Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Working with Consultants

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Brain power

Most of our capacity building grants involve working with a consultant. There’s considerable value from such collaborations including gaining a fresh perspective or specific expertise. It can be especially helpful when previous efforts have stalled or stakeholders have wildly differing points of view.

But there are an equal number of headaches as well — from the resistance of staff or board members who shun interference from outsiders to the considerable added time it takes to bring the consultant up to speed about your organization.

Is it worth it?

Yes… IF you’ve thought it through, planned ahead, allotted enough time, gotten all your stakeholders on board and, most importantly, found the consultant who “gets” your organization and has the temperament to shepherd the project and your agency’s varied personalities through the process.

That’s a lot of “ifs”  – it does make your head spin — but it’s also a realistic view of what you should be thinking about before you jump in and hire a consultant.

One thing is for sure, the consultant doesn’t do all the work. In fact, most times you and your colleagues are the ones doing the deep thinking and heavy lifting. The truth is you’re the ones with the answers. You just don’t know it yet. Consultants facilitate the process and keep you moving forward. They steer you in the right direction and make sure no one is left behind. They help you get to the heart of what you need to do and to recognize how you’re going to get there.

When the stars align, the results of working with a consultant can be quite remarkable.

There’s much more to think and read about here:

Posted on December 21, 2016

2016 Winter Grant Awards

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

images-1The following organizations received support during our September and December grant cycles. We are delighted to have them as grant partners.

Sudbury Grants

Gaining Ground, Concord, MA, $5,000
To support Gaining Ground’s work providing healthy produce to the Sudbury Community Food Pantry, and other local pantries.

Sudbury Valley Trustees, Sudbury, MA, $10,000
To develop a master landscape plan for Wolbach Farm, the agency’s headquarters.

Town of Sudbury – Council on Aging, Sudbury, MA, $18,000
To encourage residents to support their neighbors through continued funding of the Senior Volunteer Coordinator position at the Fairbank Senior Center.

Children Youth & Families (CY&F) Grants

Communities for Restorative Justice, Concord MA, $22,500
For a marketing consultation.

Employment Options, Marlborough, MA, $15,000
For a consultation to develop a computer training program for young adult clients.

Massachusetts Audubon Society/Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, MA, $19,975
A evaluation consultation to develop assessment instruments for three programs and to train staff in program evaluation best practices.

One Can Help, Newton, MA, $5,870
To work with a social media consultant for one year to develop and implement a social media communications plan.

Taly Foundation, Framingham, MA, $13,100
For a strategic planning consultation.

Wildflower Camp Foundation, Wellesley, MA, $25,000
For communications, rebranding and website consultations.

CY&F Invitation Grants

John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation, Framingham, MA, $20,000
General support during a time of transition.

Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest, Marlborough, MA, $100,000
A combination grant to support professional development and other projects.

Farm & Local Food Initiative Grants

Boston Area Gleaners, Waltham, MA, $25,000
To work with a consultant to create a customized inventory management system to expand the agency’s ability to glean and distribute local produce to food banks and food pantries.

The Carrot Project, Boston, MA, $25,000
To work with a senior fellow for one year on client coordination, tracking and evaluation.

See our 2016 spring recipients here.

Posted on December 20, 2016

Brainstorming: Thinking about Kids

Monday, July 25th, 2016


Early Learners

How investing in Preschool Beats the Stock Market, Hands Down. Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development, makes a strong argument to support early education programs in his paper, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.

11 Parenting Podcasts Worth Checking Out. Parenting: It’s the most important job of all and there’s no roadmap for how to do it best. Some good resources provided in this Washington Post article.

Read Aloud 15 Minutes. In an era of high-stakes testing and education reforms and revolutions, research has repeatedly proved that one simple parenting technique is among the most effective. Children who are read aloud to by parents get a head start in language and literacy skills and go to school better prepared.

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland.  While American youngsters learn how to read, Kindergarten students in Finland play. Notes one researcher: “There isn’t any solid evidence that shows that children who are taught to read in kindergarten have any long-term benefit from it.” Food for thought.

Run-down schools trigger low test scores. Common sense says it’s so. (We’ve been saying it for years.) Now Cornell social scientists show why it’s true.

