Volunteers to launch Year of Kindness in Athol

Rev. Cindy LaJoy announces creation of Athol Kindness Connection, a nonprofit designed to assist Athol seniors with simple tasks and chores, at the closing ceremony of the town’s Year of Kindness.

Rev. Cindy LaJoy announces creation of Athol Kindness Connection, a nonprofit designed to assist Athol seniors with simple tasks and chores, at the closing ceremony of the town’s Year of Kindness. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Some of the volunteers from Athol Congregational Church UCC who will make up the core members of Athol Kindness Connection. (From left) Rev. Cindy LaJoy, Joyce Phinney, Brenda LaCoste, Rev. Candi Ashenden, Marlene Chaisson, Marion McCann and Michael Thomas. Missing are Bonnie Hodgdon, Duncan Gordon and Christine Phelps.

Some of the volunteers from Athol Congregational Church UCC who will make up the core members of Athol Kindness Connection. (From left) Rev. Cindy LaJoy, Joyce Phinney, Brenda LaCoste, Rev. Candi Ashenden, Marlene Chaisson, Marion McCann and Michael Thomas. Missing are Bonnie Hodgdon, Duncan Gordon and Christine Phelps. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 01-22-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL – This past Sunday marked the official end of Athol’s Year of Kindness, an effort spearheaded by the Athol Congregational Church UCC, which encouraged residents to carry out simple acts of kindness toward others.

Yet, while marking the end of this initiative, Rev. Cindy LaJoy announced the creation of a new nonprofit called Athol Kindness Connection.

Before LaJoy’s announcement, church member Michael Thomas presented a synopsis of some of the activities carried out by the church’s Kindness Team and others who joined in the effort.

“How do you feel you ended up in the Year of Kindness?” Thomas asked. “When dealing with other members of the church, did you show them empathy if they were going through a tough time? Did you lend them your ear when they needed support? How did you measure up with your co-workers, with your supervisor, with your manager? Sometimes that can be hard to do, but did you persevere? In a world that hasn’t been so kind, were you kind to those people?

“Now that the Year of Kindness has passed, how will you measure up when no one is watching? In a world where you can be anything, be kind,” he said.

LaJoy then told the congregation, “We all discovered that the Year of Kindness was, surprisingly, for all of us, a stepping stone for additional work in our town. While kindness caught fire with our social media posts, we found that we were called out by someone one day who thought Athol should have a new senior support organization called ‘a village.’”

She said the Kindness Team, after investigating the concept behind a village, became excited about the possibility “of creating a village of our own.” LaJoy explained that the village concept was first conceived in Boston, with the creation of the Beacon Hill Village approximately 20 years ago. Since then, similar organizations have been established in more than 400 communities nationwide.

”Villages,” she continued, “are community-based, all volunteer organizations that provide some of the support and care that we already offer here to everybody in our congregation. Village volunteers from the community offer help with non-medical needs for seniors so that they might remain independent and in their own homes for as long as possible.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Two killed in Royalston collision
Storms leave hundreds without power in Athol, Greenfield
Homeless living in Athol garage say cost of housing is biggest obstacle
Athol committee considers ways to deter trespassers at parking garage
Upgrades planned for Athol’s retail shopping area
Senate charts course to soothe ‘struggling’ health sector

Such tasks, said LaJoy, include air conditioner installation, changing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries, transportation for grocery shopping and medical appointments, and other small tasks which will lessen their isolation.

“Basically, it is taking the love and care of a church community out into the world,” she said.

As Athol’s population continues to age, the need that already exists will only continue to grow, said a statement from the church.

LaJoy said the church has used a portion of a $25,000 grant through the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, which funded the Year of Kindness, to pay for the fees associated with starting a 501C3 nonprofit, purchase software to assist in running the village and the creation of a web site.

While noting maintenance of a nonprofit will require the need to fundraise each year, LaJoy said they have been told that many all-volunteer villages can run effectively on around $5,000-10,000 a year. This, she said, will necessitate the development of effective fundraising strategies long term. LaJoy added that Athol Kindness Connection will also pursue any grants that are available. The church has offered space for office space and meetings at no cost.

“After hours of research, meetings with others, and prayer,” said LaJoy, “we all came to the conclusion that this didn’t just seem like something we could or should do—it was actually a call from the spirit that we need to heed.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.