Leslie Dube got a later start in the world of volunteering, but maybe that’s because she was waiting for her perfect calling.
It just so happens that calling came shortly after she moved into North Village, part of the Chelmsford Housing Authority, about 11 years ago.
“I inherited it,” said Dube, 77. “It’s really great, and these are great people to work with.”’
Joan Brady, her neighbor at the time, was running the food market at North Village every Friday morning and asked if Leslie would like to pitch in. Leslie agreed, and after Joan moved out in 2021, she took over running the food market.
Every Friday, Dube and other volunteers unload a truck from the Merrimack Valley Food Bank and set up the food in the North Village community room, where residents can pick the items they want.
She jokes the market gives her something to get up for, but it’s obvious when speaking with Dube it means much more to her than just that. There’s a sense of pride in the community she has helped build and the good she is doing for her peers.
Each May, the Administration for Community Living leads the celebration of older Americans each year. This year’s theme was Aging Unbound, and it continues to offer an opportunity to explore a wide range of aging experiences and promote the importance of enjoying independence and fulfillment by paving our own paths as we age.
Loriann Gatta, director of social services for the Chelmsford Housing Authority, said Brady started the market in about 2007. Under the tutelage of Brady and Dube, the market has since grown from one site (North Village) to three. It now includes Delaney Terrace and the CHOICE Center.
“It doesn’t run without all the hands we have in it,” Gatta said. “It’s just amazing.”
There’s a little bit of everything to choose from like bread, chips, and even sweets, which is often the most popular table.
“It helps everybody,” Dube said. “These are the people I want to help. It becomes a community.”
And a strong community it is.
Three of the market’s most experienced volunteers, Nelida Vazquez, Cindy Belanger, and Verlie Campbell, have been volunteering just as long as Dube. Vazquez and Campbell are former CHA employees who wanted to stay in touch with the community. Belanger currently works there and volunteers when her schedule allows.
“We get to see the people we love,” said Campbell. “And the prices are so high in the supermarkets right now and people are on a fixed income.”
When the market is done, volunteers pack up the leftover food and deliver it to a local shelter. None of the food goes to waste.