National Volunteer Month & Beyond Boosts Service-Based Learning

Over 16 Volunteer Opportunities to Connect with Your Community & Community Treasures

Participating in community spring clean-ups gives families the opportunity to engage in community service together while promoting civic engagement and strengthening a sense of place in youth participants.

As spring warms the landscape across western Massachusetts, opportunities for outdoor adventures increase exponentially. What might have been a ski or snowshoe trek to search for animal tracks just a month ago would now be a muddy hike to search for vernal pools. However, in order to truly appreciate the wonderful outdoor spaces available to us, it’s important to lend a hand in readying local parks and trails for the season!

During National Volunteer Month, many local parks and trails are in need of some restoration, and there are plenty of upcoming opportunities for families to volunteer their time to prepare such locations for warm weather visitors. In addition to providing a much needed (and much appreciated) service to the community, participating in a spring clean-up effort is a great way to learn the specifics of local outdoor spaces. In helping to ready garden beds for spring, families can learn about how, when, and why certain plant varieties are planted. Similarly, families with older children can learn by helping out with trail maintenance – an activity that will help volunteers to learn about how trails are created and how (and why) they require such maintenance. Read the rest of this entry »

Making A List of Kindness for 2015

Being a Catalyst of New Year Kindness in Your Community

For the new year, make a family commitment to spreading kindness throughout your community! Rather than creating resolutions for self-transformation based on perceived flaws, celebrate your skills and share your love for those around you by engaging in acts of kindness all year long. It’s a powerful project!

At the start of 2014, we encouraged families to focus on resolving not to change or add to their lives, but to simply enjoy the good things in life. Rather than using the start of a new year as a time to focus on ways to fix perceived flaws in ourselves, it’s much more enjoyable to use the first of the year as a time to spark positivity and, after focusing on enjoying the good stuff in 2014, families can use the start of 2015 to spark a year of sharing kindness.

In addition to being a time for celebration, the holiday season brings with it a culture of kindness and generosity and, as the holidays come to a close, this culture is often stowed away or scaled back until the next year’s holidays come around. However, instead of letting kindness, generosity, and compassion be character traits that we reserve for only the most celebratory time of year, families can resolve to share kindness throughout the year – helping to remind themselves and others that being kind is necessary no matter the season.  Read the rest of this entry »

Source to Sea Clean Up: Community Service Opportunity for Families & CT River Watershed

Join Up for a Day of River Care, and Empower Your Family to Create Community Impact

Families can show their love and appreciation for the river by participating in the Connecticut River Conservancy’s annual Source to Sea Clean Up, an event that mobilizes volunteers from all over the Connecticut River watershed for a day of cleaning and caring for the river.

The Connecticut River dictates the landscape of much of western New England. Western Massachusetts’ hills and mountains provide a river- and stream-filled frame for the Connecticut River as it flows through towards Connecticut and, eventually, into the Atlantic Ocean. The Pioneer Valley’s rich farmland is a gift from the river, and delicious local food is grown and raised on the valley’s river banks. The Connecticut River is the lifeblood of our local landscape, and we depend on the many different natural features that make up its watershed for everything from swimming and hiking to healthy food and fresh water. Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Home Garden Exchange Wagon Reopens at the Old Creamery in Cummington

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Make 2010 a HHuGE Success for Food Security in the Hilltowns!
By HHuGE Coordinator, Kathy McMahon

The Hilltown Home Garden Exchange (HHuGE) ‘wagon’ is open once again! Thanks to Steve Yoshen (built the wagon), Leni Fried (artistic fruit and veggies) and the Goodtime Stove Company (wagon wheel provided), our ‘wagon’ is all ready to open up once again! Thanks to the Old Creamery for hosting it again this year! We’re hoping an early start will encourage folks to drop off extra seedlings and cuttings to produce even MORE food for our area!

Want to volunteer or coordinate volunteers for your church or organization? It is easy to open and close the wagon, and takes only a few minutes each day! If you will be driving by the Old Creamery in Cummington, MA (or on Route 9 and 112), why not agree to open or close it for a few days or a week? You get to see what great stuff has been dropped off!

Chesterfield Fourth of July Parade Beckons us once again!.Will you join us (in costume or not)? Handing out veggies and flyers announcing HHuGE is loads of fun!.Just ask the carrot, apple, farmers and other veggies that danced last year!

That’s all for now. Thanks for your interest in Hilltown Food Security!

