I learned about Newport Fishermen’s Wives through a member of our private Facebook group, and since, they’ve acted as an example of how to build a strong supportive community. (Something I hope I accomplish through this blog and FB group!). To be honest, I was a little nervous to reach out to NFW until now. They just seemed so…together. So many miles down a road I’ve only just begun. But after connecting with Co-President Taunette Dixon, I realize my worries were all for naught. Taunette couldn’t have been more supportive of this blog and anyone out there who may want to start a support group of their own. It goes to show that no matter where our home port may be, our little commercial fishing world really is compassionate and encouraging. Ready to meet NFW? Let’s do this!
Meet Taunette Dixson of the Newport Fishermen’s Wives!
It really is such a treat to interview you, Taunnette! I’ve heard so many great things about your group. Can you please explain NFW to someone who has never heard of it before?
NFW’s is a local nonprofit 501(c)3; here is our mission statement:
The Newport Fishermen’s Wives is a non-profit corporation of fishermen’s wives, mothers, daughters, and friends, supporting a strong sense of community to further the causes of industry, safety, seafood education, and family support.
How exactly did it start, and when?
In 1970 a group of fishermen’s wives got together to support each other while their husbands were up in Alaska fishing for most of the year. It was purely a “social support group” in the beginning.
Was it always a non-profit with officers and board members? If not, what moved you to organize in this way?
It was a social group until several community needs around the fishing industry made the group decide to incorporate as a nonprofit to fundraise to address the needs. The group fought to get a local coast guard rescue helicopter and a helicopter pad at our local hospital. We have since had to fight to retain our rescue helicopter, and we have built a beautiful memorial where families can mourn their lost loved ones.
What criteria need to be met to become a member of NFW?
We have no criteria to become a member of NFW’s. To become a board member, you need to have been in the group for at least one year, regularly attending meetings. To remain on the board, you must attend monthly board meetings.
Was there another group that helped you model NFW?
We only know of one other group around the same time that NFW’s formed, a group on the East Coast called Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association. I don’t think we necessarily modeled ourselves from their group. I think we formed more to the necessity of what our local fishing community was going through at the time.
What is the most important part of building a community like this?
We would like to see every fishing community have its own support group. When emergencies come up, it is critical to have a support system already in place to do what is needed in a timely manner. At this point, the fishing industry is fighting an uphill battle on so many fronts. It makes it so much easier when you have a team in place to take on problems or emergencies.
What has been the most challenging?
Any volunteer group has its challenges. No matter how large the group is, it is usually the same handful of people doing most of the work. It takes a lot of effort to make sure volunteers don’t get burned out, also that everyone feels included in the group and decisions being made.
Strong personalities can also be difficult to navigate. In fishing support groups, many women are used to being strong independent women who run their households by themselves most of the year. Luckily that also makes them great problem solvers with an incredible work ethic and a passion for the industry.
What advice would you offer to other partners of commercial fishermen wanting to start a support group?
Come to one of our meetings, sit down with experienced members that have learned over the years what works and what doesn’t.
What advice would you tell your younger self starting in NFW?
Not to be so hesitant to jump in, it can be intimidating to join a group that is so involved in the community and well respected. Everyone has something to offer to the group; you can’t find your place without putting yourself out there.
Anything you would change or like to see change?
The group is always evolving to meet the current needs in the community. Change is inevitable.
What do you think makes your group different from other fishermen wives groups out there?
We are lucky to live in a community that respects our industry, and we are also lucky to have a large pool of volunteers. Not all ports are so lucky. Also, we have been around for decades. We are trusted in our community because of some amazing women that paved the way for us. 🐟
Do you belong to a partner of commercial fishermen community? How do you feel being a part of a group like this would benefit your life? Please share in the comments below!