Teens & Young Adults

The Value of Mentoring. Whether formal or informal — mentoring is a powerful tool to keep young people on the right track, particularly kids who are disconnected from their community

Today’s College Students May Be Emotionally Unprepared. Findings confirm what we all know is happening. A survey of more than 123,000 students at 153 colleges by the American College Health Association in 2013 found that more than half experienced overwhelming anxiety and about a third felt deep depression during the academic year, as reported in the New York Times. Here’s one program that’s helping high school teens cope: Students returning to school after a serious mental health issue get the care they need thru “BRYT

The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much. Interesting findings reported in the New York Times. It’s not due to cuts in public funding but an increase in enrollment and administrative personnel.

The Cost of An Overdose. Facing the opiod-heroin crisis in MetroWest. In 2015 emergency personnel statewide responded to 11,884 opioid-related incidents, up from 6,315 in 2013.

Posted on July 25, 2016

In Real Life, Who Do You Turn To?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016


Nine million kids in America are growing up without an answer to this question. They make everyday choices that lead up to life’s big decisions without enough guidance and support – the kind most of us count on. Every kid should have someone to turn to, a caring adult who provides a consistent, supportive and guiding hand to young people — a mentor.

At its most basic level, mentoring is successful in real life because it guarantees youth and teens that there is someone who cares about them and that they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges. At a more complex level, there is a powerful mentoring effect that ultimately makes our community stronger.

Quality mentoring programs are proven to build relationships that help improve school attendance and academic achievement, promote responsible decision making, and provide skills to better navigate relationships at school, socially and at home. A report by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership found that young adults who were at risk for not completing high school but who had a mentor were:

  • 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.
  • 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities.
  • More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team.
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities.

MENTOR’s report found that one in three young people will grow up without a mentor. We need to close this mentoring gap.

January is National Mentoring Month, celebrating the benefits of quality youth mentoring across the country. The National Mentoring Month public awareness campaign, recognized by presidential and congressional proclamation, is led by MENTOR, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

National Mentoring Month also acknowledges all those who give generously of themselves by mentoring youth “informally” as tutors, coaches, teachers, volunteers and friends.

Won’t you join us in spreading the word about the value of mentoring? Our kids deserve it.

Posted January 6, 2015

Are We Thwarting Creativity in Kids?

Monday, December 7th, 2015

We recently came across this great 2006 Ted Talk by creativity expert Ink splat 150 x 150Sir Ken Robinson.

As Robinson describes it, we begin life full of creative potential, then we are “educated out” of our creative capacity. Much of this happens in school where the emphasis on being right limits our ability to think outside the box. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong,” Robinson says, “you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Worth listening to.

Posted December 7, 2015

Grant brings Lovin’ Spoonfuls to MW

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Eat Fresh Jane & Tina

A coalition of local funders – the MetroWest Health Foundation; the Sudbury Foundation; Middlesex Savings Charitable Foundation; and the Foundation for MetroWest – are partnering to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to the pantries and tables of those most in need in our communities. Over the next three years, these four organizations have pledged more than a quarter of a million dollars to support the expansion of Lovin’ Spoonfulsa nonprofit dedicated to bridging the gap between abundance and need.

The three-year grant of nearly $275,000 will allow Lovin’ Spoonfuls to bring their proven food rescue model to food pantries and shelters in the MetroWest region.

“Each of the funders participating in this project has a long history of providing support for hunger programs in the region. This grant will further those efforts by working to make fresh fruits, vegetables, and other products available in a more organized and responsive way,” said Martin Cohen, president of the MetroWest Health Foundation.

In communities known for great affluence and beauty, it may come as a surprise to many that organizations like Lovin’ Spoonfuls are necessary. But suburban hunger is real, and it must be addressed. Together, we are working towards a future where neighbors in need have safe, supportive, and well-stocked places to go when consistently putting healthy food on the table becomes challenging.

While there are 700,000 food insecure residents in Massachusetts, and 20,000 MetroWest kids who rely on free or reduced school lunches,  there is no lack of food—in fact, there is abundance.

“Picture the Rose Bowl, fill it up with fresh produce and set it on fire. That’s the rate that we waste food in this country every day,” Lovin’ Spoonfuls Founder Ashley Stanley said last week at a Panel Talk: “Hunger in MetroWest, ” hosted by the Foundation for MetroWest. “And yet, local food pantries are struggling to stock their shelves. The divide between abundance and need is great, but we can change that.”

