Bob and Bill St. Pierre received full support from family and friends when they thought up the concept for PopCares, an organization dedicated to their father.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — William St. Pierre was well known around the Northern Berkshires as a guy who was willing to help anyone and everyone.
About three years ago, the former textile mill manager was diagnosed with lung cancer. In February 2012, St. Pierre died.
But his legacy of giving is continuing.
"When my dad died of lung cancer, we decided we had to do something in his honor. He was always helping people, going out of his way. He would never drive past anybody broken down. He was always helping everybody and expected nothing in return," said Bob St. Pierre, who along with the rest of the family have started the nonprofit organization PopCares to provide financial help to anybody in the Northern Berkshire area struggling with cancer.
Family and friends who knew William St. Pierre as just "Pop," began the organization in late 2012, immediately following his death. Those close to the family volunteered their expertise, providing all of the accounting, legal services needed to form an official nonprofit organization — a designation approved two months ago.
Family and friends make up the board, using their skills to run the organization, and others volunteer at the events.
The organization holds various fundraisers throughout the area with all of the proceeds going to provide financial support to other families with a loved one fighting cancer. They know firsthand that fighting the disease doesn't just come at the cost of treatments and insurance.
"I know for a fact how much things cost that you don't expect," said Bill St. Pierre.
The patients need to drive out of town for treatments — emptying tanks of gasoline. They can't work and utility and other bills fall in priority. And many times, they are too weakened to clean their homes or yards.
In just over a year of full operation, the organization has helped 94 families with those costs. They have paid rents and utility bills, fixed patients' cars, bought groceries, paid house- or groundskeepers to help with properties or given gas cards to those who could use them. In just the last three months, they have allocated $5,000.
"It just makes you really want to work harder to make more money so you can help more," said Bob St. Pierre.
It isn't just those suffering from cancer either. They make a point to recognize the caregivers as well.
Bill St. Pierre said when his mother was taking care of his father, she received an anonymous delivery of flowers, which perked her up and helped. PopCares now sends flowers to caregivers to repay the favor someone had done for their mother. They provide gift cards or certificates to local restaurants so that the caregiver can get out, if only for one night.
But for the St. Pierres, the most important aspect is that every dime raised from the community goes back to others who need it within the community. They only hold their fundraisers in North County (and the neighboring Vermont towns) and only give the money back to patients here. Nobody involved takes a salary — every dollar they raise is put to use helping others.
Now, with a year and a half of experience since their kickoff event in October 2012, and their official nonprofit designation, PopCares is looking to help even more. The Pierres have been trying their best to spread the word about their organization in hopes to boost attendance at fundraisers.
On Saturday, they will be holding a spaghetti dinner at the PNA in Adams. On May 10, they will host a 5K road race in Williamstown; in August, they are putting on a golf tournament in Stamford, Vt.; in October, they will kick off their third year of operation with another dinner auction.
Saturday's event isn't just a fundraiser — with a modest cost $5 per person — but more of an event to give back to everyone who supported them, said the St. Pierres. Additionally, anyone who has or is struggling with cancer gets free admission.
In the wake of the closing of the North Adams Regional Hospital, they said every former NARH employee — since they are caregivers, too — also gets free admission.
The St. Pierres know they can't do everything, though, so they're in contact with other organizations working toward the same ends. PopCare has invited Moments House, Eva & Emma's Lemonade Stand and the AYJ Fund (for Anna Yan Ji Arabia) to their next fundraisers to help spread the word about what they do as well.
For the family, it is those "small acts of kindness" for their community that exemplifies who William St. Pierre was.
And with PopCares, his legacy of giving is continuing.