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MMA Innovation Award winner, From The Beacon, February 2021
Amid the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the town of Randolph saw an opportunity to strengthen its community bonds and combine individual acts of kindness into a coordinated response.
The town formed the Randolph Resiliency Committee in March to help the town’s diverse population navigate pandemic challenges. The committee focused on creating a volunteer network, ensuring food security for residents, and providing equitable access to resources and public health information. It also set up a fund to help residents hardest hit by the pandemic. Town Manager Brian Howard said the efforts received strong community support.
“We have really learned the value of small acts of kindness,” Howard said. “People stopping to donate at our food drives or holiday toy drop offs have spoken about how they are paying it forward, as others helped them during their time of need. This committee has provided the vehicle to allow residents to assist and support one another.”
In setting up the committee, Randolph wanted to embrace its diversity, which includes large Haitian and Vietnamese populations, and help its most vulnerable residents. Bringing together town officials and community and business leaders allowed the town to coordinate efforts, reduce overlap in services and identify service gaps, officials said. It also allowed residents to contact one group for help.
“This communication allows for a fast response time when a resident is in crisis, and for centralized services to be offered to those in need,” Howard said. “We also share critical information and ideas.”
The committee partnered with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley to create the Resilient Randolph Fund, which raised $183,000 in nonprofit, business and general donations to support residents in need. The $183,000 went to 148 applicants: $154,000 helped residents cover rent, mortgage and utility payments, and $29,000 went toward food and medications.
The committee hosted food drives and distributed fresh food twice a week, and worked with other groups to sell Eat.Drink.Shop Local T-shirts and to sponsor an “Honorary Mayor 2020” contest to raise money for the Resilient Randolph Fund. It also established a senior-match program that paired volunteers with seniors who were struggling with grocery shopping and chores.
The committee conducts multilingual public outreach in traditional media and on social media platforms to reach a wider audience. By the fall, the Randolph Resiliency Committee had hosted two food drives, made 54 food distributions, prompted 8,032 community check-in calls, engaged 53 volunteers, and distributed 472 masks. It also made 28 senior-volunteer matches by early October.
The support from those who helped, and the reaction from those who have been helped, has motivated committee members, said Elizabeth LaRosee, the committee’s chair and Randolph’s director of library, recreation and community programs.
“The hundreds of emails, social media posts, phone calls, and letters of gratitude from our residents has been overwhelming,” she said. “Everyone has their own story, and through this committee we are able to really listen and help our residents through a difficult year. It is those letters, this public reaction, that really pushes us through the long hours and hard work that it takes to carry out our mission.”
The committee plans to operate long after the pandemic ends, and officials see long-term benefits from bringing together people from different backgrounds, energizing volunteers and strengthening community networks. LaRosee and Howard said they hope to involve more high school volunteers, and they expect to continue their work on food insecurity, among other issues.
“We have just scratched the surface of what we can accomplish,” Howard said.
For more information, contact Resiliency Committee Chair Elizabeth LaRosee at email@example.com.