When volunteers take the time to share their knowledge and passion for lighthouses within the community, the results are sometimes immediately evident by the number of people who express an interest in stepping forward to become involved in the project at hand.
More often though, long stretches of time will pass before volunteers learn how individuals may have been impacted by their gift of time and expertise in sharing all that encompasses the mission of lighthouse preservation.
A commitment to educating the public about lighthouses and why it is important to save them, like most good things we strive to cultivate in life, requires a patient and steadfast approach. That said, once the fruits of our labors gain a foothold and blossom, the results can be extremely gratifying.
One such example that recently came to light stems from the ongoing educational outreach efforts of ALF’s Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse (FPRL). Led by passionate volunteer David Kelleher, a retired educator in the Rhode Island public school system, the FPRL has consistently put forth creative initiatives, which range from history presentations and boat tours to parade floats and Pomham Santa, to raise awareness within the community for their offshore lighthouse.
Through the years, little did David Kelleher know that one of his presentations would eventually ‘light the way’ for a young man to discover the lure and charm of our lighthouse heritage in a meaningful way. “In my line of work with children,” said Kelleher, “it is always heartwarming when I find out that I have inspired a child in a way that helped form a good outlook for his future.”
Kelleher went on to say, “Seven years ago, while presenting my Rhode Island lighthouse program to a fifth grade class at the Waddington School, I apparently lit a spark in the mind of one of the students – Alex Dias. He became really interested in lighthouses and began to do intensive research on R.I. lighthouses.”
For Alex Dias, his desire to learn more about lighthouses and explore them wherever possible was no fleeting aspiration. In fact, with each passing year, his passion to discover the ‘illuminating’ heritage of the lights grew stronger and more diverse.
“Over his years in middle school and high school Alex’s interest intensified, collecting articles, pictures, and books about R.I. lighthouses,” said Kelleher. “Last spring he phoned me to see if I would agree to be the monitor for his senior project. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity. At that time, we met for our first meeting together at the Riverside library and I presented him with a number of additional articles and papers.”
“Alex in turn presented numerous books and articles himself, which impressed me a lot,” said Kelleher. “We then laid out a plan for getting him to personally visit some of the lighthouses in the area. His family took him on Save the Bay tours, which I had the pleasure of narrating, and they also took him over to Block Island to visit Southeast Block Island and North lights. He also visited a number of the lighthouses on the mainland, and was even able to join the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse on one of our membership tours to the island where he saw Pomham Rocks up- close.”
Not satisfied to simply study the history of the Ocean State’s lighthouses and document them during site visits for his senior project, Alex Dias applied his creative talents to better telling the story of the lights through some neat visual aids.
In addition to the narrative portion of his presentation, Alex created an informative tri-fold display board containing a number of lighthouse images, but he didn’t stop there. Alex also used his artistic skills to build a terrific model of Bullock’s Point Lighthouse, which coincides with an aspect of his presentation on lost Rhode Island lights.
When asked what inspired him to construct the lighthouse model, Alex Dias noted, “I was inspired by the model of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse that is on display in the Riverside Library.”
Dias went on to say, “Visiting some of Rhode Island’s lighthouses played a role in my project because I was able to see their features up close and personal rather than simply in a book. This helped me visualize how to construct my model. I made the model of Bullock’s Point Lighthouse out of ten pieces of foam board and 1,500 Popsicle sticks. The model measures 5-feet across, 4.6 feet tall and 31-inches wide. It took me around six months to complete my model.”
At first glance, the model brings to life the memory of a lighthouse that was severely damaged by the terrible hurricane of 1938, and subsequently torn down a few years later, but a closer look through the windows of the model will reveal a fascinating discovery.
Inside, Alex constructed the modern day skeletal light tower that presently resides on the pier where Bullock’s Point Lighthouse once stood. In doing so, this stroke of creative genius provides those who view the model to peer into the past and see the present.
“Alex wants to give his model and tri-fold display board to the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse,” said Chairman David Kelleher. “I envision FPRL using his model as an exhibit when we establish a museum in the lighthouse, which will include information and articles about Bullock’s Point, as well as Sabin Point Lighthouse.”
Alex Dias’s interest in lighthouses will not wane once his senior project is reviewed by high school judges during the month of January 2013. As David Kelleher notes, “In his overall presentation he talks at length about Pomham Rocks Lighthouse and that he now wants to get involved with the restoration of the historic light station.”
From the sounds of things, ALF’s Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse has not only gained a new volunteer, but has also witnessed a member of the next generation of “keepers” stepping forward to help carry on the torch for preserving our lighthouse heritage.
The story of Alex Dias is a shining example of what can happen when volunteers share their joy and appreciation for lighthouse with others. Regardless of one’s volunteer position or depth of knowledge on the subject of lighthouses, people just like YOU can create the spark within the hearts and minds of others during ALF’s community outreach and educational programs that may light a flame inside them do amazing things for our mission now – and into the future!