By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Some people are just born to do all kinds of work and to help others. They choose careers that serve the public and even when they retire, they continue on that same path. A man who exemplifies this is Phil Kittredge, 68, of Westborough.
Four decades-plus in Westborough Fire Department
Kittredge grew up in Westborough and initially attended college in Boston, intending to study electronics. But a massive fire he observed in Kenmore Square left him “pretty impressed” with the work of the firefighters at the scene.
“I knew then that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I joined [the Westborough Fire Department] in 1971 and have had no regrets.”
At the beginning of his career, he and his colleagues mostly provided basic firefighting services, he noted. Over the years, it evolved into providing rescue and emergency medical services as well.
Giving back at Westborough Food Pantry
After retirement from the fire department in 2013, he was able to pursue his volunteerism at the Westborough Food Pantry. He currently serves as co-president, with his wife, Donna.
“There are three great parts about working at the pantry: a team of about 75 dedicated volunteers, the clients, and the support of the town and community. I cannot say enough about the support we receive from the Board of Selectmen, the town manager, the community, including industry and local businesses.”
In “normal times,” it is not a simple thing to run a food pantry. Intricate records must be kept, reports filed with town and state organizations and the food itself must be stored and/or refrigerated properly. And in a world with COVID-19, even more precautions must be taken to ensure not only the safety of those who come in for food, but for the volunteers as well.
When the pandemic struck in March, the pantry had to change its way of operating, closing for pickups and donations. And with so many people either finding themselves unemployed or unable to work for health reasons, there was an increasing number of residents facing food insecurity. On average, before the pandemic, the pantry served approximately 130 families. During the spring and summer months, that number climbed to approximately 160 families.
Thanks to many generous donors, the pantry received gift cards to distribute to residents in need. Later in the spring, several town groups organized safe food drives.
Another bit of great fortune for the pantry, Kittredge noted, was a $50,000 grant that State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) helped to secure. Those funds were used for a desperately needed air conditioning system.
“Sometimes it gets really hot in some of the rooms, up to the high 90s. And many of our volunteers are elderly – that was not good for them,” Kittredge noted. “So we were so appreciative.”
“Images of America – Westborough”
His passionate interest in local history has made him a sought-after historian on his hometown. It all began in high school.
“I met Don Lowe, who wrote a local history column. I was fascinated by the images and the stories behind the images,” said Kittredge. “I collected postcards of Westborough and hunted down images, maps and anything to do with the town. I have traveled to hundreds of antique shops, paper and ephemera shows and bookstores in search of images and memorabilia.”
In 2018, after he worked with Katherine Anderson, author of “Westborough State Hospital,” Arcadia Publishing (Anderson’s publisher) gave Kittredge the go-ahead to write a history of Westborough. The writing process had its challenges for this first-time author, but he had help from his wife, Donna; Kristina Allen, author of an earlier book on Westborough history, “On the Beaten Path” (Westborough Historical Society, 1984), and editors at Arcadia.
The result, “Images of America – Westborough” is a wonderful chronicle of the town, with over 200 rare images.
Many of the original glass images he used for the book he found buried in barns and basements, “covered in pigeon poop!” he laughed.
Painstakingly cleaning and restoring them, he brings Westborough’s past to vivid life.
Indeed, even though the book, is a story of Westborough, it is one any fan of local history would enjoy reading.
For more information on the book, visit www.arcadiapublishing.com.
Vintage Westborough photos,Courtesy/ Phil Kittredge