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 »

Grassroots Diaper Drive to Support Families in Need

Spring Diaper Drive in Franklin County to Support Community

Host a Diaper Drive this spring in your place of work, faith community, neighborhood, school, civic organization, or any group you belong to. It is easy and a positive way to support families and a great way to incorporate service-based learning with your children.

Diapers matter in a big way!  The health and social consequences for babies and families who do not have sufficient diapers can lead to a whole mountain of problems. To help mothers and families in need, Spring Diaper Drives are being organized to benefit young children and families living in Franklin County.

Sponsored by the Perinatal Support Coalition and the Early Childhood Mental Health Roundtable, two groups of professionals from a range of organizations that serve young children and families, this Spring Diaper Drive can help “close the diaper gap” and help low incomes mothers and families meet their diaper needs… and organizers are looking for families who want to volunteer by organizing a diaper drive in their community to donate to the Spring Diaper Drive!

Reducing diaper need for low income mothers has huge ramifications for maternal and child health, mental health, the child’s development and school success, and the mother’s access to future economic opportunity.  Did you know that….  Read the rest of this entry »

The Children’s Garden Project Brings Garden-Based Learning into the Community

The Children’s Garden Project

Working on garden bedsA childhood filled with playing in the dirt is something that rural folks can almost take for granted. Small lessons about seeds, plant growth, weather, and seasonal changes almost teach themselves when kids are able to explore the earth – and the things that grow in it – for themselves. But what happens when the dirt to dig in is covered with pavement? How do we help children to learn these lessons when the materials aren’t quite so handy?

Thanks to The Children’s Garden Project , kids in the urban areas of Hampden and Hampshire counties have easier access to dig-able, plant-able, fascination-inducing earth! The organization – which begun their work just last year – has helped to bring gardens to locations in Holyoke and West Springfield. This year, the organization has partnered with Head Start to bring gardens to seven new locations in Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee.

While school gardens are becoming increasingly more and more prevalent, the founders of The Children’s Garden Project saw one major flaw with the model of using school gardens as a tool for teaching…  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 »

Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive

Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive

Every $1 donated through the Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive equals $13 worth of food distributed to families in need (the equivalent of nearly 10 meals!). In other words, your $1 dollar donated through our virtual food drive to The Food Bank of Western MA will feed 10 people a much needed meal!

According to the Food Bank of Western MA, one in eight people in our region—at least 135,000 region-wide—struggles to put a meal on the table or has to choose between paying for utilities or buying food. Many more may miss meals every now and then, or rely on alternative ways to get food they can’t purchase, like dumpster diving or visiting a meal site. Tens of thousands of families, elders and children in our region daily rely on emergency food assistance, such as community pantries or meal sites. Hunger can strike anyone, including working families, elders on limited incomes and people faced with a sudden illness or layoff.

This holiday season, Hilltown Families is hosting a Virtual Holiday Food Drive in support of food security in our region. While organizing food drives have many terrific benefits and are great ways to bring families together in a community gathering space to support western Massachusetts residents in need, there are many benefits of a virtual food drive too, including: cost savings to The Food Bank of Western MA in staff time; no extra driving for participants; and accessible to families near and far who want to support food drives in our region…

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 »

Volunteer with Gray House in Springfield

Support Neighbors in Transition
Volunteer with Gray House in Springfield

Looking for community service opportunities to do as a family? Whether you’re hoping to fill a few free afternoons with an engaging activity or are planning to make a long-term commitment to lending a hand with a community organization, opportunities for service learning abound at The Gray House! Located in Springfield’s North End, The Gray House offers a thrift shop and food pantry twice a week, along with after school programming and a place-based summer program for Springfield students.

Families can spend time sorting donations at the thrift shop or food pantry on Mondays and Wednesday-Friday. Volunteers on these days help to sort donations, prepare distribution bags, and fill displays of food, household items, and clothing – activities that are all necessary to keep the services running smoothly. Both the shop and the pantry are always in need of volunteers, but families don’t have to commit to regular visits – perfect for busy families, or those with regularly changing schedules.

