Local Families Turn Grief into Good 

Sponsored Meals Help Alleviate Hunger in Memory of Loved Ones 

Dennis Acker places labels on Friday’s Community Meal which read “This meal is donated in loving memory of Charlene Acker.”
(Photo Courtesy of The Open Door)

GLOUCESTER – A local family is honoring a loved one today by putting dinner on the table for those in need of a little extra help.  

Friday’s Community Meal at The Open Door, a hearty ham, pineapple, vegetable stuffing, and mashed potatoes dinner, is given in loving memory of Charlene Acker by her husband Dennis Acker and daughter Maya Acker, and her father LeRoy Ross. 

Charlene Acker, age 57, passed away in October 2021 from ovarian cancer. Today would have been her 58th birthday. 

With her birthday approaching, Dennis Acker saw the opportunity for meals sponsorship on social media.  

“The minute I saw it, I knew I had to do it. It was just perfect, and I can’t think of a better way to honor her birthday,” Acker said, adding he has a few other plans this week to honor Charlene.  

The Acker roots run deep with The Open Door. Several years ago, when their daughter, Maya Acker, began looking for community service opportunities in high school, The Open Door was a natural pick as Dennis Acker had served two terms on the nonprofit’s Board of Directors, and the family had volunteered together through the years. For Maya Acker, volunteering in the kitchen to prepare dinners on Saturday night worked well with her high school schedule. Charlene Acker volunteered alongside her daughter, and it became a special activity for both of them. 

The Community Meals program sponsorship opportunity is a new initiative at The Open Door, first inspired by another family’s annual tradition. 

“We launched our Community Meals sponsorship opportunity as a way for anyone to sponsor a meal, whether they be a local business, community group, a family, and so on,” President and CEO Julie LaFontaine said. “To turn one’s grief into an act of kindness and to put food on the table for someone else pays tribute to the life of a loved one and makes a difference. We take this honor as a responsibility, and we are thankful to the families who choose to remember their loved ones in this way.” 

The initiative is inspired by another local family who honor a loved one each year with a meal at The Open Door. For the last four years the Testaverde family has come together to honor the late Capt. John S. Testaverde by sponsoring a Community Meal, including his wife Jean Testaverde; children Nina Testaverde Goodick, Theresa Testaverde, John Testaverde, and Mary Marcantonio; and his loving grandchildren. The group bring a cake to be sent out along with the meals, sometimes flowers, and some even sign up to deliver meals. 

As a lifelong fisherman with a passion for cooking for family and friends, Capt. Testaverde taught his children to always cook with love.  

“It was a wonderful, positive way to honor the memory of our father,” said Goodick of a previous year’s meal. “Our whole family appreciated it, and it brought joy to us, allowing us to remember him by feeding others. He was all about the food. I’m sure my family will laugh that I said that. We know he would love this.” 

While groups that once volunteered to prepare meals in-person at The Open Door kitchen are not currently able to amid the ongoing pandemic and precautions limiting the number of people in the building at a given time, The Open Door is making the Community Meals program sponsorship a formalized option for those looking to feed their neighbors in another way.  

To learn more or sponsor a Community Meal, visit FOODPANTRY.org/sponsormeals.  

About The Open Door  

The mission of The Open Door is to alleviate the impact of hunger in our community. We use practical strategies to connect people to good food, to advocate on behalf of those in need, and to engage others in the work of building food security. 

Founded in 1978, The Open Door is a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit and community food resource center for low-income residents of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Hamilton, Boxford, Rowley, Topsfield, and Wenham. In 2020, The Open Door helped stabilize the lives and health of 9,681 unduplicated people from 4,703 households through the distribution of 2.46 million pounds of food, amounting to 2.05 million meals. 

For more information, visit FOODPANTRY.org. 

### 

Register now for the GMGI Science Hour on 1/27 with Dr. Peter Girguis of Harvard University

Please join us on Thursday,  January 27 at 7:30pmas we kick off the winter season of GMGI’s Science Hour with Harvard University’s Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Dr. Peter Girguis.

This is not Planet Earth: Recent findings from our work on the physiological and biochemical adaptations to life in the deep sea

The deep sea represents more then 80% of our planet’s living space, and harbors some of the Earth’s most extreme environments. Dr. Girguis and his colleagues study the microbes and animals that live in these environments using “omics-informed” physiological experiments that aim to:

  • Measure metabolic activity – including carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen metabolism
  • Examine the associated patterns of gene and protein expression
  • Relate their research activity to biogeochemical cycles

Studying these communities is an incredible challenge – many of these habitats are located where pressure is immensely high and temperatures range from near freezing to over 662° F! To study these organisms, Dr. Girguis and his team of scientists developed tools to maintain pressures and chemical conditions that mirror the extreme habitats of deep sea microbes and animals, allowing them to make in situ geo-referenced geochemical measurements. 

