Editorial: Monday Shorts: Mystery donor has soft spot for homeless



Here are some brief thoughts on recent happenings in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region.

Cold weather tugs at the heart like no other time of year. Mother Nature seems decidedly unmaternal when she flings her winter winds at us. Maybe that’s behind the anonymous donation that will enable ServiceNet’s Wells Street shelter to enlarge its capacity by 10 persons — a 33 percent increase.

The square footage was already there — 3,000 square feet, to be exact, on the upstairs level. The problem, said ServiceNet Senior VP Jay Sacchetti, has been that the shelter needed more toilets and showers. Anyone who has thought about renovating their home knows those are big-ticket items. So right there we know this was a sizable gift. Sacchetti said there will be three showers, a laundry area and several toilets upstairs, enough to accommodate 20 people. “We’re hoping construction is completed by the end of December,” Sacchetti said.

Charles Dickens’ characters felt the cruel sting of winter, huddled in doorways overnight. In Greenfield, Salvation Army Lt. Emily Leslie said there have been times when they have come to work to find people sleeping in their doorway. Our mystery donor is no doubt warmed by the prospect of 10 more beds for 10 more people who would otherwise be out in the cold. To enjoy a similar feeling, go to servicenet.org and click on “Donate Now.”

Giving Tuesday: It’s a state of mind

Last week’s Giving Tuesday, the cyber-based donation platform for making contributions to nonprofits, gave a boost to local organizations like Seeds of Solidarity Education Center in Orange. Co-founder Deb Habib reported that the nonprofit had raised $4,000 on that day. “We were thrilled to see we could count on people on Tuesday, but we know we can count on them all year. It’s about feeling like you’re part of something,” Habib said.

Not even a postgraduate certificate course in fundraising can improve upon that wisdom. So can we repeat Habib once more? “It’s about feeling like you’re part of something.” And that’s philanthropy, in a nutshell.

Return of the birthday parades

Remember those exuberant drive-by parades of last spring? Cars with smiling heads popping out of sunroofs, pickups with signs, fire engines with flags, and maybe a cruiser or two. They were used to celebrate everything from graduations to anniversaries to birthdays. Then, as Gov. Baker relaxed coronavirus restrictions in the summer, we didn’t hear so much of the honking.

Now — in Bernardston, at least — they’re back, and not a moment too soon. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Franklin County, restrictions against indoor gatherings mean no birthday parties. So Fire Chief Peter Shedd said he and his firefighters decided to resume the parades, offering a safe way to celebrate with neighbors. “We’re just trying to bring some joy to people’s lives,” Shedd said.

It’s a brave new world for bazaars

While some of us are still trying to wrap our minds around Zoom, others are dipping their toes into deeper waters by reimagining traditional events such as holiday bazaars as online “stores.” One of those pioneers was the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew. Their annual Mistletoe Mart migrated online with a catalog of crafts and food that customers could shop for from home. They sold both small items like tote bags and big-ticket items like quilts. It was a successful enough that they may try it again in the spring. That would add a whole ’nother tool to their fundraising toolbox.

Similarly, the Northfield Kiwanis held an live, online auction in lieu of their popular Holiday Fair, and other organizations are following suit.

This time next year, who knows whether we will be back to normal, with crowded holiday bazaars that happen, a la Brigadoon, on a single day and then vanish?

Here’s our prediction: In the future, online events will supplement the traditional bazaars. While you can’t sell things online and in-person at the same time, you could set up an online “week-after” bazaar to give shoppers a second chance to buy what’s still available. Or, you could have a pre-sale to tease interest. Or both! It’s all “new” money — and it’s weatherproof.

Kudos to this year’s early adopters of technology for breaking new ground and proving that it can be done.

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