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Eight Women


 September- October , 2020

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I have been thinking about this present time in my life as my “NEVER BEFORE MOMENTS”.   

NEVER BEFORE  have I felt inclined to make phone calls and donations for national candidates that don’t directly affect my state of residence.  

NEVER BEFORE have I placed ANY political signs in front of my home.

NEVER BEFORE have I applied to work at our city’s polling station to help with elections.

NEVER BEFORE have I committed to staffing a volunteer protection hotline to support voters facing hostile forces.

NEVER BEFORE have I felt that elections ( from city to state to national) will have a tremendous impact on my  personal current life, my opportunities to move forward and civil discourse in this nation.


Placing a political sign in front of my home represents a turning point in my life.  I have always been under the mindset that my voting decisions are private as well as live and let live.  This year is different.  I need to take a public stand on my support, and that is why I asked my son to capture my installation of the sign in our yard.  


Deciding to take this action was particular and deliberate.  The sign had been in a window on the top floor of my home for a few weeks, and yet I was concerned it was not really visible. Originally, I kept it inside for fear that it might get stolen.  At this point, it bcame important to me that it have a more prominent place of display.   Where do I put the sign?  What am I saying publicly?  Why am I the only person on the street with a sign?  How will my sign choice B”H be understood?  ( B”H is a Play on the Hebrew term, B’ezrat Hashem, “with the help of God”.)  I did move the sign a few times and decided to finally place it near my two WISE ceramic owls, for extra good luck!  


With 17 days to go to elections, I am waiting to see if these NEVER BEFORE MOMENTS will continue to be a critical mainstay of my life or a passing emergency.

November, 2020



What a month! The first few days of November I existed in political flurry! I spent hours on the phone, mostly with the good people of southern Florida talking about the promise of a better future with our shared desire to elect Joe Biden as President. So many of my calls left me on a high, (even more so than my calls I had been making for a local state senator) with enthusiasm for a new start for our country… I thought Biden will certainly take the Sunshine State this time!


November 3rd I became a fixture at the polls, doing my civic duty as a poll inspector in Ward 8, Precinct 3. Most of my work consisted of checking people in, to make sure their stated street address and name matched town records. The voters who this became challenging for were the ones who did not bother to ever send in their city census forms! This subset of voters had to visit the the precinct warden and come back to see me again with permission to receive a ballot, which I gladly presented to them. I am confident that many of them were voting my opposition— YET GOTV (Get Out The Vote) was my main messaging leading up to NOV 3rd, so no judgement!


Much of November became a month of disbelief… a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions of questions: In what country do I live? Who are these people who are voting to continue the path of destruction that I see us spiraling down? Why is our country so divided? Is our democracy going to hold up to this ultimate test? Can we move forward together and build a better future with shared values? Glued to the TV and news articles, November is a blur now - a victory without a victory party!

Call To Action: December, 2020

This month I have returned to the call of helping to bring fresh produce and protein to many suburban area food pantries and people living in controlled housing in Boston. During this month I have signed up for at least 3 shifts a week to do this “holy work” of providing healthy nourishment. (Having finished my work in November, this is my focus now.)  Through a food rescue organization, called Food Link, I travel 30 minutes to Medford, lucky to experience a fulfilling and easy drive through Boston and over the exquisite Lenny Zakim Bridge, to pick up and transport boxes of food. These boxes are part of of a special USDA program.  Often there are over 100 boxes to transport for each shift.  


You might be curious as to what items are in these boxes...Peeking inside the handle opening, I spy with my little eye: 

a gallon of milk, 


a big tub of yogurt, 










and bread. 

I sigh that these boxes are filled with healthy options for families and individuals.


Arriving at the new warehouse this month, it was important to discover each vehicle’s maximum capability to transport boxes for this sacred mission … this is a puzzle with meaning!  After many different attempts, fiddling with various configurations, my trusted SUV now has the distinction of being able to transport 20 boxes, and has been relied upon heavily because of this impressive capacity!