During Peter’s Science Hour presentation, he will share some recent findings and future directions for his work. Moreover, he hopes to make these technologies broadly available to the scientific community with the hope they can help inform policymakers and other stakeholders who govern the fate of our ocean, and ultimately, our biosphere.

Q&A to be moderated by GMGI Donald G. Comb Science Director Andrea Bodnar.

John Prybot caps a 35-year career at Sawyer Free Library

After close to four decades, there is likely no book contained in the Sawyer Free Library unfamiliar to long-time library assistant John Prybot.

This month, John Pyrbot will retire after working for 35 years at the Sawyer Free Library. Through eight library directors and so many changes in the Library, John has remained a constant and reassuring presence, busy reshelving stacks with the latest titles, helping young and old alike find a book or an answer, and chatting with patrons most of whom he knows by name. 

“I have always tried my very best to serve our library patrons. That’s been my overriding and unwavering goal, as well as the Sawyer Free Library itself as an institution,” said John Prybot about his long tenure at the Library. “My life in Gloucester revolves around the Library. It is the true cornerstone of the community. I believe that libraries are precious resources to be treasured and promoted and used to the fullest extent.”

Growing up in Gloucester, John loved to hang out at the Sawyer Free Library. He was there so much that in high school he got a job as a page, responsible for putting books back in their proper locations. After graduating from Gloucester High School in 1964, he spent a decade in the Peace Corps in Guatemala. This life-defining experience offered him a new lens through which to see the world and the importance of community service. With that passion, he returned to his hometown and re-joined the staff of the Sawyer Free Library, beginning his long and rewarding tenure of public service in Gloucester.

“When I started in the Peace Corps, I was told, “What you give to these people will be nothing compared to what you receive from everyone.” The way that people accumulate respect in Guatemala is to contribute to their community. It was an incredible and eye-opening experience,” shared Prybot. “This is the reason why when I returned, I chose to work at the Library. I recognized it as an essential institution that serves the public as a critical source for information and knowledge.” 

Along with being a friendly and familiar face at the front desk, John’s time at the Library provided an invaluable wealth of knowledge and experience, benefiting both the Library and its patrons. Over the years, John has worked in circulation, managed the request lists, repaired books, processed and prepared new books for the Library’s collection, archived and organized historical resources, and much more.

With his fluency in Spanish and knowing how it feels to be a stranger in a new country, John has also been instrumental to countless newcomers to Gloucester from across the globe, connecting them to services and resources, as well as helping them to adjust to their new environment. 

“John is such a beloved fixture at the Sawyer Free Library and in the community—everyone knows who he is,” said Library Director Jenny Benedict. “All of us at Sawyer Free Library are grateful for his dedication to our Library and our City.  We wish him all the best for his well-deserved retirement.”

“I have had the great pleasure to know and work with John for close to ten years,” said Beth Pocock, the Library’s Assistant Director. “His care and consideration of people’s needs in all that he does inspires all of us to do the best we can each and every day. John has just a wonderful heart, and we will miss him very much at the Library.” 

When asked what he will miss most in his retirement, John shared, “Interacting with the patrons, I will miss the people and helping them. I really enjoy it and like being a part of it all.”

In his retirement, Prybot will continue his tireless work on a historical recovery project which involves making archival materials from the Central American archives available to people in their communities in Guatemala. His long-range plan is to move back to Guatemala, actively work on-site, and spend time with his eight godchildren and their families. But, for now, John will stay in Gloucester and utilize the resources that he knows so well, in a space he loves, the Sawyer Free Library. 

John Prybot retires from Sawyer Free Library after 35 years of service to Gloucester community.

Gloucester’s So Salty at the Sawyer Free Library this Saturday, 1/20 – it is all about SALT ISLAND

GLOUCESTER’S SO SALTY! at the SAWYER FREE LIBRARY

As a part of Gloucester’s So Salty celebration, the Sawyer Free Library invites you to learn more about Salt Island. This Saturday, January 22 at 2 pm join researcher Mary Ellen Lepionka for a virtual presentation on the history of Salt Island. After, Jayne & Andy Knott of Save Salt Island and Denton Crews of Friends of Good Harbor Beach will present on recent efforts to preserve this area.

