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Neighbors: Local teens lend helping hands

Hello neighbor.

I have another example of local people helping others just because they want to — but this time they’re teens.

Ten Greenfield students ages 13 to 17 researched food insecurity, visited the town’s hunger-relief agencies and developed a plan to help during the month of July. The teens are also carrying that plan out.

They were part of the Green Room summer after-school program, a free program available to Greenfield residents. The program is funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant under the direction of the Collaborative for Educational Services.

“It was very inspiring to have students help at our program,” said Ari Pliskin, director of the Stone Soup Cafe, a weekly pay-what-you-can community cafe.

Ari, who was on the Green Room staff, helped connect students with community partners, including the Center for Self-Reliance, Salvation Army and Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The students learned about vegetables from Just Roots community farm and helped serve food prepared by Stone Soup Cafe.

After all their hard work, students are urging the rest of us to volunteer at local agencies, including the Salvation Army, the Center for Self-Reliance and the Stone Soup Cafe. Volunteers help prepare, serve and transport food.

What did the students learn from their experiences? Well, Greenfield High School sophomore Gail Gates said she learned that people you wouldn’t expect need food assistance.

“You don’t necessarily know when someone is hungry,” Gail said. “We’ve been trying to get people to volunteer locally, because if we volunteer, that’s more help and more hands to feed hungry people and their families.”

The other students involved were Ginny Dodge, Chelsea Farnham, Molly O’Neill, Tammy Motyka, Danny Hale, Elmas Cenjunan, Pros Sok and Marquise Suarez. Mentors were Jordan Bartley, Julian DeCarr and Victor Badea.

It does a heart good to see charitable work start so early. Keep up the good work!

If your student would like to enroll in the Green Room program for the fall, contact Jan Marciniec at 413-531-9433.

And now to what’s going on in Franklin County:

I’M TOLD THAT THE 172 MEMBERS of Wheeler Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Program are well on their way to earning their maximum pledge of $400 to the Orange Food Pantry.

Friends of the Orange Libraries gave the challenge and readers are earning a penny for every minute they spend reading this summer.

By Aug. 7, 662 hours of reading time had been logged, compared to last year’s 160 by the end of the program.

For those of you participating: If you want your hours to be logged, you must bring your reading log to the Children’s Room in the library by 6 p.m. on Monday. On 6 p.m. on Wednesday, your reading logs will transform into admission tickets for the library’s Spectacular All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Sundae Party, where Ed the Wizard will perform.

Congratulations to all who participated!

CONGRATULATIONS ALSO GOES OUT TO Luke Toritto of Greenfield, who received the Leaders and Achievers Scholarship, along with 12 others from western Massachusetts, from the Comcast Foundation.

The students were recognized for their academic achievement and community services.

A special ceremony was held at the Statehouse in Boston, where Toritto and others were honored by the foundation and state Treasurer Steven Grossman. Each student received a $1,000 scholarship.

JUST THOUGHT YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW that the golf tournament recently held at Thomas Memorial Golf and Country Club to raise money to help with medical expenses for Ella Grace Bartlett of Montague was a huge success, according to organizer Chet Czenich, who said the tournament raised $5,036 for the family.

Ella is the cute 5-year-old who has struggled her entire life because she was born prematurely, and her digestive system was seriously compromised. She went to Disney World with her family this past spring thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Ella eats mostly through a feeding tube and only gets very small amounts of food by mouth.

Chet said the tournament ended up with 54 sponsors, both businesses and individuals, and there were 14 teams that played.

“It was a beautiful day,” said Chet. “The Bartletts were there, including Ella Grace, and there were non-golfers who came to support her. Her family was so grateful.”

BY THE WAY, the 165th Franklin County Fair still has spots open for four-, six- and eight-cylinder entries for its Demolition Derby, which will be held Sept. 8.

If you were unable to make the sign-up held Aug. 1 and would still like to enter, please contact Scott Kuzmeskus, chairman of attractions and entertainment, at 413-824-8069 or

Be sure to leave your full contact information and he will get back to you to schedule a time to fill out the entry forms and collect the entry fee.

DON’T FORGET TO CONTACT RECORDER EDITOR Chris Harris to list your fall event in The Recorder’s Fall Valley Guide calendar.

It’s a free listing of suppers, luncheons, fall festivals, historical society meetings and more — any event open to the public.

The deadline is Aug. 30, so get them in now.

Send complete details to Chris at: You can also call her at 413-772-0261, ext. 265.

BIRDS OF PREY WILL BE FEATURED at Swift River Valley Historical Society at 40 Elm St. in North New Salem on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The ever-popular Tom Ricardi from Conway will bring some of his birds to introduce to all ages.

Children are free and it is suggested that adults give a donation of $5.

Bring lawn chairs or blankets, settle in and Tom will talk about his efforts to rehabilitate these beautiful creatures.

He’s been rehabilitating injured birds for more than 30 years, and has been breeding them to bolster the wild population.

Tom is always a hard act to follow — I’ve seen him many times.

Swift River Valley Historical Society keeps the stories of the four “lost towns” of the Quabbin alive. It is open Sunday and Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. until Sept. 29.

New Salem is a beautiful town, so get out there, see the town, maybe take a hike along one of the Quabbin trails, and, if you’re lucky, meet some area raptors.

THE OLD DEERFIELD PAINTING GROUP will present its 24th annual Exhibition of Paintings from Aug. 17 through 25 from noon to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours on Friday until 7 p.m.

The show will be at the Blue and White Room in the Deerfield Teachers’ Center Building, 10 Memorial St. in Deerfield.

There will be an artists’ reception on Aug. 18 from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

It sounds like a wonderful event. Artists from Franklin County and beyond will be featured.

For more information, email: or visit:

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR, AGAIN — Montague Old Home Days will be held Aug. 17 and 18 in Montague Center.

On Aug. 17, registration for the Mug Race will start at 7:30 a.m. There will be a White Elephant Tag Sale beginning at 8 a.m. and the race will start at 8:30 a.m. Events will go straight through until 8 p.m. that night.

On Aug. 18, the Country Breakfast Buffet will be held from 8 to 10:30 a.m. (adults are $10 and children are $5).

Paul Mariani will deliver the message, “The New and the Old” during Old Home Days Worship Service at 11 a.m. Soloist Charles Hunting will provide the music for the service.

Crafters are still being sought for the event, so call Peg Bridges at 413-367-2061 if you are interested.

I’D LIKE TO CLOSE TODAY by telling you about a way some locals are meeting their neighbors.

What happens when you move into a new neighborhood and you don’t know anyone? Well, a group of Greenfield residents have decided to throw an annual block party, that’s what.

A few years ago, Carol Letson was inspired after reading a book, “In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community of an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time,” by Peter Lovenheim.

I’m told Carol talked with her husband Peter and their neighbor Becca King and they started planning their first block party. They made fliers announcing it and the first year held it in the Letsons’ back yard.

The second year, it became an even more ambitious endeavor, with the town’s licensing commission allowing one block of Beech Street to be closed for the party.

This year, organizers included skill-swapping at the block party to give neighbors an opportunity to get to know each other even better.

Carol, Peter, and Becca are very pleased with the outcome. They said children play in the street, drawing with chalk or riding bikes, people grill hot dogs on a neighbor’s grill and folks share their skills.

“There were many good conversations,” they said.

Maybe you can start something similar to get to know your neighbors a little better?

To contact Anita Fritz, a staff reporter at The Recorder, send an email to: or call 413-772-0261, ext. 280. You can also reach Anita on Facebook at Anita’s Neighbors. Information to be included in Neighbors may also be sent to: up to noon two days before you want it to run.

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