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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Group Working Toward Change, Inclusion

Sep 29, 2020 09:16AM ● By Susan Manning

Have you noticed more drives going on—can drives? School supply drives?

Don’t worry, your eyes are not deceiving you. There’s a new group in town and their focus is to create change, inclusion, and diversity.

Hopedale for Change is a core group of roughly 13 people, with eight who are particularly active. The core group consists of Greg Habel, Jayme Solomon-Zissu,  Becca Solomon, Tina Ryan, Michelle Piatt, Megan Piatt, McKay Calabrese, Suzanne MacNeil, Michele Alves, Janice Doyle, Lorraine Olson.  

“Our goal is to help the community and make it as welcoming to all regardless of color, religion,  country of origin,  ability, or sexual identity and would like to see more diversity. We would like to see community involvement in policing and see if we can reconcile our views of defunding the police. We would lime tosee more inclusive education. We, as a community  do not have issues with the police or police brutality thankfully but there is always room for improvement. We would like to facilitate change by open conversations. You need to be willing to listen to the issues to overcome them. I think in the end we will all realize that we have more in common than different. This political time is so divisive, we would like to be more inclusive and uniting,” said the group.

So why found a group?

Solomon-Zissu said her catalyst were the multiple murders of black people.

“For me, after seeing the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rashad Brooks. I felt like I needed to do something. I was inspired by the protest we had here and wanted to do more. I was further energized after seeing a WCVB special on race in Massachusetts. They had a group called Medway Marches and I immediately joined. They had a gathering and I figured I would try to do a group in Hopedale. I put a post on the Hopedale bulletin board and got responses from several people, including Tina from Uxbridge For Change. She helped us begin and we formed a core group and have progressed from there. We want as much community involvement as we can get,” she said.

Doyle said her motivation was to fight racism.

“I have been looking into anti-racism group for a while. The last one I joined was stopped with Covid... so when this group was started, i thought it was a great opportunity,” she said.

For Olson, who grew up in the ‘60s and worked on racial issues in Boston, inclusion is near and dear to her. 

“With a black teenage grandson with two biracial siblings, I felt the need to participate in and meet people who truly care about the problems POC face and the danger faced every day. The day my then 9-year-old grandson asked ‘Why?’ after Treyvon Martin was killed rocked me to my core. This group gives me hope,” she explained.

Habel always knew he believed that diversity should happen, but felt now is the time to take action.

“For too many years without action I have been following the struggles that people of color, the LGTBQ+ community, and more recently those with mental health issues have been facing. Having built relationships with more diverse people, I began to hear personal stories that impacted my heart. Then with the murder of George Floyd I saw a sign that spoke to me; “Silence is Betrayal”. After participating in the protest and march in Hopedale for George Floyd, I felt a strong heartfelt connection to the protestors  as well as hope. But I knew without action, it would be in vain. Once our group Hopedale For Change was formed, I immediately joined to help make a difference in Hopedale and beyond,” he said.

MacNeil was dismayed that after 20 years of activism, she still wasn’t seeing change happen.

“I participated in different social activism groups and peaceful protests in Boston in the early 2000s, and I’m saddened that 20 years later, I still need to protest racism and stand up for equality for all. When Hopedale For Change was forming, I knew I needed to get involved. I look forward to seeing what we can do with this group in Hopedale, surrounding towns, and beyond,” she said.

The group so they are always looking for more input and direction.

“We put a survey out on the bulletin board to get a sense of what the community is interested in and we are working on that. We would like to help with education and make it more inclusive. We want to make Hopedale welcoming for all. We would also like to sit with the police department to see how they view community policing. Our first two events were put together relatively quickly so people see we are here and trying to help out the community. McKay put together our flyer, we posted it and were off and running,” they said.

By the way, those drives they held? They turned out pretty successful.

“The bottle drive was not ours, it was the 2021 Cooperstown drive. We just did a large donation towards it. The supplies drive was because there are foster kids and less fortunate people who could use help with school supplies. The balance could stay in the schools for the students. The teachers have enough pressure with Covid-19 and our temporary new normal.

“For the can drive we donated six lawn bags full of bottles and cans and a few boxes. There was quite a lot for the school supplies. We were thrilled to see all the donations,” they said.

If you would like to get involved in Hopedale for change, visit their Facebook page. There is still a pole open on the page as well as a bulletin board and you can provide your contact information as well as your opinion.

“We openly welcome people to join us,” the group said.