If you’re hoping to become involved in a long-term service learning project, volunteers are also always needed to help out with The Gray House’s Community Education Support Program (CESP) and the Kids’ Club after school and summer programs. Best for teens and parents, these programs offer valuable education-related resources to the community. People from more than 16 countries utilize the English language and literacy skills classes that CESP offers, and the Kids’ Club provides a fun, safe, and engaging after-school environment for students (not to mention that participants also get free dinner!). No experience with education is necessary in order to volunteer for either program, but volunteers must make at least a 4-week commitment and will receive training before beginning.

Volunteering for a community organization is a great hands-on, experiential way for families to learn about supporting their community. Kids old enough to participate will learn valuable lessons about helping their neighbors and giving back. There are many powerful lessons that can be learned through community service!

The Gray House is located at 22 Sheldon Street in Springfield. Contact Katie Manning at 413-734-6696 for information on volunteering and the services offered.

Citizen Scientists Wanted to Monitor Plants as the Seasons Change

Project BudBurst
Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families & Students

For younger children, BudBurst Buddies is a companion to Project BudBurst that encourages young learners to follow the seasons by making simple botanical observations. Check it out at www.budburstbuddies.org – (Photo credit: Dennis Ward)

Students can learn so much by following the seasonal patterns of plants found here in New England. Each plant’s cycle is different, and varies depending on factors like location and weather patterns.  Tracking a plant through its seasonal changes can help us to better understand the subtle changes that take place in our environment, and says a lot about where we live.

This spring, families can track these plant cycles by volunteering as Citizen Scientists for Project BudBurst, a national project that tracks buds, blooms, and leaves as the seasons change.  The project is used to generate useful ecological data that can be used in studies of the environment and to track annual changes of seasons and climate.  The project is open to families and educators living in any of the 50 states, and participation can be a one time project or a year-long educational expedition.

Working together to gather information to submit to Project BudBurst is a great way for youth to develop useful nature-related skills and to gain knowledge and experience in plant identification, while volunteering as citizen scientists.  Students will need to learn the anatomy of plants in order to check for specific growth patterns, and they will gain practice using field guides while working to identify the plants that they find.  They will also begin to understand the biodiversity present in the area, and will examine the relationship that changes in the sky bring to their environment.  Recording data will help with development of basic data analysis, and presenting data in a useful format is excellent practice for nonfiction writing.  Students of all ages can learn by participating in Project BudBurst, and it could be used by homeschoolers, K-12 classrooms, and higher education.

For more information on the project or to sign up to contribute, visit http://budburst.org/getstarted.php.

Volunteer to Help Hampshire County Parents as a Parent Aide

Volunteer as a Parent Aid with Berkshire Children & Families

The PAVE program pairs trained volunteers with Hampshire County families in order to provide one-to-one, relationship-based home visiting support. PAVE volunteers commit to approximately one year of service to one family.

Marylou Spaulding of Berkshire Children & Families writes:

Become a Parent Aide!  For over 32 years, the PAVE program has been providing home-based support to Hampshire County parents who are stressed and often isolated from a supportive community. The program’s goal is to strengthen and empower parents by giving them new tools to help them in their parenting journey.  Compassion, common sense and the ability to listen to a parent are required.

Berkshire Children & Families will provide the training and supervision. Volunteer 3 to 5 hours per week. Spring training is now forming and we hope you can join us!  No commitment required until after you have completed our interesting and informative training.  Please join the next PAVE training and discover how you can make a positive difference in the lives of children and families in your community.

For more information, call Berkshire Children & Families 413-584-5690 x114 for Gail Fries, or x115 for Mary Benedetti.  E-mail gfries@bcfcma.org or mbenedetti@bcfcma.org. Families are waiting for you!

411 in the 413 Youth Conference Seeks Workshop Facilitators

“411 in the 413” Youth Conference
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Becket, MA

Volunteer as a workshop facilitator at the “411 in the 413” 6th annual Youth Conference happening on April 11 in Becket, MA!  Organizers are seeking creative, dynamic speakers and interactive workshop facilitators. Applications are due January 31st, 2013.

