A family can find itself in need of assistance for any number of reasons – sudden illness, a house fire, even a natural disaster like this week's Hurricane Sandy.
When trouble strikes, people have historically turned to neighbors for aid, along with churches, non-profits and other organizations. One Braintree resident has decided to help bring that traditional support system into the 21st century.
Alison MacDonald is an English teacher at Boston College High School. She moved with her family to a neighborhood off Elm Street in Braintree last year and soon began thinking about how she could give back locally.
Sitting in a salon about two months ago, MacDonald came across an article in People magazine about Wayland resident Pam Washek and her friend Jean Seiden, who were both diagnosed with cancer and dedicated themselves to creating Neighbor Brigade, a non-profit that connects those in need with community members in towns throughout Massachusetts.
"I wanted to be able to do some good here," MacDonald said. "That seemed like a good way to get started."
Seiden died of cancer in 2006 after co-founding the group with Washek. There are now more than 3,300 volunteers in 32 communities, including one chapter in Nashua, NH.
The article led MacDonald to research Neighbor Brigade, kick-start the Braintree chapter and recruit the first dozen volunteers. She needs 25 to officially open the group here and receive more support from the parent organization.
UPDATE: The Braintree chapter of the Neighbor Brigade has now reached 30 volunteers, five more than the minimum, and is eligible to provide assistance to those in need, MacDonald reports.
Once Braintree reaches at least 25 members or more, Neighbor Brigade will reach out to local senior centers, hospitals, police departments and other places where people may be in need of assistance. Then when someone needs help, they will be referred to the group and Braintree's contingent of volunteers can spring into action.
"It's pure service," MacDonald said. "You get to choose the things you would do."
Neighbors may need help with cooking meals, for instance, or getting rides for themselves or their children, grocery shopping or yard work. "Help is delivered quickly, caringly, and completely free of charge with no strings attached," according to Neighbor Brigade.
"It's nice because everything is online," MacDonald said. "When the need comes up, if you can help, great. It takes the pressure off people."
For more information on Neighbor Brigade or to sign up in Braintree, go to http://www.neighborbrigade.org/chapters/BraintreeMA.