“No is the beginning of a relationship.”

That seems like an odd way to start a column and an even odder way to start a relationship, but it is exactly what Lyn McNaught explained to me was the beginning of her relationship with the Falmouth Education Foundation (FEF). Lyn and I enjoyed conversation over dinner cooked by my wife, Donna, and me, a contribution to the FEF purchased by supporters and volunteers Betsy and Joe Doud. Lyn’s husband, Michael, and the dynamic duo of Michael and Marion Bahari also joined in this FEF feast. Lyn was recounting her initial reaction when Betsy asked her join the efforts of FEF, a then-nascent organization.

Over stuffed pork tenderloin, Boursin cheese potatoes and invisible apple cake (look it up, it’s divine), Donna and I not only served dinner to these amazing Falmouthites, we learned of their deep friendship with one another and their even deeper commitment to giving back to the community that they all call home. Our dinner conversation was varied, lively, and content rich. From an emotional tribute to the lasting legacy of Bill Zammer, to the rivalry between Boston College and Notre Dame, to national and global politics, we enjoyed hours of banter, but the conversation always came back to their ongoing work to benefit others and their undying work to support the FEF. Our attendees were unabashed in their political views, but even more passionate about their passion for the FEF and to making a difference for Falmouth students and their families. Betsy was the omnipresent force for good as hostess of our dinner. She guided the discussion as we served each course, and made us all feel at home in the comfortable abode she shares with Joe.

According to its website, www.falmoutheducationfnd.org, FEF had a core belief upon its founding and that belief turned into a commitment that continues today. They explain that, “Falmouth Education Foundation grew out of conversations in the summer of 2004 among residents whose children attended the Falmouth Public Schools. These FEF founders and designers wanted to provide our educators the knowledge, training, and materials necessary to remain at the forefront of educational excellence. They wanted to ensure that budgetary constraints would not diminish the opportunity for innovation in our schools.”

Some of the people at the dinner were among those early contributors who made the FEF into one of Falmouth’s leading nonprofit organizations, one that has resulted in more than $1 million in grants provided to enrich and expand learning opportunities in Falmouth. In March the FEF will host its annual gala, and will honor the McNaughts for their selfless service and long-term commitment to the FEF and its mission. I learned at our dinner that Lyn’s efforts in the FEF’s early stages were pivotal to the then-survival and now thriving nature of the FEF, as her professional experience informed her volunteer service. “Without Lyn in the early years, we wouldn’t have made it,” Besty explained, sharing the results of Lyn’s early work with the FEF.

Lyn brought significant educational nonprofit expertise to the FEF. She was the first executive director for Horizons National, a nationwide nonprofit that has provided educational opportunities to economically challenged students since 1976. On its website, Horizons notes Lyn’s contributions as well, sharing that, “Lyn McNaught has been connected with Horizons since 1976 as the founder of Horizons National and its first Executive Director. She is the former Executive Director of Horizons at New Canaan Country School, a position she held for 27 years, during which she saw more than 2,000 students go through the program. Early in her career, Ms. McNaught taught elementary school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in New York City. She currently works with other educational non-profits on Cape Cod.” Horizons notes: “Horizons National is a nonprofit that partners with public, independent, and charter schools, colleges, and universities to create out-of-school academic, enrichment, and social-emotional learning programs for students from pre-kindergarten through high school.” Sound familiar?

As we talked about Horizons and the work that it has done around the nation for decades, the FEF angels around the table nodded in knowing and loving support. Honoring Lyn and Michael at this year’s gala is not just about recognizing their years of service to the FEF, it is about demonstrating that the Falmouth Education Foundation mission is a critical link in the chain of innovation, inclusion, and educational opportunity for Falmouth students and their families.

But spending an evening with these six superstars transcended education and volunteerism. Despite their individual educational attainments and professional successes, they are all individually humble, kind, affable and engaging. As a group they are a collective font of information, hilarious anecdotes, and inspiration. After spending an evening with them, I felt like I left a gathering of lifelong friends. From Michael McNaught’s vivid recounting of his Monday club meetings with Norman Rockwell and his journey toward love of cats, to Michael Bihari’s tales of the early days of the Falmouth Free Clinic (now the Community Health Center of Cape Cod) and his own love of cooking, to Marion Bihari’s gripping and moving account of the indescribable suffering of her grandparents’ Holocaust experience against the backdrop of today’s intolerance, we got to know the people behind the volunteers, and loved what we saw. The Falmouth Education Foundation is fortunate to have these dedicated Falmouthites as volunteers; I am now blessed and grateful to have them as friends.

Donna and I have been enjoying the donation of these dinners for several years now, but we always leave them feeling as though we are the ones who have been enriched, meeting amazing people and learning once again just how very special is this community we get to call home.

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