The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA, along with the Railroad Street Youth Project and the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, are once again offering 411 in the 413, a day of youth engagement on a wide range of topics.  

This year’s theme is, “Journey of Discovery: A Day of Exploring Philosophy, Your Identity, and the Outdoors.”

The conference takes place at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA on April 11th, 2013, and offers youth a chance to share their ideas and make their voices heard!

In preparation for the event, workshop facilitators are sought – facilitators would help participating teens learn about and work through ideas about culture, philosophy, the outdoors, and even themselves!  Facilitators will not be paid – it’s a volunteer position, but one that provides a great service to the community.  For more information or to submit a proposal, visit nbccoalition.org.

DIY: Repurposed Planters for Paperwhites For Giving

DIY Pictorial: Yarn Wrapped Tin Can Planters

By Amber Ladley

When Hilltown Families asked Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse to come up with a creative (and decorative) way to help families plant Paperwhite bulbs donated by Hadley Garden Center at the first ever Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night, we put our clever minds to work. Our goal was to have an activity that was easy enough for people of all ages, and messy wasn’t an option. Families would be traveling with their Community Passports to help out at a total of five volunteer stations, so we wanted to keep things simple yet creative. Our solution was yarn wrapped tin can planters… and it turned out to be quite a success!

Yarn wrapping tin cans is the perfect small group activity. After decorating the cans, families filled them with one-third gravel, set a Narcissus papyraceus bulb on top, and attached an eco-friendly gift tag & care instructions. Families got to take home lovely decorated tin can planters to donate to a community center or give to a person of their choice. Everyone really loved the activity and Macey and I enjoyed facilitating the Winter Blossom Station, answering questions and seeing all of the colorfully wrapped cans that went home with participating families.

If you don’t have any bulbs to plant, you could also make cans to be used as an organizer for the…kitchen (chopsticks)…office (pens, pencils)…kids’ creative space (crayons, markers)…craft space (buttons, corks, glue sticks, paint chips)….share any other thoughts or comments you may have below. Also, you don’t have to stick with yarn– try fabric scraps, twine, or ribbon!

DIY Tutorial: Yarn Wrapped Tin Cans

Here are the instructions, so you can do-it-yourself (DIY) or with your friends, family, or classroom. Enjoy!

Materials Needed

  • Clean & empty tin can*
  • Yarn (great project for leftovers!)
  • Double-sided tape
  • Scissors
  • Gift tags (optional)

*Be careful when handling can, edges may be sharp. It is helpful to grind down the inside rim with a grinding stone or dremel, or you can pinch the rim with needle-nose pliers, or cover it with duct tape. Adults should handle removing sharp edges before giving the can to a small child. Older children should be reminded not to stick their hand in the can to prevent getting cut.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amber Ladley – Amber enjoys creating everything from food, to crafts, to websites. She is a mom of two young boys, Jack and William, who are currently being homeschooled by her husband, Tim. Amber and her friend, Macey, are co-founders of Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse, a new socially responsible for-profit business on a mission to open a creative reuse center for the Pioneer Valley.

10 Ways Families Can Be Engaged in Their Community Post-Election in Western MA

Status Updates: Community Service Connections

For more community service connections, “Like” the Hilltown Families Facebook page for status updates!

Here are 10 ways families and teens can support their community and others post Hurricane Sandy and leading up to the holidays.  All of these suggestions were posted to the Hilltown Families Facebook page over the past week.  We offer daily updates and announcements on our Facebook page for families living throughout Western MA! If you haven’t already, be sure you not only “Like” our page, but that you add us to your Facebook News Feed and Interest Lists!

HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF EFFORTS

Is your family looking to volunteer in the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts? There is a Staten Island Relief project happening all week in the Pioneer Valley. A tractor trail is being filled with donated relief items and both donations and volunteers to load are needed. Locations include: Technique Studio of Dance (470 Newton St.) in South Hadley on Tues. (11/6) and Wed. (11/7) from 4:30-7:30pm; Nuvo Bank in Springfield (1500 Main St.) during regular business hours from 8am-5pm; and Hukelau Restaurant parking log (705 Memorial Dr.) in Chicopee on Fri. (11/9) from 9am-7pm. Suggested donation items include: water, blankets, contractor bags, clothing, shoes, boots, flashlights, batteries, cleaning supplies, baby needs (clothing, diapers), children’s toys and ready to eat food (pretzels, chips, cookies, etc.). Anything and everything is needed! – Email Darlene Sattler at TSD1997@aol.com to volunteer or to donate.

The Minerva Tag Sale Center in north Berkshire County is currently accepting donations for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Minerva Arts Center writes, “We have sent a delivery of donations down today and are planning another in 10 days. Donations are accepted everyday.”

PARK CLEAN UP

On Saturday (11/10), bring the family and head to Springside Park, Pittsfield’s largest public park, and volunteer together with your community to clean up the park before the snow falls. Bring gloves and park at the upper playground (near the old zoo). Rain date: 11/11.

COMMUNITY DINNER

Saturday night (11/10) join the families from the Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington for a community pasta supper with locally made sauce from Ooma Tesoro & bread from Bread Euphoria Bakery & Cafe. There will even be gluten free pasta for those who can’t have wheat. Two seatings. Follow the link for details:

DONATING USED TOYS

Looking for a place to donate your child(ren)’s used toys? Alison Webster asks, “Does anyone know where I could donate used, very good condition toys and they would go directly to kids/families?” Check out what our readers recommended and share your own ideas:

THANKSGIVING DONATIONS & VOLUNTEERS

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield is now accepting turkey donations for their 21st Annual Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov 15th at the Club for youth members and their families, free of charge! With over 200 people expected, volunteers are needed too to help serve and clean If your family is interested in volunteering please contact Kellie or at 413-562-2301 or lerryn@comcast.net.

YOUTH INTERNSHIPS

Internships Needed for Local Youths! The North Quabbin Community Coalitionis looking to fill paid and unpaid internship positions for local youth from both Athol High School and Ralph C. Mahar Regional Schools. These positions would offer the youth an opportunity to explore possible career opportunities and exploration, give them experience in a certain field and offer them the opportunity to learn. Some benefits to local businesses who are willing to hire youth can range from enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, creativity and adaptability. Youth thrive with change and are open to it, and most importantly they are consumers. If you are interested in hosting a youth internship, please contact Jennifer Desjardins at the North Quabbin Community Coalition at 978-249-3703 or Jennifer@nqcc.org.

FOOD DRIVE

The Emily Williston Library will offer its popular “Food for Fines” program the first three weeks of November to benefit the Easthampton Community Center Food Pantry. Patrons with outstanding fines for overdue materials may have their fines erased by donating canned food items, diapers, and toiletries. Follow the link to find out more:

WINTER COATS

Child Care of the Berkshires, Inc.‘s Family Resource Center in North Adams is in need of donations of children’s winter coats for their clothing exchange. Sizes ranging from infant through size 10 are needed. FRC will have donation boxes at their Play and Learn Groups and inside the door at Haskins Center in North Adams. Questions? Give them a call at 413-664-4821.

TEEN VOLUNTEERS

Moments House is looking for teens interested in being on their Jr. Board of Directors. If you know a teen who would be interested in becoming involved in any way with their mission to ensure no one faces a cancer diagnosis alone, call 413-443-6800. Moments House is a non-profit organization based out of South Lee, working to open a homelike gathering place where all Berkshire County families impacted by a cancer diagnosis can come together to gather information, and comfort and support one another. www.momentshouse.org

Volunteer as a Citizen Scientist on the Westfield River with Hilltown Families

Hilltown Families Event
Volunteer Opportunity: Citizen Scientist
Wednesday, October 17th @ 3:30pm
West Branch of the Westfield River

“Giving families a hands-on opportunity to be engaged in the study of their local ecosystem, can stimulate an interest in science in children and an investment in their local environment,”  says Sienna Wildfield, Executive Director of Hilltown Families. “By offering field experiences that supplement the education of our children, we can help foster a connection and investment in local community.” (Collecting samples from the Westfield River last year. Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield.)

