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New Town Meeting podium in Greenfield created from venerable tree

Union Leader Correspondent

April 06. 2014 9:16PM

GREENFIELD — Though it looks brand new, the podium used at Town Meeting in March already has a long history and through the efforts of a local volunteer group, that history will continue.

In 2010, one of the old maple trees outside the meeting house fell victim to disease and had to come down, said resident Neal Brown.

“These maples are almost like a necklace around the meeting house, which is the crown jewel of our town, said Brown, president of the Greenfield Independent Volunteers (GIVers), a group of residents who give back to the town through special projects.

Instead of letting an important part of that necklace go to waste, the trunk of the 120-year-old rock maple, though damaged by disease, was salvaged by the GIVers, said member David Bridgewater.

“It was dragged to the wood yard and it sat there until we decided what to do with it,” he said.

After some consideration, it was decided that the wood harvested from the tree could be used to create a podium for use during meetings. Once the decision was made, folks from around town stepped in to help. A portable sawmill was used to create boards from the trunk. Those boards were dried with a kiln and planed at New England Forest Products, and the finished boards were brought to Bridgewater.

“David is a cabinetmaker and a darn good one too,” Brown said of Bridgewater.

Using the old tree was a challenge because disease had taken its toll on the wood.

“I had to work around the flaws and problems to build the podium,” Bridgewater said. “I’d never made one of these before.”

Working on and off for nearly six months, Bridgewater crafted the traditional Shaker-style podium using the best of what the tree had to offer, and in March at Town Meeting, the podium was put to use for the first time. Bridgewater even crafted a gavel from the same tree to accompany the podium.

“I would think if we came back here in 50 years it would still be in use,” said Brown.

Leaving a bit of history behind is part of the mission of the GIVers, he said. Their first endeavor when they formed more than a decade ago was to raise the funds for the Maltese cross that hangs on the town fire barn, said Brown. From there, the group worked to try and solve problems that the town didn’t have the time or resources to grapple with.

“We’re mostly retirees, older people with some time on our hands,” Brown said. “There are about 14 of us, with a small group of regulars and some reserves.”

The group handles all of the town’s Memorial Day activities, provides assistance to those who have nowhere else to turn, and runs a wood bank for folks who need a bit of help with winter heating.

“We just stick our nose in affairs where we think we would be wanted and try to help,” said Brown.

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