Castleton University athletes polish Fair Haven

(right to left) Castleton Track Team members Iyanna Williams, Ally Stearns, and Lara Cummings paint the entranceway of the Fair Haven Concerned Thrift Shop on Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Jon Olender)

By Katelyn Barcellos
Staff Writer

FAIR HAVEN — With help from Castleton University’s track and field team, downtown Fair Haven got a good, clean sweep last Thursday morning,

“This is what I was looking forward to,” said team coach Dave Heitkamp. “This is our project. We want to be able to help out.”

Having just returned to school after Easter break, 25 athletes and their coach arrived bright and early at the Fair Haven “Corner” on Main Street just before 10 a.m. to help tidy up the tiny town.

“All the teams at Castleton are doing something for community service,” Heitkamp said.

With the help of a loader, dump truck, brooms, rakes and shovels all donated by the town, students set to work spring cleaning from the Community Bank down to the Wooden Soldier Diner, crossing the street to tend to Carl Durfee’s storefront, and clearing up the bus station.

“They were a huge help,” said Public Works Foreman Jack Eaton. “There’s only three of us, and we always take volunteers.”

Students said they spent the morning sweeping for their lives, shoveling out loads of cigarette butts, paper clips and litter from the soon-to-be-sparkling streets.

“We’ve been out here for two hours,” said senior Lindsay Reno. “That’s a lot of sweeping.”

The students also spread a fresh coat of paint on interior sections of Fair Haven Concerned, whose heat assistance, rent assistance, food shelf and other resources are invaluable to the residents of Fair Haven, Benson and West Haven.

Long-time resident and President of the Board of Fair Haven Concerned Pam Berryhill, said the community has long since needed a sense of hope and hands to build. “We need to prove that we’re all stronger than our weaknesses,” Berryhill said. “It starts with baby steps. We’re headed in the right direction, this community is changing.”

Mark Gutel, owner and operator of Fair Haven’s Kinder Way Café and Farm Market, said the students brought a needed sense of enthusiasm and dedication to the commercial front that the store owners share with new town manager Joe Gunter.

“This is what we need,” Gutel said. “This is a strong community, and we all need to work together. And to have Joe totally behind this, he’s awesome.”

Gunter said he couldn’t be happier to see how locals and students combined efforts to beautify the area that all hope will bring people and business back to town.

“Perhaps what is most gratifying about this project is that it was organic to the community; locals recognized a need, they marshaled resources and achieved a goal,” Gunter said. “Downtown Fair Haven is going through a renaissance, and this project, along (with) the increased level of involvement we are seeing from residents, are reflections of that. It is definitely the time to be in Fair Haven.”

Castleton University junior Vytas Nielsen said the team felt indebted to the town for allowing Castleton athletes to use their high school track for practice, because Castleton doesn’t have one.

“Sometimes, we practice at the same time as the high school, and they let us share,” added junior Austin Beauregard. “Giving back is really important.”