For the third year in a row, Hilltown Families will be partnering with Biocitizen in collaboration with the MA DEP in our long-term commitment to their stream monitoring project.  Families with kids interested in science, including biology and ecology, are invited to join us on the banks of the Westfield River on Wednesday, October 17th at 3:30pm (rain date: 10/21).  We will be collecting and inventorying benthic invertebrates (water bugs) using the rapid biotic assessment (RBA) technique. The type of bugs found in our collection will give us a gauge of the river’s health.

“How many times have you looked at a river thinking, how beautiful—and pulled out your camera to capture the swells of whitewater, a striking blue heron, or blazing maple tree in the autumn overhanging its banks?” says Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA.  “A river is not just beautiful, though; it’s alive, and those who witness this life, this bios, never look at or appreciate a river the same way again,”

Stonefly nymphs are a bug we want to catch,” shares Heidinger. “They are a primary food source for brook trout and, like trout, require clear, clean, cold oxygen-rich water. If there is too much nitrogen or potassium (from fertilizer run off) in the water, algae will bloom and suck the oxygen out of the river. You won’t find many stonefly nymphs—and therefore trout.”

Sorting though collected samples. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

By doing a Rapid Bioassessment, we will continue to monitor a section of the West Branch of the Westfield River by netting benthic macro invertebrates (underwater bugs) and inventorying them. The percentage of certain insects we collect will quickly allow us to assess the quality of the river.

Last year in the wake of Hurricane Irene, samples collected were missing the large stoneflies and teeming samples of writhing, boisterous bugs found the year before. This year we’re looking forward to samples that speak of how the river is a superorganism whose health changes in respond to climatic influences.

“Giving families a hands-on opportunity to be engaged in the study of their local ecosystem, can stimulate an interest in science in children and an investment in their local environment,”  says Sienna Wildfield, Executive Director of Hilltown Families. “By offering field experiences that supplement the education of our children, we can help foster a connection and investment in local community.”

This is a free volunteer opportunity, however, space is limited. Appropriate for kids 7yo and older. Directions will be given following sign up. Families interested in participating in this citizen scientist opportunity, or similar opportunities in the area, can contact us here:

Citizen Scientists Track Owls in Massachusetts

Tracking Owls in Massachusetts
Families Can Help Mass Audubon

Great Horned OwlThere are eleven different species of owls found in Massachusetts, and chances are good that there are a few in your neighborhood.  Families can become owl spotters and useful citizen scientists by taking part in Mass Audubon’s efforts in tracking owl populations – there are lots of ways to participate, and any and all information collected in useful!

There are a variety of different owl-themed family programs offered by Mass Audubon, including moonlit trail explorations to search for birds, hands-on learning activities at sanctuary visitor centers, and owl-themed presentations for older students and adults.  After brushing up on owl-knowledge, families can venture out into their backyards or nearby woodland areas (parks, nature sanctuaries, etc.) to search for signs of owls – and maybe even a real-life owl itself!

Findings can be reported on Mass Audubon’s online Owl Reporter form, used to collect all sorts of information on owl sightings, including location, species of owl (or general characteristics of the bird), etc.  There are even instructions for constructing bird houses on the organization’s website – owl-loving families can build them to encourage owls to move into their neighborhood. ()  Taking part in the project is a great way to supplement studies of New England wildlife biology and can help kids develop confidence in animal identification and outdoor skills.  For more information, visit www.massaudubon.org/owls.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Eric Kilby]

Community Service: Source-to-Sea River Clean-Up with The Trustees

Source-to-Sea Clean-Up in Hampden County
Sunday, Sept. 30th

Ellie Lobovits, Holyoke Education Coordinator for the Trustees writes, “The river is such a spectacular resource in Holyoke. From restoring ecological habitat along its banks to leading kayaking trips we really want to keep it healthy and make sure people are enjoying it.” (Photo source: CT River Watershed Council)

