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PULSE OF PHILANTHROPY: The Choice to Call Door County Home

This June marks 10 years that I’ve been writing columns for the Peninsula Pulse. If I collected all the feedback I’ve received to everything I’ve written during the last decade, it would not equal the response to my most recent column, “We Must Hold Together as One County.”

That last column was about the terrible economic damage being inflicted on Door County during the pandemic and how both seasonal and year-round residents were joining together through the Door County Emergency Response Fund to alleviate some of the suffering. My premise was summed up in the last two sentences of the column: “If we’re to endure the pain that’s ahead of us, we will need each other more than ever before. We can get through this, but only if we hold together as one community.”

Frankly, I thought what I wrote was obvious. Whether you live here all the time or call Door County home for only part of the year, we all love this place. We are stronger if we remain united as one county. 

I received more than a hundred letters, emails and phone calls, and virtually all of them agreed with and appreciated this perspective. But a tiny handful questioned how I could be so unequivocal about saying that many seasonal residents love Door County as much as those who are here year-round.

The easy answer is to look at giving to the Door County Emergency Response Fund. Although nearly 70 percent of the gifts to the fund come from seasonal residents, none of that money will directly benefit them. One hundred percent of the distributions from the fund have been used for human services to help those who live here all year.

Yet money isn’t the best measure of what someone loves. Thus, let me tell you how I came to realize that seasonal residents can love Door County just as much as I do.

A few months ago, my wife and I organized the first of several Zoom video calls with all six of our children at the same time. Our four adult children joined from Denver, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Madison. Our two high-school-aged children also appeared on their own webcams, but from the living room of our home in Door County.

All parents know the wonderful feeling that comes from being surrounded, even virtually, by all of their children at the same time. I love them all equally, unhesitatingly, with every bit of my heart. 

When I say such a thing, no one ever questions me or looks at me funny. Loving all of your children with all of your heart is such a common human experience that it resonates with all of us. Never once has someone argued that because I see our two youngest daughters every day, I must love them more than our other kids. No one contends that I must love my adult children less because I’m not with them every day. That runs so contrary to how we experience love that saying such things sounds patently absurd.

Yet too many of us try to apply that twisted logic to seasonal residents. Because seasonal residents are not here every day of the year, some argue they cannot love Door County as much as those of us who are. That’s just silly. Just as a person can love a child fully even if they’re not together every day, so, too, can seasonal residents love this place even if they’re not physically in Door County every day of the year.

One of our great strengths is that virtually all of us made a deliberate decision to call Door County home. If you’re wealthy enough to own multiple homes, you can live anywhere you want, yet you choose to make this place home for at least part of the year. For those who live here year-round, the reality is that there are greater employment opportunities and more stable ways to earn a living in places such as Appleton, Milwaukee and Chicago. Yet you choose to remain here and make Door County your year-round home. 

Regardless of when you got here or how many months you’re here, we all made the choice to call Door County home. All of us love this place, but it’s struggling right now. If we’re to endure the pain that’s ahead of us, we need each other more than ever before. We can get through this, but only if we hold together as one community. Join us at RespondDoorCounty.org.

Email Bret Bicoy at [email protected]