‘It’s expected that you give back’

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Throughout her life, Claudette Simms, 55, of Gray, has believed in the value of community service.

Simms, a native of Medford, Mass., who grew up on Cousins Island in Yarmouth and received a degree in recreation at the University of Maine, has volunteered for YWCA, the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, the Memory Book Workshop scrapbook store in Gray, and many other organizations and institutions.

Every year when the weather turns cold, Simms, who works as a bookseller at Sherman’s Books and Stationery in Freeport, spends a portion of her leisure time working as a volunteer publicist and fundraiser for Caring Community of Gray-New Gloucester, a seven-year-old, 10-person volunteer organization that provides food baskets for struggling families every Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Thanksgiving food baskets, for instance, often include turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, fruit, bread, and pie.

“My job basically is to do publicity,” Simms said. “I write articles for the local papers, provide pictures, and also contact the local media to see if they will do stories or articles.”

What drives Simms to write weekly press releases, hound the local press, take photographs and solicit donations for this group?

Simms believes the impetus originates in the way she was raised. Her father, an employee of Sunoco oil companies, was a believer in the value of community service, she said.

“Wherever my dad worked he always made sure there was an environment available for the people that he worked with to make sure that they’d help out in their communities,” Simms said.

“I guess I was brought up this way,” Simms adds. “It’s your responsibility to help other people out. If you’re able and you’re in a good place in your life, it’s expected that you give back. It’s like the Golden Rule.”

For Simms, her annual work for Caring Community begins in the fall.

“For Caring Community, I start writing articles in October, and go through the beginning of January because we thank everyone publicly after thanksgiving and also after Christmas,” she said. “For me, it’s a couple hours every week compiling information and putting it together in an article and then when the opportunities present themselves to go out and take pictures.”

By mid-November, the effort is beginning to ramp up.

“This time of year it’s all hands on deck,” Simms said.

For Simms, her varied career of volunteer work is borne out of her communitarian zeal.

“It’s the community that makes everything possible,” she said. “You just help out your brother and your sister the best that you can.”

Ezra Silk is a staff writer at Current Publishing.

My Generation December 2014Claudette Simms, left, with fellow Caring Community of Gray New Gloucester volunteers Kathy George and Liz Gill, is a life-long volunteer.

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