As a volunteer, Silva’s in a league of her own

Oct 22, 2021

Ten minutes a day.

That’s the time Enid Silva estimates she is not doing something.

Otherwise, she can be found working on a variety of community projects, as she has for more than 60 years

Her work began immediately after graduating from Dartmouth High School in 1958 when she joined the alumni association.

Sixty-three years later, she has held nearly every position in the association, including president. 

The position involves keeping class lists of all classes. The high school graduated students starting in 1872, so 2022 will mark the 150th graduating class. 

The association also awards scholarships each year, from money raised through fund-raisers or as outright donations. 

She spends several hours a day at the alumni office at Town Hall. 

“We all want to be in touch with our past,’’ she said of this work. “Growing older makes us reflect back to those school days and the memories are sometimes better than present reality. Dartmouth is a large town in area … but we are a small town in spirit.’’ 

The alumni association is far from her only accomplishment.

She has been a poll worker since 1958 and a Town Meeting member since 1982.

She was a founding member in 1974 of the Dartmouth Girls Athletic League, which made it possible for young women to participate in sports outside of school. She eventually became commissioner of the softball and basketball leagues.

Silva describes this effort as her most cherished accomplishment.

“It affected a lot of girls,’’ she said. “Anything you can do with children to inspire them, to bring out their best, is the best thing you can do.’’

Silva took on this role despite having no interest in sports herself. “If you see me running, it’s because someone is chasing me,’’ she said with a laugh. 

Instead, she became involved to help level the playing field for girls

By playing sports, they learn the value of  teamwork and cooperation, she said.

“I felt boys had the advantage because they learned to play on a team long before the girls,’’ she said. That gave them a boost when they got a job and had to work on a committee or in other group settings, she said. 

Today, some of the girls who played then are now involved in sports leagues as adults. 

“It’s wonderful to see that come around,’’ Silva said. 

Perhaps her best-known accomplishment was serving as the town’s first female member of the Select Board. Silva was voted onto the board in 1993 when the board expanded from three to five members and served until 2004.

“I enjoyed helping people,’’ she said. What she didn’t enjoy, she said, was campaigning. 

“I don’t do favors,’’ she said, and she doesn’t accept them. That way, Silva said, “I don’t have to keep track of who gives them.’’ 

Whether on or off the select board, her accomplishments are lengthy. 

Silva was instrumental in preserving the Old Russells Mills School and Library, now home to the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society. 

She also worked to preserve the Southworth Library in Padanaram, which is now the location of the Dartmouth Arts and Cultural Center.

She has been a member of myriad boards and committees, including The Affordable Housing Committee, the Council on Aging Advisory Board, the Dartmouth School Music Association, and the Greater Dartmouth Lions Club, among other activities. 

She worries that volunteering is going the way of the dinosaur. 

“They’re going to go away,’’ she said. “Today you have people who have no time to volunteer and wonder why things aren’t getting done.’’

Silva urges people to get involved in community service, even if only for a year. And when people do volunteer, they need to stay focused on the big picture, she said. 

“Try to keep a cool head,’’ she said. “Because sometimes the people that volunteer, because of their business background, believe whatever’s going to happen is going to happen overnight.”

Instead, she said, “keep thinking about the goal.’’

Before considering a run for state or federal office, look locally for opportunities to make change, she said. 

“We’ve got to get off our devices, and look out the window because what needs to be done needs to be done locally,’’ she said.

And they need to be done for the right reasons, she said. “Don’t do things for your household. Do it for the common good.’’