WHITMAN — The rewards and challenges of volunteerism became apparent at the Tuesday, July 20 meeting of the Whitman Board of Selectmen as they honored a community volunteer — as well as the heroism of first responders — and found that the new state Police Reform Act places more responsibilities on auxiliary/special officers.
State Rep. Alyson Sullivan, R-Abington, and state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, helped the board honor Whitman student Clare LaMattina, whose fundraising idea to aid the Whitman Food Pantry went “viral” during the COVID pandemic in the best, and possibly most old-school fashion. Both lawmakers presented Clare with citations from their respective houses in the General Court.
Clare, daughter of Selectman Randy LaMattina and his wife Michelle, “is a very determined young lady and very generous,” Sullivan said.
The Thayer Academy student, as part of a school community service project, sold “Whitman Strong” signs to benefit the Whitman Food Pantry during the pandemic.
“Clare decided to do this Whitman Strong fundraiser with signs to make sure that everyone here in Whitman knew they were banding together as a community, as a town, and to raise money for the Whitman Food Pantry,” Sullivan said. “[She] thought about how many people were probably suffering during the pandemic, which they did.”
Little did she know how the idea would catch on in the South Shore region. While that effort raised more than $17,000 for Whitman Food Pantry, similar sign projects sprang up in Abington, East Bridgewater and Plymouth — among others.
“Clare’s initiative really paved the way for other communities to follow suit,” Sullivan noted. “I would say you probably raised a lot more than $17,000 for food pantries across the commonwealth.”
Brady also lauded Clare’s efforts and quipped: “I think we should get you another fundraiser, we could use a couple of fundraisers ourself.”
The Senate citation noted her “insight and selfless commitment to the community by designing a method to help feed the hungry,” through her fundraising work.
The Board of Selectmen then presented — as soon as absent members have a chance to sign them, that is — citations to Whitman Police Det. Eric Campbell and officer Christopher Lee and firefighter Andrew McGillivray, for their life saving efforts on the job and off duty. Sullivan said her office and Brady, who were not aware of the intent to honor them Tuesday, would also prepare citations honoring their work.
“What you guys do, day in and day out, is something that should be recognized,” Sullivan said.
Campbell was honored for performing life-saving CPR Saturday, May 21 while he was off-duty and heard of efforts to revive a person at a town market. He immediately responded to the scene to help with CPR until Whitman Fire paramedics could arrive.
Lee was saluted for his efforts to save a motorist in medical distress and National Grid employees working in a trench on South Avenue Tuesday, May 11.
“Officer Lee’s actions quickly alerted the work crew, allowing them to safely escape the trench before the vehicle drove into it,” Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski said. “Officer Lee, officer [Kevin] Shantler and officer [Paul] Young then immediately rendered aid to the motorist.”
McGillivray, was honored after a July 4 incident when he was participating in the Squantum/Quincy Fourth of July parade with other members of the Greater Boston Pipes and Drums, when a person on one of the parade floats suffered a medical emergency. McGillivray and other band members responded by securing the float vehicle, idenitifying the incident as a cardiac arrest and immediately rendering CPR and additional care, resuscitating the patient.
On the flip side of volunteering, the Board of Selectmen voted to rescind designation as special police officer for Selectmen Brian Bezanson, Justin Evans, Carl Kowalski, Randy LaMattina and Dan Salvucci as well as for Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman, Building Inspector Robert Curran, and James Ewell, Mark Getchell, Peter Palaza and Thomas Ruble because of changes to training requirements under the state’s Police Reform Act.
Police Chief Timothy Hanlon explained that additional training requirements of about six months. Kowalski noted that the annual appointments, last made less than a month ago, had been a routine matter in the past.
“I’ll let it go,” Salvucci said. “I’m not happy about it.”
“Do we get to keep the badges to give to grandchildren or something like that?” Kowalski asked.
Hanlon said the badges could be kept as a memento.
Whitman’s auxiliary officers have been fully trained and certified for now, but must be kept current through a bridge academy in coming years.
“Outside of the ceremonial positions, the strain this puts on our auxiliaries and our reserve officers and staff we absolutely depend on and the chief depends on, hopefully the state will come down with something quick,” LaMattina said.
Heineman said he would support sending auxiliary/special police officers to the academy and only ask that the town be paid back if they leave the position within a certain amount of time.
“We don’t want to lose the service that we get from those types of officers just because they can’t afford, or don’t want to spend the money, to go on their own,” he said.