Member Spotlight: Community Access to the Arts

Member Spotlight Community Access to the Arts-minRuthie wheels up to the canvas with a big smile. She just celebrated her 102nd birthday, and she’s about to start a new painting.

Thanks to workshops provided by Berkshire-based nonprofit and MNN member Community Access to the Arts (CATA), Ruthie began making art two years ago using an adaptive technique designed for people with significant physical disabilities. Since then, she’s finished twelve gorgeous paintings— and sold three at CATA art exhibits!

With the help of a laser pointer and the aid of a trained “tracker”— a person who acts as the artist’s hands— Ruthie and dozens of other CATA artists are able to create stunning works of art using “Artistic Realization Technologies” (A.R.T.). Developed by artist Tim Lefens, this innovative technique gives full creative control to people who aren’t able to hold or manipulate a paintbrush.

“A.R.T. offers a way for artists like Ruthie to communicate something that would otherwise go unsaid or unknown,” says Stefanie Weber, a CATA Faculty Artist who serves as Ruthie’s tracker.

After working with Stefanie for the past year, Ruthie has found a unique style that’s all her own.

“Do you want a big brush or a little brush?” asks Stefanie. She holds out a handful of brushes and Ruthie takes her time feeling each one. After she chooses, Ruthie uses a color wheel to show Stefanie exactly which shade she wants to use.

“How’s this?” Stefanie asks, mixing the paint together. Ruthie smiles, “Yeah!”

With a laser pointer around her wrist, Ruthie shows Stefanie where to put the brush on the canvas. She moves the laser up and over, then into the corner, revealing a bright stroke of blue paint.

Ruthie is one of 800 CATA artists who take part in CATA workshops each year in dozens of art forms, including theater, dance, yoga, juggling, creative writing, painting, and more. Through CATA’s dynamic workshops and public events, artists with disabilities tap into their potential, explore new talents, and share their creative perspectives with the wider community. CATA collaborates with day programs, residences, school, and nursing homes across the Berkshires and upstate New York to bring arts opportunities to as many people with disabilities as possible.

Before workshops started up again this year, Ruthie “couldn’t wait to get back to work.” Thanks to our community of supporters, she’s celebrating her 102nd birthday with a fresh canvas and a big creative spark!

Member Spotlight: Boston Partners in Education

Member Spotlight Boston Partners in Education (1)-minShowing appreciation for the volunteers and community that support a nonprofit’s mission is extremely meaningful and can result in better retention, improved recruitment, and the creation of brand ambassadors.

Boston Partners in Education’s mission is to enhance the academic achievement and nurture the personal growth of Boston’s public school students by providing them with focused, individualized, in-school volunteer support. On June 11, the education nonprofit applauded the end of the school year with their own celebration: their annual AMP! Awards.

The AMP Awards are designed to recognize and honor the volunteer academic mentors, teachers, and corporate partners who serve Boston’s public school students. Presented in seven categories including the Educator of the Year, School Partner of the Year, and Rookie of the year; the awards recognize individuals and partners who have demonstrated an exemplary dedication to improving the lives and education of BPS students through their relationship with Boston Partners.

It takes a special commitment to become an academic mentor, and over 80 partners joined the festivity to celebrate their peers. The ceremony was kicked off by Boston Partners Chairman Mike McKenna and Executive Director Erin McGrath reiterating the immeasurable impact that volunteer academic mentors make in the classroom each year.

“These individuals work on the front lines of our mission. Whether they are volunteering, teaching, or partnering with our organization, everyone deserves recognition for their commitment,” said Erin McGrath. “These awards are a small way to show them how grateful Boston Partners is for their dedicated work in our community.”

One of the awards, the John C. Rennie Mentor of the Year Award is presented to a volunteer who “embodies what it means to be a Boston Partners in Education academic mentor.” This award recognizes an individual who becomes an integral part of the classroom as both an academic mentor, friend, and role model. This year’s award was presented to Kathy Weld (pictured above), who has been a fixture in Mr. Russell’s classroom at the McKinley South End Academy since 2015.

While Boston Partners mentors aim to help students who could benefit from more individualized attention in the classroom during the school day, mentoring at the McKinley South End Academy is different than the typical Boston Partners volunteer experience. The school focuses on the emotional, behavioral, and learning needs of its students using a highly-structured behavior management system. For students who receive a lot of messages about the ways that they’re not doing well and might not succeed, it’s significant to have someone from their community come into their classroom each week and tell them that they believe in them. Mr. Russell joined the AMP Awards to present the award to Kathy, and described her as “in a category of her own.”

