The Trailblazers got the coach on Chuck Sweeney's truck but they couldn't get through apartment door.
ADAMS, Mass. — There was plenty of volunteer labor spent during the Martin Luther King Day of Service last month but the men's basketball team at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts wanted to do more.
While working at Louison House on the service day, team members discovered that there was a real need to help move furniture for a woman moving out of the shelter and into Family Life Support's permanent housing in North Adams' West End.
She did not have a bed or much other furniture — a dresser, a small bedroom chair, a borrowed air mattress and an old kitchen table with one chair — so more had to be found.
When the Trailblazers learned there wasn't enough time to help a local woman move, they offered to return and do some heavy lifting.The Permanent Supportive Housing Program began in fall 2010 and works to stabilize individuals who have been chronically homeless for at least two years by providing them with affordable, up-to-code, stable housing.
The team brought the moving problem to the attention of the Martin Luther King Committee. Though there was not a way to accomplish this new task that day, the team members immediately volunteered to help on another occasion.
"Community Service is something that the college stresses and once the basketball teams connected with the Martin Luther King event three years ago, they have wanted to do it every year. Community service is important for the team members to connect with one another and with others in the community," Tom Alexander, assistant basketball coach, said. "This can especially be important when they are part of the underrepresented population, when they can feel they do not belong. When they help others and share, it helps them to feel part of something important and can help them to feel accepted and as belonging."
Through coordination of the Martin Luther King Committee and Louison House and the basketball team, things fell into place and with less than 24 hours notice, the team was back to work.
An injuried Chuck Sweeney, president of the Our Lady of Charity, St. Vincent DePaul Society, of St. Elizabeth's of Hungary, agreed to pick up the furniture despite his right arm being in a sling because of a recent rotator cuff injury.
"Good thing there is power steering, I can drive just with my left hand," Sweeney joked.
The day and time was arranged on short notice and Alexander was unable to notify the team until the evening before.
The team with Katie after helping her move.
"They had been looking forward to helping again and they really swung into action to do this. When I sent the email out, those available responded within seconds," Alexander said.
MCLA players Jamal Brown, Rashard Taylor, Mike Robinson and Bilal Shabazz met Alexander and Sweeney at Louison House. Residents and staff had already rounded up furniture and had it all set for pick up and the tall basketball players quickly had all the items on the truck.
The team members muscled the furniture through the small doorways in the new North Adams apartment but they couldn't find a way to get the couch in. While that may have disappointed the players, the new tenant was excited with what they could deliver. She thanked them profusely and told them she could get by.
Yet, local volunteer organizations are not satisfied yet. If anyone has a smaller couch, some kitchen chairs and a television stand, contact Kathy Keeser at Kathykeeser@gmail.com.
Writer's Note: This is part of an ongoing series on the important volunteer work being done in the Berkshires. If you know of a volunteer or a group of volunteers, contact Kathykeeser@gmail.com. To sign up as a volunteer or to post volunteer jobs, go to Berkshirenonprofits.com.
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