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Good works: Volunteer Jack Favaro gives ‘most precious gift’ of time

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Jack Favaro rings the salvation army bell outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Jack Favaro rings the salvation army bell outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>A man donates some spare bills to the salvation army collection outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    A man donates some spare bills to the salvation army collection outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Jack Favaro thanks a donor for her kindness as she puts a pocket full of change in the salvation army bucket outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Jack Favaro thanks a donor for her kindness as she puts a pocket full of change in the salvation army bucket outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Jack Favaro rings the salvation army bell outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>A man donates some spare bills to the salvation army collection outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Jack Favaro thanks a donor for her kindness as she puts a pocket full of change in the salvation army bucket outside of Walmart in Northampton Saturday.

Last Saturday dawned dreary, damp and drizzly. But if Jack Favaro would have preferred to be relaxing at home instead of standing outside Wal-Mart ringing a bell to raise money for the Salvation Army, he wasn’t saying.

“This is fine!” he said emphatically.

An overhang protected him from the rain, he pointed out, and it wasn’t windy or bitterly cold.

Favaro, 57, is a retired Northampton firefighter and a veteran of many Salvation Army red-kettle campaigns. The annual drive raises money for the charity’s local services, such as vouchers for food and clothing, and emergency payments for gas and electric bills, rent or fuel assistance. Funds are also used to send children to the Salvation Army’s summer camp in Sharon.

Favaro, who lives in Florence, started volunteering — he’s not sure exactly when — during his 32-year career with the Northampton Fire Department. Back then, he was part of a contingent of firefighters that was usually stationed in front of Thornes Marketplace in downtown Northampton.

He retired from his paying job in 2009, but not from his avocation as a volunteer. This year, he’s doing two-hour shifts at the Wal-Mart in Northampton and also trying to raise about $500 via an online kettle campaign on his Facebook page. In addition to his commitment to the Salvation Army, Favaro volunteers at Northampton’s Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

He fits both activities around frequent trips to New York City to dote on his 13-month-old granddaughter, the child of his daughter Jamie Favaro. His second daughter, Johanna Favaro, lives in Florence.

“I consider myself very fortunate,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been blessed.”

On a recent morning at the Salvation Army’s small, no-frills office on Brewster Court in Northampton, Favaro pulled the tools of this particular trade out of a bag he’d brought with him: A Santa hat. A pair of gloves. A bottle of water. A card that identified him as a Salvation Army volunteer.

“And I’ve got my own bell,” he said. Favaro’s bell is actually several small ones attached to a band that he wears around his hand, making it easier to ring than the standard bell with a handle.

“You can just wiggle your hand a little,” explained the seasoned pro.

Favaro admits that he could easily support the Salvation Army by dropping a check in the mail. He’s got a thing about donating time, though: “It just means more to me,” he said.

“And you meet the most generous people,” he added. Some will stop to chat as they put some spare change or a few dollar bills into the kettle. Once in a while, he said, someone will tell him that they’re donating because they were once helped by the Salvation Army. “And that keeps me ringing,” he said.

Sarah McGahan, the service center coordinator at Brewster Court, showed a visitor some of the handwritten notes that have turned up in the kettles over the years.

“Remembering the help your organization provided 60 years ago,” read one. “Thank you!”

Another contributor wrote: “You were the only one who helped my husband during WWII who didn’t expect to get paid back. He paid you as much as we could afford and so am I. Thank you.”

McGahan said that this year about 100 volunteers are ringing at nine locations around Northampton and hope to raise close to $30,000 that can be put into direct services. The agency also gets money from the Hampshire Community United Way, as well as additional donations.

As the interview came to an end, Favaro mentioned to McGahan that it was an unusually warm, nice day for early December — perfect for bell ringing. Though he wasn’t on the schedule for that day, Favaro figured he could put in a little extra time over at Wal-Mart. Hours later, he was there working an extra night shift from 6 to 8 p.m.

“He’s a gem,” says Christina Trinchero, spokesperson for Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Favaro’s description is more modest. “I’m a jack-of-all-trades,” he said.

Either way, he’s a “go-to” volunteer. As treasurer of the hospital’s auxiliary, he keeps the group’s financial records in meticulous order. For various departments within the hospital, he pitches in to fold and collate mailings and stuff envelopes. And, working with a second volunteer, he keeps the hospital’s rehabilitation department and its satellite rehab offices in Hadley, Southampton and South Deerfield stocked with all the forms, information packets and charts they use.

Last year, after clocking more than 2,700 hours for the hospital since 2005, Favaro was awarded the William E. Dwyer Distinguished Service Award. Robin Kline, director of volunteer services, says Favaro brings “a calm, unflustered nature, flexibility, a willingness to serve and a serious commitment to excellence” to every task.

When the award was announced, Jamie Favaro wrote that her father had raised his daughters to give back. In grade school, she said, she’d once told her father that she wanted to donate money she’d earned to Lilly Library.

“He said that he would match my donation, but only if I wrote a thank-you letter explaining why I wanted to donate.” She resisted her father’s suggestion, but eventually wrote the note, a lesson that helped her “process my gratitude and underscore recognition and appreciation for what the library meant to me. My father has taught me that our obligations to our neighbors extend beyond everyday acts of kindness. We become a valuable member of our community by dedicating not just our finances, but our time — a most precious gift — into those institutions that we love.”

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