Sep. 20—GROTON — Groton City resident Barbara Frucht can't sit back and not raise her hand when she sees there is a need to help.
Her long history of volunteerism started with her local church. She also has served on the board of trustees for the Bill Memorial Library, including a stint as president, and on the founding committee for the Groton Bank Historical Association, which holds the Battle of Groton Heights every year. She has also served on the board of trustees for the Groton Municipal Employees Union.
She served for nearly two decades on the Zoning Board of Appeals and has served as City Clerk and City Treasurer.
Frucht, who is 82, was recently honored with the Jacqueline B. Nixon Community Service Award from Groton Utilities, an annual award named after Jaqueline B. Nixon, who operated a food pantry out of her home, according to the utility.
The award was particularly meaningful for Frucht because as part of her church's women's fellowship group, Frucht often took donations of canned goods to Nixon's home.
When asked where she would like the monetary donation that comes with the award to go, Frucht said the Bill Memorial Library, because she thought that would help the most people. "But I can't say there isn't anything that I didn't love doing," Frucht added.
Frucht was so pleased that Nixon's children congratulated her on the award, because she said they are a connection to the woman she thinks of every time she passes by the house.
Frucht also served as a school crossing guard and worked at the front gate of Eastern Point Beach.
The first time she worked at Eastern Point Beach, she told the parks and recreation director she hated to take money for doing the job because it was so much fun. She got to sit in the sun and read her book with a nice breeze and see so many people she knew from the city.
She said she's been happy doing things to help the city, and even though a few of the jobs were paid, it's still giving back.
"It's somebody raising their hand and saying, 'OK I don't know much about it, but I'll try it,' and you meet so many wonderful people plus you're helping your community by filling a slot or by doing things for it," she said.
Her children and grandchildren have followed in her footsteps. Her two grandchildren have worked as lifeguards at the beach. Her daughters, Melissa Cavanaugh and Denise Deschenaux, worked at a summer playground at Washington Park, and her son, Marc Frucht, is now a night supervisor at the beach and works the farmers market one day a week.
When somebody can't make their schedule to work, her son also will work at the beach gatehouse. She told her son that he would love the job, and he came home reporting that "Oh, I saw Mrs. so and so and I haven't seen her in a long time."
Her late husband, who worked for The Day, also worked for the city's parks and recreation department and was a "people person" who took positions at the church helping with basketball and coaching Babe Ruth and Little League.
"We have a long history of either volunteering or working for the City of Groton," she said.
She said one of the best parts of winning — or even losing — the elected positions was the campaigning. She recalls coming home from work at Filene's and putting on her sneakers to knock on doors. She said she enjoyed the conversations she had with the new people she'd meet and with those who were familiar with her or knew her husband as a coach for the local Little League team or Babe Ruth team.
Her own parents volunteered and instilled in her the importance of volunteerism. "My whole point in doing anything is giving back," she said.
City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said both Frucht, the 2021 award winner, and Beatrice Jennette, the 2020 winner, are wonderful women with wonderful experiences.
He said Frucht is very community minded. "She is always looking to get involved and looking for ways to help the community," he said.
Frucht said it was wonderful to receive an award named after Nixon because she had been to her home.
Frucht said she hopes to impress upon people the importance of volunteering, whether it's through their parent-teacher association or their church or by running for office. She said she feels humbled, but she said she also feels like she doesn't need an award because she got so much in return for volunteering:
"I did things that I wanted to do, and I got so much love and friendship out of that," she said.