Volunteers deliver community news about  Heath for 40 years

  • The Heath Herald, Volume 41, No. 1, April/May 2019. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2019 10:58:43 PM

HEATH — Forty years ago this spring, a handful of Heathans, as many townspeople call themselves, gathered to produce the town’s first newspaper, The Heath Herald.

Four decades later, a volunteer group continues to produce the newspaper once every two months on 24 pages of color, A-4 paper. The paper costs $2 an issue to purchase or $12 for six, and can be mailed to the recipient’s household. Advertisers pay $5 per vertical column inch for black and white and $6 for color. Today, about 200 people subscribe to The Heath Herald, according to current Managing Editor Nancy Thane.

“Heathans just really care about each other,” Thane said. “It’s always been that way,”

Among a group of about six founders was Margaret “Pegge” Howland, who is now 92 and living in the same house the paper was conceived in Heath. Howland volunteered as the paper’s editor for 20 years.

“We spoke to each other and threw out ideas, and people began to volunteer based on their skills,” Howland said.

The Herald was created to provide a reliable source of news to the town, Howland said.

The paper was also designed to “bring the town together,” she said, as at that time, many in the community hailed from different places and did not know one another.

“There were people from cities and towns, people didn’t cooperate with each other,” Howland said. “They were modest and quiet and a little embarrassed. You don’t go around saying ‘hi guys.’”

Harriet Read offered an introduction to the Herald in its first edition, published April 1979. She wrote that the paper would serve as a non-partisan, one-stop source of community news for Heathans.

“Some time ago the idea of a newspaper for Heath began to take root,” Read wrote. “There are advantages to having topics of local interest presented from one source and now, with our quiet little town of yesteryear experiencing many changes due to influences beyond its boundaries, these advantages became even more apparent.”

News about the quiet little can also be found online at https://www.heathherald.org.

The first edition offered several reports: upcoming renovations for Sawyer Hall, a rise in vandalism and theft according to then Police Chief Lorin S. Gowdy, an annual Fireman’s Association meeting — plus news of a 30 percent tax hike in Heath, written by Howland.

“A whopping 30 percent increase in taxes this year has finally stirred the people of Heath to action,” Howland wrote.

While The Herald’s contents and purpose have remained similar, the paper has changed hands several times, with a group of six active members now producing it every other month.

At the paper’s helm are Thane and Content Director Deb Porter. Both women, among the six active volunteers, joined the newspaper in 2013 when the group at the time decided to retire.

Porter, who spent summers in Heath as a teenager and moved to Heath as a young adult, said she finds satisfaction in providing a “vehicle” to distribute town news to the community. A keen writer, she said she enjoys her particular job, which involves seeking out stories and writing them or asking townspeople to do so.

“I really enjoy going to people and asking them to write about something that they care about,” Porter said. “It’s been kind of enriching.”

The stories Porter has uncovered run the gamut from maple farms to traditional recipes to Hawlemont Elementary programs to longtime residents. Recently, Porter wrote a profile of resident Louis Pazmino, who at 95 is now the town’s oldest residents, she said.

And while the paper keeps Porter “reasonably busy,” she said she doesn’t mind volunteering as she “gets a lot of satisfaction of out it.”

“By splitting it up we really share the load,” Porter said. “It never seems like it’s burdensome.”

Thane said she has particularly enjoyed getting to know the fellow volunteers staffing the Herald.

“That’s actually a lot of fun,” Thane said. “We all get together get together at my house and we just start chatting and brainstorming.”

Reach Grace Bird at
gbird@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 280.


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