Support Seniors with a Sock Hop!

Community Service Learning: Socks for Seniors

Of all the possible ways to give back to your community during the holiday season (and the entire year, too), collecting socks might seem like the smallest of ways to make a difference. In reality, it’s not such a small gesture! The socks that you collect or donate don’t have to be boring six-packs of plain white gym socks…. they can be whimsical or even hand knitted!

Spread the spirit of giving and build community this holiday season by organizing a collection drive to support Socks for Seniors!

The organization has been collecting socks all over the country for more than ten years, thanks largely to the support that they have received from families, businesses, schools, and other community groups. The socks collected in each drive are then given to elderly community members in order to keep their toes nice and warm throughout the winter and share some of the holiday spirit that inspired the project in the first place… Read the rest of this entry »

Community Service: Creating Care Bags for Giving

Hands-on volunteering experiences can sometimes be hard to find for families with younger children. There are many terrific of organizations within our community that need volunteers to help with a variety of jobs, but often these jobs are skill-specific or take place in environments that may not be welcoming to young children. However, there are lots of community service projects that kids can do at home that make just as large an impact as in-person volunteering.

Care bags are an example of an at-home community service project that families with young children can do together with parents or teens facilitating. Care bags can be created to donate for people of all ages to a variety of organizations, but creating them for children can help young children feel a particular connection to the process. While your own children may not have experienced anything like what those who will be receiving your bags may have (homelessness, foster care, major illness, etc.), they will already have one thing in common: they’re kids, and they know what is fun and interesting, as well as what would be comforting during a scary time.

There are many different ways to participate in the creation and distribution of care bags, and the process of creating them can be tailored to the age and specific interests of those involved. Families can research organizations that solicit donations of items or create their own bags from scratch.  [Continue reading…]

Support Seniors with a Sock Hop!

Community Service Learning: Socks for Seniors

Of all the possible ways to give back to your community during the holiday season (and the entire year, too), collecting socks might seem like the smallest of ways to make a difference. In reality, it’s not such a small gesture! The socks that you collect or donate don’t have to be boring six-packs of plain white gym socks…. they can be whimsical or even hand knitted!

Spread the spirit of giving and build community this holiday season by organizing a collection drive to support Socks for Seniors!

The organization has been collecting socks all over the country for more than ten years, thanks largely to the support that they have received from families, businesses, schools, and other community groups. The socks collected in each drive are then given to elderly community members in order to keep their toes nice and warm throughout the winter and share some of the holiday spirit that inspired the project in the first place… Read the rest of this entry »

The Stone Soup Cafe: Community Engagement One Meal at a Time

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe
Bringing Community Together One Meal at a Time

It can be easy to go through your family’s daily, weekly, and monthly routines without actively engaging with a diverse cross section of the community. Even families who routinely do volunteer work or explore new areas are somewhat limited in their ability to connect with others whose experiences – in the same physical location – are very different from their own. Strong communities, though, depend on interconnectedness amongst all of their members. In order to be resilient, a community must allow for those from all walks of life to have a voice, to be respected, and to be understood.

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe offers a venue that supports just that! Stone Soup is a weekly pay-what-you-can community cafe that serves fresh, homemade food to community members of all ages, backgrounds and dietary restrictions (gluten-free & vegan options). Located at All Souls Church in Greenfield, MA, (and supported by the congregation), the cafe is run based on the idea that food is a common thread in all communities, and that in sharing it, people from all backgrounds can bridge differences and connect with each other. In addition to community-building efforts, Stone Soup is also helping to address the issue of hunger in Franklin County. The cafe is the only place in Greenfield to get a free meal on Saturdays, making it a necessity in the lives of many families and community members.

Read the rest of this entry »

Little Free Library in Wilbraham

Little Free Library in Wilbraham Honors Neighbors & Remembers Tornado

Little Free Libraries are a way of promoting literacy and exchanging reading material. However they quickly become more than that. They provide a neighborhood with a way to share common interests and a place for ideas and people to meet. (Photo credit: Steve Fratoni)

Well, it is little, and it is a library, and, yes, it is free… so it must be a Little Free Library.

The first Little Free Library appeared in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 and now they can be found in every state and at least thirty-two countries. This one on Pomeroy Street in Wilbraham,  Massachusetts is the creation of Steve Fratoni in honor of his former neighbors Ted and Jane Gebeau. Ted and Jane started living on Pomeroy Street in 1947 when it was still just a dirt road through a field of strawberries and asparagus. Ted was instrumental in the founding of the Atheneum Society of Wilbraham and Jane was a librarian at the Town’s Library for over thirty years. Both were forced to move away in 2012 for health reasons. This Little Free Library represents their continued service to the Town and to their neighbors.

