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Northfield group eyeing help network to hold 2nd meeting



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

NORTHFIELD — Following what he saw as overwhelming community response to the idea of a help network in town, Bill McGee is looking forward to Saturday’s second informational meeting of “Neighbors at Home: The Northfield Village,” at Pioneer Regional School at 10 a.m.

“We were just overwhelmed with support,” McGee said of the first meeting. “People said, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to leave town. I love Northfield.’”

“Neighbors at Home” co-founder McGee said that these meetings are informal exploratory sessions for gauging community interest in the project that is modeled after the nationwide Village to Village Network. These villages are co-ops of volunteers providing basic aid services to senior citizens.

McGee said that the goal of the “Food for Thought” informational programs is to learn what issues are relevant to Northfield’s senior citizens. The Village to Village Network provides a model, but, he said, certain challenges are unique to a rural environment like Northfield.

“When you come up to Northfield and look around, you think there’s no dentists, no doctors, no eye doctors, no grocery stores, no pharmacy, and you’ve got to go 10, 15 miles to go to Greenfield or Brattleboro,” he said.

McGee grouped attendees’ concerns heard during the first session into four broad categories: transportation, social needs, technology support and home support.

“Take some 75-year-old lady,” McGee said. “She doesn’t want to get up on a ladder to change a light bulb. But she sure shouldn’t have to call an electrician to come and do that and pay 100 bucks or whatever a house call would be. Our co-op would have some volunteers, a Mr. Fix-It or a handyman or a retired guy who has a toolkit who can fix anything.

Volunteers will contribute whatever services they can. For example, those with technological skills will be able to help members use computers and cell phones. Others may provide transportation or cooking services.

McGee said that there was some interest in the co-op providing financial assistance.

“That takes a lot of trust,” McGee said. “You’ve got a privacy issue here, you’ve got a legal issue here. But some of the villages will have a retired financial person as part of their community who is one of their volunteers and might help people keep their personal finances straight.”

McGee said that he expects many of the same issues to be raised Saturday. A third meeting is planned for Saturday, March 24, at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center.

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com,
or 413-772-026, ext. 261.