Efforts like those of Lovin’ Spoonfuls help bridge the divide by connecting people in need to the bounty of unused food that exists in our communities.

Food programs are ready to take in more fresh food. Joanne Barry, executive director of A Place to Turn in Natick said, “A Place to Turn is thrilled to hear that local foundations will be funding Lovin’ Spoonfuls in our area as they have a proven record of encouraging businesses and other food establishments to donate food that is currently going to waste. This new collaboration will absolutely result in more food delivered to organizations like ours that can then distribute it immediately to people in need in our community.”

Read the MetroWest Daily News article here.

Photo courtesy of A Place to Turn
Posted October 15, 2015

Getting Kids “Ready to Read”

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Version 2We’re big proponents of early learning…getting those young brain cells fired up even before children are walking or talking. The more inspired young minds are, the more their cognitive potential increases.

That’s why reading to young children is so important and why we were happy to support the thinking behind the United Way of Tri-County’s (UWTC) Ready to Read program with a 2012 capacity building planning grant.Ready to read 1

The program, which celebrated its first anniversary yesterday at the Pusan Road Community Center, provides Framingham children with three new books every four months from birth until they enter kindergarten, for a total of 60 new, age appropriate books.

UWTC hosts the quarterly get together in partnership with the Framingham Housing Authority. Families stop by to pick up their latest trio of books, engage in a craft project, get their face painted or lounge on the sofa and read a story. Yesterday’s birthday event included pizza and cake. In its first year, 63 children participated. Parents report that they are reading with their children more often and for a longer time period and that their children are increasingly interested in and excited about reading. A good start to a worthwhile program.

Related Blog Posts:

Catch the Read Aloud Habit

Early Childhood Brain Building

Posted on July 31, 2015

Our Latest Grant Partners

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

We’re pleased to announce our grant recipients for the first half of 2015.

2015 Children, Youth & Families Program Grants:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/MetroWest, Worcester, MA $16,400
To purchase new customer relationship management software and ancillary hardware.

Doc Wayne Youth Services, Boston, MA $24,000
For a fund development consultation.

Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, Framingham, MA $9,000
To develop and install a customer relationship management database to support new performance management strategies for the fundraising department.

Nature Connection, Concord, MA $23,900
For a major gifts program consultation.

OUT MetroWest, Framingham, MA, $15,000
For a fundraising consultation.

Framingham State University Foundation, MetroWest College Planning Center, Framingham, MA $25,000
In partnership with MassBay Community College, to fund the development of strategic and marketing plans for the new MetroWest College Planning Center in Framingham and to evaluate the program after one year.

Massachusetts Audubon/Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, MA $13,675
To develop a business plan to replicate and expand after-school programming in high-need communities and to pilot a program in Hudson, MA.

Minute Man Arc, Concord, MA $5,000
For a strategic planning consultation.

Lovelane Special Needs Horseback Riding Program, Lincoln, MA $20,000
To support a major herd planning and re-building effort.

Discovery Museums, Acton MA $22,000
To fund the redesign and content redevelopment of the Museums’ website, with a focus on accessibility.

Friends of Resiliency for Life, Framingham, MA $25,000
To help pilot the expansion of the RFL program into Framingham middle schools.

John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation, Wayland, MA, $10,000
To pilot the position of Director of Strategic Partnerships for a four month period.


2015 Sudbury Program Grants:

Foundation for MetroWest, Natick, MA $45,000
Over three years, for continued support for the Sudbury Youth In Philanthropy program.

Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Sudbury, MA $15,000
To help subsidize the cost of the 2016 Global Leaders Summit in The Hague.

Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Sudbury, MA $9,050
To upgrade technology at the award-winning student newspaper, The Forum.

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, Sudbury, MA $9,000
For a comprehensive analysis of property holdings for planning and preservation purposes.

Parmenter Foundation, Sudbury, MA $7,000
To fund the development of a stand-alone website for the Foundation as Parmenter VNA merges with Care Group Home Care.

Town of Sudbury/Selectmen’s Office, Sudbury, MA $7,500
To engage the town’s board of selectmen in a team building and strategic communications consultation.

Town of Sudbury, Sudbury, MA $7,055
To purchase an Advanced Life System (ALS) training simulator manikin that will enable enhanced training scenarios for the Fire Department’s Paramedic and Emergency Medical Technicians.

