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What new moms want: baby care, help with chores and errands, Hilltown Village supplies - for free

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, top, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, laughs with Robin Wilson, center, and Wilson's 12-week-old daughter, Sadie, at Wilson's home in Shelburne Falls Thursday morning. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Jean Cherdack, top, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, laughs with Robin Wilson, center, and Wilson's 12-week-old daughter, Sadie, at Wilson's home in Shelburne Falls Thursday morning. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, left, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, cleans the floor of Robin Wilson's kitchen while Wilson, center, plays with her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Jean Cherdack, left, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, cleans the floor of Robin Wilson's kitchen while Wilson, center, plays with her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, left, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, cleans the floor of Robin Wilson's kitchen while Wilson, center, plays with her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Jean Cherdack, left, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, cleans the floor of Robin Wilson's kitchen while Wilson, center, plays with her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, right, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, takes a break from cleaning Robin Wilson's floor to talk with Wilson, left, and her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Jean Cherdack, right, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, takes a break from cleaning Robin Wilson's floor to talk with Wilson, left, and her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, right, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, prepares her Swiffer mop for cleaning while talking to Robin Wilson, center, and Wilson's 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Jean Cherdack, right, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, prepares her Swiffer mop for cleaning while talking to Robin Wilson, center, and Wilson's 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, top, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, laughs with Robin Wilson, center, and Wilson's 12-week-old daughter, Sadie, at Wilson's home in Shelburne Falls Thursday morning. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, left, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, cleans the floor of Robin Wilson's kitchen while Wilson, center, plays with her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, left, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, cleans the floor of Robin Wilson's kitchen while Wilson, center, plays with her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, right, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, takes a break from cleaning Robin Wilson's floor to talk with Wilson, left, and her 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Jean Cherdack, right, of Ashfield, a volunteer with It Takes a Village, prepares her Swiffer mop for cleaning while talking to Robin Wilson, center, and Wilson's 12-week-old daughter, Sadie. It Takes a Village is a free community service that connects new mothers with volunteers who provide family support during the first three months of a baby's life.

Enter Hilltown Village, founded in 2009, a community organization that offers free, neighbor-to-neighbor support for families with newborns who live in the Hilltowns.

Founder Maureen Shea said she thinks the need in the Hilltowns is twofold.

While once families relied on relatives for help, these days, extended families are far-flung and therefore often simply not around to offer the kind of support they once did. Combine that with living a good distance from services and amenities and Hilltown families can sometimes find themselves feeling overwhelmed and isolated, Shea noted.

That’s why she founded Hilltown Village four years ago. Staffed with trained, local volunteers, the organization aims to help families with newborns in a variety of ways — baby care, household chores and errands, providing secondhand baby clothes and equipment, and simple advice and companionship for the new mom and family.

Shea said the idea of creating a local group to support families with infants came to her just after she had her son four years ago.

“That is when I recognized how challenging the postpartum period could be,” she said.

Shea’s midwife suggested that she research a group called “Many Mothers,” based in Santa Fe, N.M. It is a volunteer, free, community-based service that helps moms and families with newborns.

Shea contacted the group and received a manual on how to set up a volunteer service for women in the postpartum period.

“I gathered a bunch of people together and it just took off from there,” Shea said.

Hilltown Village now has about 15 available volunteers who can be matched with families in need, according to Shea. These services are provided regardless of the family’s income.

“We are there at a time of disorientation and transition. We serve the babies and the moms as well as spouses, partners and other family members,” Shea said.

As the organization has steadily grown, Shea now mainly focuses on one aspect: running the Village Closet out of her Cummington home.

“We have quality hand-me-down clothing for newborns to age 4. We also have things like high chairs, strollers and car seats,” Shea said.

All items in the Village Closet are donated to the organization and are also offered to families for free.

“When I had my first child, Maureen was my volunteer and she was great,” Katy Eisman, Hilltown Village administrator said.

Eisman said Hilltown living can present formidable barriers that can hinder getting services.

“My favorite part of the volunteer application is that it asks if you can handle country roads and traveling in snow,” Eisman said. “It sounds funny but in the Hilltowns, we are all spread out. It is very different than living in Northampton.”

For the most part, families learn about the organization by word of mouth.

New mom Robin Wilson, 32, of Shelburne Falls, said she heard about Hilltown Village when Anna Westley, the group’s volunteer coordinator, spoke at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ashfield.

“I was pregnant with my daughter then, so it caught my attention,” she said.

On Thursday, Wilson, whose daughter, Sadie, is now 12 weeks old, said she was thrilled with the way that the volunteers have helped her over the last three months.

“Today she cleaned the floors, and helped me give the baby a bath,” Wilson said. “It is also nice because you develop a relationship with the volunteer and it is nice just to have someone to chat with.”

Volunteer Jean Cherdack, of Ashfield, has been working with Hilltown Village for over a year. A grandmother herself, Cherdack understands how a new baby can be exhausting. She said even small things like minding an infant so the mom can take a shower can be a big help.

“I usually meet with the family before the baby is born, just to get to know them and what they will expect from me,” Cherdack said. “I feel good volunteering and actively helping someone. This has been wonderful and I have met a lot of wonderful moms.”

Eisman said Hilltown Village recently received an anonymous donation that has allowed the group to begin paying a small stipend to the administrator and the volunteer coordinator.

Sunday, Hilltown Village holds its fall volunteer training from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Village Church on Main Street in Cummington. The training will prepare volunteers to provide weekly home visits during the first three months after a baby is born.

To attend the training, contact Anna Westley, family and volunteer coordinator, at 625-6948 or by email at anna@motherwelldoulacare.com. To learn more about the Hilltown Village visit the Hilltown Village website.

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