Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

August 29, 2013

Banner a vivid symbol of community pride

The Andover Townsman

---- — There are several achievements to celebrate in Andover this week — the first of which is plainly visible to anyone who happens to visit downtown.

Nine years after Mark Spencer thought it would be nice to fly a banner in town to promote some of Andover’s most popular community events, the local businessman took his place on Main Street Tuesday morning just as the sun was starting to rise and watched as the end result of his dogged persistence was unveiled.

To say that Spencer fought an arduous battle to get the first of what he hopes are recurring banners hung downtown is an understatement. Let’s just say that so much time has passed since the approval of the town bylaw that had to be created to allow for the promotional banner to fly downtown that parts of the bylaw are no longer valid and must be updated.

At times, Spencer likely wondered why he was investing so much of his valuable time in a 30-foot-wide, 36-inch-tall banner when he had a company to run, a family to nurture and hobbies to enjoy. Yet, he continued plugging away at countless meetings and through numerous discussions and negotiations because he saw value in the strip of nylon that he tirelessly pursued.

Spencer is adamant about calling the banner initiative a group effort. But we’re fairly sure the blue and yellow banner now suspended between 1 and 8 Main St. to promote the Sept. 7 Andover Day celebration never would have been hoisted into place if it wasn’t for Spencer leading the charge.

Sure it’s just a banner. But it’s a symbol of one man’s pride for his community and a desire to promote its events and attractions for all to see. And for that, the town should toast Spencer, just as the Andover Business Community Association did with a round of champagne this week.

Two other initiatives deserve pats on the back as well.

Thanks to the Andover Garden Club, parent volunteers and student interns, the sustainable garden at Andover High School is thriving once again and now has a healthy future ahead of it. Parent volunteers took control over the plot as it was about to go fallow last year and the garden club came through with a donation to help with equipment.

Now, an environmental science class is back in the curriculum and will make the garden part of its lesson plan. The garden is a good example of hands-on learning for students, and we’re glad to see that it will continue to reap some valuable benefits, at least for the foreseeable future.

A collaborative effort to create a memorable summer for youths at the Memorial Circle public housing complex is also worthy of recognition.

Through the efforts of parent Claire Stahley and town recreation director Kim Stamas and the generosity of the Andona Society, 24 youngsters got to spend their summer at day camp at Reservation Park. Kerri O’Dea, a special education teacher at Wood Hill Middle School, made sure the youths continued to sharpen their reading skills through a summer book club. And Phillips Academy student Liddy Kasraian of Andover organized a backpack drive to give the youths the tools to start the new school year off on the right foot.

The fact these achievements were brought about largely through the commitment of volunteers — with nothing to gain but improving the lives of others and making their community a better place to live — only makes them that much more deserving of praise.