TRIAD brings Thanksgiving dinner to area seniors

  • Members of Franklin County Sheriff’s Office TRIAD team Brian Dobosz, left, and Butch Hawkins deliver all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner to Catherine Baranowski, 92, of Greenfield, last week. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Members of Franklin County Sheriff’s Office TRIAD team Brian Dobosz, left, and Butch Hawkins deliver the fixings for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner to Catherine Baranowski, 92, of Greenfield, last week. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • TRIAD team member Butch Hawkins talks with Catherine Baranowski, 92, of Greenfield, after delivering the fixings for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner last week. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2019 10:49:53 PM

Catherine Baranowski stepped from her garage with the help of a cane and the arm of her son last week to find two members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office TRIAD team waiting with a box filled with all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner.

“This is the first time in my life I’ve gotten anything like this,” said the 92-year-old Greenfield resident as her voice cracked.

Brian Dobosz and Butch Hawkins finished up their morning deliveries at Baranowski’s longtime Greenfield home. They had spent the morning adding the turkeys — sold to the team at sale price by Market Basket in Keene, N.H. — to boxes that members of the Thomas Memorial Golf & Country Club had filled with the rest of the fixings the day before, and then delivering those boxes to seniors throughout Greenfield and Turners Falls. Other members of TRIAD spent the morning doing the same, but in different areas of the county.

“This is such rewarding work,” Dobosz said.

“If we can keep seniors happy and safe in their homes, we’ve done our job,” Hawkins said.

But that’s not all the team is doing for Thanksgiving. That morning, a team of five will get up early, cook a full Thanksgiving dinner and deliver about 40 dinners to seniors, once again, throughout the county. Those people will be different than the ones who received boxes — most of them are shut-ins or people who will be alone on the holiday.

“We may be the only person they see on Thanksgiving, and for only about 15 minutes or so, but sometimes that’s enough,” said Ray Zukowski, who heads up the TRIAD team. “And our families are very understanding that we’re out on Thanksgiving morning and always have been.”

TRIAD team

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office TRIAD Program is a crime-prevention and wellness program aimed at protecting the safety and welfare of senior citizens throughout the county. The program works with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, local police and SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) councils.

The TRIAD team consists of Becky Paciorek, a full-time correctional caseworker at the jail, and retired sheriff’s deputies Dobosz, Hawkins, Zukowski, Angel Padilla, Fran Fox, Chris Ray, Mike Wozniakewicz, Joe LaChance and Brian Spear, who said they love what they do part-time now that they are retired, and also loved what they did throughout their careers. ​Louise Duclos and Jo-Ann Casey set up appointments for the team and keep records.

Zukowski, formerly the Montague police chief, said any county resident age 60 or older can be a member of TRIAD for free. All they have to do is sign up.

“We do everything from delivering equipment seniors need, like commodes, hospital beds, canes and walkers, to dinners on the holidays,” he said. “It’s very satisfying work. We spent our lives helping and taking care of people, and this is just an extension of that work. We’re caring for our vulnerable population.”

The TRIAD team also educates seniors by holding events at senior centers. Zukowski said safety and crime are two major subjects. The team supports seniors by helping build their confidence so that they aren’t victimized, and helps alleviate their fears.

Zukowski said sometimes team members will drop in to check on a senior they know might be going through a difficult time or might be lonely.

“We’re here to make their lives a little better,” he said. “We want them to be able to stay in their homes, where they want to be. And these services save them a lot of time and money.”

LaChance said the smallest things are paramount to some seniors. He said many have suffered loss or tragedy and have reached out for help. Others are too proud to ask for help, so when TRIAD learns about them, they approach in a respectful and delicate way.

“There was a woman whose little dog passed and she had nowhere to take it, no way to do anything about it,” he said. “We took it to the crematorium for her at no cost. It was priceless.”

‘We know our seniors’

The TRIAD team also holds a safety expo each September at Schuetzen Verein in Gill. About 500 seniors showed up this past summer for the free meal cooked by the auxiliary staff at the jail and Franklin County Technical School’s culinary arts students. Vendors from all different fields are there to help guide seniors.

Zukowski said seniors are referred to TRIAD by visiting nurses, senior centers, the hospital, and other organizations and individuals who work with seniors. He said the team members themselves know where to look for seniors in need, too.

“We all spent 35 years or more in law enforcement in Franklin County,” Zukowski said. “We know our seniors.”

TRIAD offers a food program supported by BJ’s Wholesale, Big Y and Pepperidge Farms, which donate food the team distributes to senior housing complexes and senior centers. Its medical loan program allows seniors to borrow medical equipment at no cost, including wheelchairs and Rollator walkers, along with canes, other types of walkers, commodes and hospital beds.​

Zukowski said Butynski’s Farm in Greenfield donates produce every week during the season so that seniors have fresh food to enjoy, and this year, the Thomas Memorial Golf & County Club held a fundraiser and raised enough so the TRIAD team could deliver the 48 Thanksgiving dinner baskets to seniors, including Baranowski, last week.

The team’s day starts at 7 each morning, when members check the log book and see what the day is going to look like for each of them. They are all assigned different areas and, depending on the day, most leave around 9 to start their visits. Among the team’s other duties, members spend time checking batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

“And if someone needs something, we find it for them,” Padilla said. “If a senior asks for help, we’ll find a way to help them.”

Members said they’ve gotten to know their seniors well, and know who needs a little extra attention. Most of the time, their work is done by noon. Each year, the team receives about 3,000 calls, and by mid-November this year, it had received almost 2,500.

“Seniors are very appreciative and so happy we’re making it so they can stay home,” Zukowski said. “This is a labor of love. There’s not much more that we can say except that we’re committed to our seniors. They deserve this, and we’re going to keep this program going.”

For more information or to make a donation, contact TRIAD at 413-774-4726. Its office is on the jail campus at 160 Elm St., where there is a pick-up site for medical equipment, which can also be delivered.

​Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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