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Seeking 'snow angels': Pittsfield pairs volunteers with neighbors who need help removing snow

A file photo of a winter storm hitting Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
/
NEPR
A file photo of a winter storm hitting Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

With winter on the horizon, the city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is launching a pilot program that pairs volunteers with residents who need help removing snow.

The volunteer "snow angels" will remove ice and snow after a storm from driveways, walkways and sidewalks for neighbors 60 years and older who are physically unable to shovel. The program connects volunteers with a person in need, who lives within a one-mile radius. The recipients must confirm they don't have the means to pay for snow removal.

In Pittsfield, if snow isn't removed from a sidewalk, the city can issue a warning followed by fines that range from $25 to $100, depending on the number of offenses per storm, under a city ordinance.

Maddy Brown, from the department of community development, said the idea came up after those who could not remove snow complained after receiving citations.

Brown said so far, nearly a dozen people have requested help.

"I've connected with a lot of folks 60 to 85," she said. "One woman is the power of attorney for her father, who is almost 100 years old — [she is] trying to get him help. And then a woman who recently lost her husband. People reaching out want to do it, but physically can't."

Ann Arbor, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have similar programs as well as Melrose, Newburyport and Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.