(Are) Volunteers Needed?

Are corporate volunteer service projects helping nonprofits and the people they serve, or are they just busy work to make corporations look good?  That’s the question posed by Boston Globe reporter Sacha Pfeiffer yesterday in “Corporate volunteers can be a burden for nonprofits.”

At United Way, we work with both corporate partners and nonprofit partners year-round on a regular basis to recruit volunteers to help in the community.  We firmly believe that volunteers bring great value to the community – together, we can do more than any of us can alone.  We also believe that volunteers want to feel like they are having a meaningful impact, and that only happens when the volunteers are filling a legitimate community need.

Our constant dialogue with both corporate and community partners ensures we match company volunteers and nonprofits effectively. We recently surveyed our 180 community partners on their need for volunteer support.   Continue reading

WINGs, WLC’s Young Professionals Group Takes Off!

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On March 18, a new chapter in the story of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council was written–and this one had a slightly younger vibe to it!

It was there, at United Way, where WINGs was kicked off.  WINGs, or “Women Investing in the Next Generation,” was built to connect Boston’s up-and-coming women leaders (ages 21-40) to unique hands-on volunteer experiences, professional development opportunities and networking events tailored to member interests.

“This community work advances the WLC’S Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders partnership with United Way,” said Alicia Adamson, Senior Director of Affinity Programs and Events   for United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “We’ll have a special focus on reaching out to girls in under-served Boston neighborhoods.”
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Help refill the bookshelves of a preschool damaged by a roof collapse

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The impact of our epic winter has continued to manifest itself, even as the snow has (barely) stopped falling.

At United Way partner agency College Bound Dorchester, they experienced this first hand when their ceiling collapsed, severely damaging four out of seven child care rooms. Along with the structural damage to the building and rooms, virtually all of the books were completely wiped out. Continue reading

21 Family Fund Partners Receive $227,000 Additional Funding to Help with Basic Needs after Harsh Winter

BOSTON – United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley has released an additional $227,000 from its Family Fund to help 21 community agencies meet the increased demand for help during this unprecedented winter.

As part of the Family Fund, United Way works with more than 26 community organizations in our region that support basic needs. This year’s “perfect storm” of winter conditions – harsh weather, extreme cold, crippling transit, and lost business and wages – has resulted in many families exhausting their limited resources to heat their homes, pay their rent, and feed their families. Continue reading

Access Success

Stemming the tide of homelessness takes unique thinking, system-wide coordination and a community working as one.

The homelessness prevention and support system is fluid.

It has more moving parts than the space shuttle and, because human beings drive the engine, the variables are incalculable. Ask any shelter provider and they will attest to this fact. On the front lines, when you have a family in front of you that is sleeping in their car, that necessity becomes paramount. Is there a way to fit the disparate pieces of the puzzles together and build greater efficiency? Yes.

It’s called Coordinated Access.

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This. Is. Cornhole.

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For one night, winter was forgotten and summer was a state of mind.

They weren’t messing around.

Nearly a half-hour before the tournament was set to start, a handful of die-hards showed up to hone their cornhole skills. The correct angle to position the elbow, the ideal trajectory of the toss, the follow-through —glory awaited the team that brought it all together in the crucible of competition.

That crucible was found within the walls of The Baseball Tavern, where, on February 26, nearly 100 young professionals sought solace from the relentless New England weather for an evening of networking, Deep Eddy cocktails, and epic cornhole.
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How the harshest winter in Massachusetts history is hurting our most vulnerable families

Family Fund partners in our communities are seeing dramatically increased need for help as a result of this unprecedented, unrelenting winter. 

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The winter of 2015 has brought many challenges to our region and affected nearly every person in our community. We’ve been through record snow, travel bans, and school cancellations.  We’ve shoveled endlessly, worked from home, and stayed inside. But for families who live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the option to work from home, they quickly found themselves making a choice between paying for rent or paying for heat.

United Way works with more than 20 community organizations in our region as part of our Family Fund that supports basic needs.  We’ve been in touch with our partners about the challenges they’ve faced this winter, and they shared with us what they are seeing and what many families are experiencing.

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A SMART way to make a difference

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United Way’s innovative new volunteer coaching program builds wherewithal using accountability and trust.

What’s an effective way to empower someone to build financial capability and lift themselves out of poverty? As it turns out, it may not be rocket science; it just might be a person to talk to, learn from and trust.

That is the thrust of United Way’s newest financial stability initiative, SMART Coaching. This six-month program pairs individuals looking for support in improving their financial situations with volunteers from the community.

Coaches and partners have monthly meetings at Families First in Portsmouth, where they attend financial education workshops with fellow participants, then check in with each other to set goals and track progress. The key to success is to foster a trusting relationship, where accountability is king.

“The one-on-one partnership is the most important part of the program,” said United Way’s Meghan Farrell, coordinator of the project (pictured). “We are creating trust to achieve the ideal of financial coaching, which is to encourage financial behavior change for partners in the program.”
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You ask a question. A child answers. That’s Brain Building.

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Playing “peek-a-boo” with an infant is sure to generate smiles and laughs. And counting bus stops on the commute home or pointing out colors in the produce aisle are fun ways to keep your toddler engaged.   But did you know activities and interactions like these are also laying a critical foundation for future brain development?

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On Solid Ground Coalition Report Outlines Critical Components to Preventing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts

Boston, MA – The On Solid Ground coalition today released its first report on family homelessness. The report, On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness, documents the impact of the Commonwealth’s housing shortage on families with extremely low incomes, and outlines the critical components of a preventative approach to family homelessness.  United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, along with The Oak Foundation and The Boston Foundation, are the report’s philanthropic partners.

“Together, we can do more to reduce and prevent homelessness than any one person or organization can do alone,” said Michael K. Durkin, president and chief executive officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “Too many families are one financial disaster away from homelessness. Ensuring they have access to services that can help them increase their savings, build net worth and get better jobs will not only increase their household’s financial stability, but will strengthen the economic stability of communities across our Commonwealth.” Continue reading