I am sad to report that this USDA box program has been stopped now, on Christmas Eve.  It is not known what will replace this program, if anything.  We are working with Food Link to find new sources of fresh food.  After being part of an effort to transport 32,400 lbs of food this month alone, I am trying to keep my optimistic view that in 2021 we will continue to be able to provide sustenance for the growing need.   

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A Call to Action: January


January has proven to be a momentous month for both the good and the bad.  Our country is facing such divisions in its ability to lose sight of facts to acknowledge agreed upon truths.  In the first few days of 2021, my husband asked me if I thought it was time to remove our B’H 2020 sign from in front of our home, as he suggested that it was not so timely now.  Being that there was so much heated rhetoric and false claims being inserted into the conversations about Biden becoming our next president, I had a visceral reaction to his suggestion.  “No Way!” I replied,  "That sign will be part of our landscape at least through the time of Inauguration Day!”  And once January 6th’s insurrection at the US Capital happened, I became even more determined.  I found RED duck tape to reconstruct the sign from 2020 to 2021- it no longer is outdated!  It has been covered by snow now for a few weeks so I can’t promise its condition, but I can tell you its message is more than relevant this year!


To express my frustrations further, I took that same RED duck tape and created a message on my mail-in ballot, which I had saved after deciding to vote in person.  I have always been drawn to political art, and here is my attempts to share my political thoughts on Election 2020!


Changes have occurred for my usual placement with Fresh Truck, because there are Covid-19 cases at my assigned housing development and the site wants to make sure to protect other residents (and our volunteer team) by preventing them from gathering there. Instead, I have been volunteering at some other locations, namely 2 Head Start locations in Roxbury, and getting a feel for the different communities being served.  My previous placement had a strong Asian cliental, and with it came lots of orders for garlic, ginger, green onions, red and green peppers, berries, broccoli, and eggplant.  This month I am hearing more Spanish and French Creole being spoken and taking many more orders for yucca, plantains, oranges, cilantro, limes, mangos, tomatoes, sweet potato, collards and pineapple.  I appreciate watching the clients order their produce with such care, paying attention both to their preferences and how much “cash” they have available on their assistance cards.  This fact, along with the extreme cold we have had on certain days, have really highlighted  the challenges these communities face.  I myself faced bitter cold one afternoon on the unheated food bus with my toes and fingers screaming out to me, so i can just imagine what it was like the many clients waiting in line, often for periods up to 30 minutes.  In a normal year this process moves along, with a certain number of snags, yet within the framework of Covid-19 the challenges of food insecurity are highlighted front and center.

Marla Olsberg Nine Women mid February 4.
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A Call to Action: February


Now that 2021 is really underway it is apparent that food insecurity has skyrocketed!  Pre-Covid there were less than 100 families being served by Newton Food Pantry, last fall the number of families was in the 600’s and now there are ~900 families being served.  I  am working simultaneously with 3 food distribution projects; Fresh Truck in Boston (weekly), transporting 20 boxes of food form Medford to local food pantries (1-2 a week) and dropping off bags of food to specific clients of Family Table, of which I am on the midweek emergency call list. Luckily, my dog Alfie can accompany me as I drive around greater Boston to make these Family Table deliveries to mostly Covid households.


I am relieved to share that the federal government has re-instituted the USDA box program! I have been part of a 20 person team making runs from a food warehouse in Medford, MA to deliver these boxes to local food pantries.  My car is greatly sought after because it can hold 22 of these sturdy boxes!  After 3 months (October -December) of our group transporting thousands and thousands of these USDA boxes, it was reported in mid December that the program would be stopping!  And it did!  No USDA boxes were delivered during January! The shock and the sadness from the food pantries was palatable. This disappointment weighed heavily on our group too.  Imagine the glee expressed when we were told in the last days of January that the USDA program will be resumed, and we would be transporting even more boxes to even a few more pantries.  


