Volunteers vital to Main Street

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Volunteers were the base as the Vandalia Main Street Program was started more than a decade ago, and volunteers have been a vital part of keeping the program going. Now, they will be more important than ever.
The Vandalia City Council learned on Monday night that Main Street, because it has lost its funding from the city, can no longer afford to pay an executive director, and that Dana Whiteman, the person most recently serving in that position, has already been let go.
It comes as no surprise, really, as the decision to cut Main Street funding is one of the steps that the city has taken to ease its budget deficit. The city, for many years, provided $15,000 annually to the organization.
The city’s contribution to Main Street was needed to pay someone who could concentrate on organizing and carrying out its programs. Funds generated through membership fees and donations are not sufficient to pay that expense.
Thus, it falls on Main Street’s executive board to lead the program, a challenge that will require the participation of numerous individuals willing to donate their time and efforts to the various aspects of the organization.
There are those who continue to dispute the need for such a program, but Main Street has been valuable to the community, particularly to the downtown business district. Its Paint the Town project has provided attractive facelifts to some of our downtown buildings, and it has continually focused on keeping our downtown businesses viable.
In her letter to the city council, the current Main Street president, Jo Lineberry, indicated that the organization will be undergoing a restructuring in the near future, in an effort to get back to its original focus of creating a finer spirit.
Those brainstorming discussions are needed as Main Street attempts to keep going without an executive director. But what’s needed more than anything is a strong volunteer base. Without that foundation, Main Street cannot succeed.
We’ve noted many times in the past how important volunteers are in many facets of our community. This is one of those facets.
We can continue to contend that our downtown business district, like those in other towns that have been greatly hurt by superstores and growth away from the downtown, or we can be part of the effort to prove the naysayers wrong.