Click HERE to register for your Zoom Link or contact Julie Travers at jtravers@sawyerfreelibrary.org for more information.

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship – Shipbuilding in Essex

Join National Heritage Fellow Harold Burnham, and his Apprentice KD for an update on their progress for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship. After a hiatus for the summer sailing season Harold & KD are back working on the rehabilitation of Sylvina W. Beal, the return home of Schooner Isabella, and all manner of shipyard nonsense.

This series of events will run through the spring of 2022, kicking off on January the 25th at 7PM via Zoom.

These are free to attend, find more details at the link below:

https://www.essexshipbuilding.org/new-events/zoom-talk-mcc-traditional-arts-apprenticeship-with-kd-amp-harold

Book Discussion with Aviva Chomsky author of Central America’s Forgotten History on 1/20 at 6pm

Sawyer Free Library to present a virtual Author Talk with AVIVA CHOMSKY about her book Central America’s Forgotten History on Thursday, January 20, 6-7pm. Registration required to receive the link at sawyerfreelibrary.org.  

Expand your understanding of Central American unrest and migration with prolific American teacher, historian, activist and author Aviva Chomsky.  The author will join Zoom for this virtual discussion to discuss her recently released book, CENTRAL AMERICA’S FORGOTTEN HISTORY.

This virtual event is for anyone who wants to understand how US policies and interventions are the driving forces behind the root causes which explain mass migration from Central America since the 1980s. Centering the centuries-long intertwined histories of US expansion and Indigenous and Central American struggles against inequality and oppression, Chomsky highlights the pernicious cycle of colonial and neocolonial development policies that promote cultures of violence and forgetting without any accountability or restorative reparations. She examines the impact of losing historical memory. Only by erasing history can we claim that Central American countries created their own poverty and violence, while the United States’ enjoyment and profit from their bananas, coffee, mining, clothing, and export of arms are simply unrelated curiosities.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State University, and the author of several books.

Visit the Library or call to check out the book Central America’s Forgotten History. Registration required to receive the link at sawyerfreelibrary.org.  Questions contact: Beth Pocock at bpocock@sawyerfreelibrary.org or 978-325-5555.  

Sawyer Free Library Virtual Author Discussion on Thursday, Jan 20 at 6pm

SeniorCare’s Annual Valentines Breakfast Fundraiser Goes Virtual

SeniorCare Inc. will hold its annual Valentine’s Day Breakfast Fundraiser online in 2022.  Between now and February 14, donors can provide a local homebound elder with a Valentine, while providing critical financial support to the Meals on Wheels home-delivered meals program. On February 14, a special video photo montage will be posted showing images from past breakfasts held at The Gloucester House in downtown Gloucester.

SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program brings a daily meal to the door of homebound elders, Monday through Friday. Menus are designed by nutrition experts to meet the needs of older adults and are prepared by a professional caterer.  In addition, homebound elders have a daily interaction with the delivery team—sometimes their only human contact that day.  SeniorCare serves lunch to more than 700 elders each day through the home-delivered meals program.  Annually, this means 182,000 meals served throughout SeniorCare’s service area of Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester by the Sea, Rockport, Topsfield, and Wenham. Since the start of the pandemic, SeniorCare has seen a 25% increase in Meals on Wheels recipients, while rising food, paper, and labor costs have significantly increased the cost of each meal delivered.

To donate to SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program, please go to www.seniorcareinc.org/2022unbreakfast.

For more information about Meals on Wheels and the broad range of services offered by SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750 or visit www.seniorcareinc.org.

About SeniorCare

SeniorCare Inc. serves an area that represents more than 27,000 residents aged 60 and over.  We provide services to adults with disabilities and elders in nine North Shore communities. Established in 1972, SeniorCare has approximately 100 employees and nearly 400 volunteers. The volunteers and staff work to fulfill its mission coordinating services to elders, allowing them to live independently at home or in a setting of their choice, while remaining part of their community.

North Shore Community Health Distributes Over 1,300 COVID-19 Testing Kits  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Media Contact: 

Grace Chiou 

grace.chiou@nschi.org 

(978)-744‑8388 

North Shore Community Health Distributes Over 1,300 COVID-19 Testing Kits 

NSCH Offers New Program Providing Free At-Home COVID-19 Test Kits for Vulnerable Populations 

SALEM, Mass. – Jan. 7, 2021 – North Shore Community Health (NSCH) through its outreach efforts is committed to its mission to serve the North Shore community outside of its own four walls. Following a round of vaccination clinics in 2021 at community partner locations, NSCH continues to fight against the spread of COVID-19 with a new program offering the weekly distribution of at-home, rapid antigen COVID-19 testing kits that are being provided through funding from the Health Resource Services Agency (HRSA). 

