Thoughtful project is “the bomb” in Athol 

  • Staff from D’Ambrosio Eye Care in Athol dropped off more than 200 hats, scarves, gloves and mittens to Ann Willhite at Deja Vu, Wednesday, for the 4th Annual Scarf Bombing event to be held on Sunday. Left to right: Jude Seppa (D’Ambrosio Community Liaison), Khrista, and a very happy Willhite. Submitted photo

Athol News Staff
Published: 1/10/2019 10:00:13 PM
Modified: 1/10/2019 10:00:25 PM

ATHOL — The growing success of a thoughtful gesture is making people warm and cozy all over in downtown Athol. What started four years ago by a local business owner as a tentative outreach idea has grown into a major project spreading goodwill and kindness in Athol.

Ann Willhite, owner of Deja Vu at 479 Main St., thought she’d give “Scarf Bombing” a try in Athol after seeing its success in a neighboring town.

Said Willhite, “I got the idea from Bonnie Bradshaw who did it in Orange on the common.”

Again this year, Willhite has solicited donations of scarves, hats, gloves and mittens for men, women and children. She reports the first year yielded 104 items; the second year, 216 items, and last year, more than 400 items.

“And this year I have more than 600 items already,” she said, “D’Ambrosio Eye Care (413 Main St.) always supports the event and throughout all their offices, collected 200-plus items through December. This year is like wowza! What a great response!”

Wednesday afternoon, staff members from D’Ambrosio Eye Care toted boxes containing more than 200 hats, scarves, gloves and mittens down to Deja Vu for the Sunday Scarf Bombing. “Jude and Khrista make a great team,” said Willhite, “and I am extremely grateful to have been chosen as one of the many community projects D’Ambrosio supports. At least two hundred of the items are beautiful, handknit items. The people who create these love to do it, and run out of people to give things to.”

Willhite sorts, tags and boxes up items to be distributed to various areas throughout town.

Each item laid out will bear a tag with the words “I’m not lost. If you need me, take me home. If you don’t, leave me for someone else.”

The donations will be dispensed by volunteers. Due to the high number of items received this year, Willhite said, “We would love to have more volunteers to help “bomb” the town. Items will be boxed up and labeled for their destinations,” said Willhite.

Areas they will be set out for the taking include: Fish Park, the downtown veterans park, both sides of Main Street, the library (added last year), the bus stop in area of YMCA, the Uptown common and uptown veterans park. “We will be able to add Exchange Street and maybe elsewhere,” said Willhite, “It’s awesome, and people have been great. We’ve always had a lot of volunteers. In two hours it’s done.”

She noted that it has been the same folks who help out each year, “the same people, a couple of families with their kids, which is great.”

Past volunteers include Josh and Mary LaMarche and their daughter Aurora; Willhite’s daughter, Dayna, and Theodore her husband, and their daughter Izzy; Kathy Bryce and her husband (who drives and helps with the distribution). Vera Coupal, a member of the Rolling Thunder Vermont 1 veterans group. Vermont Thunder does a small collection. Coupal is accompanied by a good friend, Jutta Grenier and her son.

Willhite noted her appreciation for the work of D’Ambrosio Eye Care, “They are always doing something for the community. They purchased a bulletproof vest for the K-9, and contribute for the school kids’ backpack give-away in September.”

Volunteers are asked to meet on Sunday, Jan. 13 at noon, at Deja Vu where, she says, “Everything will be boxed and ready to go.” And she also invites participants to have coffee, cocoa and doughnuts afterward.

Willhite was unexpectedly thrust in the spotlight last year. The Scarf Bombing happened to have occurred and the downtown was “draped” with colorful scarves, hats, gloves and mittens.

“That caught the attention of the Springfield news crew who were in town to film the ice jam,” said Willhite, “they looked around and wondered what was going on!” It took a while to track the organizer down, but they did, Willhite said. “I got a call at 8 o’clock in the morning by a reporter. They did a short piece on TV. He was very impressed to think this is an annual community event. He was a nice young guy.” she said.

The town requires that within a few days “a week at most” Willhite is supposed to go around and remove any items left. “I’ve never had to do it,” she said, “I’ve seen a few left a little longer, but eventually they all go. It’s a good thing!”

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