Summary of meeting of Ward 2 Northampton Neighbors May 22, 2017
We had a lively and interesting meeting on May 22 discussing the future of Northampton Neighbors and our parts in it. I’d like to summarize it below to remind those of us who were there what we might want to do to follow up and to let those who were not able to come know about our discussion. But, just in case any of you might not read to the end of this somewhat long email, I’m going to start by noting what we can do now to help Northampton Neighbors get off to a strong launch in the fall.
Northampton Neighbors -- What we can do now:
1. Join Northampton Neighbors (henceforth NN) at northamptonneighbors.org. Donate if you are able. Forms for both joining and donating are available on the website.
2. Sally is gathering the information collected at the meeting about people’s interests in volunteering. If you weren’t present or want to add to what you have already told NN in a survey or application, please contact Sally at 413-727-8016 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sally will pass on information to Sara Lennox to include in the NN database for use when we launch.
3. Sally is also gathering names and interests for interest or social groups. Please contact her with thoughts about what groups you’d be interested in joining and she will pass this information on to Sara as well. Sara will attend to connecting people who have similar interests with each other.
4. Sign up for volunteer training this summer.
5. Contact Sara at email@example.com for an updated list of NN Ward 2 contacts if you wish to organize an informal social gathering for neighbors.
6. As you reach out to neighbors you know who may need services, if they are interested please share contact information for those people with Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org
7. If you know of good service providers (e.g., plumbers, caregivers, handypersons, etc.) please send names and contact information to Anne Benedict at email@example.com
8. Volunteer to organize a picnic this August to celebrate our fall launch. Contact Leigh Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Volunteer to set-up and maintain a calendar of social and interest group events. Contact Sara at email@example.com
10. Volunteer to help Katharine Baker apply for grants. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katharine Baker began by discussing what has been done so far to establish NN. Notably, the Northampton Senior Center has offered us office space, supplies and some staff time to enable us to begin operation without charging membership fees at this time. At the present time we have over 100 members. Linda Desmond, who runs the Senior Center, sees NN as an extension of what her Center does within the community. Linda will be offering training for NN volunteers this summer. Each volunteer will need to be trained and checked for Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). We anticipate a launch of NN programs this fall.
Despite our ability to begin operations without charging fees, NN is soliciting donations as well as memberships right now because we will likely need to hire at least a part-time director soon, and will need to be ready in the future to operate more independently of the Senior Center. We also need a good number of members to increase our chances of receiving grants we apply for. Please go to northamptonneighbors.org to find online membership applications and donation forms.
Participants had a variety of opinions about whether to focus on organizing on a small neighborhood level, a ward level, or a town level. It was pointed out that it is likely that it will be in our small (a few blocks) neighborhoods that we can best get to know people and recognize when neighbors may need assistance. But it was also suggested that it may take the whole town to fill out some interest groups—e.g., a group who want to play chess together might not find enough members in a small neighborhood. Dennis Bidwell, the Ward 2 City Council member, was present and suggested that he is able to help us on a ward level by sending out information on NN to ward members in his newsletter and that other Council members might do similar things.
It was suggested that we might use a phone tree or buddy system to be organized in small neighborhoods to keep track of vulnerable neighbors. Some thought we might start in very local neighborhoods by having small get-togethers, such as pot luck desert groups, to get to know our immediate members better. Staying in touch with members or potential members who don’t have internet access would be an advantage of these smaller area groups. In addition to connecting with people who don’t have internet access, we discussed reaching out to more people who are from modest income levels or who are renters as opposed to home-owners. Jim Winston is the son of a Northampton senior who suggested that we consider reaching out to the children of seniors who may wish to become members in order to access assistance for their parents and to volunteer themselves. It was also suggested that we might want to provide information on NN to local hospitals, rehab centers and similar institutions who might identify and refer us people leaving those institutions to be helped by NN volunteers.
There was some conversation about potential speakers. One suggestion was to have periodic meetings at which one NN member at a time would talk about their careers or interesting experiences in life. It was also suggested that we might bring in a speaker to talk about Northampton demographics and history.
Please let us know if you wish to be involved in ways we haven’t discussed here. We look forward to more neighborhood get-togethers and to the launch of NN in the fall!