Area shelters and food pantries were the recipients of 1,135 tests during the first round of deliveries this week, which began on Thursday, Jan. 6. The Open Door, a food resource center based in Gloucester, received 225 tests on Thursday. Serving more than 1000 people a week, the nonprofit will stagger the COVID tests for equitable distribution beginning Monday, Jan. 10. 

“It’s connections within our community, like this partnership between The Open Door and North Shore Community Health, that help bridge the gaps in access and reach some of the community’s most vulnerable people,” The Open Door President and CEO Julie LaFontaine said. “As we continue to weather this pandemic, we’re pleased to take a role in facilitating better access to at-home testing so people can stay healthy this winter.” 

Kits were also made available to Lifebridge shelter and The Salem Food Pantry ; Citizen’s Inn shelter and Haven from Hunger in Peabody; Action, Inc. in Gloucester and Beverly Bootstraps Food Pantry in Beverly. 

The availability of these kits has come at a critical time. Getting timely testing for COVID-19 has never been more necessary as the Omicron virus is four times as transmissible as the Delta strand, making the spread of COVID-19 escalate rapidly.  

NSCH recommends members of the community seek out a COVID-19 test if: 

Since 1977, NSCH has been a primary source of healthcare for people of all ages and provides services regardless of ability to pay. The network of centers in Peabody, Salem, Gloucester and school-based health centers serves over 13,000 patients. 

### 

GLOUCESTER MEETINGHOUSE MLK DAY ANNUAL CELEBRATION JANUARY 17TH!

The Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation will host it 6th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration, live on Zoom, on Monday, January 17th at 2:00pm. Please preregister at http://www.gloucestermeetinghouse.org

The Racial Climate in Gloucester, What Lies Ahead will be the focus of the 2-hour program, including including findings of a new community survey. The keynote speaker will be Brian Saltsman, Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion at Alfred University in upstate New York. He is a leading advocate of addressing community issues between dominant and marginalized racial, ethnic or economic sectors as allies, a process known as “allyship.”

The invited presenting organizations are:

  • The Gloucester Racial Justice Team, reporting on a survey that assessed how much people of color “feel like they have a sense of community and belong in the city, including how race and ethnicity play a role in their daily lives,” according to GRJT spokesperson Gail Seavey.
  • The North Shore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which most recently has focused on racism issues within Danvers High School athletic teams. A branch leader will discuss the North Shore branch’s activities across a region stretching from Lynn to New Hampshire.
  • The Diversity and Equity Committee of the Gloucester 400th Anniversary Celebration, which is researching narrative stories that accurately depict racial and ethnic relationships since European settlement began displacing the native, indigenous Pennacook-Abenaki peoples. This will include years of slave ownership and maritime commerce in the global slave trade.

A video of this program with be available on the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation’s YouTube channel afterwards. The Foundation is a nonsectarian, federally-recognized nonprofit, organized to promote the preservation and community programming of the historic 1806 Meetinghouse on Middle Street, home of the first Universalist Church in America. Tax-deductible donations are welcome and may be made on the website, or by check to “GMF” at 10 Church Street, Gloucester, MA 01930.

SAWYER FREE LIBRARY THANKS THE COMMUNITY FOR ITS SUPPORT!

Thanks to the Gloucester community’s incredible generosity, the Sawyer Free Library is excited to announce that it not only reached, but greatly exceeded, its 2021 Annual Appeal fundraising goal! 

This year the Library was thrilled to welcome many new contributors and thankful for all returning donors. No matter the amount, your support means so much! 

Your support of the Sawyer Free Library empowers individuals, strengthens families, and makes our greater Gloucester community a better place to live, for which we are deeply grateful! THANK YOU!

“Libraries are not made, they grow.” – Augustine Birrell

The Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library Inc. serves the informational and cultural needs of Gloucester’s residents of all ages as it has for over 175 years. Today, its purpose remains to provide equal access to quality resources that serve all people’s lifelong cultural, educational, and informational needs and interests. Its guiding mission is to be a place of learning, innovation, and creativity to nurture and strengthen the community. Each year, the Library hosts hundreds of programs and serves thousands of people, all of which are free and open to the public.

To learn more, visit sawyerfreelibrary.org