WTF: Why does it say ‘Quota’ at the corner of Route 5 and Hampden Street in Holyoke?

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For more than a decade, the island at the corner of Hampton Street and Route 5 in Holyoke has borne the word “Quota” — spelled out in flowers in the warm weather and black plastic edging in the cold.

On my ride home from work down Route 5 south, I often wondered about, my own personal Jamestown mystery. Is it a statement akin to Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant “Obey” art? A call to everyone to pull their own weight? A cryptic nod to the Illuminati?

It turns out there’s no conspiracy theory behind the mysterious “Quota,” but the people who put it there do have an international agenda.

Quota is a nearly 100-year-old women’s service organization with chapters in 12 countries. The Western Mass chapter is in Holyoke. Quota is dedicated to aiding the deaf and hard of hearing as well as women and children in need, says Betty Larivee, Quota’s regional director. They also try to make life a little better in the towns they represent; back in 2002 adopting an island in Holyoke through a city-run program made sense to the gardeners in the club.

While “Quota” has been spelled out in flowers surrounded by wood chips for years, 2015 marks the installation of blue metal letters surrounded by white rocks.

Larivee says the steep grade of the island was making it difficult for the club’s older members to safely garden and there’s more shade in that spot than when they first started, making it difficult for the flowers to grow.

“All the trees around the area grew up and overshadowed the flowers,” Larivee says. “Just recently we put in the metal sculpture so we don’t have to break our necks on the hill and worry about the dead flowers.”

The sculpture was donated to the club by J.D. Watson, husband to one of the club’s 14 members, Larivee says.

Quota used to have clubs all across Western Mass, with chapters in Worcester, Springfield, and Northampton, and organizers are looking to rejuvenate membership. Last weekend, Holyoke chapter President Nancy Burns held a celebration/open house of the local group’s 85th year in service. The Illuminati were not in attendance — as far as we know.•

Kristin Palpini

Author: Kristin Palpini

Editor of the Valley Advocate

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