Hats off to Clifford Fournier on a well-earned retirement

Published: 1/8/2019 9:37:00 AM
Modified: 1/8/2019 9:37:05 AM

For volunteer extraordinaire Clifford Fournier, stepping back for a bit of a breather at 87 years old means working to feed the hungry maybe five days a week instead of six.

Fournier, who has coordinated the twice-weekly Orange Community Meal at Bethany Lutheran Church for more than 10 years, will retire from that post after today’s meal.

Fournier hasn’t just orchestrated the two meals weekly, but has also devoted time five days a week collecting food from Walmart and Hannaford’s for the meal, as well as for the Orange Food Pantry and other North Quabbin community meals.

That work will continue.

At the Orange Community Meal, which serves up to 70 people twice a week — with Fournier and volunteers serving 10,000 meals this year — volunteer Laurie MacDonald will succeed him as coordinator. The transition comes at the same time the meals will be scaled back for a while to one a week as Bethany Lutheran becomes the property of Mission Covenant Church, and the program works with Mission Covenant and area organizations to increase the number of groups involved in the Orange meals.

“The need in Orange is still great, so, we hope to increase the number of meals we offer each month,” Community Meal Program Executive Director Andrea Leibson explained recently.

Fournier, who grew up in Orange and worked for 32 years as a special education teacher at Erving Elementary School, as well as chairing the Orange, Mahar Regional and Franklin County Technical School boards over the years, was honored in 2015 as Greenfield Recorder Citizen of the Year.

“If Cliff Fournier could feed the world, he would,” said a written nomination by six people at the time. “If he could give every homeless person a place to sleep, he would. If he could give every needy person an education, he would. Clifford Fournier is a class act. He’s priceless and irreplaceable.”

Those sentiments are still true today.

At the time, Fournier — who began cooking for and organizing the community meal as a volunteer, along with foreign exchange students he hosted for decades — explained that he kept eight freezers in his basement to stock up with extra meals, cakes and dinners as the surplus foods became available, some of which he would bring to people in the community he knows are particularly in need of special help.

“We had nothing,” Fournier said of growing up with his grandparents in Orange during the Depression. “I remember we’d have nothing to eat in the house, and my grandmother would take ‘oyster dots’” — little oyster crackers — “and sprinkle them with butter and vinegar and put them in the oven.”

Yet, Fournier told us that “I don’t think it was as bad before as it is now.” And so deep into his 80s, he not only helps those in need, but also sets a shining example for the rest of us who can perhaps be doing more for our neighbors at half his age.

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