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Hazel Lackey: Adventist Community Service Pioneer Remembered and Honored

Hazel Lackey, with son Lexs Lackey, in 2020, waves to dozens of people gathered to celebrate the renaming of the park on West Main Street in her honor. Photo credit: Greg Vine, Athol Daily News

How do you tell if a life is well lived? By the good you have done and the people who remember you. On Sunday, December 3, 2023, friends, family, and the community came together at the Athol Seventh-day Adventist Church to celebrate the life and legacy of Hazel Lackey, who died on October 6, 2023, and her more than 40 years of service at the Community Clothing Center she founded.

Throughout her 96 years of life, Hazel (born May 2, 1927) remained sensitive to the needs of troubled youth, pregnant women, fire victims, and anyone needing help. In the early 1980s, Hazel joined the Dorcas Society’s Community Center in South Lancaster, MA, sewing baby clothes for low-income families. At the time she said, “Someday I’d like to do this.” Little did she know how God would use her for decades to come.

At first, Hazel worked through the Dorcas Society, setting up a community center in Orange, MA. Soon she organized her own Community Clothing Center. Hazel’s Community Center was completely staffed by volunteers, and she welcomed anyone needing volunteer hours or required to work community service. Hazel’s Community Center took donations and then would give food, clothes, furniture, and other items for just $1 or $2 a bag (or $7 for an entire cartload) to pay for the building’s rent and utilities, often using her own Social Security pension when more was needed. If she knew there was a need, Hazel would waive those fees because she wanted to help. Hazel always had religious books and materials available to anyone wanting to learn more about Jesus.

Hazel’s Community Center continued to expand and was relocated through the years as it outgrew its locations. It was housed in numerous sites in Athol, Orange, and New Salem, then finally at 17 West Main St. in Orange, MA, where it first occupied half of the storefront and has since taken over the entire building. In 1994, Hazel’s Community Clothing Center had a staff of 30+ volunteers, served thousands of people, and gave out more than 70,000 pieces of clothing. These numbers continued to grow through the years. A 2004 report showed that 6,500 people had been served in the Community Center, and more than 100,000 articles of clothing and 5,000 pairs of shoes were distributed. That year, Hazel also gave away more than 15,000 toys and about 1,800 coats. These numbers do not include the boxes shipped overseas or to other areas of need.

During the memorial service, it was said that Hazel helped thousands of people in her lifetime through her Community Clothing Center. One person even guessed it may be up to a million people she touched with all the boxes she sent out in partnership with Adventist Community Services and Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) to Haiti and other disaster areas.

Among the many newspaper articles, awards, certificates, and plaques that surrounded the room at Hazel’s memorial service, were special citations from state senators and community organizations. Perhaps the greatest honor was given to Hazel in September of 2020 when the town of Orange named a park and parking lot located directly across the street from the Community Clothing Center in her honor. Hazel had maintained the park for years, and the town renamed the park and erected a stone with plaque that read “Hazel’s Park.”

Hazel’s memorial service was led by Pastor Kyle Shelton at the Athol Seventh-day Adventist Church. The eulogy was given by Pastor Mark Gagnon, who always remembered Hazel seated in a position of service to others. He implored everyone to make the same decision Hazel did to accept God’s gift of saving grace and to show it in a life of service helping others.

Hazel’s legacy of community service lives on in her Community Clothing Center, now named “Orange Gives Back”, located at 17 West Main St., Orange, MA, where it continues to touch the lives of people in need.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Psalms 116:15

The Community Clothing Center on West Main Street in Orange, MA, in June 2020. Photo credit: Paul Franz, Greenfield Recorder.

Hazel's memorial service at the Athol SDA church. Lower left: Plaque honoring Hazel at the park renamed for her. Lower right: Hazel in the early days at her Community Clothing Center.

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