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Goal: 200 chili meals to benefit Alzheimer’s Association

WESTFIELD — Now in its third year, the Cops for a Cause Chili Luncheon is slated for Sept. 15 at the Westfield Senior Center.

“The Police Department finds great value and personal satisfaction when we are involved with community events,” said Westfield Police Chief Lawrence Valliere, adding, “especially events that involve our elderly and youth populations.”

The luncheon, to be served curbside due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, features the “secret family chili recipe” by Westfield senior safety officer Mark Carboneau. He also has an office at the Senior Center and appointments can be made to meet with him by calling the Westfield Senior Center weekdays.

Reservations can now be made by calling the Westfield Senior Center weekdays for the “Cops for a Cause” Chili Luncheon on Sept. 15. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

“I believe nothing brings a family or community together like sharing a meal,” said Carboneau. “The smiles, conversations and relationships that are generated during these events are both gratifying and extremely rewarding.”

Valliere shared a similar sentiment.

“Following the high-profile use-of-force events in 2020, it is even more important that we prove to our community that this department is not what was portrayed nationally on the news,” said Valliere. “Also, it is very easy to help Tina Gorman whenever she asks for our support. The Senior Center is lucky to have her!”

The meal will also feature the “famous Jo-Slaw and honey cornbread” made by food services coordinator Joann Boucher, according to Tina Gorman, executive director of the Senior Center.

“Not to be outdone, Police Chief Larry Valliere and his fellow officers are in charge of the curbside distribution of dessert — scrumptious ice cream sundaes — with a lot of decadent toppings,” said Gorman.

Proceeds raised from the annual event will benefit the local Alzheimer’s Association.

“Last year we distributed 180 meals and donated $1,300 to our local Alzheimer’s Association,” said Gorman, adding, “I hope to top last year’s mark and serve 200 meals.”

Gorman noted that the Alzheimer’s Association has been chosen as the beneficiary to the fundraiser since Alzheimer’s disease has impacted many older adults living in the city.

“They have watched spouses, siblings, parents, friends, and neighbors grapple with the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that accompany the disease,” said Gorman. “Some of our Westfield Senior Center ‘regulars’ are themselves caregivers for their spouses with Alzheimer’s.”

Gorman added that experiencing Alzheimer’s firsthand can be an “overwhelming journey” fraught with concern, fear, and feelings of helplessness.

“Sheltering in place during the pandemic has created another level of isolation for caregivers,” she said. “A lack of social stimulation for both the caregiver as well as the person with Alzheimer’s has taken a toll. At last year’s Cops for a Cause event, we heard words of appreciation for bringing the topic to the forefront.”

Gorman noted the fundraiser is a “feel-good” community event.

“Because the meal is served curbside, caregivers as well as their loved ones, are able to get out for a ride, snake their way through the parking lot, and chat with the Council on Aging staff, Westfield police, and our volunteers,” she said. “Many of our caregivers cannot navigate a meal indoors with someone who requires a fair amount of care and supervision. Remaining in their vehicles and letting us come to them works much better. It’s all about total inclusion, especially for those who need it the most.”

A curbside 50-50 drawing is also planned that day, and persons may purchase a sheet of 25 tickets for $5 on the day of the event. Volunteers will be on hand to collect the money and write participants’ names on the master ticket for identification. The winner will be contacted Sept. 16 after Carboneau draws one winner from the bucket. Half of the money raised will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, the other half awarded to the lucky winner.

Reservations for the chili luncheon will be taken by calling 413-562-6435 weekdays. Each caller may reserve up to four meals and must provide the name and telephone number for each diner. The cost of the dinner is $5, which will be paid curbside on the day of the event. A portion of the cost of each meal will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Gorman also encourages those turning out for the luncheon to wear purple that day, the symbolic color of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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