On Wednesday afternoon 32 volunteers, including six chaperones, were downtown, painting and repairing buildings, helping to rebuild the Crafts Inn’s brick pathways, and working on a new pedestrian boardwalk that will tie the municipal parking area to West Main Street sidewalks. Pickwell’s and Fennessey’s, both hit hard by flooding, got a fresh coat of paint. “They’re as good as any professionals I’ve ever hired,” said a grateful Gerry Costello, of Fennessey’s.
Carolyn Palmer, who is “championing” the municipal lot, said the volunteers have been an invaluable help in completing the parking lot. And, noting that the sale of at least one building has fallen through because of a lack of parking, Palmer says the completion of the lot is vital to the town’s recovery.
The parking lot was recently graded and landscaped. The boardwalk, which was being built by volunteers under the supervision of Palmer’s husband Carl Boyd and builders working for Phil Taylor, runs next to Pickwell’s, from the West Main Street sidewalk to the parking area.
As the boardwalk began to take shape, volunteers noticed that that the two surrounding buildings could stand to be spruced up, and were soon scraping and painting. Pickwell’s, with the help of Shaw’s Supermarket in Wilmington, treated the volunteers to a barbecue to thank them for their work.
But the group’s work hasn’t been limited to Main Street. The group also helped several homeowners impacted by the storm, including one homeowner who still had damage from an ice storm two years ago. The group also worked at the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry on Church Street, helping seal a new floor that replaced the one damaged by the flood.
The group hails from Holliston, MA, and are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. According to chaperone Mary Beth Numbers, volunteers from the church have been working on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi every summer since Katrina devastated that part of the country, sometimes sending more than 100 church members from two parishes. This year, in addition to their work in Mississippi, the youth group sought to volunteer closer to home, in an area struck by Tropical Storm Irene. The group contacted Terry and Dave Dumaine, who operate the Mellos’ Retreat Center in Whitingham. The Dumaines are providing accommodations, and helped organize jobs for the group.
Although they seemed to be having fun, the trip is no vacation for volunteers. In addition to the long hours of work, each volunteer has to pay their own way, including transportation, lodging, and food. Volunteers pay about $900 to work in Mississippi. The Vermont trip cost about $500, according to chaperone Katie Lummy.
Lummy says the trips are about more than service to the community, however. The experience includes Mass, Scripture studies, and discussion. “It’s more about the spiritual connection,” Lummy says. “We’re not ‘Bible thumpers,’ but we try to see God in what we do.”
The volunteers from St. Mary’s Church in Holliston will be in the area until this weekend.