By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Northborough- For the past 12 years, Jane O’Toole has volunteered her time to helping those in need in the Northborough community through the nonprofit volunteer organization Northborough Helping Hands Association, Inc.
Established in 1920, the organization was originally called the District Nurses Association. It lends out medical equipment including wheelchairs, commodes, canes, walkers, crutches, and bed trays and tables. It also provides clothing, Thanksgiving food baskets, Christmas gifts, gift certificates and other items to residents in need.
“What people don’t realize is that we lend out medical equipment to any resident in Northborough,” said O’Toole, who is chair of the organization’s Board of Directors. “In addition, if you are a resident of the town, and your mother resides in Framingham and you are in need of a shower chair for her, you, as a member of the town, can access this equipment and it is free of charge. This is the piece that I feel that not a lot of people are aware of.”
The other big component of the Northborough Helping Hands Association is the Holiday Outreach Program, which is in full swing for the holiday season. About 75 Thanksgiving dinners are prepared and boxed up for community members.
“We identify those in need from an accumulated list over time,” O’Toole said. “We also get names through Youth and Family Services, schools, and seniors that are living alone, so there is a component just for the seniors and another for those in need.”
Donations come from all over the community, from schools, civic organizations, businesses and churches. Everything is donated.
“We identify names and then a letter is sent out. If they don’t wish to participate they don’t send it back,” O’Toole explained. “On that piece of paper, we are also finding out if there is a need for Christmas gifts. So, at Christmas time, the program is coordinated through churches. In Northborough, the Giving Trees go to us. We prepare the list of needs and then the churches prepare their Giving Trees based on that list.”
In addition, some families will “adopt” on a family, offering specific items or help that the family needs.
Northborough Helping Hands Association also offers a Senior Center meal/bus gift card program allowing seniors who might not have available funds to enjoy lunch or dinner and an opportunity to socialize. A bus voucher is also provided if there is a need for transportation.
Other programs include scholarships to Algonquin Regional High School seniors, a backpack program providing school supplies for students, and an emergency fund for Northborough residents.
“This year, about 150 families [were] identified for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and donations that we get,” O’Toole said.
To learn more about the Holiday Outreach Program, call the office of Family and Youth Services at 508-393-5020. To make a tax-deductible donation to Northborough Helping Hands Association, Inc., mail checks to P.O. Box 383, Northborough, MA 01532.