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July 30, 2020PLYMOUTH—When someone in New Hampshire says that they are retiring, it often means that everyone else should stand back and brace themselves for a whirlwind of activity.
Perhaps no one exemplifies this trend more than long-time community activist and spiritual counselor, The Rev. Margaret Bickford, a resident of Rumney.
At 84 years young, the ever ebullient and energetic former Plymouth Area Community Closet (PACC) President and volunteer has recently decided to retire from the board of the organization she has guided and served faithfully since she moved to the area over 20 years ago.
This past winter, she fell on the ice, broke an ankle and suffered other injuries which required months of recovery. But she is known for her zest for living and a spunky "can do" attitude.
"Life is still fun," said Rev. Bickford. "I've been blessed to have no chronic illness or accidents before this incident. I may be feeling a little tired and this made me realize that it might just be time for me to step aside at PACC and give someone else the opportunity to serve."
But those who know her best aren't expecting her to slow down anytime soon.
"If you want to know what community service looks like, you need look no further," said fellow PACC Board member, Patsy Kendall, reflecting on Rev. Bickford's long affiliation with the social service organization. "Margaret Bickford is the epitome of everything that word means. Once she sets her mind to something, she just sticks with it and makes it happen."
The Plymouth Area Community Closet runs the local food pantry, a thrift store, a financial aid office, and weekly Meals for Many in downtown Plymouth. For close to 70 years, these programs have provided much needed assistance to community members who have fallen on hard times.
"PACC began because community members became aware that there are many of our neighbors who were in need. Some people were just not making the bills. At the time, other than a couple of local churches, there was no other resource to meet the need and there was a huge gap," said Bickford.
This is still true, especially during a time of Covid-19.
"But PACC has never been just a feel good exercise. We go way beyond. We always work on behalf of increased awareness that our neighbors are in need and we cannot just walk by and not do something," she added.
"I'm a neighbor too," said Rev. Bickford about her own deep commitment. "I know how important caring and compassion are in society, and for me, the Lord wants us all to grow in these qualities. For me it is an extension of my spiritual faith."
Rev. Bickford has been a Methodist Minister in New Hampshire for 40 years, but currently serves as part-time Pastor of the Wentworth Congregational Church. In that role she is happily immersed in the important job of overseeing the renovations of that historic building, as well as shepherding parishioners through the challenge of maintaining spiritual equilibrium and a sense of community during the pandemic.
Rev. Bickford says that she is very optimistic about the prospect that younger people will step up to fill the void that she leaves at PACC.
"High school and college age kids have helped us out a lot over the years," said Rev. Bickford. "I'm impressed with Plymouth Regional High School Honor Society students that volunteered for projects. Plymouth State has community minded young people as well. Despite everything they do to prepare for professional careers, many are looking beyond their own personal lives. This gives me hope."
Rev. Bickford is looking to the next generation to carry on the work. She says she is retiring.
So, stand back everybody! Stay tuned for whatever comes next.
"It's Onward and Upward," she says!