Last week, while waiting for the food pantry to open its doors to our delivery, I became very curious about what exactly are in these new USDA marked boxes.  I started poking around the small openings, but could not get a full sense of its contents. I then took some pictures by putting my camera up to the handle openings, to view the interesting angles of the food within!  I was excited to see more details.  I worked out how to carefully open the box and took a bird’s view of the container— mystery solved!  In total, over 60 boxes of Milk, Yoghurt, Cheese, Potatoes, Carrots, Onions, Chicken, Hotdogs were delivered to the Centre Street Pantry by our designated group.  These boxes are reserved for families of 5 or more. I learned that many of their clients are now families of 10+ multigenerational families, having consolidated housing over the last 10 months.


I have been over the moon when my daughter has joined me on Fresh Truck—twice so far! She is not so interested in being in my photos, yet she is happy spending the time together to volunteer on this issue of health and economic justice.  Being foodies, we are both excited to be surrounded by gorgeous produce!  No matter what the weather may be outside, in the Fresh Truck we are living in a perfect place, assisting  others to stay the course of eating healthily!

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A Call to Action - April 2021


Spring has Sprung! And with it comes many more opportunities to be outside and take action! The world is awakening again to many injustices around us.  This month I am thankful to be involved in  Newton's, Boston’s and Massachusetts’ efforts to work towards Social Justice!


 I proudly served my city for the 3rd time by being a poll worker for our city elections to fill two spots on our city council. It is quite rare to have 3 elections during an 8 month period! ( i expect to serve this role next in fall 2022, for congressional races.  I have learned about the intricacies of elections and voting, nationally and locally this year!  Regardless of why we are coming to the polls, it is always a well orchestrated system that promotes fairness and democracy, thankfully, in my hometown.


Over the past 5 weeks, I have been involved in the initiation of the Newton FREEDGE!  The Freedge is a free fridge open 24/7!  It is a community effort supported by the Newton Food Pantry. It has both a refrigerator and pantry.  Being on the beta team and now a Co-Captain, working with the volunteers from my  faith based community, it has been a fascinating experience- one that has left me uplifted and quite bittersweet. The generosity in my city from both the business and private citizen sectors is incredible!  So many donations and helping hands to stock the fridge with nourishment, clean and check the dates of the items and allow people to live with more dignity, makes me so proud! Our Facebook group with over 1.5K members is constantly being updated with current status posts, and I have even witnessed many people in need first contribute to the pantry before taking food from the fridge-  its breathtaking!  One woman I met, was determined to help me wipe down all the shelves, before packing her own bag- she ended up taking a picture of me holding the pizzas and salad I was bringing from a local generous pizzeria. These are very meaningful interactions.  What is hard to handle is how challenging it is to keep the Freedge stocked… no sooner do we have a full fridge and pantry, than within minutes and at most 2 hours we are back to empty.  It makes me wonder how people were managing before the Freedge.  For me it shows both the need to continue to find ways to fight food insecurity and allows so many individual families to participate in their own uniques ways.


Volunteering weekly on the Fresh Truck continues—the sun shining and warmer temps has really brought light to the whole experience.  How lucky am I to be surrounded by gorgeous colors of produce and people, whom I probably would never meet in my past life, all working for the ultimate goal of dignity and health.


Have you ever read Mercy or heard Bryon Stevenson speak?  His work has inspired me to act with a new cause! I have joined Second Chance Justice, a Mass. interfaith group working on issues of clemency for wrongful life sentences, of course mostly affecting men of color. In particular, we are working to support the quest of commutation of William Allen, a man already serving 27 years of LIFE IN PRISON, without parole.  Even though the man charged with pulling the trigger that killed an innocent person was released over 10 years ago, William is still paying the price with his life! We are part of a letter wiring and strategy campaign aimed at Governor Baker.  William Allen has dedicated himself to bringing out the best in other prisoners, and now the parole board has agreed hear this case.   It is in Governor Baker’s hands now, and he has the final say…..want to join me in making a difference?

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Marla, May, 2021

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I am vaccinated!

Clients waiting in the rain for Fresh truck

What a sight!

Gun store in Newton... not on my watch!

Filling the Freedge!

A view from the rear of the Fresh Truck!

Weighing the carrots!

Lots of Ginger...

I am famous... fresh truck weekly communication

Action needed now!

New yard sign

Late night Freedge drop off

Freedge at night

Sent from my iPhone

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