One of the Melick Foundation’s goals in honoring individuals is to recognize those who have provided services to others and have been an inspiration to the community. Bill and Kathleen Tilburg exemplify what it means to inspire others to action. They have each served the community over the years in various ways. Bill has been a very active member of the Exchange Club for the past twenty years and Kathleen, after a career as a psychiatric nurse, has been a special education teacher at the Pollard School and a staunch supporter of social justice.
However it is through the organization “Needham Cares” that they have inspired our community to action. Bill and Kathy formed the non profit organization shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 when the widespread devastation became apparent. They were moved to act when they realized that the coast of Mississippi was receiving very little aid. Their specific goal was to help three towns in Mississippi and involve as much of the Needham community as possible. Through Needham Cares they have raised funds to send much needed goods to Hancock County, sending over 10,000 gift bags at Christmas to school children.
Bill and Kathy have had a direct impact not only on victims of the hurricane but on the many Needham adults and students who have been inspired to help with the cause. Students from the Pollard Middle School collected thousands of items for gift bags and then spent a weekend organizing the items and loading a large truck to deliver the bags. Eighth grade students have donated the proceeds of their talent show to Needham Cares for two years in a row. Several high school students are part of the Board of Directors of Needham Cares, helping to organize and run fund raisers. They have started a partnership program with the Pollard and a school in Hancock County to exchange books, ideas, resources and letters between students. The Tilburgs have organized two trips of Needham volunteers to Hancock County, with a third trip planned later this year. On these trips the volunteers have gutted houses and started the rebuilding process on other houses.
Their organization has activated many Needham citizens to take part in helping. Many local organizations and individuals have donated funds and perhaps, more importantly, many have donated their time. The activities have drawn volunteers from all walks of life and all age groups.
The Tilburgs have unselfishly helped friends, neighbors, strangers; contributed as volunteers to our community, been an inspiration to others and have performed civic deeds in an exemplary manner. They are very worthy recipients of the 2007 Melick Foundation award.