By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – This year’s last day of school was extraordinary for Elaine McKenna of Hudson. On the same day that she retired after serving as school nurse for 20 years at J. L. Mulready Elementary School, McKenna was also recognized as an Unsung Heroine during a ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse.
The ceremony is presented annually by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. She was nominated by state Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow.
“Elaine McKenna’s desire to give back to the community is unwavering – embodying the spirit of Hudson,” Hogan stated in a press release. “She is a true example of an unsung heroine and an inspiration to us all.”
McKenna particularly enjoyed interacting with the youngest students in the elementary school. After Hubert Kindergarten Center closed in 2013, kindergarteners began attending the town’s elementary schools including Mulready.
“I especially liked the little kids – the kindergarteners and first-graders,” McKenna noted. “They’re so open and honest without any filters. The little kids say really funny things without realizing they’re funny.”
She also appreciated working alongside the school teachers and administration.
“There was a lot of good comradery,” she said. “For a number of years, I would go into the first-grade classrooms and talk about nutrition with the kids. The teachers were always very open to finding the time for me to come in and fit it into their curriculum. We worked really well together.”
As a school nurse, she participated in the Hudson Holiday Coalition for Giving. Created by several nonprofit organizations in 1993, the coalition administrates giving holiday gifts to children of Hudson families in need of assistance. School nurses are consulted to recommend students for consideration.
“It started out really small with various organizations in town asking for names of kids who needed help at Christmastime,” McKenna explained. “Then it really evolved and got much more organized.”
The program was organized at the Assabet Valley Chamber of Commerce office during most of the years that McKenna was involved. She remembers delivering gifts to young children on Christmas Eve with a former organizer, Karen Anderson.
“It definitely pulled at your heart strings,” McKenna shared. “There were times when we’d get last-minute calls from families who clearly otherwise would not have had a Christmas for their kids.”
She also helped Dr. Harvey Clermont run the Open Door Free Medical Program, offering basic medical care at no charge to those without insurance or underinsured. The clinic opened in January 2003 for one evening a week at the First United Methodist Church of Hudson. The all-volunteer program did not receive state or federal funding. The clinic closed in December 2011. McKenna volunteered at the clinic throughout its nine years.
“People were very appreciative,” she recalled. “We did a lot of immunizations for kids so that they could get into school, along with school physicals. We saw many people with chronic illnesses who had no insurance, so they didn’t go to the doctors. I felt like everyone – the doctors, nurses and clerical people – did a lot of good there for nine years.”
Before working at Mulready, McKenna first became an active member of the district’s Home and School Associations where her three sons attended. She ultimately served as president of the Mulready Home and School Association. As her children grew, she got involved with activities at the middle and high schools.
McKenna currently volunteers to cook for Our Father’s Table, a Marlborough-based ecumenical outreach program that provides free meals for area people in need of assistance.
“Volunteering is very important to me,” she said.