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Newton Residents Getting Up and Giving Back: Featuring Newton at Home and Centre Street Food Pantry

By Kristen Bosse

In early 2014, The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the 2013 volunteering rates for the United States, showing a decline to 25.4 percent, the lowest rate since the survey was first administered in 2002. With today's struggling economy, it becomes harder and harder to detract away from paid work and spend some time simply giving back to others. Newton residents are among the few ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things in their community. With plenty of volunteer opportunities at their fingertips, it can be hard to choose where to donate time. We were lucky enough to get an inside look at two non-profit organizations giving back to citizens in Newton. "Newton at Home" and "Centre Street Food Pantry" both welcome volunteers that can donate any amount of time to a good cause.

Newton at Home

"Newton at Home" is a non-profit membership organization founded by a small group of Newton residents who wanted to build a community in which Newton residents 60 and older could receive practical services. This allowed them to remain in their homes instead of resorting to assisted living or nursing homes. Volunteers provide practical services such as transportation, simple home repairs, compute/phone assistance, friendly visits, etc. Equally as important, the organization encourages members to socialize with one another. Executive Director, Maureen Grannan elaborates on this part of the program.

"There are many members who do not have family support nearby. Our many social programs and groups assist our members to avoid social isolation and to learn about new things."

The organization builds a calendar of events and educational programs which members can attend each month. "Newton at Home" receives in-kind donations from a variety of local businesses and individuals. Those who donate are able to fund a portion of the operating expenses and to support the reduced fee memberships for lower income seniors. Volunteer opportunities are endless and the organization believes that everyone has some skill to offer no matter how big or small. Volunteers set their own hours and have total flexibility as to when they wish to give their time.

Newton at Home gives the local seniors a sense of community and reassurance that they can remain safely and comfortably in their homes with the help of a very dynamic and dedicated team of volunteers. With 184 members and growing, the organization will continue to provide invaluable resources to those who wish to join.

Centre St Food Pantry

"Centre Street Food Pantry" is another non-profit that prides itself on giving back to the Newton Community. Supported by local grocery stores, bakeries, and various organizations all over town, Centre Street is able to provide groceries to less fortunate families. Every Tuesday and the First Saturday of each month, the pantry becomes filled with the hustle and bustle of eager food shoppers. Executive Director Amy McGregor-Radin shares how they are able to make the shopping experience as enjoyable (and normal) as possible.

"We strive to make shopping at our pantry as much like a trip to the grocery store as possible. We greet people by name, work hard to be respectful, and emphasize that the shoppers can choose the items that their family will eat and enjoy."

Volunteers involved with this non-profit can help stock shelves, help out families when they are shopping, or even reach out to businesses in the area for donations. Residents of Newton and surrounding communities who are struggling are welcome to shop at the pantry once per month. Volunteers are able to see the joy that the pantry brings to its visitors, and know that one less family will be hungry around the holidays. No matter how you assist, you can feel proud that you were a part of a great cause. McGregor-Radin calls it "hands-on, fun, and a great way to meet new people!"

Whether it be supporting Newton's senior community with "Newton at Home", or helping to feed those in need with "Centre Street Food Pantry", residents of the town have great opportunities for volunteering. Newton will continue to be known as a bonded community that looks out for all its inhabitants.

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