Sudbury Valley Trustees, Sudbury, MA $24,600
To support ancillary activities to enhance the recently-acquired Landham Brook Marsh conservation area (formerly known as Johnson Farm) in Sudbury.

Posted June 23, 2015

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

TeenDVMonthThe statistics are disturbing:

  • One in three adolescent girls report that they have experienced physical, emotional, or verbal abuse by a dating partner.
  • It’s estimated that two-thirds never report that abuse.
  • The Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey finds that 1 in 10 teens report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.
  • Approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced.

(More statistics here.)

There are good programs around to help teens, educators and families face this troubling and hard-to-talk-about issue. Local and online resources include: REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Voices Against Violence, and Break the Cycle.

Raising awareness – through this month’s Teen DV Awareness campaign and other activities which educate people about the extent of the problem and help them learn to talk more openly about it — is a positive start. It sounds a bit trite but it does take a village to cope with issues like teen dating violence.

We need to ask ourselves: Do our children have enough caring, supportive adults in their lives who they can turn to if they find themselves in unhealthy relationships?

If you run a youth-serving agency, are you doing all you can to acknowledge the issue and to foster meaningful dialog between your staff and teens about healthy peer relationships?

Posted on February 4, 2015


The Value of Mentoring

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Be someone who mattersMentoring — whether formal or informal — is a powerful tool to keep young people on the right track, particularly kids who are disconnected from their community.

A new study commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership with support from AT&T, and written by Civic Enterprises in partnership with Hart Research, surveyed 1,109 young adults ages 18 to 21 to assess their mentoring experiences while they were growing up.

The study, The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring, found, among other things, that the mentoring effect can be a significant factor in reducing the number of youth disconnected from school and work, in increasing social and economic mobility, and in creating more productive and prosperous communities.

Highlights and Insights

Youth with mentors are more likely to report positive behaviors and less likely to report negative ones.

  • At-risk young adults who had a mentor are more likely to aspire to enroll in and graduate from college than those who did not have a mentor (76 percent versus 56 percent).
  • At-risk young adults who had a mentor are more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor (45 percent versus 29 percent).
  • At-risk young adults who had a mentor are more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who did not have a mentor (67 percent versus 37 percent).
  • At-risk young adults who had a mentor are more likely to hold a leadership position in a club, sports team, school council, or another group than those who did not have a mentor (51 percent versus 22).
  • At-risk young adults who had a mentor are more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities than those who did not have a mentor (48 percent versus 27).

Young people believe mentoring provides them with support and guidance to lead productive lives.

  • Youth report that formal mentoring programs provide a variety of benefits, and most commonly offer that they receive advice about school, get help with school issues and/or schoolwork. They also make reference to receiving help to address life problems, assistance in getting a job, choosing a career and getting into college – though these benefits were less commonly reported.
  • Youth in informal mentoring relationships commonly offer that their mentors provided developmental, more than academic, support. These mentors conveyed advice and encouragement to help them make good decisions, taught young adults how to make the right decisions and follow the right path and become motivated.
  • Nearly nine in ten respondents who were mentored report they are interested in becoming mentors. In addition to confirming the value of mentoring, this desire to become a mentor also strengthens the earlier finding that mentoring is linked with higher rates of leadership and volunteering and offers a pool of future mentors to be activated.

The field of mentoring has grown significantly but a mentoring gap exists.

  • One in three young people overall (34 percent) and even more at-risk youth (37 percent) report they never had an adult mentor of any kind (naturally occurring or structured) while they were growing up.
  • Nationwide, that means today approximately 16 million youth, including 9 million at-risk youth, will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor.
  • Youth who struggled with attendance, behavior, and course performance are 10 percentage points less likely to have an informal mentor than those without these risks (57 percent versus 67 percent). Four in five (79 percent) youth with these off-track indicators do not have a structured mentor.
  • On a positive note, an estimated 4.5 million at-risk young people will have a structured mentoring relationship while growing up.

Locally, there are lots of mentoring opportunities – both formal and informal – that support at-risk youth. But are there enough? Probably not. Is your agency doing it all can to foster meaningful relationships between youth and caring adults? January is National Mentoring Month, a good time assess programs and services through a mentoring lens.

Mentoring Resources:

The Power of a Mentor to Change a Young Life

Mass Mentoring Partnership

Mentoring: National Mentoring Partnership

The Search Institute

Posted January 8, 2015