Originally posted at http://sudbury.wickedlocal.com/article/20130425/NEWS/304259835
The occasion of National Volunteer Week is a fitting time to recognize lifelong Sudbury resident Hal Cutler and his team at Memorial Congregational Church for their 17 years of volunteerism at Rosie’s Place, the nation’s first sanctuary for poor and homeless women.
Whether they’re helping to renovate housing, coaching Little League, or providing comfort to those in need, volunteers are the lifeblood of a great many nonprofit organizations. The occasion of National Volunteer Week is a fitting time to recognize lifelong Sudbury resident Hal Cutler and his team at Memorial Congregational Church for their 17 years of volunteerism at Rosie’s Place, the nation’s first sanctuary for poor and homeless women.
Cutler’s family has been in Massachusetts since before it became Massachusetts. In 1638 the Goodnows, Cutler’s ancestors on his grandmother’s side, helped found Memorial Congregational Church, the very church he and his family attend today. As part of a commitment to what Cutler calls a “hands-on ministry,” he coordinates a group of volunteers to serve dinner every month at Rosie’s Place, in Boston’s South End.
“Back in 1996, former Associate Pastor T. Michael Rock identified Rosie’s Place as an organization where we could actively participate,” remembers Cutler. “I have found satisfaction in helping out in a great ministry.
“The ministry of Rosie’s Place is consistent with my Christian belief of feeding, comforting, and clothing people.”
Seventeen years later, Cutler is able to draw from more than 30 available Memorial Congregational Church members for any given shift. He, his wife Betsey and the crew are a reliable presence at Rosie’s Place on the fourth Tuesday of every month, serving dinner for 150 women and their children.
Each month, Hal recruits twelve church members and their friends, loads up Betsey’s eight-passenger van and leads the caravan to Rosie’s Place’s warm and cheery dining room. The Cutlers volunteer together regularly and are on a first-name basis with many of the “guests,” the term Rosie’s Place uses for the women they serve.
“You always can relax when Hal, Betsey, and the Memorial Church volunteers show up, as they have such a caring attitude and they work hard to serve our guests with the utmost respect,” comments Marty Wengert, Volunteer Services Director for Rosie’s Place. “Hal does a wonderful job recruiting and motivating volunteers.”
Early on, Cutler noticed a significant need. “We wanted to add more protein to the meals, so I organized a collection and we started delivering chicken breasts coated in Shake ‘n’ Bake,” he says. Eventually collections were taken at the services and the church has been able to donate food and clothing to the organization, connecting the citizens in Sudbury with the women at Rosie’s Place. Last year Hal and Betsy were on hand for every monthly visit, plus extra shifts in the summer, when volunteers are scarce.
A consummate volunteer, Cutler’s commitments don’t stop with Rosie’s Place. He and Betsey also provide seniors in Sudbury with rides to medical appointments. Hal is a skilled driver in bad weather, so he’s the go-to driver during New England’s legendary winters. Furthermore, he also has been a paid, on-call firefighter and EMT in the town for the past 48 years.
When he’s not feeding people, providing transportation, or fighting fires, Cutler works full-time as a fire protection engineer. “As a little boy I always wanted to be a fireman,” he says, “I’ve always wanted to help people.”
Cutler has organized his life to accommodate his desire to help others, adjusting his work schedule to fit his volunteer commitments. Volunteerism isn’t just a part of Cutler’s life, “it’s a way of life,” he says.
Reflecting on his years of giving, Cutler observes, “I believe that there are many people with an urge to help others, but without a mechanism available to do so. I expect churches to reach out, but I also like it when I see people in the community form groups outside of the church to provide social justice ministries of their own.”
“Over almost two decades, Memorial Congregational has donated more than 7,000 hours of volunteer service to Rosie’s Place,” explains Wengert. “We are so lucky to have a group we can absolutely rely on, year in and year out. Their generosity makes a huge difference in our ability to serve our guests.”
As National Volunteer Week helps to raise awareness of the true power of service, Cutler has straightforward advice for those looking to volunteer for the first time: “Find a worthy organization and jump in. The rewards will be many.”