Last in a three-part series
By M.E. Jones
TOWNSEND -- The William E. May Endowment Award, named for a well-respected former resident and retired police chief, was established 14 years ago to recognize and honor people who have demonstrated commitment to their community and through "unselfish acts of kindness" helped improve town residents' well-being and quality of life.
It also showcases library and senior center endowment funds and the ongoing need for donations that keep them -- and the facilities -- going for future generations.
This year's award recipients, Jane and Ray Jackson, clearly meet the stated criteria, with individual and combined civic and charitable volunteer resumes dating back decades.
Residents since 1969, when they bought their home on Blood Road, the Jacksons have pitched in, signed up and served the community in a variety of ways, devoting much time and energy to town organizations and their church.
As longtime members of the Townsend Congregational Church, Jane and Ray have participated in countless church activities and served on just about every church committee and board and in leadership roles as well.
The church connection started with a visit from the pastor when they first moved to town in the late 1960's, the Jacksons said in a recent interview. That early outreach not only added two active members to the church roster, it also served as an introduction to the town and the community service path they've followed ever since.
When they began to get involved in their community more than 40 years ago, Townsend was a small town of 4,000, Jane said. "That was before "Timberlee Park," the residential mega-development built in the 1970s and 80s. With 500 new homes to start and more to come, the sprawling enclave added substantially to the town population, which continued to grow.
And to age.
Longtime advocates for town seniors, Jane and the late Nancy Shepherd teamed up in 2000 to co-found the Friends of Townsend Seniors. Together, they rounded up other citizens who shared their mission to improve the quality of life for seniors in town.
Fourteen years later, the mission continues.
The new Senior Center is as big and beautiful as its previous storefront location was small and nondescript. But as with the grand new library next door, the facility needs funding to keep it up and keep its programs going.
That's what the endowment funds are for.
"I never had age issues until my firstborn turned 40," Jane said. Now, the march of years seems faster and she's more aware of the role a senior center plays in town life as a welcoming place for seniors to drop in for socialization and services, especially those who would otherwise not be getting out and about, she said.
Although technically part of the senior set now, Ray and Jane are almost always on the go, working at their jobs -- he still works full time and she works three days a week -- or as volunteers and spending time with their family. The Jacksons have two grown children, a son and a daughter, and two grandchildren.
Asked if they're both as healthy as they look, Ray said he had a heart valve replaced two years ago, but after recovery and rehab, he was back on the trails again and he's fine now. In addition to his volunteer trail-building work with organizations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Ray serves on the Squannacook River Rail Trail board.
They don't get over to the Senior Center much.
Beautiful as it is, the new center wasn't exactly buzzing at first, but it's much better now, Jane said. One big draw might be the food.
Seeking ways and means to introduce the senior community to the Townsend Senior Center, Jane helped recently retired Director Chris Clish and the Council On Aging get grant funding for an on-site kitchen manager.
Besides overseeing MOC (Montachusett Opportunity Council) meals twice a week, the kitchen manager plans and prepares Thursday lunches at the Senior Center featuring home-style cooking. By all accounts, the weekly meals have become quite popular.
A subsequent grant paid for an outreach coordinator at the Senior Center, which Jane said now has a "jam-packed calendar."
These days, Jane tends to take on short-term rather than long-term projects.
Currently, she is co-chairman of the anniversary committee, celebrating the first five years of the new Townsend Public Library, Senior Center and Meeting Hall complex, funded by Sterilite Corporation.
Among other anniversary events, the group is working on a parade float, Ray said.
On occasion, the Meeting Hall Gallery Committee and the Library Endowment Fund trustees call on Jane for marketing consultation, poster and brochure design.
So yes, she's still busy and active. They both are.
The Jacksons will be the guests of honor at an award dinner on Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Townsend Ridge Country Club. For tickets, contact Bob Tumber at 978-597-8843.