The Wedding Gift

Kirsten Walter ’00 and Ben Ayers ’99 didn’t register for traditional wedding gifts — eschewing the deep-sided pie dish, $17.99 at Macy’s — but instead asked friends and family to contribute to a barn-raising at their ca. 1800 farmhouse in Leeds, Maine.

The photo below and slide show at left show the gift being given. For two days prior to their Sept. 15 wedding — held in the completed barn — scores of family and friends, including some three dozen Bates alums, gathered to raise the frame and enclose the new building.

The raising culminated weeks of framework that commenced in earnest when barn designer Brad Morse ’99 arrived in August. He, along with Ayers and father-son neighbors Bruce and Nat Bell, formed a core team that cut the hemlock, milled the timbers at Bell’s farm, and cut the frame behind the brick farmhouse.

As the gift of time, expertise, and funds grew large, the couple got uneasy about not being able to give back, “other than some homemade jams,” says Walter with a smile. Guidance came from two mentors, Gloria and Gregg Varney of nearby Nezinscot Farm, who said this: “Asking for help is the biggest way to build trust.”

The truism resonated with the couple, whose careers involve building communities by building trust — she as founder of the urban-agriculture nonprofit Lots To Gardens, he as project director for the dZi Foundation, serving Himalayan communities. “We decided to accept everything that was happening,” says Walter, “and to feel incredibly honored by the trust, community, and friendships it helped us build.” [Slide show]

By H. Jay Burns

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