Marblehead’s Edith Dodge Fund is back in action wrapping for seniors – Wicked Local

The organization built on a pocketful of donations and devotion endures

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The smell of cookies and clementines is in the air, and Joan Cutler has been working non-stop for days securing volunteers, making her lists, and checking them twice, which means the Edith Dodge Fund is back in action.

“It’s wonderful to be back,” said Cutler standing in the midst of what could only be described as controlled chaos in the basement conference room in the Mary Alley municipal building. 

Volunteers shifted unwrapped boxes of cookies to the long tables manned by the Cottage Gardeners of Marblehead & Swampscott. They sat wrapping boxes of cookies, two-by-two and chatting. Other volunteers then whisked the wrapped packages way piling them into boxes marked for various delivery routes. 

The Edith Dodge tradition has volunteers, led by Cutler, scurrying all over town the second week of December, delivering gifts of cookies or clementines, to every resident age 80 or older and to all those who live in senior housing. Marblehead residents living in nearby nursing homes are also not forgotten, Cutler said. 

But like every other event in 2020, the Edith Dodge train was put on hold due to the pandemic. But after a year off Cutler said it felt good to be back. 

“The list so far is 950 (residents) plus 143 nursing home folk,” she said adding that number didn’t include the residents in senior housing. “We lost a fair amount in 2020 but we’ve had additions, too.”

The project was started 49-years ago by Edith Dodge, who launched the town’s first senior center. She spearheaded a fundraiser aimed at delivering gifts to seniors based not on income or need but solely on age. 

Lisa Smith and her family have been volunteering with the Edith Dodge Fund for years for two simple reasons, she said, because she can and it makes for great memories.

“If I’m fortunate enough to put food on the table and give (daughter) Emmy a few gifts, and have a chance to give back, then it’s nice to do that,” she said. 

Smith said she also likes that, for them, it’s a family affair. He husband drives while she and daughter Emmy, who’s now 19, hop out and make the deliveries. Not only does it give younger children a chance to interact and speak with  to an adult not their parent, which Smith calls a good life skill, but it’s something they can do together as a family, she said.  

“We pick the same route every year,” she added. “It’s our neighborhood and it’s really nice to get to see the same people every year and check in with them.”

Cutler also loves that it has become an inter-generational activity for many people in town. Among her volunteers is a Girl Scout troop and a CCD class, she said.

“People like to see the kids and their parents together,” she said. 

Both Marblehead Rotary and the Rotary Club of Marblehead Harbor, and MHTV members also volunteer, as do dozens of other friends and families.

Everyone who volunteers gets schooled in who Edith Dodge is, how they operate and what exactly is expected of them, Cutler said. And while it might sound intense, Cutler said she has dozens of volunteers like the Smith family that just keep coming back.

Looking ahead

While Cutler is excited to be back this year she is really looking forward to 2022. 

“This has been wonderful, but next year will be our 50th year,” she said. “I’ve been saying I want to retire for years but I would like to go to 50 next year. That’s exciting.”

Cutler said she hopes that amid the chaos that always accompanies Edith Dodge festivities, they will find a way to pay homage to the woman herself.

You can help

Anyone who would like to help Cutler and her board carry on the Edith Dodge Fund’s mission can do so by making a donation anytime throughout the year to:

Edith Dodge Memorial Fund, Inc.

c/o National Grand Bank

91 Pleasant St.

Marblehead, MA 01945

And donations can be made in honor of someone.

If you would like to contact the fund, to volunteer, or with questions, comments, or thank yous, send all missives to: 

Edith Dodge Memorial Fund, Inc.

P.O. Box 1402

Marblehead, MA 01945