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Answering the call to service

Volunteers making a difference at Brooksby

Created date

April 10th, 2017
Bettie Loughhead (left) and Roberta Gosselin cochairs of the Brooksby Afghan Group, hold up afghans that have been knitted for donation.

Bettie Loughhead (left) and Roberta Gosselin cochair the Brooksby Afghan Group, which meets weekly to knit afghans for families in need.

Ever since President Nixon established National Volunteer Week in 1974, ensuing presidents have championed the benefits of civic engagement. 

President Obama, in his last National Volunteer Week proclamation as president, asserted, “People of all ages can volunteer, and anyone can, through the smallest of acts, do their part to improve the lives of others.”

People who live at Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., take that mandate to heart, not just in observance of National Volunteer Week, which runs April 23–39, but as a way of life.

Prompted to give back

Brooksby resident Bettie Loughhead was inspired to give back after hearing a sermon by her daughter Beth, who’s on staff at the First Baptist Church in Beverly.

“She prompted me to do something,” says Bettie, who now serves as a cochair of the Brooksby Afghan Group. Every Tuesday, 20 women gather in the community’s Macintosh Clubhouse to knit afghans for four social service organizations, three in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire.

Since the group’s inception in 2002, its members have handcrafted more than 600 afghans for families in need.

Roberta Gosselin cochairs the Brooksby Afghan Group with Bettie. 

“It’s easy to volunteer [at Brooksby],” says Roberta. “We don’t have to concern ourselves with things like taking care of a house. There are so many opportunities to do good, and they’re all a short walk from our apartments.”

Helping those in need

The afghan project got a boost in 2015 when Roberta applied for, and received, a $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project, which invests in projects that create a more sustainable, just, peaceful, and compassionate world.

“We were able to purchase yarn with the money from the grant,” says Roberta. “Bettie and I also appeared on Brooksby TV to ask for support to purchase yarn. Before I even left Brooksby’s television studio, one resident who volunteers in the TV studio pressed a $50 bill into my hand. People who live here have been exceedingly generous.”

Roberta says that while they don’t always get to meet recipients of the afghans, the anecdotes shared by the organization’s staff keep them motivated. In 2014, a women and children’s shelter in Fitchburg gave children at the shelter the opportunity to select an afghan to give to their mothers on Mother’s Day.

“Stories like that keep us going,” says Roberta. “We’re warm, we’re fed, we’re taken care of. Some people aren’t.”

Many ways to get involved

Hundreds of Brooksby residents share Roberta’s commitment to help others. Cheryl Whittier, community resources coordinator, estimates that around 525 residents volunteer, although the exact number is hard to pinpoint as many residents do good quietly.

“There are ample volunteer opportunities right here on campus,” says Whittier. “We have the Treasure Chest, our on-site resale shop that pours its profits right back into the community. There are opportunities to volunteer in Brooksby’s television studio, in our continuing care neighborhood, or with many of our pastoral ministries programs.”