Person of the Week
Leslie Kane: Lighting a Path Forward
It was at a Festival of Trees hosted by the Deep River Historical Society that Leslie Kane found a new home, literally and figuratively. She not only liked the community enough to settle here, she’s also found a place to volunteer her skills, assisting the historical society with the 2021 Festival of trees as a board member. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier)
When Leslie Kane was house hunting in 2018, she unexpectedly came upon the Deep River Historical Society’s Festival of Trees, an annual event that features Christmas trees that have been decorated by various individuals or groups from the community.
Leslie says the people were so welcoming at the festival, “it kind of sealed the deal for us” on deciding which town to live in.
Now a resident of Deep River and a member of the board of trustees for the Deep River Historical Society, which will again hold its Festival of Trees from Friday to Sunday, Dec. 3 to 5. Leslie is adding a new fundraising element to the festival this year: luminaries.
Leslie says that due to the pandemic, the historical society has seen a decrease in donations and the income typically acquired by property rentals.
In addition to raising funds, a luminary makes “that dark winter landscape more inviting and also shows you how to get to a place,” Leslie says.
Luminary kits are now on sale at the historical society for $25. Each kit contains a small paper bag, battery operated tea light and sand weight. Stickers are also included, to encourage people to decorate the bag in honor of someone who is special to them.
“We’re lighting the historical society’s pathway or road to the Festival of Trees, honoring the people that…light your life and sort of reconnecting to the historical society in its 75th anniversary to the community,” says Leslie.
She is hoping that the luminaries become a part of the tradition of the festival, the theme of which this year is “rejoicing.”
Although the historical society did reopen after closing at the height of the pandemic last year, “this is going to be a bigger community opening where there will be more people, although socially distanced,” says Leslie.
“So, we’re just really excited to be able to do that again. Try to get going. Get our feet on the ground again, with fundraising and connecting with the community more. It’s almost like a new start. So many people are seeing this time as a new start,” she adds.
When Leslie read the mission of the historical society, she instantly knew that she wanted to contribute. She is on the building and grounds committee and has volunteered as a docent, leading tours of the historic Southworth home.
“The mission of the organization really spoke to me,” says Leslie. “It’s not just a historical society that is collecting things and putting them away. It’s one that really wants to keep the history as part of the creation and ongoing [activities] of the community.
“And Deep River is such a welcoming community that it’s fantastic that the history connects everybody,” she adds.
National Audubon Society
Leslie moved to Deep River after having lived in Southbury for 13 years, where she worked as director for Bent of the River Audubon Center.
“The site is very historic and the village of South Britain that the center is in is also very historic,” says Leslie. “So, I’ve always been interested in history in general, not just cultural history, but also geology and the impacts of place on people.”
In her current role, she manages Audubon operations for six centers and 13 sanctuaries in Connecticut and New York. She enjoys the breadth of the work, which spans all 34 Audubon nature centers in the United States with connections to bird conservation organizations in Central and South America as well as Canada.
“My work carries me across Connecticut and New York, and it connects me across the country and the hemisphere,” says Leslie. “It’s pretty exciting stuff.”
And although it’s mostly focused on birds, it’s also about people and places too, much like the historical society.
“When working with the National Audubon Society, it’s always about birds, of course, protecting birds and the places they need and the fact that if birds thrive, people will, too, and the incredible impacts of climate change, negative impacts of climate change on birds and other species,” says Leslie.
Leslie was an environmental planner in Guilford for eight years prior to her work with the National Audubon Society.
“I really just enjoy the balance of development and protection of resources and when I shifted to working with the National Audubon Society, I was able to have a more hemispheric impact of the work that I was doing,” she says.
2021 Festival of Trees
The 2021 Festival of Trees will take place at the Historical Society, 245 Main Street in Deep River, from Friday to Sunday, Dec. 3 to 5. Members of the public can vote on their favorite tree, with the winning trees announced Dec. 5. For more information, visit www.deepriverhistoricalsociety.org.