SHIRLEY — The Friends of Shirley Council on Aging may be a small organization, but it has a mighty heart and a big mission: “To enhance the lives of the town’s senior citizens.”
Fred and Claudette Williams founded the nonprofit Friends in 2009 and are its only members. While the Williamses would welcome more members in the future, they’re busy with fundraising. They have a map on the drawing board and they’re selling as many copies as they can of the Shirley phone book at $10 apiece.
The 120-page phone book is the Friends’ first major effort. The book, which sports an eye-catching cover and the logo “We Are Shirley,” updates a version published about a decade ago. It’s the same size as the old one but more durable, with illustrations of town buildings by Kathleen Farrar.
Listings include town offices, clubs and organizations, as well as residential listings. The book also includes a substantial section devoted to elder-care providers, a feature the Williamses are particularly proud of, and a directory of local businesses. They credit volunteers who helped produce the book and businesses whose advertisements helped subsidize its publication.
The Williamses, who have an adult son, are retired and live on Lake Shirley in a beautifully renovated former summer cottage.
Claudette Williams was born in Shirley and the family later moved to Ayer, she said. Fred Williams comes from Fitchburg. He holds a doctorate in education and wrapped up his career as deputy commissioner for program operations for the state Department of Education. He was senior vice president of the Education Resources Institute, vice president of Education Loan Services, Inc., and has worked as a school administrator, lecturer and consultant.
Claudette, who holds master’s degrees in biology and social work, segued from teaching to social work and spent 15 years in clinical practice.
After moving to the lake, the Williamses were eager to get involved in the community. It all started at a social gathering at the home of Jackie and Frank Esielionis, who is now COA treasurer. Talk turned to the need for more senior programs and supplemental funding. “So that’s how the Friends was formed,” Claudette said. “Just the four of us, plus Patty MacDonald.” The others have since moved on. “Now it’s just us,” she said.
The Friends launched with a “coming-out party” last August, a free chicken barbecue for seniors and an information booth held in conjunction with a Shirley Charitable Foundation summer concert.
At first, the couple tapped into a private trust fund Claudette had access to and partnered with the Shirley Charitable Foundation, providing seed money and start-up expertise for the fledgling group.
A high priority was providing financial support to hire an outreach coordinator. That has been accomplished. Kathryn Becker now holds the part-time job, whose salary is underwritten by the Friends, with a five-year commitment. In addition to home visits, Becker is available at the Senior Center on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m.. She can be reached at 978-425-2600, ext. 285.
The Shirley Phone Book is available at the Town Offices and other locations around town or by calling Fred or Claudette Williams at 978-425-9624.