Breaking Barriers


An MLH Scholar and United Way intern shares the blueprint to overcoming challenges.

Nephtalie Dorceus learned several important lessons at the Lynn YMCA, while working as camp counselor with children with disabilities. She realized that you can’t take yourself too seriously; that you need to be patient; and, sometimes, all a person needs is a little push.

“People unfamiliar with people with disabilities might automatically think that they can’t do this or can’t do that,” she says. “Really, it just takes an extra step. Anything is possible.”

She understands. As an immigrant from Haiti, who arrived with her family, she is all-too-familiar with challenges–and how focus and determination can lead to true opportunity. When she came to the United States, Nephtalie didn’t speak a word of English. She and her siblings learned the language together (her sister came up with a song to help remember their phone number). It took time. It wasn’t easy.\

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United Way and Starbucks team up for back to school

Starbucks and United Way volunteers will get a feel-good energy boost this month by pairing coffee and volunteerism, as we kick off a series of volunteer events at 9 local Starbucks stores across Greater Boston.  As families begin preparing to go back to school, Starbucks and United Way are partnering to create literacy kits that will go to local early childhood development programs to help children and families in our neighborhoods develop their reading skills.

This week, volunteers in Braintree, Quincy, and West Roxbury kicked off the efforts.


See which event is in your neighborhood Starbucks and join us for a pick-me-up! Continue reading

United Way, North Shore Workforce Investment Board to provide more than 40 summer jobs for Lynn youth

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB) are announcing a new partnership today that will provide more than 40 teens from Lynn with critical first-time jobs and workplace skills this summer. United Way is awarding a $50,000 grant to the North Shore WIB to place more than 40 Lynn youth between the ages of 14 and 21 who have not had jobs or have limited work experience in jobs at community-based organizations across the City.

“The future of the workforce is weakened when our young people can’t find jobs,” said Nancy Huntington Stager, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Charitable Giving at Eastern Bank Corporation and Chair of the North Shore WIB Board. “That’s why it is so critically important, and so greatly appreciated, that United Way of Mass Bay and Merrimack Valley steps up to support the North Shore WIB’s F1rst Jobs program. With unemployment at a record high for this age group, it’s vitally important that we give these young people early opportunities to build workplace skills that will help them for years to come.”  Continue reading

American Red Cross and United Way launch mobile food assistance program


Food truck will visit communities in Boston, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lynn, Lowell and Revere to help provide families with emergency groceries.

Faced with food assistance needs that continue to grow, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and American Red Cross of Massachusetts today announced the launch of a new mobile food and nutrition assistance program, specifically designed to serve communities and populations experiencing high hunger rates.  The new Food and Nutrition Mobile Market will provide nutritious food assistance, nutritional counseling and food stamp benefits assistance once per month, and will ramp up to provide emergency groceries up to once a week in targeted communities. Continue reading

United Way Announces Fifth Year of Successful Summer Learning Program

Over 2,000 K-3 students expected to benefit from literacy programs proven to avoid summer learning loss and reduce achievement gap

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is awarding $229,000 to serve over 2,000 elementary school-age children in 22 program sites in Greater Boston and Merrimack Valley through its nationally-recognized Summer Learning Collaborative. The 2014 locations will serve students from the communities of Lynn, Lawrence, Lowell, Salem, Winthrop, Peabody, Revere, Cambridge, Somerville and Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, East Boston, Allston Brighton, Chinatown and Roxbury.

Last year, 89% of K-3 students in the United Way Summer Learning Collaborative avoided learning loss during the summer months, better preparing them for the start of the new school year. Evaluation results also show that participating children showed 2.4 months of growth in literacy skills and that 85% reported enjoying reading more at the end of the summer. Participating organizations gave the program high marks too: 89% of staff stated the Summer Learning Collaborative improved program curriculum and activities. Continue reading

Governor Deval Patrick: “There’s Real Strength in Partnerships”

In March, United Way joined the Patrick Administration and several Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to announce $3 million in  allocations to 38 community organizations across the Commonwealth for a new Community Investment Tax Credit that will encourage new economic opportunities for low- and middle-income households throughout Massachusetts. United Way worked closely with the Massachusetts Association for Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and our State leaders to advocate for and implement the tax credit, and is currently fundraising to help CDCs reach the designated funding levels needed to support their programs and claim the tax credit.

Joe Kriesberg, President and CEO of MACDC, sat down this week with Governor Deval Patrick to talk about the new tax credit.  Check out what the Governor has to say about the importance of investing in CDCs and this win-win opportunity for donors and economic development in the Commonwealth.

The Community Investment Tax Credit offers a 50% state tax credit to individuals and companies who invest in CDCs – a huge savings for a donor, and a significant impact on a CDC’s ability to implement innovative projects that will make both an immediate and lasting impact in our local communities. For more information about making a donation and receiving the Community Investment Tax Credit, contact Susan Dickason at


When Number One Is Just Not Good Enough

Today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center released the annual KIDS COUNT report, which ranked Massachusetts as leading the nation in the overall well-being of children.  The report tracks indicators that paint a picture of how well children are doing in the fifty states and looks at data trends in four areas: 1) economic well being, such as the number of children in poverty; 2) education, such as percentages of students not proficient in reading or math and percent of children not attending preschool;  3) health, such as percentage of children without health insurance and 4) family & community, such as number of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma.

“While we are proud that Massachusetts is leading the nation in the well-being of children, we are immediately sobered by the fact that 53% of our children are not reading proficiently by 4th grade and 213,000 children live in poverty,” said Michael K. Durkin, President, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “The latest KIDS COUNT report underscores our commitment to ensure all children receive high-quality early education to prepare them for kindergarten and success later in school, and to ensure all families have safe, secure housing and environments where children will thrive.” Continue reading

The Adventure of a Lifetime!


We’re sending four kids to India for an unbelievable experience–and we want you to take part in their adventure!

“Where is the farthest you’ve traveled?”

Jama Aroni considers the question, then replies: “Down the street.”

Jama, 16, and his three friends from Young Environmental Leaders of Lynn (YELL), have not had many opportunities to get out and see the world.

That’s all about to change. In a big way.

On September 25, they will go on the adventure of their lives when they depart for a week-long trip to India. For them, it’s all still unbelievable. From when their names were announced on May 30 as the winners of the Youth Venture video competition up to now, the reality of the experience before him has yet to settle in.

“We still can’t believe it,” said Jada Macdonald, 17. “It was so surreal.”

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United Way Scholarship Recipients Recognized for Outstanding Community Work

Marian L. Heard Scholarship Program provides students with $10,000 scholarship and e-coach mentor for college success

BOSTON – Miriam Nyan arrived in Lowell in 2007 after growing up surrounded by violence in Liberia (read about her story here). Today, she is studying biology at Worcester State University to become a doctor so she can return to Africa to help drive down the devastating death tolls that result from curable diseases.  Sheila Reyes, of Roxbury, lost three friends to violence in three years. Today, she is a student at Boston College majoring in sociology and thinking about a future in law school.  Jason Martinez, of Lawrence, just finished his second year at Bentley College.  He is the first in his family to go to college and continues to be an active volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.  They are also all participants in United Way’s Marian L. Heard Scholarship Program.

Today, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley officially welcomed 18 new students to the 2014 class of Marian L. Heard Scholars at a luncheon at the Boston College Club in Boston.  These students are honored for being not only excellent students inside the classroom, but for outstanding leadership in the community. Continue reading