“She doesn’t just put in time,” Mr. Russell said. “She’s exemplary in her willingness to do anything, and for her flexibility, her insight, her compassion, and good humor.”

Kathy’s special connection to the school isn’t simply the result of personalities meshing. Kathy spends more time working with students than Boston Partners volunteers typically do — much more, in fact. For over three years, Kathy has been mentoring two or more days a week for three or more hours each day. According to Mr. Russell, more important than the quantity of her work, in the countless hours that Kathy has spent in his classroom, is the quality.

Acknowledging and showing gratitude for the individuals that support and drive your organization’s mission is an important part of becoming a successful nonprofit. Like the AMP Awards, a celebration to acknowledge the dedication it takes to support a nonprofit organization is a great way to reinforce the importance of the work they do and extend a Thank You to your community.

To learn more about how to get involved as an academic mentor, visit www.bostonpartners.org.

Member Spotlight: Parenting Journey

Member Spotlight Parenting Journey-minCollaboration between nonprofits can be a powerful force for change in a community, and can address needs that could not have been solved as effectively by any one organization.

MNN member Parenting Journey (PJ) uses collaboration in working towards the day when every family has what they need to thrive and succeed. Rooted in the belief that all parents know what is best for their children, PJ recognizes that some parents cannot reach their full potential because of systemic injustices that disproportionately impact communities of color, low-income families, and immigrants. In response to intergenerational trauma caused by racism and poverty, PJ uses an interdisciplinary approach to effect change in family systems, institutional systems, and governmental systems to uplift families.

PJ recognizes that collaboration and collective impact are essential to disrupting intergenerational poverty and trauma through a continuum of wrap-around services that meet the needs of individuals and families. PJ launched a two-generation service delivery model in partnership with nonprofits in the Greater Boston area who work with families at different life stages and in different capacities.

One of PJ’s partnerships provides a glimpse into the power of nonprofit collaboration. PJ partners with the Epiphany School to provide its Parenting Journey I program to parents at the Epiphany School Early Learning Center (ELC) in Dorchester, MA. So far, a total of 28 young, low-income parents who have children enrolled at the Early Learning Center have participated in the 12-session curriculum. The weekly two-hour sessions are co-facilitated by Delores Reyes of Parenting Journey and Emily Bautista, the director of student support at Epiphany School.

During the sessions, parents explore their relationships with their own parents and past experiences that impact how they parent. The sessions provide parents with the opportunity for self-reflection and realization. Parents reported multiple positive changes as a result of their participation, including decreased stress and increased parenting strengths.

“Since Parenting Journey, I have a different perspective in life. I take time to listen to my children before making a decision,” said a participant of Parenting Journey 1 at Epiphany. These types of changes have previously been shown to improve parent-child engagement and the ability of parents to buffer their children from stress, promoting optimal child social-emotional development.

In addition to providing the parent program, PJ trained 13 Epiphany staff in PJ Community. The 1.5-day training program brings staff together to develop strong working relationships, examine their work through a strengths-based lens, and improve engagement internally and within their community.

Epiphany offers many different types of support to children and families, including school, daycare, and home visits. Incorporating PJ into these wraparound services boosts the strengthening effects of those other supports, giving parents a dedicated space for building empathy and resilience.

Collaboration is powerful. By enhancing programs, practices, and policies across sectors, partnerships like the ones established by PJ and its nonprofit partners can address the complexity of families’ lives and can create a collective environment that acknowledges parents’ inherent strengths, power, and expertise.

Member Spotlight: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit whose mission is to activate the next wave of ocean leaders through the arts, science, and advocacy. Bow Seat provides a space for teens to connect, create, and communicate for our blue planet through innovative programming that works at the intersection of science and arts education, with a focus on amplifying youth voices to advance dialogue and participation in ocean conservation.

Bow Seat, in partnership with Conservation Law Foundation, launched the 2019 Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge to engage local youth in using their creative voices to highlight the plight of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and the need for conservation of marine ecosystems and resources. The Challenge invited K-12 students from the New England region to create visual art, poetry, and short films that celebrate this iconic species and drive action for its protection.

