A handyman was heading to Nansi and Leonard Glick’s New Salem home a few weeks ago when a light bulb in their home reached the end of its lifespan. There, to install grab bars and swap smoke detector batteries, the handyman put a new light bulb on his list of small projects, and that little addition didn’t affect the Glicks’ bill in any way.
This is because there was no invoice at all, as the materials accompanying the free work were covered by a $3,000 grant acquired by Village Neighbors, a non-profit organization that provides services to people aged 60 and over in Leverett, Shutesbury, Wendell and New Salem.
“It was ideal because I needed someone to get up on a stepladder and replace that light bulb,” Nansi Glick recalls, adding that the home repair program has been a lifesaver now that she’s 86. years old and her husband is 92. “It’s very convenient for me. , Indeed.”
Village Neighbors volunteer Sam Rodgers was the handyman that day, having been involved for about 2½ years.
“It’s important to give back and it’s rewarding to help people when they need it,” the Leverett resident said.
Don Stone, Treasurer of Village Neighbors, applied for the three grants the organization has received. The two previous grants were for $2,500. Stone, who also sits on the Village Neighbors board, said the grants came from LifePath. Repairs are free for all 172 paying members of Village Neighbors. He mentioned that many members are so grateful for repairs that they pay it forward, donating to the fund which is earmarked for other repairs.
Rodgers, a professional carpenter, also installed grab bars for the Glicks and replaced the batteries in their smoke detectors. Rodgers said his other volunteer projects include fixing furniture as well as helping people with their gardens and cleaning gutters. He said Village Neighbors – which launched in October 2018 – prefer to focus on projects that have a direct impact on guest health, such as mold abatement.
“(I got involved) because I can and wanted to give back before I needed help myself,” the 69-year-old said. “I found that I made new friends, very nice people that I met. It’s been very rewarding for me. I really think the sense of community is important and it’s an opportunity to ‘ contribute to it. And I like old people, now that I become one of mine.
Adele Smith-Penniman, 75, said a Village Neighbors volunteer once cut down a large tree branch that was in her yard in Wendell after a windstorm. It’s come full circle, because this volunteer brought home the wood for his stove. More recently, a volunteer came to her house to install guardrails and lower the height of her exterior stairs, “to make my body let go, I can climb the stairs with a zipper.” Smith-Penniman said volunteers also cleaned her gutters and installed grab bars in her shower.
“It’s community,” she says. “They are neighbors helping their neighbors.”
Smith-Penniman mentioned that she also volunteered for Village Neighbors, taking people to medical appointments before the pandemic hit.
Russ Greco, 73, said his volunteering continued the service work he did when he lived in New Orleans, where he worked for the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Operation Helping Hands in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He has helped with disaster relief and now splits his time between Louisiana and North Quabbin. A retired bricklayer for 45 years, Greco explained that Village Neighbors takes care of small plumbing repairs and general maintenance that other programs don’t cover. He once rebuilt someone’s collapsing floor.
“It’s something I have to do and I love giving back to the community,” he said. “Some of them are selfish – your health and mental well-being can deteriorate rapidly if you don’t stay active.”
Greco explained that many homes in this area are old country homes that have developed issues over the years.
One of these houses belongs to Portia Weiskel in Leverett. She said the residence she has lived in since 1970 was rebuilt from various homes dismantled for the creation of Quabbin Reservoir. Its unorthodox origins resulted in “parts that just didn’t work out.” She said Village Neighbors helped her with work on the front of the house.
“We need more in the world,” she said. “I think it’s a really stellar organization.”
Village Neighbors services are for members only. Membership information is available at bit.ly/3rvW7nm.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Village Neighbors at 413-345-6894 or [email protected] Information on how to become a volunteer is available at bit.ly/2Pg5FWp.
Contact Domenic Poli at [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.