Former New Bedford City Councilor Not Allowing ALS to Hold Him Up
Former New Bedford Ward 3 City Councilor George Smith was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, in March of 2021. As the disease progresses, Smith mostly gets around now in a powerful electric wheelchair.
"I'm still active! I'm still serving on the board for Coastline Elderly Services, the Council on Aging, and the Commission for Citizens with Disabilities. I'm hanging in there," Smith said. "But I admit, I'm more shaky on my feet."
Smith said he fell down in the bathroom the other day, and they had to call a neighbor to come over and lift him up off the floor.
A group, calling themselves "Friends of George," including some members from the Commission for Citizens with Disabilities such as Pam Cole, have volunteered to take on a project of raising $10,000 for the Buttonwood Park handicapped accessible playground to replace the tall slide that was vandalized.
The former electric company employee and community activist was given the choice as to where the money would go to from the sale of "Team George" t-shirts for $15: either to ALS or the local children's slide replacement at Buttonwood Park.
"I chose to give it to our local children's playground at Buttonwood Park, because as a councilor, I was involved with the slide since it first arrived," he said.
Remembering moments he was most proud of, he listed marrying his life partner Nancy 53 years ago, the birth of his children, getting elected to office, and especially in 2007, when he was recognized with the Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School Alumni Association's Achievement Award.
"That award, displayed at the school, is one of my biggest honors," he said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, AARP Massachusetts director Mike Festa bestowed Smith with the Andrus Award.
"This award acts as a symbol to the public that we can all work together for positive social change," Festa said.
That's consistent with Smith's spirit of volunteerism.
"Instead of just sitting at home complaining, everybody should volunteer," he said. "When you see people helping people – I don't get emotional about what I'm going through, and I don't mean to get choked up here, but volunteering is something that matters. A lot."
"I had a full and great life," Smith said. "No remorse, whatsoever."
To purchase a Team George t-shirt for $15, or to make a contribution, call Pam at (774) 328-1490, Kim at (508) 789-6380 or John at (508) 989-0330.