The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees), United Water, and Holyoke Friends of the River have joined forces this fall to organize a river clean-up volunteer day on the banks of the Connecticut River. On Sunday, September 30th, from 9am-Noon, folks of all ages and abilities are invited to meet at the American Legion next to Pulaski Park (50 St. Kolbe Dr., Holyoke, MA) to walk down to the river, picking up trash and debris along the way. The trash will then be organized into categories (metal, wood, etc.) and picked up by the Holyoke DPW. Much of the trash will be recycled… even tires get recycle! This clean-up is part of a larger effort organized by the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) called “Source-to-Sea,” a clean-up that will run all weekend and will span all four states through which the Connecticut River runs.

This volunteer day is a great opportunity for youth groups, student groups, and other local organizations to come together to help clean-up the river and to make this precious resource safer for all. The river is used for all sorts of recreational activities, including boating and fishing, and is an important ecological resource, providing habitat for bald eagles, turtles, herons, and various fish. Last year, 1,500 Source-to Sea volunteers pulled over 51 tons of trash from 60 miles of shoreline throughout Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut!

Looking for an existing group in your area to join? Check the CRWC website for groups still looking for volunteers, including the Friends of the Green River for the 9th Annual Green River Clean-Up on Saturday, Sept 29th from 9am-3pm.

Become a Friend of the River:

Family Volunteering at the Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village Offers Volunteer Opportunities for Families

Assist young visitors in the Hancock Shaker Village hands-on Discovery Room.

There is a unique volunteer opportunity available for families with older children happening at one of our living museums! Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA offers families with children ages 13 and older the chance to volunteer at the village, and there are many different activities to help out with!

During the spring, volunteers are needed to help with Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm, an ongoing event featuring baby animals of all types that visitors can meet and interact with. In the summer, volunteers can teach visitors how to make butter, perform traditional Shaker music, assist in facilitating hands-on activities at the village’s Discovery Room, help care for gardens and orchards, and demonstrations of other ways of life from the 1800s. And in the fall, volunteers are needed for their Country Fair and Shaker Suppers.

There is training available for volunteer activities that require special skills (like making butter or blacksmithing). By volunteering, families with teens can learn about Shaker culture and local history, and will play an important role in visitors’ learning! Volunteering allows families to be a part of the village, a unique local resource, and is a great way to contribute to your community. For information on volunteer activities, visit www.hancockshakervillage.org.

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Bald Eagle Count

Bald Eagle Count

This winter families can participate in conservation and species preservation while helping out as citizen scientists!

Along with Audubon’s December Christmas Bird Count comes a second opportunity to participate as a citizen scientist while observing bird populations in your area.  The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) conducts an annual survey of Bald Eagle sightings during January- this year’s dates are the 4th through 18th.

Citizen participation in the survey is important because Bald Eagle populations have been increasing, making it more difficult for DFW workers to ensure that all Bald Eagles have been accounted for.  The department’s website offers a fact sheet on Bald Eagles to help prepare citizen scientists for sightings.

If you see a Bald Eagle, report the sighting by e-mailing with the date, time, location, and time of the sighting along with the number and age (juvenile or adult) of the birds to mass.wildlife@state.ma.us.  Sighting submissions can also be mailed to: Eagle Survey, MassWildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA, 01581.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Eric Bégin]

Volunteer for First Night Northampton

Volunteer Opportunity: First Night Northampton

First Night is a Northampton tradition enjoyed by the community every year- families love all of the fun events that take place all day (especially the fireworks!) and it’s a wonderful way to wrap up the holidays. However, all of the fun couldn’t happen without the help of volunteers!

The Northampton Center for the Arts, which the event benefits, is seeking volunteers to help out during First Night! There are three shifts available- 1-5pm, 4:30-8:30pm (with a break for fireworks), or 8-11pm. Volunteers are asked to help out at one of the downtown performance venues during their shift, so if you help out, you’ll still get to enjoy the events! Volunteers also get a free First Night button and are able to enjoy the event while they’re not on duty! For more information or to sign up, call the Center for the Arts at 413-584-7327 or fill out their volunteer form online.