On a broad scale these Little Free Libraries are a way of promoting literacy and exchanging reading material. However they quickly become more than that. They provide a neighborhood with a way to share common interests and a place for ideas and people to meet.

Another aspect of community is the use of recycled building materials for the project. This library uses plywood scraps from a neighbor’s kitchen remodeling, wood from tornado broken trees, and lengths of ripped-up invasive Bittersweet vines.

So how does it work? If you see a book inside that interests you, take it, read it, and enjoy it. When your done return it to this library, or pass it on to a friend, or place it in any other Little Free Library (see list below). If you own a book that you have finished and think that others would like to read add that to the Library, too. Even better, write a few notes to tell others what you liked about the book.

(Photo credit: Steve Fratoni)

As for what kind of books are in this Little Free Library, that you will have to find out for yourself. It is something that changes from day to day and maybe even minute to minute. Since this Library opened during National Poetry Month, its first patrons will find poetry books ranging from a picture book of hand rhymes for children to the complete poems of Emily Dickinson among other fiction and non-fiction titles.

So don’t be frighten by this Little Free Library on Pomeroy Street, after all it is not really a house swept up in a tornado. Plus it is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to everyone who walks by.

– Submitted by Steve Fratoni


Other Little Free Libraries in Western MA include:

  • Easthampton: Located on the Man Rail Trail, west of Union Street, built by Williston Northampton School & the Manhan Rail Trail. Bruce Simons is the Steward.
  • Northampton: In the front yard of 82 Washington Ave.  Marjorie Senechal is the Steward.
  • Pittsfield: At the Pemble Farm Stand located at 787 Pecks Road. Caitlin Pemble is the Steward.
  • Russell: Located at 6 Blandford Stage Road. Bruce Miller is the Steward.
  • Williamstown: Located in the front yard on 74 Linden Street. Justin Adkins is the Steward.

Add your Little Free Library to the map at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Bag-Sew Builds & Connects Community from Berkshires to the Valley

Sewing Marathon Creates 485 New Bags for the Bagshare Project!

Leni Fried of Cummington, MA writes:

"It is great that we are keeping unwanted textiles out of landfills and recycling that fabric into useful bags that reduce the use of disposable plastic and paper bags," writes Amanda.

Hello Bag Sharers,

The Bag Share Sewing Marathons were a roaring success! I sewed for 24 hours straight. By 3 in the morning I felt like I was inside a giant sewing machine and there was nothing outside of it. By 7:30 a.m. I emerged from the church to see a brilliant rainbow over the fields and the rushing sound of the Westfield River. It was beautiful. Then off to a delicious breakfast compliments of The Old Creamery.

I sewed 118 bags and Amanda sewed for 19½ hours and sewed at least 30 of her special art bags.

Here’s some of what Amanda wrote about The Bagshare Project:

“It is great that we are keeping unwanted textiles out of landfills and recycling that fabric into useful bags that reduce the use of disposable plastic and paper bags. But I can’t help being even more inspired by the way Bag-Sews build community. It was so wonderful meeting smart, creative, sustainability-oriented individuals from our sister hilltowns to the south. I hope we can do more of this pan-hilltown organizing and cross-pollinating. It’s important to work on sustainability issues within our particular communities, but I think we also need to begin thinking about how to create the regional unity to make all of Western Mass (and beyond!) sustainable.

“The Bag-Sew events are one feature of Bag Shares that distinguish them from the reusable bags that “big box” stores now commonly sell. Whereas the latter bags are mass-produced in far off factories by anonymous workers, Bag Share bags are produced by local residents who are learning new skills, expressing their creativity, and making new friends. “

More Successes:

  • Kathi from Simmons Furniture in Pittsfield headed up a satellite marathon for Berkshire Organics.  They sewed 50 bags.
  • Diana Fabig was sewing in solidarity at home and sewed 10 bags.
  • The total for Cummington with about 25 people attending throughout the 24 hour period was 425 bags.
  • The full total was 485 bags plus lots of new friends and community connections.
  • And potential landfill fabric was collected using people’s commutes from Pittsfield to Springfield.

So to recap: I recommend marathoning! Staying up sewing with friends for 24 hours was fun and gave me a renewed appreciation for our world. Leaving to sew in the light of early morning, continuing into the darkness of night and then becoming aware of the light again gradually blending with the darkness into the next morning punctuated by the sounds of sewing!

Photo credit: (ccl) Andy Melton

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