By Linda White
Bedford Neighbor Brigade is your Bedford family when you need the nurturing that only family can provide. “Brigade.” It sounds like an old-fashioned word. It conjures images of elite military units and firemen passing leather water buckets up the line to fight a blaze. In fact, brigade is an old word that had its greatest use in the mid 1860’s. Today, it embodies the spirit of Bedford residents helping one another, whether they know them or not, by volunteering to make life just a little bit easier during a difficult period. This community outreach effort is better known as the Bedford Neighbor Brigade. Bedford Neighbor Brigade launched in 2010 to offer care and comfort to individuals and families in temporary crisis in our community.
“Overwhelmed by the love, thoughtfulness and generosity of the Bedford Neighbor Brigade.”
“Families face significant challenges when tragedy unexpectedly strikes. The impact on household routines often makes life seem unbearable”, explained Bedford Neighbor Brigade Chapter Leader and founder, Amy Mason. Amy manages a current roster of 342 volunteers who are at the ready to help by providing meals, rides to and from medical appointments, dog walking, running errands and other acts of kindness for Bedford residents who may be facing a frightening diagnosis and treatment, surgery or a family crisis. In just the past two years, her incredible brigade of volunteers has fulfilled over 400 requests for temporary and meaningful crisis intervention designed to get recipients back on their feet.
“Neighbor Brigade gave us the emotional nutrition and encouragement our family needed during our crisis, showing us a silver lining when our world was on its head.”
You probably already know Amy Mason, who lives in Bedford with her husband Ron and children Matthew, Michael and Julia. She is an individual who has a strong history of Bedford volunteerism and has been a long time rider and supporter of the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a cycling fundraiser benefiting the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In 2005, she founded the PMC Bedford Kids Ride that has successfully grown into an important annual Bedford fundraiser involving both adults and children. Amy grew up in Wayland, MA and was a close friend with Neighbor Brigade’s Founder, the late Pam Washek, who inspired her to start a chapter in Bedford.
Explaining why she is so passionate about the Neighbor Brigade Amy recalled, “Our first recipient was a single mom who had just moved into her first apartment after being homeless with her daughter who was just out of the hospital after an illness. The Bedford Brigade, then just 25 volunteers, helped fill her home with gently used furniture, clothing and meals. It’s an honor to be able to continue Pam’s dream of neighbors helping neighbors. It means a lot to me to be a part of a caring community where we can count on each other to provide support when life suddenly throws you a curve ball. It’s touching to hear stories from recipients of ways volunteers go above and beyond – they might include a note of love and encouragement with a meal, offer to take them somewhere in addition to their appointment or surprise them with flowers. These acts of kindness make bonds that last a lifetime.” Amy is also the Event and Program Manager at the Melanoma Foundation of New England, based in Concord.
Nancy Richard will soon join Amy as a Brigade Co-Leader. Nancy and her husband Joe and three sons Michael, Ryan and Matthew are Bedford residents. “I have first-hand experience managing a household, work and a child who needs focused attention and care,” explained Nancy. “Our son, Matthew, has both medical and educational special needs. I recall when my kids were young and Matthew was being diagnosed. There were numerous appointments and trips into Boston Children’s Hospital. I found it a bit overwhelming taking care of everyone’s needs, finding child care for my older kids who were only two and three years old at the time, making time to grocery shop and prepare a decent dinner, etc. These are similar challenges that many Bedford residents face and where the Bedford Neighbor Brigade can make a difference for a family. I’m happy to join Amy in this endeavor”, she reflected. Nancy is a Physical Therapist and works at LABBB Collaborative, a school program for kids with special needs.
“While some individuals and families in need have a close network of friends and family and/or are affiliated with a church or temple offering help, others may not. And even those who do, often find that after time and with busy schedules these resources become exhausted. Bedford Neighbor Brigade is a great resource for these situations as well as a supplement to a group already in place. All Bedford residents are welcome to join this community network of volunteers,” said Amy. Volunteers can sign up to fill a need request when it works with their schedule. There is no minimum number of volunteer hours required.
“Neighbor Brigade makes our Bedford community more tight knit. It’s nice to know that there’s a safety net like this for all of us who might need a little help at different times in our lives. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way. I’ve also been able to help friends in a more relevant way; for example, knowing that I’m bringing dinner to them on a night when no one else would be doing the same. Every time I help someone in such specific ways as making a meal or walking a dog I am filled with a sense of us all being connected to each other. Neighbor Brigade is a gift to us all, allowing us to help each other out, in spite of our busy schedules”, summarized volunteer Renu Bostwick.
“I am so grateful for the help I’ve received from Bedford Neighbor Brigade during this challenging time. I know I would not be able to manage taking my dogs out for daily walks without everyone’s help. I am so blessed to have the help and kindness of our neighbors and to have made so many wonderful friends as well.” — Tori Reade, Recipient and Volunteer
Supporting the Bedford Neighbor Brigade
Recognizing the community value that the Bedford Neighbor Brigade provides, the September 18 Womenade event will dedicate the evening’s contributions to the Bedford Neighbor Brigade. Bedford Womenade (https://www.bedfordwomenade.org) is a way for Bedford women to provide financial and emotional support to local families in need.
On Sunday, October 18, Neighbor Brigade, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, will hold its 3rd annual fundraising event, Pam’s Run. Pam’s Run is dedicated to the memory and legacy of Pam Manikas Washek. The event will include a chip-timed 5K Run/Walk and a 10K Run at the Claypit Hill School, 40 Adams Lane, Wayland, MA. All proceeds will benefit Neighbor Brigade services and programs for neighbors in need across Eastern Massachusetts. Pam’s Run will also feature fun for the entire family at a community festival with live music, kids’ activities, food trucks and photo booth. Age-group awards and cash prizes for top finishers. Incentive prizes offered for top fundraisers. You will also have an opportunity to register as part of the Bedford Brigade Team. Go to pamsrun.com to register for the run or to make a tax deductible donation.
“Without the Brigade, I would be stranded at the house going crazy. The Brigade helps me feel like I am contributing to the well-being of my family, which helps me feel like I am healing in the right way. There is a lot that I can’t do, but the Bedford Neighbor Brigade allows me to do small things that I can do – banking, post office, small grocery runs. And the people who drive me around, are the nicest people, and many of them are either friends, or we have children who are friends, and it gives us a small amount of time to chat, which makes us both feel positive. We need to have one in every city and town.” — Jeff, Recipient and volunteer
How to volunteer, or request assistance
To volunteer and join the Bedford Neighbor Brigade, visit https://www.neighborbrigade.org/chapters/BedfordMA and then select
To request assistance for a temporary crisis, simply complete the Help Request Form: https://www.neighborbrigade.org/1-public/request-help/ or email BedfordMA@neighborbrigade.org. There are no eligibility requirements and services are provided free of charge. Once submitted you can expect to hear from one of the Co-Leaders within 24-48 hours to discuss your needs and determine how Neighbor Brigade can best assist you. Requests for assistance are frequently posted to the Calendar of Needs that same day or when you will need assistance.
Brigade: An old word that speaks to why we live in a town like Bedford, where it is possible to make a significant difference person to person and for the greater good.