ORLEANS – Orleans has for 33 years benefited from an often-invisible organization comprised of volunteers who, in collaboration with the town, chamber of commerce and private individuals, raise funds, underwrite and oversee projects that improve the quality of life for all its citizens and visitors. Brick sidewalks, urns of flowers maintained by The Farm, and soon to be installed custom-designed manhole covers on newly paved Main Street are among the Orleans Improvement Association projects. So too the handicap accessible equipment in the play area and the gazebo at Eldredge Park, the green house at the Nauset Regional Middle School, the Orleans Community Playground, new tables at Nauset Beach and various signs around town are among the projects it has supported.
Perhaps most well-known for its annual garden tour, this group of volunteers, many of whom became involved through personal invitations, are led by a small board of directors which includes 15 voting and seven affiliate members. Meeting regularly with town officials and others, this organization, comprised mostly of women, though men are welcome to join, identify needs in Orleans and receive suggestions from the public and develop appropriate plans for projects which they then fund in whole or by matching grants and oversee to completion.
As the OIA website says: “In 1986, caring residents of Orleans created the Orleans Improvement Association. Since its formation, the non-profit OIA has actively solicited the participation of residents, both year-round and seasonal, businesses and other non-profit organizations with the purpose of improving the character of Orleans. The OIA has a long-standing tradition of providing support to our town when tax dollars or other public funding is not available. The OIA is funded by annual membership contributions, generous donations by businesses and private citizens, and fundraising activities—most notably our annual garden tour.”
Now as in the past the Orleans Improvement Association is collaborating with other groups to plan a series of traditional “Small Town American” holiday event for the town and its residents.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 10:00 a.m.” Decorating the Village Green. Rain date Nov. 24, same time. With the help of town workers, volunteers will set up the lighted snowflakes and decorate a tree once again donated by Josh Wylie, owner of Agway of Orleans, and erected by his employees.
Saturday, Nov. 30, 5 p.m.: Orleans Holiday Stroll. Mrs. Claus will greet participants at Snow’s Department Store and lead them in a candle-lit stroll to the Village Green for the annual tree lighting. That will be followed by the lighting of the “Holiday Giant,” a holiday light display at the town windmill and Depot Square. Additional Giants can be seen at Cape Cod 5 Bank and this year a new giant, “The Duke of Orleans,” will be lit at the Orleans Historical Society, sponsored by the Orleans Cultural Council. Mrs. Claus lights these and other decorations at the end of the Stroll.
Saturday, Dec. 7: The annual Santa Stampede will take place, a holiday-themed 5K race. Registration begins at 9 a.m. Family Fun Run is at 10 a.m. and the big race goes off at 10:30 a.m.
Through Dec. 30: Holiday Decorating Contes. The OIA provides the prize money for the winners of this annual Chamber of Commerce decorating contest. Everyone is invited to vote for their favorite decorations at the Chamber of Commerce and participating businesses.
The chief source of funds for the OIA projects is its annual garden tours, which is where many now participating in its work first experienced its impact. This event supplies the bulk of the financial resources which the OIA then returns to the community. Despite the large number of Cape residents and off-Capers who attend this event, held with the support and involvement of almost 30 local businesses and programs, those involved believe the OIA is not well known despite its sponsorship of these annual holiday events and other projects.
For more detailed information on the OIA and the projects it has made possible, and to volunteer to be a part of its ongoing work, the Orleans Improvement Association has developed a new website at orleansimprovement.org.