Winchester Volunteer of the Week!
Winchester, MA Volunteer of the Week Greg Chastain Who’s Voice Creates Hope. – Winchester Star
Tell us about your volunteer work. What do you do, and where do you do it?
I am the president of Voices of Hope. We are a local non-profit organization that raises funds for cancer research through music and theater. We perform one main stage show in the spring and a cabaret style gala in the fall. We have performed the past seven years at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, and have also performed at Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall, The Hatch Shell and have sang the national anthem for the Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, Lowell Spinners and local colleges for their hockey and basketball games. We are in our 10th year and have donated more than $750,000 to cancer research. For the past seven years we have partnered with the Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at the MGH Cancer Center who are making amazing strides in immunotherapy. Our members are volunteers who give hundreds of hours to VOH. We are currently in rehearsal for the musical “Anything Goes” which will be held at the NSMT on April 4 and 5. We also have an annual golf tournament which will be on July 24 at Fair Oaks CC in Dracut and summer youth program which is in its third year.
How did you get started?
On April 13, 2009, my mom, Barbara Byrd, passed from pancreatic cancer. Losing a parent is a life changing experience and especially when you are there with them for their last moments. On my way home from her passing I knew that I wanted to do something to honor this amazing woman but was not sure as to what that would be. At that point in time I was in a production of “Aida” in Arlington and had missed the first two weekends of the show and when I arrived back the cast welcomed me back with open arms and I was allowed to perform that final weekend. During that time I spoke with many of the castmates and my director, Dana Siegal, who shared with me their stories of loss and cancer-related events in their lives. It was then the idea of a “one-night” only cabaret was born: To sing with my friends in celebration of my mom’s life and give back to the community that had supported her battle/journey through the latter days of her life. This took place in October 2009 at the Next Door Theatre in Winchester where we raised $17,000 in one night with 20 friends participating in the gala.
What keeps you coming back?
The research is ongoing and funding is threatened every year by government cuts, so they need our dollars. The second reason are the members of VOH. They give so much of their time, their talents and their love to this work. It takes a village to produce a show and we do two a year requiring them to spend a lot of time away from their families but they do, and they come back year after year.
Is there a volunteer experience that stood out to you, or where you feel like you made a significant impact?
Voices of Hope is the second largest donor to The Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at the MGH Cancer Center behind the Termeer Family. At least twice a year they invite our members to come and tour the Termeer Center and hear the stories of the patients that are being treated. Those success stories that they share are where we can see a tangible impact of the dollars we donate. The head of the Termeer Center, Dr. Juric, makes it a point to let our members know exactly how their work helps find drugs that give hope to all battling this disease and future patients.
What’s your life like in Winchester? Are you a lifelong resident or recent arrival?
I moved to Winchester in 1989 and met my wife here shortly after that. We were out of state for a few years and permanently moved to Winchester in 2001 after the birth of our daughter Gabi. My wife Jean grew up in Winchester and we always wanted to come back as she loved growing up in this town and knew that it would a great community to raise a family. For me it has that small town feel that I grew up with in Indiana so was perfect for us