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Meet the Neighbor Brigade Team!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Neighbor Brigade Team.

We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Neighbor Brigade was founded officially as a non-profit organization in 2010 by Pam Manikas Washek however Pam was doing the same meaningful work less officially under the name of Wayland Angels since 2003. Pam started Neighbor Brigade when she was diagnosed with cancer and noticed the drastic difference it made when other cancer patients she met had a network of support to help them through such a difficult time in their lives.

Pam wanted everyone to have the support that she felt from her family, her community and her town so she founded Neighbor Brigade. Pam sadly lost her battle to cancer in 2012 but the legacy of her caring spirit carries on in thousands of volunteers that continue today spreading daily acts of kindness in their towns throughout Massachusetts and beyond. I personally have the honor of carrying the torch of Pam’s dream now as executive director of this meaningful organization that encapsulates the values I hold dearly of strengthening your community, helping those that are in need, and paying it forward.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have been in my role as Executive Director for 1.5 years and the biggest challenge when I came on was working together with our team of staff, board members and volunteers at Neighbor Brigade to find a volunteer and task management software program that would allow us to grow beyond Massachusetts and maintain the quality and safety steps we need to manage thousands of volunteers that serve thousands of recipients each year.

We were successful in doing so and have seen growth now into 3 neighboring states of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine. We hope to continue our growth in an organic pattern where people who are inspired by what we do are welcome to start new Chapters where they live!

Neighbor Brigade – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We organize volunteers in towns and cities to enable them to help anyone in their town that is experiencing a temporary crisis by providing a variety of free services. We are unique as a volunteer based organization in that we respond to requests within 24 hours and our services are truly for anyone who resides in a town where we have a chapter.

The only requirements are that the crisis be temporary by nature and that the crisis not be 100% related to their financial situation. Crises often include but are not limited to: cancer, illness, car accident, surgery, fire, recent death in the family, complicated pregnancy or injury. Our volunteers swoop in and help by providing free services like home cooked meals delivered to their doorstep, rides to medical appointments, rides to do errands like grocery shopping or to pick up a prescription, dog walking, light housework around the house or light yard work. We have recently been awarded a grant from the Community Endowment of Lexington which has allowed us to begin translating our materials into Chinese and Portuguese as we have the goal of reaching more diverse communities within our Chapters and making sure all residents are aware of and familiar with our services both to receive them or to help volunteer. We are proud of our diversification goals and hope that other foundations and companies will join forces with us to bring our communities together in a meaningful way.

We also hold an annual 5k/10k walk or run each year called Pam’s Run in memory of our late founder and all proceeds support Neighbor Brigade. This year is our 5th anniversary and it will be held on October 15th at 10AM in Wayland, MA. We would love for any of the readers to join us for a beautiful fall event. For more information go to www.pamsrun.com

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Everyday I hear tragic stories from people who call our toll free number or apply online for help in their town. When I first began the job, I didn’t think I could psychologically take hearing so many devastating stories of crises that happen to “everyday” people who from one day to the next have their lives uprooted and they’ve been given the biggest curve ball ever.

But then I realized, wow what we are doing is truly amazing and truly needed. The thank you notes would poor in, the voices of fear and fatigue eventually changed to hope and energy because they received support from wonderful and yet random volunteers they had never met before who helped them in ways they couldn’t imagine. Sometimes new friendships are formed, and yes too sometimes our recipients pass away, but powerful relationships are created through meaningful acts of kindness that bring each community closer together.

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