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Helping Hands, and Hearts Too

A longstanding West Springfield organization assists homeowners in need

For most, finding the time to volunteer is not always easy. But volunteers working with West Springfield-based nonprofit West Side Helping Hands seem to have a camaraderie that keeps them going, project after project.

“The regular volunteers we get each year are a lot of fun,” says Richard Peck, who serves as the organization’s clerk and secretary. “From the carpenters to the painters, we do get our hands dirty.”

West Side Helping Hands (WSHH) was established in the 1990s as West Side Neighborhood Rehab, Inc. to help establish, maintain, and provide affordable housing in West Springfield. The organization has provided home rehabilitation, tree planting, maintenance services, advocacy, and even tornado recovery. All work is done at no cost to qualifying residents. “I started as a volunteer a good decade and a half ago,” Richard, a project manager, says. “I wanted to help the community.”

WSHH’s Treasurer Dori Hayes said she became involved at the nudge of a dear friend in 2005. That friend, Diane Crowell, passed in 2015. “Diane came to me the day I retired,” Dori, former town of West Springfield benefits coordinator and treasurer, says. “She was the inspiration for this organization, and she did a lot for the town.”

The organization focuses on projects in the southeastern portion of town, also known as the Merrick neighborhoods, where the need is the greatest, but also works in other areas. One such project is the Adopt a House Program. Homes are rehabilitated for qualifying residents who complete an application in the fall for the next application cycle. Applications for the 2024 cycle can be obtained at the Community Development Office at West Springfield Town Hall. In 2022 and 2023, the group helped rehabilitate several homes and restored the flag pole at Altamont Ave.

“We look for a match between people who apply and what our capabilities are,” Richard says. “We consider all applications that come our way, and try to help in some capacity. So far, the resources we possess have matched up with the applications.”

Donations have come from local businesses in town, such as the Eastern States Exposition, along with church organizations and groups like the Rotary Club. Numerous private donors have also been generous in recent years. “We can always use more,” Dori says of making sure future projects are able to be funded.

The organization has also completed projects that help the community as a whole, and it has helped schools, parks, and the Senior Center. For some projects, the organization has collaborated with other nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield and the Parish Cupboard.

One example is the tree-planting program that began after the devastating tornado in 2011, which destroyed many homes and trees in the Merrick area. Several recovery projects were offered by the group, which assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency in planning a long-term effort. Richard says most often there are recovery needs not covered by insurance, and the organization works to fill the gap financially for homeowners. “I became more active at that point,” he says.

Dori says that the group would like to revive town-pride events that have been “dormant” in recent years. Awards were previously given to homeowners for outstanding gardens or home upkeep, as well as to those who showed good citizenship to their neighbors. “People that were once involved have aged out of it, so to speak,” Dori says of getting new volunteers to help with this revival effort.

WHHS also offers a town-wide shredding event twice a year, most recently in October, and a spring cleanup effort that draws teenagers seeking community service work to participate in. “Just knowing that we can help people puts a smile on my heart,” Dori says.

In addition to Diane Crowell, William Forfa was instrumental in creating West Side Neighborhood Rehab, Inc., the original organization that became West Side Helping Hands. They, along with many volunteers, helped create an active and vital organization. The example they set continues to guide the organization today, Richard says, noting that President Paul Taillefer has kept the organization “true to its mission.”

West Side Helping Hands


“The regular volunteers we get each year are a lot of fun. From the carpenters to the painters, we do get our hands dirty.”