Bow Seat received more than 130 imaginative and inspiring submissions, including entries from Massachusetts students from Boston to Deerfield and Andover to Pocasset. The Challenge winners and participants were recognized on Sunday, May 5, at an awards ceremony during the Right Whale Festival at the New England Aquarium. This community event featured a student art exhibit, film screenings, presentations by youth conservation leaders, and a panel discussion moderated by National Geographic photojournalist Brian Skerry, who served as a judge for the Challenge. The participants’ pieces will be an important part of an ongoing campaign to inspire awareness, care, and action for right whales and the ocean, which will include future events and art exhibitions.

“I created what I did to inspire people to be mindful of their impact on the ocean. By making this piece, I learned more than I was expecting to; I learned that the whales need our help, that they are beautiful, and that we need to act soon,” said Eliza Goodwin, a Challenge participant.

The Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge was presented with the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House on May 6, 2019. This award recognizes outstanding efforts to improve energy and environmental literacy in the Commonwealth.

Member Spotlight: The Brain Aneurysm Foundation

Member Spotlight Brain Aneurysm FoundationAs the head of the Mass. highway department, Tom Tinlin, 53, was no stranger to stress. When persistent headaches sent him to the doctor, his physician encouraged him to relax and get rest, sending him home with a prescription. Six days later, while emceeing a charity auction, Tom realized something was seriously wrong. He walked off stage and told his wife they needed to get to the hospital. A scan uncovered that Tom was experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm. Luckily, emergency surgery saved his life and he survived the ordeal without severe permanent damage. Knowing how fortunate he was to survive with minor deficits, Tom turned to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF), the globally recognized leader in brain aneurysm awareness, education, support, advocacy and research funding.

One in 50 people in the United States have a brain aneurysm, one rupturing every 18 minutes. Of the 30,000 people each year that suffer a rupture, 40 percent will die, and of those who survive, 66 percent will endure permanent neurological deficits that limit their ability to resume a normal life. A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis like Tom’s occurs in up to 25 percent of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), the most common type of brain aneurysm.

“It frustrates me that my experience was avoidable, had my primary care doctor been more aware of the symptoms of a brain aneurysm. My hope is that we can educate more healthcare professionals and the public about brain aneurysms so that fewer people have to suffer or die,” Tom said. BAF is helping him do exactly that. They are teaming up for the First Annual Tinlin Family 18 for 18, a golf tournament this September, named in recognition of the fact that someone suffers a rupture every 18 minutes. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit BAF’s tireless work to support the brain aneurysm community.

“We are consistently amazed by the unwavering dedication of survivors and families affected by the disease. Our goal is to be the ultimate resource for them so that no one has to feel alone in this struggle,” BAF Executive Director Christine Buckley said.

To date, the foundation has distributed more than $2.6 million in research grants, benefiting 108 different research projects that focus on the prevention and detection of brain aneurysms. In addition to funding pertinent research, BAF collaborates with healthcare professionals to provide support networks and informed care to patients and families. BAF offers over 75 support groups in the U.S. and Canada, as well as an online support community. BAF also recently launched its first online accredited educational lecture on the early detection of brain aneurysms for primary care providers.

2019 marks BAF’s 25th anniversary as an organization, which they are celebrating with a robust roster of events that will increase awareness and amplify their mission. Most of these events, like the Tinlin Family 18 for 18, are the product of partnering with brain aneurysm survivors or loved ones from around the country.

For more information about BAF and their upcoming events, please visit bafound.org.

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Nonprofit members can click here to submit a Member Spotlight and share a story that best illustrates the positive impact their organization has in their community.

Member Spotlight: The Wish Project

Member Spotlight The Wish ProjectSometimes the best way to describe the true impact of a nonprofit is through telling the stories of the people it serves. This is the case for Chelmsford-based nonprofit and MNN member The Wish Project.

The Wish Project’s mission is to help families in need establish long-term residency by providing furniture, household goods, clothing, and shoes; to provide critical immediate assistance to homeless families and victims of fire or disaster; and to support the community.

Jill Maker, once a client of The Wish Project and now its Chief Operating Officer, shared her inspirational story with MNN:

“I first found out about The Wish Project in 2006 when I helped a friend pick up a couch she had received through the organization. I didn’t know it then, but that meeting was truly a blessing: shortly after that visit, I would become a Wish Project client.

