Towns open senior centers, libraries for residents looking to beat the heat

  • Delrae Slover, Dennis Wissman and Charlie Richardson, all of Greenfield, take advantage of the air conditioning at the Greenfield Senior Center, also called the John Zon Community Center, on Wednesday during the afternoon heat. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2022 10:32:07 AM
Modified: 7/21/2022 10:31:44 AM

With blistering heat and stifling humidity expected to remain in the area through Sunday, town governments and organizations around Franklin County and the North Quabbin are opening their doors to residents as cooling centers.

The National Weather Service is projecting temperatures in the low to mid-90s through the weekend, officially meeting the state’s criteria for a heat wave, which is usually defined as a period of three or more consecutive days above 90 degrees, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Local towns are opening libraries and senior centers for those who live without air conditioning and are looking for some relief from the heat.

In Athol, the Athol Public Library is open to folks looking to beat the heat during regular hours, which are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

“We’re open and welcome anybody to come in,” said Athol Public Library Director Jean Shaughnessy. “In past years, the Fire Department has officially asked us to be a cooling center. Certainly, when we are open we are an unofficial center, but I will call the Fire Department.”

Anybody working outdoors during this period is encouraged to take more frequent breaks, drink water and try to avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time.

“Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances,” the National Weather Service’s advisory reads. “To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke is an emergency! Call 911.”

Other options in Athol and the North Quabbin region, according to North Quabbin Community Coalition Executive Director Heather Bialecki-Canning, include the North Quabbin Recovery Center from 9 a.m. to noon, plus senior centers in all nine North Quabbin towns. With questions, the North Quabbin Community Coalition can be reached at 978-249-3703.

The Greenfield Public Library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

“We’re a public space, we usually have air conditioning,” Greenfield Public Library Director Ellen Boyer said on Wednesday, “and on a day like today, boy, you need to go to a place like that.”

Other options in Greenfield include the John Zon Community Center, 35 Pleasant St., which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and the Elm Terrace Community Room, 1 Elm Terrace, which is open from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

“We do have two water bubblers that have water bottle fillers attached to them and people are welcome to take advantage of them while we’re here,” Boyer said of the Greenfield Public Library. “We won’t turn anybody away.”

In response to the heat, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory Wednesday that began at 11 a.m. and will expire at 8 p.m. Thursday. The advisory issued covers almost the entirely of the Pioneer Valley, including Greenfield, Orange, Northampton, Amherst and Springfield.

The heat index, which is what the apparent temperature feels like, could reach up to 100 degrees during the heat wave. As of Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service office in Norton is projecting a high of 94 degrees on Thursday, 92 degrees on Friday and 95 degrees on Saturday. In addition to the dangerous heat, the National Weather Service Boston’s Twitter account said “strong to severe” thunderstorms with damaging winds are possible Thursday afternoon into the evening.

Other options include libraries across Franklin County; the Erving, South County, Gill-Montague, Bernardston and Northfield senior centers; Sunderland’s Town Office from 8 a.m. to noon on Thursday; and Deerfield’s Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday.

The South County Senior Center will open its doors at its temporary space at the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church for all residents, not just seniors, who need a break from the heat on Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

See the full list

A full list of cooling centers in Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester compiled by state Sen. Jo Comerford’s office can be found at

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.

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