Senior Page: New Year's Celebration Publicists Make Sure You Know All About First Night

By: Debra Lawless

>John and Alice Reed. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

Let’s put it right out there: First Night Chatham needs additional volunteers this year and next.

Needed immediately is a coordinator for the Kids Art Studio, which runs from 2 to 5 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 31, First Night.

This is a message from First Night’s director of communications John Reed and his wife Alice, who works alongside him.

During a recent interview in their South Chatham home the pair spoke about the joy they both find in volunteering—which is a great reason for others to join in.

“We’ve made friends,” Alice Reed says. “Now I can’t go to the grocery store without running into people.”

“It’s a feeling of achievement,” John Reed adds about his volunteer work.

Alice and John built their house in 1998 and retired here during Thanksgiving week in 2010. Natives of Burlington, Vt., they raised their two daughters in Harvard, Mass., which Alice describes as “a bedroom community to Boston.” They are now the grandparents of four children ages 11 to 15. Before they even owned their house, they traveled to Chatham to stay with friends and attend First Night Chatham, now in its 27th year. Eventually they both volunteered as monitors at the venues.

Fast forward to 2010. Alice points out that when you have a second house in Chatham you tend to your house and get to know some of your neighbors. But when you move here, you essentially don’t know anyone. To rectify that the pair joined the Chatham-Harwich Newcomers Club. In time, John served as the vice president and then president of the club; the treasurer was Ron Clark of Chatham. When Clark took over as chair of the First Night Chatham committee, John segued into First Night. John also volunteers as a docent in the main gallery of the Atwood House.

Alice, meanwhile, found her own volunteer niche. For a time she was president of the Women’s 9 Hole group at the Cranberry Valley Golf Course in Harwich. She served as hospitality chair of the Women’s Club of Chatham, then as treasurer. Right now she is in charge of the Eldredge Public Library’s ongoing booksale.

“My idea is, if you’re moving into a community it’s because you like it, you want to keep it nice,” Alice says. “If you don’t keep up with things, they’re going to go away.”

The original First Night was held in Boston on Dec. 31, 1975. The idea took off so much over the next 25 years that by 2000, over 260 cities hosted First Night celebrations. Now, sadly, fewer than 50 cities and towns host a First Night.

Yet “Chatham—this tiny town—the core of it throws this huge, gigantic party,” John says. “The energy this represents is like lightning in a bottle.” Over 250 volunteers make First Night possible, and while 70 to 80 percent of the volunteer positions are filled, as noted above, more volunteers are needed.

“You can work for as little as two hours,” John says. “It’s fantastic fun.”

John retired from a career in marketing. His final two jobs were as chief marketing officer. He retired from Liberty Medical, a company that sold diabetic supplies to the senior population. Taking over First Night Chatham’s public relations and communications last year, he says, was “right in my wheelhouse.” And Alice is “my partner in helping publications and communications.”

While some First Night volunteers begin working toward the upcoming First Night almost at once after Jan. 1—in this connection John mentions Ginny Hamblett, who is in charge of selecting the performers—John and Alice don’t spring into gear until August or September. First, John puts together the content of the First Night ads. He works closely with Marie Williams, one of the founders of First Night, who does the graphics for the ads. The ads run from Thanksgiving to the first week in January.

Next, John issues press releases with information such as that First Night buttons are now on sale. He sends these releases to “all major media” including Channel 18, local magazines, newspapers and radio stations, “just keeping people abreast” of what’s happening. After that, news organizations interview John about various aspects of First Night such as the theme and the need for volunteers. And finally, he coordinates and appears in interviews that are broadcast on local radio and TV.

This year’s First Night has taken the theme “Oh Those '60s!” and one particular thing John wants everyone to know now is that the ballet group the Heartstring Dance Company, which will perform excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” will call on kids from the audience to participate.

For more information on First Night Chatham, visit To volunteer, email Volunteer Coordinators Carol Kolb and Pam Williams at or call Kolb at 508-432-6810. Volunteers will be invited to a thank you party in mid-January.