Out & About: Pop-up party a Good Beginnings fundraiser

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2021 1:29:19 PM
Modified: 10/5/2021 1:38:51 PM

WEST LEBANON — The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought many changes in the world of Upper Valley nonprofit organizations, not least of which the way organizations host fundraisers.

Before the pandemic, it was more common for groups to hold galas and dinners, festivals and bake sales, among other in-person activities. People adapted: Nights out became virtual nights in, and sit-down dinners became drive-thrus. Many of those events have returned with pandemic precautions.

One such adaptation is coming up from 3 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 13. That’s when a group of community-minded friends called The Women of Crossing Paths are holding a “Pop-up Block Party for Good Beginnings” in the parking lot of Wellspring Worship Center at 407 N. Main St., in West Lebanon. There, people can drop off diapers, gift cards, baby items, gas cards and other items for the nonprofit organization, which will distribute them to new mothers throughout the Upper Valley. They can also talk to the organization’s leaders to learn more about its services and volunteer opportunities.

The Women of Crossing Paths were planning to hold an in-person fundraiser for Good Beginnings in March 2020 in the vein of their “Socializing for Social Causes” events, but then the pandemic started, said Janice O’Donnell, one of the organizers. She wanted to find a way to help the nonprofit after reading the obituary of Dorothy Campion Corcoran, one of the founders of Good Beginnings. The West Lebanon-based nonprofit is now in its 35th year.

“I was really struck by the fact that in the obituary … her proudest achievement was helping to start Good Beginnings,” O’Donnell said. “She was just an amazing, remarkable woman.”

One of the main services Good Beginnings volunteers provide is visiting the homes of mothers of newborns. Sometimes, they watch the babies so the mothers can take care of errands or spend time with their older children. That program was put on pause for about a year due to the pandemic, executive director Karen Morton said. Instead, the organization built up its “MOM” Mentors of Moms Program, a virtual program that had been in the works prior to the pandemic but took on greater prominence once stay-at-home orders went into effect.

“We knew there was a need of mentoring that could take place at other places whether it be via FaceTime or Zoom or a coffee shop if someone can’t meet you at your home for someone to talk to,” Morton said.

Staff also started a program called Social Strolling, where mothers of young children met on the Lebanon Mall to walk with other moms.

“We really felt the need to help new moms connect to other moms,” Morton said. “The normal playground and the ways they usually would meet people weren’t happening anymore.”

That need for connection stood out to The Women of Crossing Paths, who started organizing fundraisers for nonprofits six years ago.

“Many of us had crossed paths many times in the last 40 years through other volunteer activities we’ve been involved in, our church, our jobs, our children’s sporting events,” O’Donnell, of Grantham, said.

O’Donnell was a longtime teacher at the Ray School in Hanover. She taught some of the children of the women in the group, who live in Hanover and Norwich. Before starting the group, many of the women knew about nonprofits in the area, “but we really weren’t knowledgeable about the impact of what they do and the more we learn, the more we realize that there are a lot of people who need help so we’re always open to hearing about other nonprofits that need help,” O’Donnell said.

During the pandemic, the group gave grants to organizations including Listen Community Services and the Friends of Mascoma Foundation, among others. They gathered ingredients and recipes so that residents at Headrest could make Thanksgiving dinner. Around Christmas, they gathered gifts, snacks and other items for residents and staff at Hanover Terrace.

“We also realize that our paths crossed over the last 40 years, but as we’ve done these 14 pop-ups we also begin to cross paths with these nonprofit organizations and when you do that and learn about the work they do and what they need, you make a connection,” O’Donnell said. “Hopefully, that builds a better sense of community.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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