Selectmen take time before meeting to publicly recognize town employees and volunteers who helped the community through the dark days of COVID-19
By Mark E. Vogler
Selectmen spent the first 18 minutes of Tuesday night’s meeting honoring hometown heroes – town employees and citizen volunteers – who helped Saugus get through two-plus years of COVID-19. They had a table set in the front right corner of the second floor auditorium with dishes and plates of cookies, pastries, brownies and cupcakes, bottles of water, coffee and a dish of pens with a “thank you” tag attached. Many of the major departments who were actively involved in pandemic-related work, essential workers and volunteers who contributed to help the town received citations from selectmen.
“To every department, to every employee we thank you,” Selectman Corinne Riley said.
“I wish we could have given every one of you a Citation, but Janice [Jarosz] would have resigned,” she quipped, referring to Janice K. Jarosz, the interim clerk of the Board of Selectmen.
“If we missed anyone, please know it was an oversight and know this is a personal thank you to you as well. Thank God this pandemic has been declared over, and I hope we never see another one,” she said.
Riley conceived the idea of having a special reception before a Board of Selectmen meeting to honor town employees.
Those receiving Citations from selectmen, who stood near the lectern in front of the selectmen’s desks, included:
The Saugus Health Department: Health Director John Fralick, Lisa DeDomenico, Mary McKenzie, Teresa Riley-Singh, Joseph Tabbi, Laura Vlasuk, Kimberly Politano, Sandy Moynihan and Kim Esakof.
The Saugus Board of Health: Chair William Heffernan and members Joia Cicolini, Maria Tamagna, Geraldine Gatchell and Dr. Anthony Bakopolus.
Saugus Public School nurses: Erin Ledrew, Pam Acheson, Kerri Hittinger, Jaqi Bogdanski, Robyn Berry, Tara Martin, Cheryl Carucci and Ashley Barry.
And a number of different departments and officers: Saugus Public Schools (School Committee Chair Vincent Serino); the Saugus Police Department (Chief Michael Ricciardelli); the Saugus Fire Department (Chief Michael Newbury); Saugus Fire/Emergency Management; all Town Hall employees, including Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree; the Saugus Senior Center (Director Laurie Davis); SCTV; volunteers of the Saugus United Parish Food Pantry; volunteers from Healthy Students/Healthy Saugus; Department of Public Works (Director Brendan O’Regan).
Riley proceeded to read from a prepared statement, highlighting the noble involvement of town employees and citizen volunteers who helped Saugus make the most of a difficult and challenging two-plus years. “In addition to those who were deeply involved, I’d like to mention the Board of Selectmen who supported and worked the drive-by food drop offs at the Senior Center as we needed them, food deliveries to those who couldn’t get out and the saddest part of the pandemic – the vigil we held with the clergy of Saugus to remember those who we lost,” Riley said. “Also, the community and employees that came up with fun and innovative ideas to keep it at the very least, interesting:
“• Officers Dominic Montano and Matt Donahue who initiated the ‘Drive by parades’ to children’s homes celebrating birthdays.
“• Susan Curry, who started a social media page ‘Teddy Bears in the Window’ so children could drive around and spot ‘Teddy Bears’ in front windows of homes.
“• Roxanne Falasca had reached out to Board of Selectmen Chairman Anthony Cogliano looking to get banners for the baseball team, which turned into banners for the graduating class of Saugus High as well as other high schools that Saugus students attended.
“• Tommy Whittredge and the School Committee organizing a senior car parade as well as senior video they recorded at Square One Mall.
“• State Rep. Donald Wong got additional PPE (personal protection equipment) that was at times, very hard to get.
“• To all the Saugus Boards and Committees that held painstaking ‘Zoom’ meetings doing the best that they could to keep Saugus moving forward.”
State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) presented a legislative commendation that he and state Rep. Jessica Giannino (D-Revere) obtained from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The citation was in recognition of the town’s dedication and commitment to the residents of Saugus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m so proud of Saugus and everyone that was involved in making us past this COVID-19,” Wong said.
“The police officers who were out there all of the time, the firefighters, the Board of Health – where you had Joe Tabbi come out of retirement to help the town, plus the schools, the teachers,” Wong said.
“No one had rules on how to handle this. But Saugus did. They came through and I thank them,” he said.
Selectman Michael Serino said he observed the passionate citizen involvement of volunteers he worked with at the Saugus United Parish Food Pantry. “They certainly made Saugus someplace special,” Serino said.
Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of many Saugonians during the pandemic. “There are so many people to thank,” Panetta said.
“I mean Saugus really came together as a community as we always do. That’s why I love our town so much. Any time there’s a problem, everyone just comes together and tries to help one another, which is so very important,” she said. “Everyone here has done a phenomenal job – not just during COVID, but always in the jobs they do. All of our town and school employees, police and fire, Health Department, DPW. The Healthy Students – I don’t know what we would do without them, as well as the food bank. SCTV is always there, covering whatever needs to get covered. All of our board, committees and commissions in town have gone over and above …our state reps … Honestly, I appreciate you so much and what you do for our town. So, a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you.”
Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini called it “a pretty remarkable effort.” “A lot of selfless people in the town who don’t really want the recognition or need the recognition,” Cicolini said.
“I appreciate how the community came together as a whole and persevered,” he said.
At the same time, Cicolini offered his condolences to families who lost loved ones during the pandemic. He lost a cousin.
Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano hailed the period of the pandemic as “a great time to rally together.” “We certainly got support from everybody in this town to keep things going,” Cogliano said. He commended the generosity of local businesses that pitched in to make the food drive a success.
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