All it takes is a spark.
Sarah Dasco remembers where it all began for her. ”A neighbor was hosting a front porch food drive to benefit the Germantown food pantry,” she said. Like many kind-hearted South Shore residents, she donated. Then the call went out for the next host of the project. She volunteered.
She collected the food and set out to deliver it to the South Shore YMCA’s Germantown Neighborhood Center’s food pantry. She didn’t even know where exactly Germantown was, and was surprised to find that the neighborhood was so close to her own. So close, yet so different.
Upon arrival she met with Kathy Quigley, the director of the center. She witnessed firsthand the lives of the people being affected, the sweet smiles and genuine heartfelt appreciation of the kids who would be nourished by the food. And she witnessed the poverty and hardship. “After I left the center for that first time, I got into my car and was overcome with so much emotion,” she said.
That was when the spark happened, and Sarah realized that she wanted to contribute more and help out the kids of Germantown as much as she was able.
Sarah returned to the center every Tuesday afternoon. “I volunteered at the kids’ lunch program,” she said. She joined the kids, volunteering to simply be there for them, to help brighten their days. “I loved being there for them,” she said. “I would give them all a lunch, and then after lunch was over we would start to have some fun. We’d do arts and crafts, games, or we would just sit and chat, whatever they wanted to do. The kids were always so appreciative, and it was just as rewarding for me as it was for them,” she said. Sarah was also part of a mentoring group at the center, emotionally supporting young and vulnerable girls, so many of whom needed positive role models, girls who benefitted from important lessons Sarah and other volunteers shared. Seeing that there were so many ways to help, Sarah realized she needed to spread the word about the center, so that she could continue bringing hope to the kids of Germantown.
Germantown, a peninsula neighborhood in Quincy Bay, is anchored by an 880-unit federal housing project where a third of the residents don’t have access to cars for work, school or even grocery shopping. More than half of the homes are single-parent and female-headed, moms and kids. It’s among the top 5% of the poorest neighborhoods in Massachusetts. To Sarah, though, the Germantown Neighborhood Center has become a place of optimism, where better futures are built.
She began to think about more ways to support the kids of Germantown. She hosted a party at her house to raise money among her friends, donating $7,000 to the South Shore YMCA as a result. She considered the daily lives of Germantown children in summer and the fact that her family runs the Wychmere Beach Club on Cape Cod; she brought both worlds together and has been able to allow these kids to escape to the club in the summer for a day of beach, pool and fun activities, an out-of-the-ordinary experience for these youngsters.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sarah once again thought of the kids of Germantown. She set up a Fundraise.com page and has so far raised $15,000. She hopes that people will continue to donate to this page, as “every donation and every amount helps” she said. Through the end of May she is also donating 50% of all sales from her online photography business, Sarah Dasco Photography (www.sarahdasco.com). The donations will go to the South Shore YMCA to aid families in need during the crisis, and she continues to do all that she can to spread the word about Germantown.
“I found that as my own children became less dependent on me I had more time on my hands. I think there are a lot of women out there who can relate to that, and I would encourage them to explore local volunteer opportunities. Whether it be an hour a day or an hour a week, there are opportunities out there that can fit into anyone’s schedule,” she said. ”It’s easy and wonderful to make monetary donations, but actually spending time in the places that need help, like the Germantown Neighborhood Center, and seeing firsthand where these donations go and the impact they can have is truly life changing.”
That, Sarah says, is a reward in itself.