Children from Boston's West End House, which aims to transform the lives of immigrant and urban youth, celebrate at last year's Christmas party. West End House offers its members leadership and life skills, literacy programs, jobs, and more.

Photo courtesy of West End House

Campus & Community

Aid groups that make a difference

5 min read

Community Gifts program provides key funds for three agencies

Staff members at Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center have noticed an influx of homeless families this year. With the economy still skittish and the weather only getting worse, center officials anticipate seeing many more families in need.

“For 25 years, we’ve been working for homeless families right here in Central Square,” said Stephen Fulton, the assistant director of programs at Hildebrand, which focuses on breaking the cycle of homelessness by helping families to attain and retain their independence, dignity, and self-sufficiency. “With the housing market and the economy the way it is, we can’t get these families into affordable housing fast enough,” he said.

It’s a common scenario around the country: people in need and resources inadequate. At the Dec. 10 Harvard Community Gifts Giving Fair, which showcased local charitable organizations, the story was the same: Every little bit counts.

Charitable giving may have been down in 2009, but the committed service of these organizations is growing.

At Cambridge Community Center, an after-school program for children 5 to 13, assistant program director Darrin Korte said the center has recently started more classes for students, including musical theater and cooking. They’ve also recently begun providing services to homeless children and those from the Department of Children and Families.

“Out-of-school time is a tricky thing,” Korte said. “We’re a nonprofit, we feed our children, and we provide transportation. But we don’t have enough staff to provide enough after-school help, so we’re always working on that.”

“We’re looking for volunteer help and anything to sustain these programs,” he said. “We want to continue to provide quality, and we know that takes resources.”

Lidia Emmons echoed that sentiment. As the work force director of Sociedad Latina, she has seen the impact of her organization’s offerings.

Located in Mission Hill and serving more than 1,000 families a year, the organization helps Latino youth and families to end destructive cycles of poverty, health disparities, and lack of opportunity. The program Emmons heads offers Latino youth intensive skills training, career exploration, internships at one of eight hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area, and more.

“One hundred percent of our seniors have been accepted to college,” she said. “And one student was awarded a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation scholarship.”

“We engage not just young people, but parents, too,” she said. “For a lot of the families we serve, we become a link to success.”

Harvard Community Gifts “100 Reasons To Give” is still open for faculty and staff. You can donate online, and check out what a $100 donation means to the organizations below.

West End House
The West End House Boys & Girls Club is an independent Boston organization that has been transforming the lives of immigrant and urban youth since its founding in 1906. Its mission is to inspire and enable youth, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to realize their potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.

A century ago, many club members were the sons of immigrants escaping the pogroms of Eastern Europe. Today, they are the sons and daughters of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, China, Vietnam, Haiti, Cape Verde, and three dozen other countries, often fleeing political unrest and poverty to seek a better life for their children in the United States. The West End House offers its 1,500 members an integrated array of programs across four broad areas: leadership and life skills; academic support and college preparation; sports, fitness, and nutrition; and visual and performing arts. In support of these programs, the organization also serves more than 1,200 healthful hot meals to members weekly. Generous community support makes it all possible. For more information.

At West End House, for a $100 donation:

  • A child struggling to read can participate in an intensive, one-on-one literacy program for two months
  • Or five children receive a week of meals filled with whole grains, fresh fruit, and seasonal vegetables
  • A teen is able to work a meaningful job at the house for a full week
  • A child learns to swim with a month’s worth of swim lessons
  • A high school senior receives a month of expert financial aid counseling
  • Children explore the arts with a month of music, visual arts, and dance classes

Women’s Lunch Place
For 28 years, Boston’s poor or homeless women have found refuge at the Women’s Lunch Place, one of the few locations where women can find safety, comfort, and sustenance during the day. The organization provides nutritious breakfasts and lunches as well as social, educational, wellness, and advocacy services to more than 150 women a day, Monday through Saturday. Guests are treated with dignity, and the staff and volunteers foster a community committed to meeting each woman’s needs. The organization does not receive government funding, relying instead on the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. For more information.

At the Women’s Lunch Place, $100 could provide:

  • Group breakfast for one day
  • Or 625 pounds of food from the Greater Boston Food Bank
  • Holiday gifts for four guests