WESTMINSTER – Residents will once again be helping their neighbors in need this summer.
After a two-year hiatus, the town’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors group will host the annual Town Benefit Day on Sunday, Aug. 14. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide assistance to residents who might be experiencing financial difficulties beyond their control.
“I used to be a town selectman, and (this fundraiser) is aimed at helping out when there’s nothing else the government can do – we’re kind of a last resort for people who are facing medical problems or the loss of a job or a loved one,” said John Fairbanks, who has been a member of the six-person NHN board for the past 10 years. “Sometimes they need a little help, and a lot of times we’ve been able to do that.”
NHN stepped in, Fairbanks explained, when the safety nets provided by state and federal funds were not quite sufficient to help certain individuals in certain trying circumstances. In the past, NHN has used its resources to purchase medical equipment for handicapped children and adults, helped out resident with mortgage or rental payments, and assisted families with food, fuel, and transportation.
The annual event, which raises nearly $25,000 each year, will feature hundreds of volunteers coordinating a variety of activities, including a 5K road race, children’s games, an inflatable obstacle course, caricatures, and a live animal show, according to Fairbanks. He said the community was ready to welcome the return of the popular summer fundraiser after a two-year absence.
“We had to live through the pandemic like everybody else, and I think (postponing the festival) made everybody a little nervous,” he said. “It’s our biggest fundraiser, and not being able to have it for a couple of years, that hurt.”
Among the local businesses and organizations taking part in this year’s Town Benefit Day are the Benefit Boutique, Zen Yoga Wellness, the First Congregational Church, the Westminster Fire Department and Animal Adventures, according to organizers.
Organizer Nancy Green said the annual fundraiser was an event that brought the community together for a good cause each summer.
“People in the this town are very generous,” she said. “They are happy to open their wallets to help others in need. They don’t even know who the money is going to but they trust us to spend it wisely on people in this town.”
The event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Academy Hill, dates back to 1987, when the Westminster VFW Post 7389 organized a fundraiser to help benefit a resident, Pete Giammalvo, who had been seriously injured in a diving accident. The success of that first event, in terms of both raising money and bringing the community together to help a family in need, inspired the organizers of NHN to continue their efforts, according to Fairbanks.
“There were three or four fundraisers after that that went to specific people, and then it became what we do now – sort of helping people get over the hump and back on the straight and narrow,” Fairbanks explained. He said the group’s board reviews requests for assistance and selects various recipients based on a variety of factors, including urgency of the need.
There have been times, according to Fairbanks, when it turned out that a resident requesting NHN assistance really only needed some information, which he said the group was happy to provide.
“We recently spoke to someone who needed rides to their chemo appointments, but we told them that the Senior Center takes care of that,” Fairbanks said. “So, the other board member and I went straight from the interview with the client to the Senior Center, they called her back, and all of a sudden all five of her appointments – getting to and from – were taken care of.”
This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Westminster's annual Town Benefit fundraiser is on Sunday, Aug. 14.