2020 – The Year, Holliston Style
No matter how you slice it, 2020 was a remarkable year. We have looked back at some of the remarkably good things that happened in Holliston last year (doesn’t the past tense sound good?) There is no doubt that our community faced a most daunting 2020. We have chosen to focus on the positive reactions / actions to the calamities that we believe make Holliston such a special place.
We have compiled ‘buckets’ of 2020 happenings that capture some of Holliston’s best moments of the past year.
- 2020 started off with four elections and two Town Meetings on the calendar. Then on March 16th, the Select Board declared a State of Emergency to provide centralized coordination of the Town’s response to the growing pandemic. Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief Michael Cassidy quickly partnered with other Town leaders to limit Holliston’s risk and prepare for re-opening. Physical and technological changes were made that allowed citizens access to important Town resources.
- All four elections were held (with the May Town election postponed) in accordance with Town by-laws and COVID safety protocols. No COVID cases were traced to any voter during the elections. The Town meetings were delayed but held in a way that the citizens were able to safely participate in the Town’s governance. Again, no COVID cases have been traced to either meeting.
- Holliston Police and Fire personnel quickly suited up with necessary PPE and sanitizing protocols so that public safety was maintained at all times. During the spring, peaceful protests were held to support the call for racial justice. Several political rallies were held in town supporting Presidential candidates. HPD made sure that peoples’ 1st amendment rights were not disrupted.
- Holliston Fire fought a multi-alarm fire just as the COVID restrictions began. The professionals of HFD handled the smoking blaze with help from neighboring communities.
- The Select Board commissioned the Governance and Stipend committees to make recommendations as to how Holliston’s government bodies should work, and if and how elected officials could be compensated.
Holliston Public Schools
In addition to some great events already mentioned, the HPS experienced other stand-out moments. Among them:
- Students from a new (Fall, 2019) HHS elective “Service Learning” showcased their projects for the community in January. Individual students or small groups researched local issues and planned and executed a project that educated others about or assuaged a problem, additionally adding a dose of self-confidence and purpose to the students’ activists.
- Students in grades K-3 attended school 5 days a week, beginning in September and running without break. The decision to make this group an in-school priority required the supportive determination of administrators, faculty and staff, parents and children…a true illustration of “it takes a village.” The foundational development of numeracy and literacy skills being so important to this group of children, and those involved so resolute to provide this time, the plan has been a success.
- Students in grades 4-12, assigned to one of two cohorts, have had, since beginning in September or early October a rotation of 5 in-school learning days of every 10 days, with the other 5 days designated “remote learning” days. Because of successful contact tracing and the determination of all involved to adhere to the HPS COVID regulations, there have been very few periods of “total remote” days.
- An abbreviated sports Fall season offered a handful of sports, each closely monitored by so many! Pods were formed with other towns so as to limit interactions, and a no spectator policy was adopted.
- “Grab and Go Meals” As part of the USDA’s emergency COVID-19 response, Holliston Public Schools has been providing children aged 0-21 with free, nutritious breakfast and lunch meals every day of the week. This also included all summer weeks. Many thanks to Susan Palefsky, the HPS School Nutrition Director!
During any year, Town employees and officials leave, and others are hired to fill those vital roles. In 2020, the Town created two new positions and replaced four other key positions that became vacant.
Caring for Others
Large numbers of residents and organizations rallied to help friends and neighbors in need. Among them:
- Rent and Mortgage Relief is now completing its second round of applications, thanks to approval of the Select Board and the work of YFS Director Jackie Winer and HCAF Director John Drohan.
- The Pantry Shelf, shortly after completing its February Souper Bowl fundraiser, went into crisis mode and began delivering groceries to neighbors in need immediately after the call to close the store doors came in on March 16. The need for groceries has continued to grow during pandemic months, and the Pantry Shelf and its many volunteers have accommodated the need.
- Newcomers and Neighbors helped the community to celebrate holidays and special times. Among their standout activities were the distribution of Easter baskets and Thanksgiving gift cards and Senior meals.
- The Senior Center has been offering several remote programs and “drive by” luncheons. Additionally, this Christmas season, over 250 senior residents were “gifted” by the generosity of the community and individuals, while over 225 picked up a great holiday meal. The Senior Center is also “distribution central” for twice a week meals for shut ins and seniors in need.
- Holiday Dreams also found a way to gift children in need during the holiday season.
- Holliston’s several places of worship turned from being locations to being online events, thanks to collaboration among the faith leaders and the talents and skills of HCAT volunteers.
- The Knights of Columbus continued its tradition of gifting several organizations in Holliston following its annual raffle. No walking up and down Washington Street or standing outside grocery stores, but they persisted, selling a great number of KofC tickets to continue their gifting tradition.
The Town looks a little different after 2020 – not because it WAS 2020 – in most cases it was due to planning and perseverance. Some of these changes are listed below:
- Rail Trail completed Casey’s crossing trail/parking and installed Church St trail crossing lights
- Historical markers were placed along key points of the trail
- Installation of Pinecrest crosswalk lights
- MassDOT grants: Woodland Street crosswalk and signal; Front Street became one-way; increased Blair Square parking; way-finding signs downtown
- Town Meeting approved several traffic / pedestrian safety studies
- Real Estate Sales increase both in volume and value – Holliston is the place to be!
- Perhaps a sign of a pandemic rebound, the two properties (below) that flank the Library were sold in December!
- If there was something going on in the Universe during 2020 that may explain what happened on September 23rd. Our Balancing rock (left) becomes a Leaning rock (right). Can we still be Hollyrock?
“Honor isn’t given. It’s earned.” (Unknown)
Among those deserving of honor in 2020:
- The car parade was adopted as a great way to honor groups and individuals celebrating during COVID. Among these was the unforgettable 2020 HHS Graduate parade, children celebrating birthdays, and retirees (notably teachers). These could not have been accomplished without the help of many organizers, the HPD, and friends, helpful strangers, and many, many balloons!
- Holliston Heroes: The Celebrate Holliston Board decided to honor “hidden heroes” who helped the town during the health crisis. These honorees include Meaghan Alexis (birthday parade organizer), Holiday Dreams and Anthony’s on the Green (meals to community kids), Holliston Food Pantry (increasing their service and modifying their delivery process), HCAT (recording faith services from many congregations), and the Holliston Lions Club (working to bring meals to children and seniors and providing food to the Pantry Shelf and laptops to COVID patients for family Zoom time).
- Humanitarian Awards by the Select Board: Debbie Dupuis for service to the Holliston Seniors, John Drohan, Director of the Holliston Community Action Fund, disbursing financial assistance to neighbors in need, and Keely Krantz, President of the Pantry Shelf, for directing the work of the Pantry to attack food insecurity in our community.
We hope that you enjoyed this look back. 2020 brought out good people and good works that made Holliston shine. We welcome all to leave additional uplifting highlights via the comment function.