Ayer Couple Found Their Calling in Volunteering

August 6, 2018

LEOMINSTER -- Cheryl and Jean-Pierre Boisy’s fates may have been sealed decades ago.

The couple from Ayer are among the Spanish American Center’s longest serving volunteers, at over 20 years of continuous service, but they were destined to help people long before their work in Leominster started.

Cheryl realized at an early age that she would follow in the footsteps of her father, who led a career as a social worker.

“I asked him one day what that meant and he said, ‘I help people that are in trouble,’” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m always afraid of being in trouble so if I help people who are in trouble, maybe that will make a difference.’”

While Cheryl’s professional experience would prove useful at the center, Jean-Pierre said it was his experiences as the non-English-speaking child of an immigrant mother that inspired him to volunteer.

“I can empathize with the people who are hurting. I came from a very poor family and didn’t have much of anything,” he said. “I understood the trials and the stuff that happens when people have their prejudices.”

The Boissys have been volunteering for decades now, but their work in Leominster has increased somewhat in the last five years following Cheryl’s retirement from Heywood Hospital in Gardner.

“I’ve had MS since I was 23 years old and I was able to work for decades until I could no longer drive and type,” she said. “I was forced to make a decision about continuing or not continuing.”

Her multiple sclerosis diagnosis resulted in Cheryl experiencing vision impairment and having to rely on a wheelchair, but she said none of these symptoms have ever limited her work for the Spanish American Center.

“I certainly think my abilities to cope with my physical losses would be far worse had it not been for the center,” she said. “They’ve been like a life preserver for me.”

Cheryl has been a member of the center’s board of trustees for seven years, and has served as the board’s president. She also administers the center’s website, which Jean-Pierre built the original version of earlier in his volunteering career.

Jean-Pierre also created the center’s first computer literacy class for local residents.

Spanish American Center Executive Director Neddy Latimer said the Boissys are involved in many of the center’s services and play a substantial part in many day-to-day operations.

“These two here are the best. These two I adopted many years ago and they are now part of this agency,” she said. “They are family.”

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53

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