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The Williston Joy Brigade Brightens the Day for School Staff

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Williston Joy Brigade volunteers at last month's party - COURTESY
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  • Williston Joy Brigade volunteers at last month's party

One afternoon last month, Angela Filion noticed a hubbub of activity in front of Williston's Allen Brook School. Worried that she'd missed a memo, Filion, the building principal, rushed outside to see popcorn popping and bubbles floating. A parent DJ was spinning tunes, and students were drawing colorful chalk messages of thanks to teachers and staff.

Filion ran back inside to make a PA announcement calling on other staff to join the fun. "Everyone came out in waves. We danced and sipped cocoa and chatted," she recalled. "It was just lovely to see."

The surprise party was the work of a group known as the Williston Joy Brigade, which aims to lift the spirits of school staff. It organized after Greg Marino, the lead principal for Allen Brook and Williston Central schools, put out a call for parent volunteers to help.

This fall has been tough on school staff. "You can very well get discouraged with all the expectations, protocols and challenges," Filion said. As kindergarten teacher Jen Canfield put it, "Everyone's feeling stressed to the limit."

Within 48 hours of Marino's call, more than half a dozen parents offered to pitch in. Beyond the pop-up party (one is also in the works for Williston Central), volunteers have solicited food and other donations for special meals, gift bags and other random acts of appreciation for those who keep their schools running.

The Brigade provided bagels and cream cheese for the weekly staff breakfast to give the food service team a break. Volunteers threw a cake party for the bus drivers and delivered donated bakery cookies to education support professionals. The group filled 250 gift bags with personal care items and chocolates.

"It's all a bunch of not-joy out there right now. Everyone's feeling it," said Angela Arsenault, one of the volunteer coordinators. "This is really about creating small, accessible moments of joy."

Each individual effort may seem small, but they add up. "This kind of thing doesn't happen without a lot of work," Canfield said. "I'm so appreciative of the parents taking time in their busy days. Everyone's going through hard stuff."

To donate time or goods, email willistonjoybrigade@gmail.com.