Friday, February 1, 2002
Carlisle Lunch Group combines discussion with a chance to socialize
If you happened to be passing by the First Religious Society at noon on Monday and wondered why so many cars were parked in the vicinity and why a steady stream of local folks were filing into Union Hall, let me explain. It was a meeting of the Carlisle Lunch Group, which meets three times a year, in January, April and October or November.
Carlislean Gabe d'Annunzio, who calls himself a Marketing Thaumaturge (Miracle Worker), was the featured speaker for the January meeting. His talk, "Stupid Marketing Tricks for Small Businesses," focused on essential components of marketing. It was delivered to 65 attendees who had come for a delicious lunch provided by the catering firm Tastings of Framingham, followed by the engaging words of this knowledgeable speaker. It was d'Annunzio's second invitation to speak to the group. His first talk, several years ago, dealt with high-tech marketing.
Began in 1993
To learn more about the lunch group and how it got started, I spoke with Fontaine Richardson, who has organized the meetings for the past seven or eight years. Richardson says the idea for the group originated in 1993, with the late Jerry DeGarmo. DeGarmo, who was working out of his home at the time, felt there were others like him in Carlisle who needed to get out of the house, make contact with others and have a chance "to chit chat" and enjoy a lunch together. DeGarmo sent out letters to 30 to 35 people whom he knew were working in and out of their homes. Twenty-five of those responded and showed up at Grant Wilson's former house on Westford Street (interim home of the Gleason Public Library during its renovations) for the first meeting, which included lunch and open-ended conversations among members of the group.
Not long after setting up this meeting, DeGarmo died. Following DeGarmo's funeral, a saddened Richardson sat down and wrote out a list of the names of the people that he thought would want to continue on with DeGarmo's idea. He called on several of his friends Grant Wilson, George Foote, Dick Spann and Norm Adrian to help him get the project off the ground.
The result of Richardson's and his friends' efforts has been the Carlisle Lunch Group, which at first met on the first floor of the former Wilson home, and for the past three or four years at Union Hall. Meetings begin at 12 noon with the first half-hour set aside for socializing. This is followed from 12:30 until 1 p.m. by the catered meal, along with another opportunity for lively discussions while seated at the tables set up in the hall. By one o'clock, it's time for the invited speaker to hold forth on the day's topic. Once the speaker has finished and answered questions from the audience, those who wish to continue talking can remain in the hall until 3 p.m. All of this for the price of $22.
Once just a group of men
Originally the group (of men) met for lunch and for the opportunity to talk over business matters among themselves, but Richardson soon came up with idea of inviting a speaker to address the group. Eventually women were encouraged to join in, as were the Carlisle Business Association members who had been meeting separately. Carlisle selectman Vivian Chaput recently told me she was the first woman to be asked to join the lunch group.
Nowadays Richardson maintains a list of those who have been attending the meetings, as well as those he has heard would like to attend. Before each meeting he sends out an e-mail announcement to his list, and then places a press release in the Carlisle Mosquito, announcing the name of the speaker along with an invitation to anyone wishing to attend. Attendance has steadily grown from 30-35 in the mid-nineties to 60-80 in the last several years.
"Topics have an influence on who comes," reports Richardson. However, Richardson has noticed that more of the retired community is coming. People without children and newcomers to the town find it's a good way to socialize, and for the growing number of consultants and self-employed in town it's a way to be part of the community.
Richardson also reports that topics chosen for the meetings have moved away from those that are purely business related to those more eclectic in nature. Some of the speakers and their topics in the past several years have been Frank Rigg on the Kennedy Library; Tony Mariano on Carlisle groundwater; two members of a public relations team on the "Little Dig" Route 3 expansion; Steve Loutrel on sailing and hiking in the Canadian Provinces; John Ballantine, Nancy Pierce, and Beth Hambleton on their Carlisle study "Growing Pains," just to name a few. As Richardson reminds me, he is always open to suggestions for speakers with interesting topics.
Although a businessman himself who has worked out of his home since 1994, Richardson has had a long-term interest in other aspects of life in Carlisle. Presently he is on the board and treasurer of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation, and has been a member of the board of directors of Emerson Hospital since 2000. As one can see, between his business obligations and town and hospital commitments, Richardson has been able to build the Carlisle Lunch Group into a successful and much appreciated endeavor.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito