Awards & Recognition
SHA honors Saab Court resident for ‘Angels’ volunteer program
The Angels of Mercy at Saab Court have been watching out for their neighbors for nearly four years now, in a solid network of support that has kept the Springfield Housing Authority development safe, and a friendly place to live.
And now the group’s founder, Tenants’ Council President Frida Venage, has received recognition for her efforts that launched the program in 2011, and keep it alive every day.
At the annual Angels recognition luncheon at Saab Court, Venage received a special award from the SHA, presented by incoming state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, who acted as host for the event.
Overwhelmed with happy emotion, Venage accepted the award, thanking her volunteers in turn for all that they do.
“We do this so our people will be safe,” said Venage, a veritable force of nature at the development in the Metro Center section of the city, officially named the Stephen J. Collins Twin & Tri Towers.
Venage’s Angels are volunteer residents who make sure to stay in touch with neighbors on their floor. With two Angels on each floor, the system has been a proven success for the elderly and handicapped residents who might not be able to reach out when in need of help.
The Angels, some 50 in all, gathered in early December for the luncheon in the community room, where residents often come together for games, socializing, and organizing brown bag lunches to deliver to the needy.
Gonzalez and SHA Resident Services Coordinator Candra Cripps handed out certificates and thanked the volunteers for the dedication with which they approach the work.
“It is a pleasure to be here,” said Gonzalez, who brought with him a dozen volunteers who served up a hearty meal of chicken, pork, potatoes, rice and beans, topped off with cake for dessert.
“Give yourselves a round of applause. What better way to start out my first term than to be with a roomful of angels,” he said, to much laughter.
Gonzalez told the crowd that he will be sponsoring legislation to increase penalties for crimes against elderly people, or crimes committed in elder housing. He also invited all to travel with him to Boston by bus in January for his inauguration.
In accepting her award, Venage, through tears, noted that she has always had helping others at the heart of what she does.
“My angels watch out for each other to make sure no one is being abused or neglected, or needs help in any way that is being overlooked or ignored,” she explained. “We try to have two angels on each floor, and they make sure to watch out for their neighbors.”
Venage has been president of the council since 2003, and was inspired to launch the Angels of Mercy after spending 12 years in a wheelchair herself. She has recovered from her physical ailments, but well remembers the years when she relied on the kindness and caring of others, including her family.
And since the Angels began their work in 2011, she has watched the Saab Court development become more and more of a neighborhood where people help each other.
Neighbors who are part of the Angels troupe agreed that their volunteer work is fun for them, and is surely a benefit to others.
“I love it,” said Marilynn Hallas. “The floor that I’m on has wonderful people and I want to know that they’re okay.”
Linda Gaboury, who has lived at Saab Court for 10 years and has been an Angel since the program began, agreed.
“The people I work with make me want to stay involved. They’re wonderful, and I love helping,” Gaboury said.
Veronica Burns said helping others “makes me feel good. This gets me out of my apartment and doing something good for others, helping people in need. That’s always a good thing.”
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