Hospital grants will boost rural food access and transportation

For the Gazette
Published: 12/13/2019 11:50:19 PM
Modified: 12/13/2019 11:50:04 PM

The Healthy Communities Committee at Cooley Dickinson Hospital announced an awarded of $30,000 for two programs offered through the Hilltown Community Development Corp. (HCDC).

The HCDC’s Mobile Market and Senior Transportation programs each received a $15,000 grant that will be spread over a three-year period.

“Cooley Dickinson has been a great partner in our community programs, which address health inequities and health outcomes for Hilltowners,” said Dave Christopolis, executive director of the HCDC.

The food access and transportation grants will be doubled by a Community Investment Tax Credit program, with the help of the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp., making the funds go even farther in support of these programs.

Last year the Hilltown Mobile Market provided 34 shares of fresh local produce weekly for 10 weeks to hilltown residents and families. This pilot program was funded through a grant from Healthy Hampshire.

In addition to the farm shares, a variety of local produce from the hilltowns was made available for purchase at pop-up markets in Worthington and Huntington.

According to the HCDC, a total of over $8,000 worth of produce was purchased from local hilltown farms and distributed via the Mobile Market.

A consumer survey completed at the end of the season revealed the success of the program, with customers noting that they felt healthier, tried new vegetables and learned new ways to prepare them, and overall ate healthier meals.

Thanks to the Cooley Dickinson grants, Christopolis says the HCDC is now planning to expand the number of shares and amount of local food available via the market in 2020.

The senior transportation program provides medical, shopping and social outing transportation to seniors in the towns of Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield and Worthington.

Hilltown Easy Ride is a van service for seniors over 60 and veterans.

The primary goal of the service is to provide transportation in these rural areas where there are no other public transportation options.

The Hilltown Easy Ride van is a “demand response” van contracted from the Franklin Regional Transit Authority. Cooley Dickinson has supported this program for the past three years, helping to cover gaps in service and funding, which in turn ensures that every senior in the transit authority’s five towns can get a ride to vital appointments and to the grocery store.

“Challenges related to sparsely populated area and long drives to access services especially effect low-income residents and seniors,” Christopolis said. “Cooley Dickinson has been with us every step of the way in planning and operating new programs to address these needs.”

Safety complex informational meetings

WILLIAMSBURG — A steering committee for the proposed public safety complex will be holding several small community information sessions ahead of a Special Town Meeting scheduled for Feb. 24, when voters will be asked to approve $400,000 for three designs of a public safety complex at the site of the former Helene E. James School.

According to Town Administrator and committee member Charlene Nardi, one design would incorporate the existing building, while another would involve demolishing the structure. A third option would be a renovation to be completed in stages.

“The committee feels that we can’t just take a pass on this,” Nardi said. “We have to invest in the building, keep it and use it in some fashion, or let it go.”

The $400,000 would also help to fund an environmental study and an engineering study, and also cover the costs of going out to bid on the project once the town chooses a final design.

Nardi said that the committee hopes residents will attend the sessions to get a good understanding of the project and to share their questions, thoughts and ideas on the material presented.

On Thursday, a small informational meeting was held at Brewmasters Tavern.

Two more sessions have been scheduled to date. One will be held at Meekins Library on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. and another will take place on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 5:30 p.m. at a location still to be confirmed.

For more information on the public safety complex project or planned informational sessions, contact Charlene Nardi at 268-8418.

Community carol sing

GOSHEN — The Goshen Congregational Church will host a community holiday sing on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. This event will feature local musicians and a brass quartet from the Ashfield community band.

All are welcome. The Congregational Church on Main Street.

Ideas for this column on life in the hilltowns can be sent to Fran Ryan at

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