Campus & Community

PBHA keeps ‘Gifts’ donation close to home

3 min read

For Harvard faculty and staff who want their Community Gifts donations to have an impact that stays close to home, Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) might fill the bill. PBHA, a student-led nonprofit at Harvard College, oversees 77 public service programs that engage 1,800 student volunteers in serving nearly 10,000 people in the Cambridge and Boston communities. Community Gifts logo

As an independent nonprofit organization, PBHA must raise nearly $1 million to support its programs. From buying juice boxes or books to serve community youth to maintaining the vans that shuttle student volunteers from Harvard Square to Boston’s inner-city neighborhoods, the organization’s financial needs are ongoing.

“Having the resources that we need is essential,” says PBHA resource development chair Sonia Torrico ’06, who adds that Community Gifts funding helps PBHA maintain a professional staff to provide continuity in the ever-changing environment of college students. “People can show that they support this kind of service to kids through giving to PBHA.”

Torrico has not only committed her time and talent to raising operating funds for PBHA’s programs, she’s also seen its impact on the community up close. A volunteer mentor (and now board member) for Strong Women, Strong Girls and the 2004 director of Keylatch Summer Program, one of PBHA’s 12 summer camps serving a total of 850 low-income youth from Boston and Cambridge, Torrico knows she’s made a difference in the lives of Boston youth.

“The first semester that I did Strong Women, Strong Girls, there was one girl who was very difficult to connect with. By the end of the year, she would come to me and tell me everything that was going on,” Torrico says. “I feel like the role I was able to fill with her was just being a constant in her life.”

Harvard employees have received their Community Gifts Through Harvard pledge materials in the mail. For more information or to pledge online, go to

Serving primarily Latino and black youth from the Villa Victoria housing development in Boston’s South End, Keylatch resonated with Torrico’s own background as a native of Bolivia who grew up near Washington, D.C. “There’s a real sense of ‘I’m keeping an eye on you because I know your mom’ in that community,” she says. Her own background and fluency in Spanish helped her connect with the campers and, she thinks, be a stronger role model for them.

“Being with these kids reminds me that I’m not so far removed from them,” she says. “The only way that I can make a difference is by showing them that I care for them.”