After the first meeting, my house was flooded and all my baby clothing and supplies were ruined. I was 7 months pregnant and had nothing for my new baby. I didn’t know where to turn. Then, a good Samaritan brought me a bag of new items for my baby. That woman was Donna Hunnewell, the founder of The Wish Project. She helped me turn my whole world around. I was so touched I started to volunteer at The Wish Project.

I had medical complications with the baby and lost my job and ultimately my home because I was out of work for so long.  Jobless and now pregnant with my third child, I ended up in shelter housing. The caseworker that I had worked with at The Wish Project became my own caseworker and started getting items for my children from Wish.  

Even while looking for a new job, I still spent my spare time volunteering at Wish. I hoped that the volunteering on my resume would help me secure a new job. As it turns out, it did a lot more than that. Donna later hired me as the Project Manager for the Wish Project, then promoted me to Assistant Director. Now, 12 years later, I am its Chief Operating Officer.

I always say that one thing can happen in your life that can change it forever. Every person and story that I have heard at The Wish Project is different, but one thing is the same: when their lives change for the worse, they all need to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I understand that because I’ve been there.”

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Nonprofit members can click here to submit a Member Spotlight and share a story that best illustrates the positive impact their organization has in their community.

Member Spotlight: Martha’s Vineyard Film Society

Member Spotlight MVFSThe Martha’s Vineyard Film Society began in a way that many nonprofits do, as a dream of a dedicated group of volunteers to share their passion with the larger community. The group’s dream was to bring enriching, culturally significant films to Martha’s Vineyard.

The Film Society began with what Founder and Executive Director Richard Paradise calls “a nomadic existence.” For twelve weeks in the summer, the Society would host nightly screenings of classic films on a 16mm projector at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Word spread about the Film Society, and it quickly built an enthusiastic following across the Island. It began hosting year-round screenings in cultural centers, including the Katharine Cornell Theatre, the historic Tabernacle, and Union Chapel.

However, the early successes of the Film Society exacerbated its two challenges: technical and artistic limitations imposed by the less-than-perfect screening venues, and the lack of a dedicated home in which they could offer film-goers a first-class experience and expand their programming.

The Film Society opened its permanent home, the Film Center, in September 2012. The Film Society now showcases 150 feature films and 1,200 live performances year-round to  more than 60,000 attendees. The Film Society also hosts The Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, which recently completed its thirteenth year and drew over 2,700 attendees, the highest attendance in the Festival’s history.

The Film Society is actively involved in the community through the revitalization and preservation of the Island’s cultural and historic treasures. In 2015, the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation approached the Film Society with an opportunity to operate the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven (opened in 1913) and the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs (opened in 1915), both of which had fallen into disrepair and could only be used sparingly.

The Capawock re-opened on May 29, 2015, and The Strand Theater on June 20. Carly Simon and her family performed live music to a packed house at the Capawock Opening Ceremony, and a large crowd welcomed the Strand back to working order during a screening of JAWS!, the 1975 classic directed by Steven Spielberg that was filmed on the Vineyard.

In twenty years, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society has grown from a seasonal, volunteer-led organization into a vibrant, year-round cultural organization that has become an Island institution. The Society looks back fondly on its foundational “nomadic” years and is excited by the prospects of the next twenty.

Member Spotlight: CitySprouts

Member Spotlight CitySproutsNonprofits in the youth and education sub-sector provide critical services and programming to kids across the state. In addition to student-centered programming, another important dimension to the work of nonprofits like Cambridge-based CitySprouts is the support they provide to teachers.

The CitySprouts mission is to cultivate wonder for all children with hands-on learning through urban gardening. CitySprouts partners with 21 elementary and middle schools in Cambridge and Boston and makes hands-on, minds-on learning in the school garden accessible to children of all backgrounds and homes.

This fall, early grade teachers at the Henderson Inclusion School and Winthrop Elementary School are participating in CitySprouts’ year-long series of site-based professional development workshops. CitySprouts’ professional development workshops give teachers time to reflect on the science standards and practices, and then explore the school gardens to find evidence of these concepts.

Teachers are encouraged to approach the school garden as if they themselves were kindergartners. They explore milkweed plants, roots and all, discovering the milky sap that oozes out of the plants’ stems, and the fluffy seeds that poured out of pods when cracked open.

