Belmont Serves With a Helping Hand

More than 200 Belmont residents sacrificed lingering in bed or taking a long, Columbus Day breakfast on Monday morning, Oct. 13 to work to make their town a little bit better.

Starting out at 9 a.m. from St. Joseph’s Parish on Common Street, they took off to spread, hacked, lugged, painted, sorted and planted until noon. They drove all around town snatch up countless bags of groceries waiting on front stoops. Finally, they eat Rancatore’s ice cream and Sorbet.

For the sixth time, Belmont came out to give to the community in the most basic ways on a day of service as the annual event – sponsored by the Belmont Religious Council – sends volunteers to locations where maintenance, gardening and a quick paint job will do a world of good. In addition, the most popular task is driving along streets to pick up grocery pages of can food, baking goods and sundries for the Belmont Food Pantry.

Over at the Lone Tree Hill Preservation Land parking lot off Mill Street, mulch was spread onto the trail head, invasive plants removed and the bicycle rack freed of vegetation.

“We absolutely count on [Belmont Serves] here,” said Ellen Cushman, who with Jeffrey North from the Belmont Conservation Commission, depend on volunteers to clean up the parking lot area, “which makes it very clear that we are not a ‘broken window’ syndrome, that we are caring for this very public area.”

A secondary result of the clean up is that many volunteers have never been at Lone Tree Hill “and this is a great welcoming event for them,” said Cushman, who is chair of the Land Management Committee for Lone Tree Hill.

Come spring, the bulbs planted at Joey’s Park adjacent the Winn Brook School will in all likelihood bloom, which along with scrubs and mulch, will add a dash of color and beauty to the location while kids painted the ticket booths at Belmont High School’s Harris Field.

At the Burbank Elementary School, a new layer of wood mulch was laid at the play structure by many current and past students while volunteers planted new shrubs and filled lawn bags with stray saplings and vegetation.

The Burbank is also the location of the start of an Eagle Scout project proposed by Belmont High sophomore (and Burbank alumni) Walker Thomas. By spring, the below-grade “bowling alley” site adjacent to the east side of the building will become a multipurpose area were a garden will be planted and where classes can take place.

“I’m working with the teachers and students to make it an environment that they can play in as well as planting an edible garden so they can have vegetables for their lunches as well as incorporate some aspects of their science curriculum,” Walker said as he, friends, fellow scouts and residents removed wooden planks and pavers while leveling the area.

The busiest location was the Belmont Food Pantry; that serves a growing number of Belmont residents who are finding it increasingly difficult to make their food dollars stretch from week to week. The more than 1,800 bags brought by volunteers to the location behind Belmont High School were examined outside for each item’s expiration date before being brought inside.

“This is our family’s second time, but we will be doing this all the time,” said Sheela Agarwal, who drove up to the drop off zone with bags filled with cans and paper products. Her young helpers – who served as lookouts from Brighton to Alexander streets and who slogged the bags into the vehicle – “made this a blast.”

“It was a great experience for these guys because this is about helping your neighbors,” she said.

Belmont Serves is the pantry’s largest donation day each year, said volunteer Laurie Graham, allowing the facility to stay stocked through Thanksgiving and Christmas and into January.

Back at St. Joe’s, Rev. Joe Zacco, pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church on Pleasant Street was participating in his first Belmont Serves. He had driven his motorcycle around to each volunteer site documenting the day’s effort with his camera.

“It was amazing to ride around the different sites to see the kids especially. I saw an 18-month old picking up weeds with his mom. It’s great to see service in action but also modeling service for others so that kids will grow up learning to be generous and giving and having that be second nature for them as adults,” he said.


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