‘We need more of it in the world’: Village Neighbors offers free small repairs to members

  • Glenn Stockton and Russ Greco, volunteers with Village Neighbors, carry moldy items out of a flooded basement for a Leverett resident on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Village Neighbor volunteers Russ Greco and Glenn Stockton clean out a flooded basement for a Leverett resident. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Sam Rodgers and Bert Fernandez, volunteers with Village Neighbors, pack a dumpster with moldy items from a flooded basement in Leverett on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2022 6:43:19 PM
Modified: 10/14/2022 6:43:25 PM

A handyman was heading to Nansi and Leonard Glick’s house in New Salem a couple of weeks ago when a light bulb in their home reached the end of its lifespan. There to install some grab bars and swap out smoke detector batteries, the handyman put a new bulb on his list of small projects, and this little addition in no way affected the Glicks’ bill.

That’s because there was no bill at all, as the materials accompanying the free labor were covered by a $3,000 grant acquired by Village Neighbors, a nonprofit that provides services to people age 60 and up in Leverett, Shutesbury, Wendell and New Salem.

“It was ideal, because I needed somebody to climb a stepladder and replace that bulb,” Nansi Glick recalled, adding that the home repairs program has been a lifesaver now that she is 86 and her husband is 92. “It’s very convenient to me, indeed.”

Village Neighbors volunteer Sam Rodgers was the handyman that day, having been involved for about 2½ years.

“Giving back’s important and it is fulfilling, helping people when they need help,” the Leverett resident said.

Don Stone, treasurer of Village Neighbors, has applied for the three grants the organization has received. The previous two grants have been for $2,500. Stone, who also sits on the Village Neighbors board of directors, explained the grants have come from LifePath. The repairs are free to any of the Village Neighbors’ 172 fee-paying members. He mentioned many members are so grateful for the repairs that they pay it forward, donating to the fund that is earmarked for more repairs.

Rodgers, a professional woodworker, also installed grab bars for the Glicks and replaced the batteries in their smoke detectors. Rodgers said his other volunteer projects include repairing furniture as well as helping people with their gardens and cleaning gutters. He said Village Neighbors — which launched in October 2018 — prefers to focus on projects with a direct impact on clients’ health, such as mold abatement.

“(I got involved) because I can and I wanted to give back before I need the help myself,” the 69-year-old said. “I’ve found that I’ve made some new friends, some very sweet people that I’ve met. It’s been very rewarding for me. I really feel the sense of community is important and this is an opportunity to contribute to that. And I love old folks, now that I’m becoming one of my own.”

Adele Smith-Penniman, 75, said a Village Neighbors volunteer once cut up a large tree bough that lay across her yard in Wendell after a windstorm. The benefit went full circle, as that volunteer brought the wood home for his stove. Most recently, a volunteer came to her home to install railings and lower the height of her outdoor stairs, “so as my body fails I can zip up the stairs.” Smith-Penniman said volunteers have also cleared her gutters and installed grab bars in her shower.

“It’s community,” she said. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Smith-Penniman mentioned she has also volunteered for Village Neighbors, giving people rides to medical appointments before the pandemic reared its ugly head.

Russ Greco, 73, said his volunteerism continues the service work he was doing while living in New Orleans, where he worked for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Operation Helping Hands in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He helped with disaster relief and now splits his time between Louisiana and the North Quabbin. A retired builder of 45 years, Greco explained that Village Neighbors takes care of small plumbing repairs and general maintenance that other programs don’t cover. He once rebuilt somebody’s collapsing floor.

“It’s something for me to do, and I enjoy giving back to the community,” he said. “Some of it’s selfish — your health and your mental well-being can go downhill fast if you don’t stay active.”

Greco explained many of the houses in this area are old country homes that have developed issues over the years.

One of those houses belongs to Portia Weiskel in Leverett. She said the residence she has lived in since 1970 was reconstructed from various homes dismantled for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. Its unorthodox origins resulted in “parts of it that just didn’t quite work.” She said Village Neighbors has helped her with work on the front of the house.

“We need more of it in the world,” she said. “I think it’s a really stellar organization.”

Village Neighbors’ services are available to members only. Information about membership can be found at bit.ly/3rvW7nm.

People interested in volunteering can contact Village Neighbors at 413-345-6894 or volunteers@villageneighbors.org. Information on how to become a volunteer is available at bit.ly/2Pg5FWp.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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