Helping Hands in Norfolk

Grace Allen
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

They saw a need and went into action. Two Norfolk residents, spurred by the abrupt cancellation of school due to COVID-19, decided to address possible food shortages for families dependent on the school system for meals for their children.
Jennifer Wynn and Kendra Bixby created Norfolk Helping Hands, a Facebook group for people to gather information about the sudden needs in town due to the pandemic, as well as for volunteers to respond to those needs.
Wynn is a speech and language pathologist in Franklin, and a parent. She is also on the School Committee in Norfolk and so is aware of the population in town receiving free and reduced lunches.
Bixby is a stay-at-home mother active in the Parent Teacher Organization, and also ran the town’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council for four years.
Together, the two women have created a collaborative effort to step in and help others during the pandemic.
“We were worried about people with hourly pay who will not be paid now, and I think that’s pervasive across many communities,” said Wynn. “We thought there could be a possible increase in children and families needing snacks that haven’t been identified through the school system.”
Their first project involved collecting snack bags for children, which is modeled on the Backpack Initiative in Franklin, an ongoing project. The Backpack Initiative is considered a constant “food pantry” for children in need. A bag of food is discreetly placed in the child’s backpack by the school so the child has a reliable source of nourishment.
Reaching out on Facebook, Wynn and Bixby asked volunteers to donate single-serve snacks, which were then packed in bags for delivery to the food pantry in town.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. Dubbed “Fuel for our Future,” the Norfolk initiative collected 80 bags of snack food for children, which were then delivered to the food pantry. Residents are asked to contact the food pantry to arrange a pickup time: [email protected].
“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” said Bixby.
For now, the project has been suspended. There were so many bags and the food pantry is only so big. But the women emphasize that they will remain a source of support for anyone needing help during this time.
Contact them through their Facebook page, Norfolk Helping Hands. Email [email protected] for more information, or contact the following town officials, who will direct you: Dr. Ingrid Allardi, Superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools ([email protected]); Blythe Robinson, Norfolk Town Administrator ([email protected], 508-528-1225); Kevin Kalkut, Norfolk Select Board ([email protected], 508-440-2855); and Rep. Shawn Dooley ([email protected], 617-722-2810).