Local Highlight: It Takes A Village

In a beautiful repurposed church, nestled in the center of Huntington, is one remarkable organization whose investment in the Hilltowns is nothing short of heroic. It Takes A Village is an anchor and a blessing for many families throughout the hills and beyond. Their work is key to solving issues of access and support for local families, solving issues which affect our communities at a local level as well as representing huge national deficiencies. And they are doing this important work with open arms and an “if not us, then who” attitude.

Their services are broken into three offerings: The Village Closet, where people can pick out necessities for free. The Home Visit Program, where volunteers come to new families homes once a week, for about three months, to help with all manner of tasks. And Parent Groups and Events, where families can connect and enrich their children’s lives outside of the home.


“To provide free postpartum and early parenting support to families with babies and young children living in Western Massachusetts, and to inspire the community to welcome the newest members of their Village.”

When we hear common sayings too frequently they can lose their meaning, but when someone says “It takes a village to raise a child,” there is a persistent truth that shines through. There is something so deeply human about raising children with help from the community, as well as extending a hand to help our neighbors through hard times.

That’s the same spark that started the organization. Back in 2008 Maureen Shea, Cummington local and new mother at the time, thought she had everything under control. She’d prepped for bringing her baby home, and had all the essentials on hand.

The big day came and she did everything in her power to make a wonderful home for her child, but found she was struggling to keep up with the daily necessities. Then, one day, one of her friends showed up. They said: “Mama, you are struggling. Give me the baby, go take a shower.” When she got out her dishes were done, the laundry was in the dryer, and there was a hot cup of tea waiting for her. They told her to go take a nap and said they’d see her next week. Before they could leave she had to ask “But how did you know what I needed?”

The simple answer was because her friend had recently had her own child and gone through the trials and tribulations before her. They knew what they had needed when they were in her place, and then showed up to give it freely. When the next mom had a child down the street they showed up again. The question then became, how do we do this for more people?

The answer to that question started slowly. It Takes A Village was officially established in 2009. Since then, it’s grown each year. First the “Village Closet” started as a shelf in Maureen’s basement, then it grew to take over the basement, and eventually claimed swaths of the barn. The idea spread from friends living in Cummington, to groups in Goshen, Ashfield, and Worthington.

By 2015 they moved into the unused Berkshire Trail Elementary School, where they finally had enough space to keep their goods spread out for families to peruse. No more digging out the stroller from storage or climbing up into the barn, hoping to find what they wanted. This shift helped the organization realize the benefits of providing folks with that sort of open access to the goods they need. The difference was huge, and it’s been the model ever since.

They were able to stay at the school in Cummington for roughly four years before the town let them know they’d be taking the building back. So, they packed everything up and moved into a space at Gateway Regional High School in February of 2020. Of course they weren’t there for more than three weeks before the pandemic hit in March. In a rush, before the complete shutdown, they loaded their cars with the absolute essentials: Car seats, diapers, and formula.

Through this difficult time they were asked for help by the health department. There were families in quarantine with infants needing contactless drop-offs. Emergency services don’t usually include a postpartum department but, thanks to these fine people, the Hilltowns had someone keeping an eye out. They were given the go-ahead for Tier 1 vaccines by the local Senator, because they needed to go into people’s houses and provide these absolutely essential services. For about a year they worked out of garages to make things work, until finally landing in the beautiful building they inhabit now.

Walking into the building in Huntington, visitors are greeted with smiling faces, welcoming signage and pamphlets in many languages, and an open floor full of free necessities. From coats to shoes, stuffed animals, toys, books, clean clothing sized from preemie to adult, thermometers and first aid kits, strollers, car seats, diapers, formula, and almost anything you can think of that new families might need.

All of this is laid out, clearly labeled and organized, and open to all families who need it. There’s no income requirement, no residential or location requirements. If you can make it to the Village Closet, they are happy to offer everything you need from what they have. This level of generosity is unprecedented, and can be overwhelming to take in.

All this is made possible through donations. The basement of the building houses a processing center where volunteers comb through incredible amounts of items. Their eyes are discerning, and they only accept items that present in excellent condition. The rest is filtered through to other organizations. Even the donations too careworn or battered to make the cut can be processed through textile recycling.

Of chief importance amongst the donations available to new families in need is their consistently maintained stockpile of diapers. There is a huge need for diapers across the country. Roughly half of American families can’t afford them. What do these families do when their children don’t have access to clean diapers? It can result in missing school or work. It can result in spending money that should go towards nutritious food or rent. It can trigger a domino effect, potentially destabilizing the family to an unnecessary degree. It Takes A Village is building a safety net, a network of neighbors and friends, that supports the whole. And they are doing a fantastic job of it

When Greenfield’s Days Inn received 60 refugee families overnight It Takes A Village was there with bikes, roller skates, balls, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk to turn the parking lot into a playground. Within a day they had loaded up the car and drove up there, saying “We’re on call for ya.” And as it turned out, many of those families were also expecting imminently and needed that help ASAP. Coordinating with ServiceNet and the nurses at Baystate Franklin they were able to begin addressing the pressing needs of these families.

It is no small matter to volunteer to operate as a safety net for another family. When your assistance takes the form of actively caring for another mother’s infant child, the stakes can feel huge. But that’s why their work is so very important. They are actively asking themselves “What does a village look like in the 21st century, and how can we be that for our neighbors?” Connecting people, physically showing up, helping families navigate the systems that provide aid, and addressing needs despite the risk.

Becky Brisbois​

Village Closet Coordinator​

Many organizations won’t give out car seats and formula for fear of that risk coming back on them, but It Takes A Village sees the greater risk of not providing those resources.

They are answering that hard question by being the change, making the ripples that become a wave. It Takes A Village now gives roughly $600,000 worth of materials annually to families across 130 Massachusetts cities and towns, with independent sister organizations spreading out even further.

This past year they crossed the $2,000,000 mark for goods given away freely. This is not some huge organization with vast resources and manpower. They are a non-profit organization with 12 part-time employees and a battalion of volunteers. They are local mothers and community members, and they need support as well.

It Takes A Village has been thinking hard about what makes sense for them moving forward. There is a feeling of necessity to ensure their place here in the hills. As a part of their work to create sustainability for the Hilltown community, they want to look forward to the future knowing they have a permanent home here.

Mollie Hartford

Development & Outreach Director,
Co-Executive Director

This is the sort of big step that “will take a lot of financial commitment and sweat equity on the part of our team, board of directors, and the community as a whole.”

If you’re in a position to help, It Takes A Village will be seeking assistance soon. From grant writing to capital campaign know-how, to simply saying “we’ll be there to donate when the hat is passed around,” no level of assistance is too small to make a difference. With enough support from the communities they’ve labored so long to help out, this endlessly giving organization may just be poised to cement their place in our Hilltowns for good.

It Takes A Village

2 East Main Street
PO Box 304
Huntington, MA 01050

(413) 650-3640

Check out their Website here: hilltownvillage.org

And follow their Social Media here: Facebook – Instagram