contentsMadison NJ Chamberads



By Maureen McLaughlin Byrne

It is a seasonally warm Saturday in early May. A large crowd of about 1000 residents, business owners, scouts, students and leaders fill the front steps of the regal Hartley Dodge Memorial building to join the throngs of volunteers for the annual May Day in Madison event. Local and state politicians take turns at the podium praising the remarkable spirit of volunteerism of the day, thirty school-aged musicians wearing identical Madison Music shirts treat the crowd to a few patriotic songs, and an adorable cluster of youngsters entertain with a traditional May Pole dance. Sometimes it seems as if Madison, NJ has popped right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

While the speeches, music and dance enhance the opening ceremony of May Day in Madison, the ceremony is not the event. The event is a full morning of volunteerism all over the town capped off with a huge community party. And this is not just any volunteer event and party. May Day is host to almost 1,000 volunteers who commit their Saturday morning to mulch, weed, clean and plant all the parks and public spaces in Madison. After a long morning of gardening (some start as early at 4am!), everyone is treated to free pizza donated by every pizzeria in town and drinks donated by local delis and markets. Live music provided by student musicians fills the air, and by 2:00 p.m. the entire town is beautified, refreshed and ready for spring. In the end, May Day in Madison volunteers and donations save the town and its tax payers close to $100,000 in landscaping and maintenance.

That is just one of countless examples of how Madison is a community of volunteers like no other. Bottle Hill Day, Madison’s bustling street fair and fund raiser, is coordinated and run by volunteers. The Taste of Madison is coordinated and run by volunteers. The Madison Music & Arts (AMA) which supports arts and culture in the public schools is an organization staffed by volunteers. The Madison Education Fund who in this last school year awarded over $120,000 in educational grants to our public schools is operated entirely by volunteers. The undefeated Madison Track and Field team is coached by an all volunteer staff. Truly the list goes on and on.

On your next walk through Madison’s Rockwellesque downtown, take a minute to look around. Marvel in the lush public gardens, the custom-made alley way signs, the millennium clock, even the vintage lighting under the train trestle and remember that Madison is quite literally built on a foundation of volunteerism.

Maureen McLaughlin Byrne is Vice-Chairman of the Downtown Development Commission; during her time on the Commission she has chaired the Taste of Madison and the Farmers Market. In addition to her work with the Commission, Maureen is Chairman of the Friends of the Madison Public Library and a member of the Rotary Club of Madison and the Thursday Morning Club. She has been appointed by the Mayor and Council to study Borough operations and how they impact the general public and business communities.

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