CitySprouts professional development workshops instil confidence and content knowledge in the teachers. “I feel that the CitySprouts workshop series made me, someone who doesn’t feel quite competent in science, very comfortable with teaching science,” said one teacher who is participating in the workshops.

Whether in the classroom or in the garden, CitySprouts shows that exploring living things is a perfect opportunity for students—and their teachers—to practice the scientific method and to build a relationship to the natural world.

CitySprouts is one example of a nonprofit that addresses their mission area holistically, putting into practice solutions that will have the deepest impact on the future of our Commonwealth.

Member Spotlight: United Way of Greater New Bedford

Member Spotlight The Innovation FundThe nonprofit organizations that operate in the nine communities of the Greater New Bedford area play an important role in helping residents to overcome the challenges they face and helping to strengthen their communities. Through a new initiative, MNN nonprofit member United Way of Greater New Bedford is providing critical support to three nonprofits to pilot new and different projects so that they can deepen their impact.

Historically, the United Way of Greater New Bedford operated like a traditional United Way, where select “member” agencies were the recipients of funding every year.  After going through a strategic planning process in 2012, their model began to shift, and they created new funding opportunities to help nonprofits do their work with greater efficiency and impact.

In September 2017, the United Way of Greater New Bedford launched The Innovation Fund, a new program created for projects that experiment, target, or test new ideas and approaches that can lead to promising breakthroughs in the target areas of Health, Education, and Financial Stability.

The competitive application process for The Innovation Fund was unique for the area’s nonprofit community. Nonprofits were previously unable to apply for funding for their innovative and untested ideas. The process represented a rare moment where busy nonprofit staff could take a step back from the demands of day-to-day operations to think through the specific supports they would need to design and implement a new and effective project.

The three nonprofit organizations that were awarded funding through The Innovation Fund are now piloting projects that serve their clients and communities in unique ways. The Greater New Bedford Youth Alliance is working a project that aims to connect youth service providers through a technology platform that enables them to track their participants and their community impact over time. The Greater New Bedford Community Health Center’s project is transforming the delivery of opioid treatment services by integrating those services into primary care practice. Finally, an at-home security project from The Women’s Center helps women who are victims of domestic violence stay in their homes and children in their schools. In addition to the financial support, these nonprofits are receiving additional technical assistance and support from the United Way of Greater New Bedford to translate their ideas into successful projects.

The projects supported by The Innovation Fund are now entering the second year of support. Staff overseeing the initiative have enjoyed watching them take shape.

“It’s been exciting to see how the organizations’ projects have been progressing over the past year,“ says Anne Nichelson, Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of Greater New Bedford. “We’ve been learning over this past year, and looking forward to the next phase of The Innovation Fund.”

Click the video below to learn more about The Innovation Fund.

Member Spotlight: The Art Connection

by Connor Dale, MNN Intern

Member Spotlight The Art ConnectionOur nonprofit members pioneer innovative programs and services, including those that use art to empower communities across Massachusetts.

The Art Connection is a nonprofit member in the Boston metro area that enriches and empowers underserved communities by providing them access to original works of visual art. Its latest program, Artful Seeds, is a collaborative partnership between community-serving agencies that engages clients with creativity and reflection through customized and immersive art-making workshops. The Art Connection staff design and lead customized art-making experiences that support clients as they navigate their way to new horizons—from homelessness to housed, from substance misuse to recovery, or from trauma to healing.

In a recent installment of Artful Seeds, The Art Connection staff hosted a “Purposeful Patterns” workshop for the women at Project Hope in Roxbury. Project Hope provides low-income women with children access to education, jobs, housing, and emergency services while working for broader systems change. Participants incorporated patterns of West African Adinkra symbols and collages into visual representations of their best selves. The initiative culminated in a community curation process where Project Hope staff and clients selected 26 original artworks for permanent onsite exhibition.

Donna Henderson, Director of Adult Educational Services at Project Hope, praised the Artful Seeds initiative for providing moments of reflection and release through art-making for the women served at Project Hope.

“Some of these women have experienced many struggles and traumatic things, so to have an opportunity to do something like this is just really wonderful. It’s a break from their everyday and gives them an outlet for things that can be difficult to talk about,” she said. “There were so many who not only tried new things, but also smiled for the first time in a while.”