By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Marlborough – It's been a difficult summer for the Marlborough non-profit group, Employment Options, Inc. On June 16, a man set fire to his own car which he had parked next to three of the organization's vans located at its 82 Brigham St. headquarters. The ensuing blaze killed the man and totally destroyed all of the vehicles.
For the agency, which assists over 220 people from the MetroWest area each month with a variety of mental health, parenting and family services, the loss was devastating. The vans were a critical part of the agency's services, as they were used to make 15 to 20 trips a day to bring “members” back and forth to their homes, jobs and doctors appointments.
To help raise some much needed funds, the agency will be holding its first annual Family Fall Festival, Sunday, Sept. 16, from noon to 5 p.m., at the Hudson Elks Pavilion, 99 Park St., Hudson. The festival will feature a petting zoo, hay rides, “inflatables” and games for kids, caricature drawings, a DJ, and family photos.
Organizers hope the festival will also help to highlight the importance of the many crucial services Employment Options offers, Shannon Leary, the agency's executive events director, said.
“We offer programs that really provide a lifeline for members in recovery from mental illnesses or who are dealing with issues related to low-income,” she said. “We also offer a lot of parenting and family support programs. It's important for families to know there is this type of resource in their region.”
Other support services include helping members find jobs, offering daily meals, and providing transportation.
Since the fire, the agency has relied on borrowing vans from other organizations, including the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority and Grace Baptist Church and currently the Greater Marlborough Programs.
Jim Grasberger, the agency's development director, said the English Family Fund through the Foundation for MetroWest had made a “very generous donation.”
“We are very grateful for their contribution. Right now we are researching van options to see what the best size and type is for our needs,” he added.
The cost to purchase a new van is estimated at $40,000 as it must be specially outfitted to accommodate members with disabilities.
Leary said organizers hope the fall festival will become an annual celebration.
“In addition to all the games and activities, there will be multiple vendors there, plus a barbecue with lots of treats and desserts,” she said. “There will also be a car show with a state police cruiser and fire truck for kids to explore.”
One of the day's s highlights, she said, will be the RE/MAX balloon golf ball drop.
“People can buy golf balls, which will then be dropped all at once from the balloon,” she said.
“Whoever has the ball that gets closest to the pin on the ground wins $1,000!”
Golf balls are $5 each or five for $20. They may be purchased ahead of time by contacting Leary at 508-485-5051, ext. 232 and may also be purchased that day up until 3 p.m.
Festival goers will also be able to take tethered rides on the balloon as well.
“The Hudson Hot Air Balloon festival is not happening this year, so we thought it would be nice to have a balloon at our festival,” Leary said. “We'se very grateful to Elaine McDonald and the whole Marlborough RE/MAX office for helping to make this possible.”
“We just really hope as many people will come out that day to celebrate with us and learn more about what we do,” she added.
The festival will be from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids, and free for kids under five years old.