Village Improvement Society marks 100 years of service in Yarmouth

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YARMOUTH — A community group that has worked to improve Yarmouth for 100 years will celebrate its accomplishments, its members and its goals on June 12.

The motto of the Village Improvement Society – “To protect and improve the natural advantages and the pleasing appearance of Yarmouth, to excite and foster an interest and love of our town” – is the same as it was 100 years ago, but the organization is looking to adapt with the times. 

The group created a new website, has plans to launch a membership drive in the fall, and will begin a fundraising campaign to repair the Old Meeting House steeple.

Board member Christie Harriman said she joined the group as a young woman when her children started school.

“I was looking for something to do in the mornings and I wanted to meet new people,” she said. “I’ve been a member for about 30 years.”

Founded in 1911 by resident Harriet Bird, the VIS has worked to maintain the village feel in Yarmouth. In 1910 the organization cleaned and improved the grounds at the Grand Trunk Station, which is now the Village Florist, and in 1911 members raised enough money to create the Village Green Park. The group founded Clean Up Week in 1914 and has helped to preserve the Old Meeting House on Hillside Avenue since 1917. 

In 1957, VIS planned a museum for the top floor of the Merrill Memorial Library and in 1960 the museum’s offspring, the Yarmouth Historical Society, was incorporated.

The warming hut behind the Log Cabin was built by the VIS  and the organization continues to support the Herbie Tree project, the Clam Festival, the Easter Egg Hunt in Royal River Park and the Summer Arts Series.

The group presented a graduating senior with the Yarmouth Improvement Award and sponsored the writer’s prompt for the kindergarten through eighth-grade essay contest. The VIS also plans to install six informational signs at the Royal River Park to outline the river and its historical significance.

Harriman said there is a 12-member board of trustees and nearly 50 active members but new faces are always welcome. Membership is $15 a year, she said.

“I know there are not many stay-at-home parents these days and people are very busy, but we do a lot for the community and try to make village improvements,” Harriman said. “Members really do want to make Yarmouth a better place to live.”

To celebrate the 100th anniversary, the group will host a picnic at Royal River Park on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. There will be food, refreshments, entertainment and hat-making for children. Women are encouraged to wear hats representative of the 1910s, Harriman said. From 2-3 p.m. residents are invited to visit the Old Meeting House on Hillside Avenue.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Christie Harriman, left, and Mary Louise Haskell are members of the Village Improvement Society in Yarmouth. Harriman is the publicity chairwoman and has been a member for nearly 30 years. Haskell’s great-aunt Harriet Bird was the founder of the organization 100 years ago.

The Village Improvement Society will celebrate its 100th anniversary Sunday, June 12, from noon to 2 p.m. at Royal River Park in Yarmouth. The board of trustees includes, front from left, Pru Heard, President Holly Holbrook, Barb Parkhurst and Pam Whitehead. Rear, from left, Maggie Nason, Susan Hasty, Becky Hamilton, Linda Grant, Carolyn Wilson and Christie Harriman.

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