Sara Spittel

Sara Spittel -- Supporting the Community


Sara SpittelThe way to get to know your community is to volunteer to serve on one of many and varied town boards and committees. They are all looking for members.

“It’s easy to get involved,” Sara Spittel said recently in a phone interview. “Being on local boards has helped me meet a whole variety of people. You get to know the community through these connections.”

Spittel retired as a Supervisor of the Checklist this year, after serving several terms. The stresses of that national election, plus the Covid-19 pandemic, convinced her it was time to step back. “At least for a while.” She didn’t close the door to getting involved again. Supervisor  was the last town office she held. “I started as a library trustee,” she said, and left that after many years, as treasurer. She also served several terms on the Planning Board, retiring from there in 2019 as chairman.

Sara and her husband Rob moved to Wilton 20 years ago from Arizona to be near her parents who were in declining health.

“I grew up in Surry, a little town near Keene,” she said. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire where she met her husband. They have two adult daughters, both of whom currently live in Chicago.

When they returned to New Hampshire, the idea was to live close to the Keene area, but to also have access to Boston for her husband’s career.  They found the perfect place, a historic house near Wilton Center, although Wilton was not on their original list of possibilities.

“We learned that Chauncy Ryder once lived here,” she said. “The barn was his studio.” Ryder (1868-1949) was an internationally known artist and a member of the Wilton Center Artists’ Colony in the early 1900s. He was known for his sweeping landscapes, many of them painted in the White Mountains.

“We really like having that little bit of local history,” she said. It’s another connection to her chosen home.

Sara Spittel - Wilton CaresDuring the pandemic she led Wilton Cares, “a grass-roots movement that moved from discussions of how vulnerable members of the community would be cared for during the Stay At Home order, into action.”

“Wilton Cares comprised a large group of volunteers helping people who were financially and medically compromised. It felt really good to be part of that incredible community effort,” she said. Among other things, that group provided a weekly hot meal for shut-ins during the lock down, as well as groceries and connections for at home help from neighbors.

Hiking has long been a part of Sara’s life, and walking the Appalachian Trail was a dream. “I learned about the Appalachian Trail during college on an Outward Bound program. We climbed Mount Katahdin and I saw those white blazes for the first time,” she recalled.  As she raised her family they did a lot of hiking in the White Mountains, “all the 4000-foot peaks, and the list called 52 With a View.”

In 2017 she walked The Long Trail in Vermont’s Green Mountains solo, “to see if I enjoyed long distance hiking. That took about three weeks and it was a really amazing.”

Sara Spittel on Mt. KatahdinIn 2019, she took six months, February through August, and hiked the Appalachian Trail in what is called a thru-hike, “all 2,200 miles of it. That was a transition year for me, from being a stay-at-home mom. Our youngest child was ready to graduate from college and both of my parents had died, after a care-giver for them for many years. It was a huge challenge to be gone from home for six months, but it was a time to reconnect with a different part of my self.”

The majority of people who start a thru-hike of Trail don’t complete it, only about 25% of people do, she said. Some hike it in sections over several years. She did it all at once.

“Then, after that larger than life experience of living on the trail and getting in touch with some of my strengths, Covid hit several months after returning home.”  Wilton Cares was a logical extension of her desire to be part of the community and put her feet on the ground in a different way all together.

Sara Spittel - beesWalking the trail gave her another interest – bee keeping. “Along the trail I stayed at several hostels where they kept bees. I decided with the encouragement of those folks, to give it a try when I returned home.” She is learning, she said, with the help of several local mentors, who give her another connection to the community. 

Sara Spittel  with chicken“I’m learning a ton, mostly that it’s high maintenance and a lot of work to help keep a hive alive and flourishing. Keeping chickens is much easier,” she said. “They have personalities and they reward you with daily eggs with very little effort.”

Wilton is now home, she said. “We love it here. Part of my leaving for six months, was to think about our future and where we wanted to be now that our parents have died and children have grown up.  We have made the decision to stay here, the community that has become home, and friends who have become family.  I will continue to be part of being involved in the Town. I would encourage people to get involved, and not just be a by-stander. Get to know your neighbors, and the ins and outs of the community.  You in return will benefit far greater from these experiences and connections than the Boards you volunteer for.”

And, she added, “If you’ve ever had a desire to hike the trail, just do it - there is no greater teacher than pushing yourself beyond what you thought you were capable.”
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