Aging-in-place initiative coming to Deerfield, Whately

Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2019 6:33:27 PM

WHATELY — When the nonprofit Village Movement started in 1999, it took hold on Beacon Hill.

Now, 20 years later, the grassroots concept has spread to small towns in Franklin County.

Valley Neighbors is an aging-in-place initiative for Whately and Deerfield residents. It was conceived a couple of years ago by a group of people interested in starting a project that could provide certain essential services to senior citizens.

The Beacon Hill Village enabled Boston residents to remain in their homes and communities as they aged and spawned a network of more than 200 similar models across the country.

Debra Carney, a member of the Valley Neighbors Board of Director, said this local village is one of several dozen in the works.

“We’re trying to get it off the ground,” she said, adding that the nonprofit received 501(c)(3) status a few months ago. “We’re in the midst of a membership drive.”

The plan is for Valley Neighbors to offer local volunteer services and programs to residents 60 and older in Whately and Deerfield. Volunteers can help participants with small household chores and basic technical issues, provide them with companionship, and give them rides to appointments, social events, pharmacies, grocery stores and meetings.

Fran Fortino, president of the Valley Neighbors board of directors, said volunteers and participants have signed up but no services have yet been rendered. He said the hope is to start services early next year or in the spring.

“It’s important to get it right,” he said, adding that all volunteers will be vetted.

Fortino said about 35 percent of Whately’s population is 60 or older, and many participants’ families may not be nearby or able to help. He also said research has shown living in isolation is almost as hazardous to one’s health as tobacco smoking.

Whately and Deerfield residents in need of help, or their families, can join Valley Neighbors for $50 per household. Volunteers will receive training and insurance coverage while providing services. However, volunteers must be 16 or older.

Valley Neighbors accepts donations from businesses or individuals to help defray the costs of training volunteers, providing insurance and purchasing software. Donations and memberships can be sent to Valley Neighbors, P.O. Box 281, Whately, MA 01093.

For more information and to volunteer, contact Fortino at, Nancy Maynard at or Julia Berman at

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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