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Donating time in Dalton: Volunteers bring community together

By Christina Redekopp 
IndeOnline.com correspondent

Like many people who volunteer in their communities, Marge Smith prefers to work behind the scenes. She does not seek credit or attention for the time she donates. But the Dalton resident happens to be a member of several local organizations, so when asked, she put together a list of the half dozen or so groups for which she volunteers so she wouldn’t forget one. The grandmother of three is a member of the Dalton Historical Society, Dalton Rotary, and Dalton Chamber of Commerce. She also is a volunteer for Dalton United Methodist Church, is a volunteer with the American Red Cross canteen, and she helps coordinate crafters for the annual Dalton Holiday Festival.

Smith also has been involved with the Yankee Peddler Festival at Clay’s Park Resort for almost 40 years.

And when asked if there is anything else she has done for Dalton over the years – as a volunteer or as an occupation – she pauses for a second and then adds: beautician, police dispatcher, water meter reader, and village employee providing janitorial services for many of the buildings such as the library and post office.

She laughed when she recounted that a friend once asked her whether she was going to run for mayor next. “That would be too much work,” she said.

But that’s not all.

Smith, mother of two grown children: Susan and Philip; and grandmother to three, had originally moved to Dalton in 1973 from Coshocton. What brought her to town was her husband, Glenn, had acquired the Canal Fulton Signal, Dalton Gazette and the Kidron News.

“At first, I was the most quiet person,” she said.

She helped her husband with the newspaper and also opened a little store in downtown Dalton with crafts, gifts and antiques.

Sadly, her husband died in 1990 at age 59. But she followed his example and became more and more involved in her community.

Glenn Smith was one of the original town criers for the festival, and now Marge Smith can be found at the information booth selling dried flower arrangements.

Volunteerism seems to be contagious. One of her grandsons is a town crier now for the Yankee Peddler Festival and her other grandson plays as a drummer in a band at the festival.

“Our whole family is involved with them,” she said. “It’s not a job, it’s an enjoyment. It’s a fun thing for me.”

She used to work in the office for the Chamber of Commerce and she has been involved with the Rotary for about 16 years. In 1987, she was asked to come to a meeting of the Dalton Holidays Festival and invited to help with the craft show.

“I was always wanting to find something to do,” she said.

That year, 80 crafters were in the two-day show and two years later, 99 spaces were filled. She seeks crafters from throughout the state and surrounding states by attending craft shows and picking up business cards and contacting people.

Smith doesn’t own a computer so she relies on phone calls and footwork to contact people to be crafters at the festival or when spreading the word about events at her church.

“I like meeting people,” Smith said. “It keeps me going and makes me get out and move and spread the word on this nice community we have here.”

The Next Generation

Smith’s volunteerism has grown over the years, and she recommends if anyone is interested in volunteering to attend a meeting or contact a member of an organization they’re interested in.

While Smith doesn’t need to rely on computers, Jennifer Miller browsed the Dalton Chamber of Commerce website looking for volunteer opportunities when she moved to Dalton from North Canton last year. Miller, 31, who works for a nonprofit organization, moved to the village of about 1,600 with her husband because it was a midway point between both of their jobs.

She discovered the Dalton Holidays Festival and it sparked some interest for her. Long-time volunteers like Marge Smith helped to  welcome Miller as a newcomer to the organization and the village.

“Marge (Smith) and the rest of the committee welcomed me warmly to Dalton and the festival,” Miller said. “In my first meeting, they took the time to describe the festival weekend to me, during which I could sense their passion and commitment to the event. Marge, in particular, is an inspiration because of her patient and encouraging spirit. She has been so involved over the years and sees the big picture of why the festival is important to our community.”

Miller has previously volunteered for Stark Parks. Now, she is the vice president of the Dalton Holidays Festival Committee. She also recommends anyone who is interested in volunteering to attend a meeting, talk to members and even begin browsing the web like she did to see what’s available.

“I think volunteerism pulls the community together,” Miller said. “It has helped me to learn more about the Dalton community and work toward a common goal. It ends up being a lot of fun.”

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