Do you grow fruit or veggies at home? HHuGE will bring together
 Hilltown residents who want to share, learn, and encourage growing food at home and want to distribute their excess bounty throughout the Hilltowns via their HHuGE Garden Wagon. Find out more about the Hilltown Home Garden Exchange at, or contact Kathy McMahon at 634-0002,
(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Build a Secure, Sustainable Economy For Our Families & Community

31 Ways to Jump Start the Local Economy
by Sarah van Gelder

How to make it with less, share more, and put people and the planet first
Build a secure, sustainable economy beginning at home and in your community…

To download poster, click on image above.


  • Rent out a room in your home, or swap space for gardening, child or elder care, or carpentry.
  • Buy less so you can buy higher quality. Buy from companies that “internalize” costs by passing along to you the cost of living wages, low carbon footprints, or organic production.
  • Take your money out of predator banks and put it into a credit union, local bank, or an institution like Shorebank Pacific that supports sustainable businesses.
  • Pay off debts. Try life without credit cards.
  • Downsize your home and shrink your mortgage.
  • Fix things. Mend clothing, repair the vacuum, fix the car—instead of replacing them. Or give them away on
  • Invest with passion. Know where your money is and what it’s up to. Go for a living return that builds your community. Or invest in tangible things like a prepaid college fund or a piece of land.
  • Shorten the supply chain. Pick the wild greens and extra fruit growing in your neighborhood. If you can’t do that, then buy direct from a farmer. If you can’t do that, then look for local produce in season at your locally owned grocers.
  • Support other people’s local economies by urging your representatives in Congress to cancel debts to poor countries (see
  • Find a place, put down roots, and stay put. Get to know people from other generations. Turn off the TV and talk to friends and neighbors.
  • Support local green businesses rather than distant energy conglomerates by insulating your house, upgrading windows, and installing solar.


  • Form a dinner club and hold a weekly potluck, or trade off cooking and hosting.
  • Dip your toe in the barter economy. Check out Craigslist’s “barter” category, and learn what WTT means (Willing To Trade). Even better, ask the guy at work who makes microbrews to trade a sixpack for a dozen of your chickens’ eggs.
  • Get together with coworkers and start a list of things you can do at work. For example, buy fair trade coffee, change to energy-efficient lighting, or carpool.
  • Start a Common Security Club in your faith community or neighborhood to help folks cope in the crisis and act together to create the new economy (
  • Better yet, bring the generations together and support each in offering love and care to the others.
  • Pool funds with a group of friends for home repairs, greening projects, or emergencies.
  • Do home work parties. Each month, go to a different household to do major home greening, a garden upgrade, or some deferred maintenance.
  • Keep more people from becoming homeless by challenging evictions and occupying vacant homes.
  • Create a space at a farmers market to exchange or sell used clothes, electronics, games, CDs, plants, seeds, compost, and books. Encourage people to swap services, too, like haircuts, photography, or prepared dinners.
  • Reach out to groups that are organizing people on the frontlines of the crisis, like Jobs with Justice ( and Right to the City (


  • Link up people looking for job skills with people who can offer apprenticeships.
  • Start a local currency or time dollar program to help link needs and offerings, those with time and those starved for time.
  • Use publicly owned lands for community gardens, farmers markets, business incubators, community land trusts (with affordable housing), community-rooted grocery stores.
  • Hold on to the local businesses you already have. Help retiring entrepreneurs sell to employees or other locals.
  • Create a car, kayak, and electric pick-up truck co-op to save money and carbon, and provide access to a variety of vehicles.
  • Create or join a chapter of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) or similar groups. Work together to find services or products you could substitute for imported ones, local assets you can build on, and ongoing institutions that could be serviced locally.
  • Start a community bank, loan fund, or credit union to invest in local well-being, or encourage existing ones to rethink their lending.
  • Declare an end to corporate personhood in your community. Barnstead, New Hampshire did, and, more recently, three communities in Maine have done it. You can too.
  • Hold a weekly dinner for the hungry. Ask those who attend to help serve food at subsequent dinners. (Having an opportunity to give is important for everyone’s dignity).
  • Keep your energy dollars circulating locally. Launch a clean energy cooperative to install wind turbines or solar roofs, and to weatherize homes and businesses.


Photo of Sarah van GelderSarah van Gelder wrote this article as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is the Executive Editor of YES! Magazine.

CCL: Yes! Magazine

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