fat Hat has gotten almost no returns.

And really, what better way to help a local business than by having your style personally customized by your brand’s designer herself? A new outfit might be just the thing to bring a little brightness into some difficult days.

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To order a Fat Hat Face Mask for pick up or delivery, call (802) 296-6646. You can also browse Fat Hat’s clothing collections at https://fathat.com/ and find them on Facebook. Orders must be made over the phone.

Vital Communities will be posting periodic updates on local businesses who have adapted to continue providing services for the Upper Valley. If you have a story for us to share, please email info@vitalcommunities.org.