Dedicating a piece of Orange to Hazel Lackey

  • The parking lot across from the Community Clothing Center on West Main Street in Orange is going to be dedicated in honor of Hazel Lackey. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The parking lot across from the Community Clothing Center on West Main Street in Orange is going to be dedicated in honor of Hazel Lackey. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Athol native Hazel Lackey founded the Community Clothing Center, which has bounced around and is now located on West Main Street in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2020 5:24:26 PM
Modified: 6/29/2020 5:24:22 PM

ORANGE — When New Salem resident Susan Arnold moved to the North Quabbin region in the late 1980s, she discovered a friendly face who helped her settle in.

Through her jobs with Valuing Our Children, the Montachusett Opportunity Council, Peoples Bridge Action and LifePath, Arnold found that Hazel Lackey, an Athol native who opened the Community Clothing Center thrift shop on West Main Street, was instrumental to getting help to people who need it.

“In all those jobs that I’ve done, I’ve managed to have opportunities to be able to connect people that need services and need help, and I’ve always been able to go in to Hazel and say, this particular person might be needing a particular item,” Arnold recalled. “And Hazel graciously, always, says, ‘They’re welcome to come in and we will pull together and we will pool together anything that we need to for that individual.’”

Arnold also noted that Lackey was known to collect items for troubled youths and pregnant women.

Wanting to recognize Lackey for her commitment to the community, Arnold brought a petition article to the Orange Annual Town Meeting floor on June 15. The article, which was read aloud by former state Rep. Denise Andrews, asked voters to authorize the Selectboard to dedicate the town parking lot across from the Community Clothing Center at 17 West Main St. in honor of Lackey “for her decades of care and service to the citizens of Orange and surrounding towns.”

The article was adopted unanimously by voice vote.

“I was trying to figure out a way to be able to honor a gem that you have here in Orange,” Arnold said of Lackey.

With the article’s adoption, the process begins of raising donations for a rock bearing a commemorative plaque.

Andrews said donations can be sent to: Susan Arnold, 8 Old Main St., New Salem, MA 01355. She also said anyone interested in helping can stop by the parking lot for gardening and cleanup work between 8 a.m. and noon on July 18. She said the plan is to hold a dedication ceremony in August.

“But we’ve got a ton to do between now and then,” Andrews said.

The Greenfield Recorder was unable to interview Lackey, 93, because she has trouble hearing over the phone and resides at Quabbin Valley Healthcare, which has temporarily suspended all social visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But her son, Michael, said he is thrilled residents think so highly of his mother that they unanimously agreed to dedicate a small piece of Orange to her.

“I think it’s awesome that the town is going to recognize what she did for 27 years for them,” he said this week.

Lackey explained that his mother took it upon herself to maintain that parking lot, once the site of a hotel, and its aesthetics for 27 years, until she was 90.

He said his mother started the Community Clothing Center, which runs solely on donations, because she saw a need. Over the decades, the center has bounced around to numerous sites in Athol, Orange and New Salem, finally landing at the 17 West Main St. location.

When she was interviewed in 2016, Hazel Lackey said the whole idea came after her brother introduced her to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

“When I first joined the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, one of the ladies took me down to the clothing center in South Lancaster,” she said at the time. “I said, ‘I’d like to do that someday.’ Well, within a very few years I started doing it up here, and this area has a lot of need.”

Once it is installed, the rock bearing the commemorative plaque won’t be the first honor Lackey has received. She was also the Athol-Orange Elks Lodge Citizen of the Year in 2016. At the time, Elks Exalted Ruler Alice Schavrien said Lackey was a natural choice.

“She’s just a giving person,” Schavrien said. “A kind and giving person.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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