Editorial: Small groups, individuals can reap great change

We have in previous editorials cited this well-known Margaret Meade quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In our papers in recent weeks we have written about how individuals and small groups have accomplished great things for their communities. In Greenport, former fire department captain Bob Jester is chairman of a department committee seeking a federal grant to purchase a fire rescue boat.

When this story first appeared, we received comments from readers who could not understand how the fire department in Greenport of all places did not have a first-class boat that could be used to rescue people in the harbor and also put out marine and shoreline fires.

Mr. Jester and his department colleagues went to work, researching exactly what would work for the village, how to get the training for those who would operate the boat, and where to get the approximately $900,000 needed for the purchase, along with upkeep and training.

If the department’s work leads to success, Greenport Village — and surrounding hamlets and towns — will be safer for it. We applaud the department for seeing a great need, and then working to meet it. Hopefully, the federal grant they are seeking through Rep. Nick LaLota’s office will be awarded. It is no exaggeration to say this kind of rescue boat is desperately needed in a village whose harbor is host to hundreds of yachts and a busy ferry terminal that transports hundreds of people daily.

We also want to mention two groups — Greenport Rotary and Southold Rotary — which this winter and spring are celebrating their 75th anniversaries. Combined, they both might have a total of 70 members. But their achievements go well beyond their numbers.

Both clubs are generous with their support of Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches. This remarkable camp serves special needs individuals. As Walter Krupski, a longtime member of Southold Rotary told us in our story, “we do all the good we can.”

Both clubs fund thousands of dollars in scholarships for local high school graduates. A few years back, Greenport Rotary funded the sending of 500 wheelchairs to Sierra Leone in Africa — a very good example of a small group of committed people helping others.

And, of course, this Rotary is behind the rebirth of the much-loved Greenport Express mini railroad, which is expected to be up and running by summer. The club raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring the railroad back and build a stationhouse. This is success on a grand scale for a small club.

We also want to mention Wesley Ackley, 27, the Baiting Hollow native who died from cancer on Jan. 24. The Riverhead Town Board has embraced the idea of renaming the town’s skate park in Wesley’s honor. As board member Ken Rothwell said, “The world needs role models and we need more inspirational stories, and that’s what we get when we listen to his story.”

In 2010, when Wesley was just 14, he stood up at a Town Board meeting in opposition to raising fees at the skate park, where he was an avid skateboarder. He said raising fees would severely impact younger town residents. He urged the board to do the opposite and lower the fees.

That, Wesley explained, would draw more kids to the park. In response to his plea, the Town Board tabled the proposal to raise fees. Later, the town stopped charging for use of the park — all based on Wesley’s appeal to the board.

So now, the park will be renamed in Wesley’s honor and a plaque will be added so that visitors can read his story. As Mr. Rothwell put it, “everyone on an individual basis can make a difference.”

When we talk about someone making a difference — in this case, a huge difference — how about Bill Gorga? On Tuesday, Mr. Gorga, an East Marion resident, helped rescue a 14-month-old child who was in the backseat of a car when it was hijacked in Greenport. Mr. Gorga and the grandmother of the child jumped in his car and chased the stolen car.

He cornered the stolen vehicle, which allowed the grandmother to jump into it with the 14-month-old child. This horrific episode ended with the arrest of Paul Ludeman, who now faces a list of serious charges as long as your arm.

The word ‘hero’ is often misused in headlines and news stories. It is 100% accurate in describing what Mr. Gorga did Tuesday.

For some, Margaret Meade’s wisdom is alive and well on the North Fork.