Donor Spotlight: Carolyn Russell

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Carolyn Russell was the project director for the Washington Meetinghouse documentary, "Meetinghouse: The Heart of Washington, NH." As a grant recipient, a donor, and attendee of programs, Carolyn offers a unique insight into New Hampshire Humanities. We recently had the pleasure of asking her some questions over lunch.

What was your first impression of New Hampshire Humanities?

I was Washington’s welfare officer, so I worked in the town hall which is in Washington’s historic meetinghouse. In my little matchbox of an office, I’d sit and think about everything that had happened within its walls. I was curious to know more. When I got the idea of documenting its history, someone said to me, "Try New Hampshire Humanities," so I picked up the phone and called. I knew absolutely nothing about applying for a grant and Susan Hatem worked with me to figure out how to proceed. So, my first impression of New Hampshire Humanities was "Thank God!" I felt like I’d grabbed onto a lifeline. Susan helped us think about content, find a videographer, and everything in between. It was a huge learning experience that culminated in the making of a documentary.

What was the impact of the grant on your community?

After the documentary was completed, we held a 225th birthday celebration of the meetinghouse. There were crafts of the day and demonstrations including sheep shearing, wool spinning, knitting, quilting, and hand hewing of logs as it would have been done at the time the meetinghouse was built. The documentary was the crown jewel of the celebration and the entire community came together for it, even standing outside in the rain because there were so many people inside. The entire project is now a part of the Washington town archives, and it has preserved the meetinghouse’s history for generations to come.

In your opinion, what is the most important work New Hampshire Humanities does?

I think your programs add a dimension to life outside of the formal education system. Your programs reach people who might not be able to access an academic-type situation, and you offer them across the state. My husband Jim and I went to one of your Humanities to Go fairs, and I was flabbergasted at the variety of programs you have.

What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a donor?

We became donors after the documentary project. We personally felt such a debt of gratitude that we wanted other people and communities to have the same opportunities we’d been given. We weren’t only grateful for the grant we received; the professional and moral support from staff was invaluable. Having someone say "We’re going to help you do this" was the extra nudge we needed to get the project off the ground. It wouldn’t have happened without the support of New Hampshire Humanities. That was the beginning of our giving.

What do you think we could do better?

Attract more donors so you can offer more programs around the state!

Thank you, Carolyn!

- Thank you to Lynn Douillette, Director of Annual Giving, who arranged and recorded this interview with the Russells.