GREENFIELD — Tables and chairs were stacked on top of each other and the smell of paint wafted through the halls as a local team of Home Depot employee volunteers were hard at work at the Wells Street ServiceNet shelter Friday afternoon.
Following the tragic death of a homeless couple — Clayton “Aaron” Wheeler Jr., 51, and Kathleen Grady, 50 — who had been camping behind the McDonald’s on the Mohawk Trail in January, the Greenfield community responded with emergency meetings, donations of pillows and blankets to ServiceNet’s shelter, and other volunteer initiatives.
“People really rallied in the community after the couple died,” said Amy Timmins, vice president of community relations for ServiceNet. “They were aware at a new level of the need for services in town.”
On Thursday and Friday, the Home Depot team assembled to paint the Wells Street Shelter and Franklin County Resource Center, co-located at 60 Wells St. They also helped turn over an alcove into a freshly painted, fully shelved closet for more storage space.
“It’s a huge change,” said Elizabeth Bienz, shelter program director for the Franklin County Resource Center.
With a clean, vibrant coat of paint on the walls, those who are staying at the shelter will have an improved and welcoming space to relax, play a board game, work on a puzzle or cook a meal.
Chad Huntley, team leader for the Home Depot employee volunteers, reached out to vendors, including Behr paint and ClosetMaid, about donating materials for the closet and paint for the hallways and common room.
Huntley said the idea to build a volunteer relationship with the shelter came after Grady and Wheeler’s deaths, and was proposed during a Voice of Associate Committee meeting, where Home Depot employees discuss store atmosphere and employee health and well being. Employees felt affected by the two deaths, which happened “right behind our store,” he said.
“We wanted to do something closer to town,” Huntley said. “We called the shelter and asked ‘What do you need?’”
Home Depot volunteers included Huntley, Bruce Hagen, Tim Cronin, Ethan Reipold, Mark Allman, Danielle Wentworth, Claire Baker and Greenfield Store Manager Joseph Bougie.
Rose Facto, acting director for the Wells Street Shelter and Franklin County Resource Center, said new closet space will allow those who stay at the shelter to better organize and safely store coats and personal belongings. Additionally, it allows for more space to keep donated blankets, towels and other items.
Huntley and Facto both said they hope to maintain a community partnership for future volunteer opportunities and projects.
The Wells Street shelter is the only emergency shelter for individual adults in the area. Meanwhile, the Franklin County Resource Center helps support people who have no permanent housing. The shelter has provided services and temporary lodging to approximately 180 people over the past year.
Those in need can sign onto a waiting list for one of the 20 beds at the shelter, and it usually takes up to a few weeks for space to open, Facto said. Once a bed is open to them, they are welcome to stay for two months before needing to apply for an extended stay every 30 days after that.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.