News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 21, 2019
Surry connects neighbors with neighbors
‘It’s about building a resilient community’

Surry Connects

Nancy Hathaway, represents Morgan Bay Zendo, one of 17 organizations offering information at Surry Connects on November 16.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Community group Neighbors Helping Neighbors held its first public event, Surry Connects, on Saturday, November 16, introducing residents to the resources in their own town. Within minutes of opening at 9:30 a.m., the elementary school gym was filled with representatives from local organizations and those wanting to learn about them.

“It’s about building a resilient community where everyone’s connected and feels good about being neighbors and friends,” said group member Chris Stark.

A sugared donut hot from Steve Belyea’s table-top fryer helped foster that community feeling.

“I call them shop donuts,” said Belyea, a former shop teacher.

In all, 17 local organizations offered information on the services they provide, from WindowDressers to Morgan Bay Zendo to The Gatherings to the Arbutus Grange.

“In every town there’s folks who know about the grange but there’s people [here] who say, ‘what’s the Arbutus Grange?’” said Stark.

Formed early in 2019, soon after the town joined Age-Friendly Coastal Communities, Neighbors Helping Neighbors undertook a community survey that showed a graying community whose residents could use a little more help—“That there are days I could use an extra hand,” said Selectman Betsy Armstrong—and companionship than they have at present.

Of the near-10 percent of adult Surry residents responding, 62 percent were female and 38 percent male; 49 percent were between 66 and 79 years old; 25 percent lived alone; 20 percent want more interactions with friends and neighbors; and 13 percent, according to the survey results, don’t know their neighbors.

“We have people who lived here 40 years and a half a block away and didn’t know each other,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong helped found Neighbors Helping Neighbors as a way to keep residents engaged in the community and the community engaged in them, through checking in on those who live alone, especially during the winter months, and helping with transportation needs and minor repairs.

Of the survey respondents, 30 percent said they need help with minor home chores or repairs; 15 percent sometimes depend on others for transportation; 9 percent don’t go places they need or want to because of a lack of transportation; and 15 percent stay home because they don’t want to go out alone.

That 60 percent of respondents were interested in volunteering to help provide services gave promise to the program.

“What do I have to do to join? Just live in town,” Armstrong said.

To request a check in, ride or emergency assistance, or to volunteer with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, contact the town office at 667-5912 or email