By JEN CARDINES
To honor their late family member Annette (Miceli) Brown, Southington residents of the large Miceli family formed a chapter of the Neighbor Brigade volunteer program. Shortly after Brown passed away on March 3, 2017, her sister-in-law Dawn Miceli, a Southington Town Councilor, and her cousin Jolene Miceli created the Southington Connecticut Neighbor Brigade.
Neighbor Brigade establishes community-specific networks of volunteers that can be mobilized to help residents facing sudden crisis manage day-to-day tasks such as meal preparation, rides, and basic household chores. It is not designed for long-term care, rather for emergency situations that individuals or families encounter. Beneficiaries include those who experienced heart attacks, lost loved ones, cancer treatments, car accidents, etc.
Currently, there are only two chapters in the state, both of which were created to honor Brown. A Suffield chapter was created by Roz (Miceli) Luongo around the same time that Southington hit the map.
“Our family is unbelievably close,” Dawn Miceli said.
The Micelis said that Brown was helped by her local brigade in Bedford, Mass. when she battled cancer, so they wanted to honor her by helping others through a local chapter.
“She was overwhelmed by the work they did,” Dawn Miceli said.
The Southington brigade is already established online with five chapter leaders that include Dawn and Jolene who spearheaded the group. The leaders meet with other enlisted volunteers on a regular basis to market their brigade and help spread the word in town. Members registered the brigade through headquarters and created a Facebook page to promote the volunteerism.
“We really want this to grow,” Jolene Miceli said. The organization is awaiting response to a grant from the Main Street Community Foundation that they recently applied for.
The Micelis are also approaching local civic groups to let them know what they are doing in the community. Many organizations in the area provide assistance to people in need, but not in a way that the brigade does. While community services, the United Way of Southington, the YMCA and other organizations have programs and funds to assist struggling families, none of them can come over to walk your dog, Miceli said. The brigade volunteers perform basic household tasks like grocery shopping, lawn mowing, pet walking, and providing rides to doctor’s appointments, all responsibilities that aren’t performed by other helping groups.
All volunteers are required to have a nationwide police background check to ensure client safety. Clients can answer questions online based on their care needs so that volunteers know how to properly accommodate them, while volunteers fill out information about their volunteer interests. By doing this, people can be assigned jobs that suit them.
There is no official commitment to volunteer time, so community members can do as much or as little as they prefer.