Roberta Liebman shares with Alisson Aleman the remarkable role that neighborhood organizations have played in some of the most significant moments of her life. They have provided her and her family with support and companionship through some of the most challenging moments.
I think my story began about fifteen years ago, my son and his wife who lived in California, they both by a bizarre coincidence were diagnosed with brain tumors. They were different types but they were serious. And my son Jamie recognized that they were going to be in big trouble. They didn’t have a lot of resources to help them and they were both needing brain surgery. So Jamie spoke to some friends and said we’re gonna need help and the friends said, okay, we’ll do it. And they made sure that whenever food was needed, whenever a ride was needed to the doctor someone was there to help them. Someone was even there to help them sort through the pile of mail. And all of that was incredibly helpful to a family that was in terrible shape. It was this neighborhood that took care of them. When it was over, we were struck by how extraordinary it was that people just rallied around to help and lend support. And about that time, some of our neighbors began saying you know we can have an organization and we would help eachother, are you interested? And we had just had this extraordinary demonstration of how effective it could be so we said of course, yes we would. And my husband Ernie was on the board and he helped deal with some of the finances. I helped with a number of volunteer things, I had been a volunteer in many other situations and it was beautiful. And then the organization grew, people began really recognizing what a fine thing this was. Unfortunately, Ernie’s health was not great and our house was not safe so we had to move. We moved here to Northampton, our son and daughter in-law made us comfortable, they were living upstairs. But people here began saying you know have you heard of this village-to-village network maybe we should have something like Northampton Neighbors. Well, we had already seen this was a really good idea. So, of course we said yes. And we both prepared to be volunteers, except Ernie wasn’t doing very well and I fell down. I had to say I need some help. My arm is broken, I can’t drive to therapy. And boom, Northampton Neighbors was there and it turned out to be the nicest possible way to meet people in my community as well as to receive the help I desperately needed. I think it’s very easy to offer help, it’s really fun to be a volunteer. The thing that's hard are to learn to accept is to ask for help, we’re expected to be independent and to take care of ourselves. And to recognize that it is okay to say I need help. You know there is a certain level of isolation that older people experience, and making it possible for people to join a group where there all kind of social activities, there’s physical activities, there’s even a group called, I think it’s called FIG for food information group. But, I think it broadens the whole sense of how we all work together and how we all need each other.