Remedy Hall has walk-in hours Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 at Williamstown's First Congregational Church. Volunteers are also available at other times by cell phone.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A new charitable organization is looking for donations of household items and help making sure those items are ready for a new home.
"This is what dignity is all about to me," Andi Bryant of Remedy Hall said. "When people get into situations where the world is heavy and they need items, but they're getting cracked dishes, or, 'Here, take this. It's missing some things,' or, 'You have to clean it.' To me, that's punishment.
"I clean everything that comes in. Every dish on that shelf has been cleaned, and it has been vetted for cracks and imperfections."
Bryant started Remedy Hall this fall to help ease the burden endured by community members in a far from perfect world.
Last week, she spoke to the town's Select Board about the non-profit's mission of providing life's necessities to individuals and families "experiencing great hardship" while honoring the dignity of those the organization serves.
Remedy Hall operates in space it is renting from First Congregational Church, she told the board. Its door is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 for anyone looking to obtain items ranging from personal hygiene products to winter coats to baby strollers.
"Bedding, sheets, pillows, toothpaste, diapers, it goes on and on and on," Bryant said. "We take anything that the donor feels might be a basic need. This has been a really interesting part of it, because one donor may see things a lot differently.
"It's quite an experiment in what 'basic need' looks like. The best way I can explain it is, take an hour out of your time. When you get up in the morning, pay attention to the things that you're using. You make a cup of coffee, you're blowing your nose, you put slippers on your feet. The things that you use in that process — a fork, a knife, a spoon, a coffee cup — that's basic need."
Remedy Hall does not accept donations of or distribute any tobacco products, weapons ("We had to put that, because I received a knife in a sheaf," Bryant said) or medications of any kind – except diaper rash cream. And it does not accept donations of food, Bryant said.
Another part of Remedy Hall's mission is to help connect people in need with other support systems, like local food pantries, Bryant said. One wall of the distribution center is covered with information about various programs and services around the region.
Volunteers who staff the Remedy Hall facility can help direct clients with those resources or just lend an ear when needed.
"We're not a mental health service," Bryant said. "We love to listen to everyone, and we're certainly going to listen to whatever anybody wants to talk about. But we're not a mental health service, and we will guide people to the appropriate resources."
While the center at the First Congregational Church Meeting House is open five days a week, Remedy Hall's services are available 24/7, Bryant said. The sign on the exterior door — which is always locked but has a doorbell for use on weekday afternoons — includes a cell number that recipients can call or text whenever they have an urgent need.
"If anyone has a specific need outside of what I may be mentioning, let us know," Bryant said. "We can find whatever people need. I'm just dreading the day someone says, 'I need a car.' That, we cannot do."
Most of Remedy Hall's donors and recipients have been from Williamstown, but it is open to the wider community, Bryant said.
That goes for donations of items and donations of time. Bryant said Remedy Hall is looking for volunteers to do deliveries, staff the 906 Main St. facility during the week, do outreach for the non-profit and, of course, sort, stock and clean the items that come through the door.
In the brief time the non-profit has been operational, Remedy Hall already is making a difference, Bryant said. But she knows there is more work to be done and a growing need, especially with temperatures dropping.
"Since Nov. 1, we have delivered five beds," she said. "We've gotten five people off the ground or off of a couch. Of all the things that we have given out, the number one thing has been hygiene items. A very close second to that is cold weather items, and the requests coming in for cold weather items has grown in the last week and a half exponentially."
All of the Select Board members thanked Bryant for organizing Remedy Hall.
"You're a treasure," Chair Jeffrey Johnson said. "Taking the initiative to put this together is incredible.
"I'll always be here to help you, personally, and if there's anything the board can do, please ask.
As good as we get in town right there."
In other business on Monday, the Select Board:
• Continued an ongoing conversation about ways to provide targeted property tax relief for residents in need.
• Learned that the town's Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity advisory committee received a $1,170 Mary and Henry Flynt Grant from the Williamstown Community Chest to help implement the DIRE Committee's strategic plan for making the town more inclusive to all residents.
• Heard a reminder from Town Manager Robert Menicocci, who asked residents to avoid parking on the street during snow events in order to facilitate snow removal.
• Announced that the town needs three to five residents to serve on the Mobile Home Rent Control Board. The board has been dormant due to inactivity for some time but has some business to address in the near future, Andrew Hogeland said.
• And announced that the Community Preservation Committee will hold pre-application information sessions at Town Hall on Dec. 11 (9 to 11 a.m.), Dec. 13 (1 to 3 p.m.) and Dec. 14 (1 to 3 p.m.). Applications for fiscal 2025 funding requests are due on Jan. 5 at noon.
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Williamstown Decides to Clear Out Water Street Lot
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A long-time de facto parking lot on Water Street will be closed to vehicles as of March 1, the town has announced.
The 1.27-acre dirt lot that was most recently the site of the town garage has been used to park cars for decades. But the town has never formally considered it a parking lot, and it is not paved, lined or regulated in any way.
The town manager Thursday said that concerns about liability at the site led to a decision to place barriers around the lot to block cars this winter and for the foreseeable future.
"Over the fall, we kept an eye on it, and what we were seeing was upward of 160 or 170 cars on any given day," Bob Menicocci said. "It got to the point where, because of its unregulated nature, the Police Department was getting calls for service saying, ‘I'm blocked in. Can you tow this car?' that kind of thing.
"It was becoming an untenable situation."
The town's observation of the lot found a high percentage of the cars belonged to people connected to Williams College, mainly students who used it for overnight parking. That conclusion is borne out by the way the lot tends to be a lot emptier during college breaks.
In the fall, the school's student newspaper ran an article describing the lot as, "a perfectly legal spot to stash a car, and thus, [where] it seems that College students have lucked into a free, convenient parking lot."
The Planning Board last week encouraged the owner of the Sweetwood Independent Living Community to take another stab at a proposed bylaw amendment that would allow for multifamily housing at the Cold Spring Road facility. click for more