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A Tribute to the Founders of A Simple Gesture in Norwell

A Simple Gesture is a non-profit organization that organizes door to door food collection to provide a steady supply of food to the Norwell Food Pantry supporting individuals and families in need in Norwell.

A Simple Gesture in Norwell was created by two exceptional people that felt the need to make a difference in our community, Karen & Neil Farmer. After raising their children in Norwell, finding themselves as empty nesters they were in search of new opportunities to connect with others and help their community in a meaningful way. In the spring of 2015 Karen went for a walk on a beautiful day in Norwell thinking about ways she could give back to her community and it was then that she remembered an article she read and saved from the Wall Street Journal about a Food Pantry Community Donation Program called Simple Gesture. She had saved the article and tucked it away, but on that special day she said it was as if she was tapped on the shoulder from a spiritual place as if to remind her that this would be a perfect program to create for her community. That motivation inspired her to reach out to Jonathan Trivers, the founder of the first Simple Gesture program in California that was featured in the Wall Street Journal article. He was a wonderful mentor to her, helping her create the first Simple Gesture Program for Norwell.

Karen and her husband Neil pioneered the program by setting up A Simple Gesture in 2016 as a new non-profit in Norwell with the help of the newly established board of directors which included Geoff Gordon, Marybeth Shea, Leann Cavicchi and Susan Solis. The team planned & organized food pickups every other month from eventually over 300 families who filled their green bags with food most needed from the food pantry. They coordinated a large group of volunteers from drivers that dropped off empty green bags to be filled to drivers that did the pickup from each Simple Gesture family that filled their bags, to sorters at the food pantry organizing food to be collected for those that need it most. They organized food pick-ups every other month from 300 families that filled green bags with food items most needed for the Norwell food pantry. Where this program serves as supplemental support for the food pantry, they wanted to thank the Tedeschi family for establishing and running the Norwell Food Pantry for over 30 years. Without their generous support & commitment to our community, this program wouldn’t be possible.

“A Simple Gesture program currently serves about 50+ diverse families and individuals. Families struggling financially and Seniors on fixed incomes have the ability to come into the Norwell food pantry weekly vs. every other week like other community programs. That weekly support makes a huge difference to those in need.”

We asked Karen & Neil what they would like to say to the families that A Simple Gesture serves and their response was; “’It’s a privilege to be able to work with our community that has been so very supportive right from the get go to help others in need. From the drivers to the sorters, to those filling the green bags with food every other month, to all of our volunteers, it’s a wonderful privilege to be able to get people together to serve those that are less fortunate than we are.”

A lot of work happens behind the scenes to ensure the success of the program, but when we asked Karen and Neil to try to describe it in just 3 words, they told us; “It’s easy, meaningful and fun.” Karen and Neil told us that the most rewarding part of starting the program was meeting so many new people, expanding their connections with an amazing sense of community & incredible enthusiasm from so many volunteers and donors. As they retire their position of running A Simple Gesture they have one wish for the program, that it continues to run forever.

The new board; Amy Abend, Susan McKenna , Maura Penna and Jeannie Burtch would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to Karen & Neil for following their heart to make a difference in our community by establishing & running such an incredible program that has brought so many people together for such a wonderful cause to help others in need. We are forever thankful for what you created & we are excited to continue to support those in need in Norwell.

Dear Neighbor,

Karen, Neil, Geoff and Marybeth are long time town residents and members of UCC Norwell who have built out this program for Norwell, based on a model that began in Californa and has worked elsewhere.  It takes volunteers, but we’ve never had a shortage of people willing to help.   YOU are the US that makes this program work. The demand at food banks will always be with us.

Here in Norwell, an often unseen but equally needy group of our neighbors struggle to feed themselves or their children.  With Massachusetts moving homeless out of motels and into Section 8 housing, rent is replacing food for limited budgets, placing ever greater need for donated food across the state.  IMG_6771

If you would like to replicate this program in your town, we have posted a business plan on our “set-up this program in your community” page. Two nearby towns, Hanover and Marshfield have both successfully replicated this program.

Please contact us and we will bring you a cool, green bag to your house. Your simple gesture will make a difference to the neediest among us.


Visit our local sponsors who helped make this project possible.