Dr. Barbeau, founder of Neighborhood Connections, honored with car parade

Dr. Delores Barbeau sits in the sun at Neighborhood Connections on Monday. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

.Nicole Wengerd, the new executive director of Neighborhood Connections in Londonderry, introduced founding member Delores Barbeau by saying doctors told Barbeau that she should not be alive.

Barbeau has Stage 4 cancer and was not expected to live beyond May. Wengerd then joked, “What do doctors know?”

The crowd attending this July 6 celebration in Barbeau’s honor laughed because Barbeau is a doctor and, at age 77, is still practicing medicine. The 50 or so admirers were gathered in the Meeting Place at Neighborhood Connections for some snacks and conversation.

Calling Wengard said, “Being part of this organization is truly a gift.” She said Neighborhood Connections was started 10 years ago by Barbeau and Gloria Dawson and announced the establishment of the Delores Fund over which Barbeau will have free reign, and be in line with her vision.

Barbeau, a Weston resident, said Vermonters “take care of each other” and she has felt “so taken care of over these last few months.”

Neighborhood Connections, Barbeau said, has expanded greatly “over the last four to six months” and is “so alive. Thank you all for this incredible place to be.”

A car parade full of well-wishers honors Barbeau.

Before the presentation, about 150 people in 50 cars and trucks drove slowly by the Neighborhood Connections parking lot in the Londonderry Marketplace Plaza to celebrate Barbeau, who was enthroned in an antique armchair. Most had signs expressing their love and appreciation. Many heartfelt exchanges took place between Barbeau and the drivers and their passengers.

The car parade was masterminded by NC Program Director Mary Schwartz, who told The Telegraph that many of the well-wishers came from the Weston Priory, where Barbeau lives, and from the Mountain Valley Medical Clinic, where Barbeau has worked on and off for many years. Barbeau called the parade “more than fun.”

Barbeau founded Neighborhood Connections in 2009 when she found herself practicing more social work than medicine at the clinic.  One patient who was working two part-time jobs, she said, couldn’t afford insulin without health insurance. They could afford either insulin or childcare, but not both, she said.

A driver tips his hat in honor of Dr. Barbeau.

At the same time, Gloria Dawson, a social worker, was retiring. So at Barbeau’s request the two started Neighborhood Connections, with Dawson serving at the director for the next seven years. By July 2009, they already had clients — even thought Neighborhood Connections didn’t officially open until October.

Last November, Neighborhood Connections lost four key staff members: the director, a nurse, a social worker and an outreach worker. Barbeau took over the hard job of director and immediately reached out to Nichol Wengerd, who had been with the organizaytion for a couple of years at the beginning. Wengerd agreed to return.

Before Barbeau settled in Weston, she spent 25 years in Bolivia and Nicaragua. She said contracting polio there would be like having a cold here. She ducked under Contra bullets and when Daniel Ortega took over as Nicaragua’s president, she helped nation eliminate polio and greatly reduce tuberculosis. Everyone had an education and medical attention.

Dr. Barbeau chats with a well-wisher.

While working at Neighborhood Connections, Barbeau hosted a GNAT television program where she interviewed people and talked about health issues. She would like to try that again, given the chance.

In March, Barbeau helped a pair of law students who could not return to campus in Boston because of Covid-19. Stuck here, they could not find a place with internet connections where they could finish their classes online until Barbeau offered the Meeting Place at Neighborhood Connections. The two have since finished their classes, are now studying for the bar exam and are thinking that Londonderry might be a good place to settle.

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  1. David Howald says:

    Dr.B = Love and Kindness

  2. Mary Whittlesey says:

    God bless you Delores, we appreciate you so much. You are a gift from God to Londonderry and beyond.
    Love and Blessings Mary

  3. Jean Peters says:

    There are not enough positive words in the English language to describe the person that is Delores Barbeau. She is an amazing physician and an awesome person. I consider myself blessed that Delores and I have had many opportunities to cross paths in the 20 years that I have known her. Thank you, Delores, for all that you have done and continue to do for so many in Londonderry and around the world.

  4. Bob Wells says:

    Delores is an absolute treasure! She has selflessly dedicated herself to the well-being of others, particularly the most vulnerable in our community. The gift that she and Gloria Dawson gave to all of us, by creating Neighborhood Connections, is a wonderful legacy that hopefully will live on forever. We are all better for what Delores has so generously given to us.

  5. Hay que enfatizar su trabajo en Nicaragua y Bolivia y su disposicion de trabajar aca en Vermont con los latinx que no tienen acceso a seguro de salud. Doctora Delores, eres un ejemplo de lucha! Gracias por todo.

  6. Lillian Handren says:

    If we had millions of people like her,this world would be healed. We need to clone her, even though there’ll never be anyone quite like Delores Barbeau. She’s an answered prayer for everyone that’s lucky enough to be any part of her life🥰 our prayers are for this beautiful human being 💛