Wild World of Learning in Waltham

Parks are a natural Brain Building Zone in any community, with built in opportunities to explore the shapes, colors, and sounds of the natural world. Any park can be a Brain Building Zone, but if you’re in the Waltham area, be sure to visit this brand new Wild World of Learning Trail that we just opened with Sallie Mae at Nipper Maher Park!

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Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, United Way and Sallie Mae Cut the Ribbon on New Waltham Learning Trail for Area Children

Surrounded by area children, families, volunteers and supporters in Nipper-Maher Park, Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy along with Sallie Mae Chairman and CEO Raymond Quinlan and United Way Chief of External Affairs Jeffery Hayward cut the ribbon on a new and interactive early education learning trail. The Learning Trail is designed for children under the age of six and provides early learning opportunities through fun interactive activities, games, and physical challenges that exercise both the body and mind to support school readiness. Continue reading

Video: Day of Caring a Force for Good in the Greater Seacoast

“The only thing that can’t come down is the monkey!”

Pati Frew-Waters, Executive Director of Seacoast Family Promise in Stratham, dashes to the middle of the room and explains to the onlookers. The funny-looking stuffed monkey, she says, represents not only levity for kids who are in a heavy situation, but also structure. You can look at the monkey but you can’t take him down. Those are the rules. And like any home, you have to follow the rules.

It’s an anecdote that helps Frew-Waters educate new people about the work being done at Seacoast Family Promise, a shelter that leverages a network of faith communities to provide temporary housing for homeless families. The audience in this instance was a group of 11 volunteers from Lindt & Sprungli, gathered to help scrub, wash, paint, dust, weed and trim for the annual United Way Day of Caring.

 

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A Special Day of Service

On an important day for our nation that has since become an occasion for remembrance and service to our community, members of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) spent their morning on September 11, 2014 reading with children in 5 Boston neighborhoods, joined by 10 female Boston Police officers as special guest readers.

The inaugural WLC Read to Succeed Day brought together more than 50 women (and a few good men),  including volunteer teams from Brown Brothers Harriman, Sun Life Financial, P&G Gillette, John Hancock and Alex & Ani, who all enjoyed sharing their time with local children in Allston, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, and the South End.

See more photos in the Facebook album

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A Change of Plans

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What happens when the course you plotted for your life unexpectedly shifts? Sometimes, great things.

Travis Harris had it all planned. A political science major at George Washington University, he had an eye on politics, making a difference in a big way, on the grandest of stages. Then he worked in his first campaign and promptly realized it was not for him.

His abrupt career change led him to Spain, and a job as an English teacher. He taught elementary school for the first year and middle and high school the next. At nights he taught adults. He even squeezed some time in the morning to tutor preschoolers.  Travis was a teacher. And he loved it.

Now, he’s wrapping up a one-year experience as a member of AmeriCorps (which is celebrating its 20th year this year). He served in Lynn, part of United Way’s targeted initiative to help families and children achieve academic success. He is one of 12 team members, placed at different agencies serving Lynn, working in concert to make a difference in the city.

“As a teacher, you get to give presentations every day and lead a group,” Travis says. “And you have to be creative. You can plan and plan, but if something goes wrong you have to be able to be improvise.”

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Dance Fusion

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At the intersection of age and youth, tradition and rebellion, memory and hope, there is break-dancing.  

The kids are soft-spoken. Meek, even. They quietly and politely explain why dance is important to them. It’s about the rhythm. The freedom. The togetherness.  But, mainly, it’s about the expression. For Team Kaya, a group of young people from Cambodia, Vietnam and other Southeast Asia points, the dance stage offers them a hardwood canvas to transmit the passions and values that drive them–and can be so hard to articulate through speaking or writing.

“I’m quiet and shy and don’t really have a lot of friends,” says Kenny Huynh. “But dance brings about good vibes, good feelings. I feel like I can express myself.”

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How a $125K grant became a $10.2 million return on investment to local communities

Bank of America and United Way announce free tax prep partnership generated $10.2 million in refunds and EITC credits for local residents this year

United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley, in partnership with Bank of America, announced the results of its 2014 free tax prep assistance program, which returned a total of $10.2 million to 4,515 residents who are most in need – a significant increase over the $8.9 million returned last year. The annual program provides low-income residents and families with opportunities for free tax prep assistance and help maximizing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits and refunds. With a $125,000 investment from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to United Way to coordinate the program, millions of dollars that may otherwise have gone unclaimed were returned to people’s pockets and their local communities.

In an effort to reach even more families this year, United Way expanded its partnership with the Massachusetts Association of Community Action Programs (MASSCAP), granting $15,000 to fund four of their VITA sites in Lowell, Haverhill, Chelsea and Malden. In addition to the VITA sites, United Way provided funding and volunteers for tax prep at partner agencies in Boston, Chelsea, Lawrence, Quincy, and Waltham.

“You don’t have to be a banker to know that turning $125,000 into more than $10 million for those that need it most is an incredible investment,” said Bob Gallery, Massachusetts president, Bank of America. “It’s also a testament to how effectively United Way puts these dollars to work.” Continue reading

Lynn teens win once in a lifetime trip to India through Youth Venture

Teen Scene United Way Youth Venture Team one of two national teams to travel to India this fall for “Be the Change” youth conference

Four high school students from Lynn who created the environmental group Young Environmentalist Leaders of Lynn (YELL) through their association with the Teen Scene program at Family & Children’s Service in Lynn (FCS) and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley’s Youth Venture program, have won the experience of a lifetime – the opportunity to travel to India this September to represent the USA at the “Be the Change” youth leadership conference in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

indiatripgroupThe trip was awarded through a partnership between United Way, Ashoka’s Youth Venture, and Design for Change, in which the Youth Venture teams competed in a video challenge for the opportunity to travel to attend the Conference.  During the trip, students will connect with like-minded youth from other countries, learn new skills to further their own venture projects, and visit the Taj Mahal.  The announcement of YELL as the winning team was made at United Way’s Youth Venture Talent Showcase at the Microsoft NERD Center in in May. Continue reading

Breaking Barriers

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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