By Christopher Roberson
Despite coming out strong in 2013, the Lynnfield Chapter of the Neighbor Brigade is now in need of new leadership. Polly Mendoza, the organization’s executive director, said that as a result, the operations of the Lynnfield Chapter have come to a standstill.
“We haven’t had services in Lynnfield since 2016,” she said, adding that the current leaders have fulfilled their two-year commitment to the Neighbor Brigade. “There hasn’t been a pause quite this long; we’re really looking for new chapter leaders.”
Mendoza said the Charlestown Chapter experienced a similar situation and ultimately had to close. In contrast, she said, the Billerica Chapter continues to have a flurry of activity with 350 volunteers.
Mendoza said the Neighbor Brigade was originally founded in 2010 by then-cancer patient Pamela Washek. “She really noticed a difference between people who had a support system and those who didn’t,” said Mendoza. “Cancer can go on for years.”
She said the mission of the nonprofit organization is to assist individuals who are going through a “temporary crisis.” Mendoza said the Neighbor Brigade provides meal deliveries, transportation to and from medical appointments, light housework and dog walking.
“Dog walking is becoming more and more popular,” she said. “Pets are part of the family.”
Mendoza said services are typically provided for “one to three” months; however, they can be extended up to one year, if the situation warrants it.
She said that unlike chapter leaders, volunteers make their own schedules. “You can sign up once a year or you can sign up once a week,” said Mendoza. “The volunteers are literally neighbors. You have the opportunity to help your next-door neighbor; you’re directly making an impact, it’s a beautiful feeling.”
In addition to in Massachusetts, the Neighbor Brigade has established chapters in Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington. Last year, volunteers put in 11,641 hours and assisted 2,500 individuals.