Volunteer as a Citizen Scientist on the Westfield River with Hilltown Families

Hilltown Families Event
Volunteer Opportunity: Citizen Scientist
Wednesday, October 12th @ 3:30pm
West Branch of the Westfield River

Collecting samples last year in the West Branch of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield, MA.

For the second year in a row, Hilltown Families will be partnering with Biocitizen in collaboration with the MA DEP in our long-term commitment to their stream monitoring project.  Families with kids interested in science, including biology and ecology, are invited to join us on the banks of the Westfield River on Wednesday, October 12th at 3:30pm (rain date: 10/19).  We will be collecting and inventorying benthic invertebrates (water bugs) using the rapid biotic assessment technique. The type of bugs found in our collection will give us a gauge of the river’s health.

Sorting out leaves and debris from our collection.

“How many times have you looked at a river thinking, how beautiful—and pulled out your camera to capture the swells of whitewater, a striking blue heron, or blazing maple tree in the autumn overhanging its banks?  A river is not just beautiful, though; it’s alive, and those who witness this life, this bios, never look at or appreciate a river the same way again,” says Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA.

Showing kids how to sort out different insects and pointing out their variations.

Stonefly nymphs are a bug we want to catch,” shares Heidinger. “They are a primary food source for brook trout and, like trout, require clear, clean, cold oxygen-rich water. If there is too much nitrogen or potassium (from fertilizer run off) in the water, algae will bloom and suck the oxygen out of the river. You won’t find many stonefly nymphs—and therefore trout.”

By doing a Rapid Bioassessment, we will continue to monitor a section of the West Branch of the Westfield River by netting benthic macro invertebrates (underwater bugs) and inventorying them. The percentage of certain insects we collect will quickly allow us to assess the quality of the river… and with the extreme weather we’ve experience here in Western MA this summer, the results will prove to be interesting in comparison to last year’s statistics!

Examining our collections and collecting data.

“Giving families a hands-on opportunity to be engaged in the study of their local ecosystem, can stimulate an interest in science in children and an investment in their local environment,”  says Sienna Wildfield, Founding Director of Hilltown Families. “By offering field experiences that supplement the education of our children, we can help foster a connection and investment in local community.”

This is a free volunteer opportunity, however, space is limited. Appropriate for kids 7yo and older. Families interested in participating in this citizen scientist opportunity, or similar opportunities in the area, can contact us here:

Volunteers Wanted: Hilltown Families Benefit Bash

Volunteer Opportunity with Hilltown Families

Want to get involved with Hilltown Families? Have an hour or two of time to volunteer? A few helping hands during the Hilltown Families Birthday Benefit Bash are needed on Sunday, April 10th (and a few before then). Sign up below and we’ll be in touch!

Tell Us How You Can Help

Have a great idea or question? We want to hear from you!

Thank you for your support!

Volunteer Opportunities for Hilltown Families

Katarina Noyes, Parent Aide & Groups Coordinator for Berkshire Children and Families in Hadley, MA writes:

Become a Parent Aid Volunteer!

Parent Aides receive training and then are matched with a parent who wants the service. They spend 3-5 hours a week supporting a parent in multiple ways including:

  • Raise the parent’s self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Assist parents to find resources for their families
  • Support positive parenting to prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Increase understanding of child development
  • Expand social contacts and reduce isolation
  • Help parents learn to help themselves

Who are volunteers?

Volunteers come from all walks of life and share a common interest in building a nurturing relationship with a parent in the community who needs support. Parent Aides can be parents, or not, working or retired.

Criteria for being a Parent Aide

Volunteers need to be at least 21 years of age, agree to attend bi-weekly group supervision at the agency, and be available to meet weekly with the parent. Volunteers must have a valid driver’s license, car insurance and access to a car. A background check is required. If you are caring, non-judgmental and a good listener, you can be a Parent Aide.

Please contact Katarina at (413) 584-5690 ext.140 or knoyes@bcfcma.org

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