The Gift Of Giving Year-round

On December 29 as many people hunkered down grateful for a warm home, plentiful plates of food and enjoying the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day, others were working hard to provide basic shelter and a hot cup of coffee to the growing number of homeless and disenfranchised people in the greater New Bedford area.

Some were braving the cold temperatures to give what only humans can give to one another: blood. And still others were standing behind tables in the Knights of Columbus Hall to share programs as diverse as aiding veterans to joining the local women’s club.

Yet, for one person, how you wish to spend your time, talents and financial resources is not the point. The point is sharing. Period.

Miss Massachusetts and Mattapoisett native Jillian Zucco has dedicated her young life to prompting volunteerism. The December event titled “Make A Difference Expo” was her brainchild to bring together nonprofit and/or volunteer organizations and give them a platform to not only share the work they are doing, but to also possibly add volunteers to their ranks.

When asked how the expo was going Zucco replied, “Really well.” As the girl trio B.L.C. sang what Zucco dubbed “uplifting” tunes adding an air of conviviality to the event, Zucco’s dark eyes sparkled. “It’s been crazy busy,” she said of the holiday season, her professional work as a cardiac care nurse, responsibilities and personal appearance commitments as Miss Massachusetts, and as a prime-mover in the Showstoppers entertainment organization. The group had completed some 30 shows during the season and would be performing later in the afternoon.

But Zucco’s enthusiastic drive to help others – to bring together help where a need may exist – was the impetus for the Expo.

Outside in the parking lot, the constant hum from the motors supplying electric service to the Boston Children’s Hospital mobile blood van was a reassuring sound that the precious gift of blood can’t be taken for granted. Blood and blood products are in constant demand at all hospitals. Zucco said that by 2:30 pm, only an hour and a half into the Expo, 30 donors had come forward.

Inside the hall positioned around the room, one could find any number of ways to help.

From Mattapoisett were representatives from the Mattapoisett Land Trust, Mattapoisett Historical Society Museum, and Mattapoisett Women’s Club.

From New Bedford were volunteers from Sister Rose House that has been an institution for over 30 years serving as a homeless shelter as well as providing clothing and meals.

When asked what the organization needed, volunteer Becky Brosnan replied, “Socks, T-shirts, gloves, toiletries, food.” She explained that the organization functioned as an “over-flow” shelter to approximately 35 people, especially important given the record-setting cold temperatures. “When the temperatures are freezing or above, some won’t come inside even if a bed is available,” Brosnan said. But the last week had seen all available beds in the city of New Bedford “taken.” She said that Sister Rose House serves as a shelter to approximately 600 people each year.

Another organization that works directly with those whose personal needs are greatest and an organization that Zucco has been working with for years was also at the Expo: Gifts To Give. Described as “…a philanthropy factory powered by children and managed by adult volunteers…” GTG has been serving the southcoast of Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island for approximately 10 years. The charity has been collecting gently used clothing, household items, books and toys, but leading up to the Christmas season, it is always especially eager to receive new items to present to deserving families.

Also represented at the Expo were: Hospice Services of Massachusetts whose volunteers provide end-of-life care and comfort; Mission 22 that brings veterans together with a variety of services; Medical Reserve Corps that is a program sponsored by the Office of the Surgeon General in partnership with the USA Freedom Corps and Department of Homeland Security; and last, but not least, Southcoast Young Marines that promotes mental, moral and physical development with an eye towards character building, leadership, and a drug-free lifestyle.

If you were unable to attend Zucco’s Make A Difference Expo but are interested in any of the groups or organizations named above, each has a website where more information may be obtained.

By Marilou Newell

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