This holiday season, we are exceptionally grateful for all the work our City Connects staff, schools, and community partners are doing to help families.
As the country battles the pandemic, and many communities face scarce resources and dimmed charitable giving, City Connects Coordinators are still helping families find the ingredients for holiday happiness.
In Salem, Mass., City Connects Program Manager Ellen Wingard is using a spreadsheet to track the 225 turkeys — donated by local community partner It Starts with ME!
This year, instead of having schools deliver the turkeys, Wingard and her team have collected the names of families in need and set up a central pick-up site where families can get the turkeys as well as additional food from The Salem Pantry and meals from Salem Public Schools.
“It’s one-stop shopping,” Wingard says. “And for families whom we haven’t identified, who still need turkeys, we’ll connect them to the Salvation Army. Many of our restaurants are also doing meals, and so we’re trying to communicate that as broadly as we can.”
The study was written byAmy Heberle, a psychology professor at Clark University and a former City Connects research fellow; Úna Ní Sheanáin, a former post-doctoral fellow who worked with City Connects; Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director and a professor at Boston College; and by City Connects graduate assistants Anna Hamilton and Agnes Chung, and former City Connects Coordinator Victoria Eells Lutas.
“When children walk into their schools, they make everyone feel what they feel. Teachers, principals, even superintendents can all feel the burdens students carry, especially those who struggle with poverty and despair. Some children talk about their challenges. Others don’t. Either way, educators and administrators feel the weight of the hunger, homelessness, mental health challenges, incarceration of parents, and other hardships that many children bear. We have to feel it, because being connected to children is the only way that we can successfully do our jobs.”Continue reading →
In the past, Stephanie Sanabria, a City Connects Coordinator in Springfield, Mass., had beenknown as the Bed Lady because she helped secure beds for local families.
Now, she’s essentially been promoted to Desk Wizard.
“The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless helps us with beds,” through its A Bed for Every Child initiative, Sanabria says. “But they realized that the need goes beyond beds. Because of remote learning, kids also need desks. When I got the coalition’s email about this, I thought, We need this in Springfield.”
Sanabria’s long-standing relationship with the coalition made it easier to bring this resource to Springfield students.Continue reading →
In Salem, Mass., coping with COVID-19 and building greater racial equity is a community effort that relies in part on City Connects.
So far this fall, Salem Public Schools’ classes have all been remote, with some higher-needs children doing their remote learning in school buildings where they’re supervised by adults. But as Salem’s new Superintendent, Stephen Zrike,recently announced, the city plans to switch to a hybrid model later this month.
“I think the fact that all of our pre-K-to-eight schools have City Connects as their system of student support was really a boon for us during COVID,” Ellen Wingard, Salem’s City Connects Program Manager, says.
The priority for Wingard and the City Connects Coordinators she supervises has been meeting basic needs, connecting families to food and to help with housing. Wingard’s school and city colleagues have put together one-page resource sheets for coordinators and families so they can see what services are available.
In addition, as part of a new family intervention strategy, Salem Public Schools staff members, including teachers and paraprofessionals, have been gathering information on students’ needs by reaching out every week to ten families and asking five questions:Continue reading →