Jane O’Toole reflects on becoming Applefest grand marshal

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Jane O’Toole reflects on becoming Applefest grand marshal
Jane O’Toole stands in front of Trinity Church. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – Jane O’Toole was stunned when she learned that she would be the grand marshal of Applefest.

“[Michelle Gillespie] called, and I thought, ‘This cannot be real,’” she said.

With Applefest scheduled to take place from Sept. 15 to 18, O’Toole said it will be an interesting experience.

“I think I’m going to come in contact with people in the town that I did not know at all,” she said.

Meet Jane

O’Toole was born in northern New York and later moved to Massachusetts to teach.

When she moved to Northborough, O’Toole said she didn’t imagine that she would be so involved in the community.

“But I’m also not somebody who wants to sit around and do nothing,” O’Toole said. “I have to feel like I’m involved.”

That’s a trait that she got from her mother, who was involved in her community and a member of the women’s club.

O’Toole is involved in numerous organizations in Northborough, including Northboro Junior Woman’s Club and Northborough Helping Hands Association. She’s also helping Afghan refugees learn English as a Second Language.

A Spanish teacher, she initially taught in Wayland, but she took a pause until her son was a sophomore in high school and later taught at Trottier Middle School in Southborough.

When her kids were young, O’Toole joined the Northboro Junior Woman’s Club.

“The Junior Woman’s Club is the most wonderful place to become plugged into the community,” she said.

The club works under six program areas — arts, conservation, education, home life, international outreach and public issues. Their projects in the community have included Pinwheels for Prevention and Styrofoam recycling.

Next year, she will be the president of the Northboro Junior Woman’s Club.

“What impresses me about Jane is that she can do a lot of things, and she doesn’t think that she’s doing anything,” said current president Martha Michalewich. “She’s very humble.”

Through her work at Trinity Church of Northborough, O’Toole became involved with the Community Meal and learned about Northborough Helping Hands.

Helping Hands

When O’Toole retired from Trottier in 2002, she and her husband decided that they wanted to be involved with Helping Hands.

“I did things for them, but I wasn’t on the board. I wasn’t involved with the organization directly until after I retired,” O’Toole said.

Now, O’Toole is the president of Helping Hands and is most proud of the work she’s done with the organization.

Formerly known as the Northborough District Nurse Association, the group has been helping the community since 1920. Years ago, the organization began collecting medical equipment to loan to community members for free.

“That program is the cornerstone of that organization,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole worked with the town to build a shed on the grounds of the senior center to house medical equipment.

When she took over as Helping Hands’ president, O’Toole said they were short on space to house the equipment. Helping Hands had one shed in the parking lot of the Town Hall, but it was bulging at the seams.

She is one of four people who handle the program, and sometimes she could be helping people three times a week to acquire everything from a wheelchair to shower chairs.

“[They’re] eternally grateful because it’s extremely expensive, and they may need it only for a few months,” O’Toole said.

In some occasions, the person only borrows the equipment for the weekend because they have a visitor who needs it.

“I was thrilled to see that she received this honor,” said Helping Hands’ Marcia Roman. “She has been an integral part of this organization from the star and has been hands-on with all of the programs we offer.”

When asked what she’s enjoyed about her numerous involvements in the community, O’Toole said the associations with other people and being informed about what’s going on.

“You meet lovely people,” O’Toole said.

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