Bill Frederickson: For the Common Good

Bill Frederickson points out the winter rye-the only green currently growing-in the Common Good Garden at which Bill volunteers throughout the year. Soon those garden beds will be bursting with healthy, fresh produce that will be donated to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.
Bill Frederickson points out the winter rye-the only green currently growing-in the Common Good Garden at which Bill volunteers throughout the year. Soon those garden beds will be bursting with healthy, fresh produce that will be donated to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. Photo by Karena Garrity/Harbor News

For Bill Frederickson, giving back is simply a way of life. Through volunteerism, Bill has found a way in his retirement to stay active, stay healthy and happy, and remain a useful and needed asset to his own community as well as those around him.

Bill, who grew up in Old Saybrook, then moved away from the area for a few years up to Coventry, returned about 20 years ago to Westbrook and the shore he missed so much, and has been happily pursuing his love affair with sailing, kayaking, gardening, and playing with trains.

Well, Bill doesn't actually play with trains, but he does volunteer his time helping out on Wednesday nights with Friends of the Valley Railroad (Essex Steam Train).

"This is really a way for old men who never stopped playing with trains to keep playing with them and do something good at the same time," Bill says with a laugh.

Although this hard work keeping the tracks clear and doing other maintenance is often not a laughing matter, especially in unfavorable weather, Bill always tries to keep an upbeat attitude about his endeavors.

During fair weather, when he's not at the train station or out on the Sound enjoying the sea air and summer sun, he is kayaking the rivers in the area enjoying the view with his wife, Irena. He also stays busy during the spring, summer, and fall months by lending a helping hand at the Common Good Garden located behind the Grace Episcopal Church in Old Saybrook.

A vegetarian, Bill revels in the lush, leafy bounty of the volunteer garden and is very proud of the fact that the garden lends itself to help ensure that those in need on the shore have access to fresh, healthy vegetables from the garden at food pantries that are part of the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.

"There are several master gardens that really help to get this garden going every year," says Bill, who is happy to give a tour of the amazing space whenever he can.

"We are always looking for more help and more volunteers. The garden just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. It really is a very special thing," Bill says.

As fall comes to an end, sailboats are taken out of the water, and the garden goes into hibernation in readiness for the nearing winter, Bill gets his woodworking tools prepared for his winter time give-back project of helping annually with the Westbrook High School's spring performance set.

"I started helping out when my own kids were in the productions and I just kept on going," says Bill, a father of three.

His youngest, Lisa, is currently a senior at Boston University.

This year, for the production of Young Frankenstein, Bill and the crew of students got a late start on the projects needed because the script was late getting to them; however, just like in year past, Bill ensured the show's props were on target and completed in a timely fashion.

"I enjoying designing the sets; it's a creative process that is always a lot of fun to do," Bill explains.

He admits that some years are more difficult than others, such as Hello, Dolly!, which was one of the most "epic" builds Bill has undertaken.

"That year we had to build a horse-drawn cart in New York City for the opening scene, then a steam locomotive with real steam from a smoke machine, then a float on a golf cart for the New York City parade scene, and two complete interior scenes. That was a lot, but it came out great and the show was amazing."

In addition to all of his other good doings, Bill is also on Westbrook's Energy Committee, which is looking into ways to save energy in town, improve air quality, and find money-saving alternatives to conventional energy.

The committee has been instrumental in getting new boilers into the schools, which burn natural gas and save the town money. In addition, it's working on solar energy initiatives, as well as putting a push on Home Energy Solutions in town.

A strong advocate for encouraging others to get involved, Bill says that all of the organizations he currently volunteers with are always looking for more people to help out.

"Getting outside, breathing the fresh air, getting some exercise, and doing something good for your community and others is what volunteering is all about. It sometimes bugs me when older people say they are bored," Bill says. "There is always something one can do and there is always a need for volunteers. It keeps you healthy and feeling good!"

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