Tag Archives: volunteerism

Holiday helpers – always in style! … From the American Cancer Society

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Road To Recovery Program Offers Free Rides For Cancer Patients and Flexible, Rewarding Volunteer Opportunity For Drivers

American Cancer Society Seeks Volunteer Drivers In Massachusetts This Holiday Season

Volunteering for a cause you believe in should be a rewarding experience for you, your family and your community, not another chore added to your already packed to-do list.

The American Cancer Society in Massachusetts this holiday season is asking residents all over the state to consider lending their time to the Road To Recovery program, which provides free rides to anyone going to cancer treatment appointments.

The flexibility of the commitment and easy online scheduling of rides accommodates drivers from all backgrounds, but the satisfaction of connecting cancer patients with life-saving treatments is the real benefit, many say.

“Road To Recovery gives drivers like me a chance to help patients get to vital appointments,” said Roger Medeiros, of Braintree, who began volunteering with Road To Recovery nearly 10 years ago, soon after he lost his wife to cancer. “I’m retired, so I don’t care about the time or distance, and it really helps me feel useful. Everyone is so appreciative of the rides.”

Volunteer drivers with Road To Recovery donate their time and use of their vehicles and sometimes provide encouragement and support.

Passengers may not own a car, can’t afford the extra gasoline or may be unable or too ill to drive.

They might not have access to public transportation or have no family members or friends who are able to postpone work or other activities to drive them.

In Massachusetts last year the Road To Recovery program provided 6,209 rides to 384 patients, but hundreds more ride requests went unmet because of a lack of volunteer drivers.

“I spoke with a man once who was paying for taxis from his home in Wareham to his treatments in Brockton,” said Medeiros, who also volunteers at the American Cancer Society’s Framingham office. “One woman I drove had previously taken public transportation from Fall River into Boston for her appointments; getting there was OK, but coming home was difficult because she was exhausted.”

It is estimated approximately 37,000 Bay State residents will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year, and getting to their scheduled treatment will be their greatest concern.

To volunteer, you must have a valid driver’s license, a safe and reliable vehicle and proof of automobile insurance. Drivers must be 18 years of age or older and have a good driving history. They arrange their own schedules and can commit as many or as few hours as their schedule allows. The American Cancer Society provides free training to drivers and conducts criminal background and driving record checks.

To learn more about becoming a Road To Recovery volunteer visit www.Cancer.org/volunteer.

Meet the wonderful Boa Newgate: leader in Worcester’s Vietnamese community!

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Go, Boa Newgate, go!!!

By Joey Cancelmo

I met Boa Newgate years ago when he first started a Worcester inner-city kids program to give back to the community.  I said to myself, “That’s great but it will wear off.” I was wrong, very wrong. Boa has built an entire community out of selfless volunteering, gaining unsolicited awards for his unbelievable kindness and generosity. Visiting the the South East Asian Coalition in downtown Worcester this past Christmas I saw hundreds of Toys for Tots bags all with family names on them with age appropriate toys all wrapped and ready to go to the families in need, many refugees, many new to Christmas. This is one of Boa’s many ways of sharing across cultures, which is now his life’s mission.  

He has 3 key points to focus on “Awareness, to keep traditions alive for future generations, Education to know your surroundings and excel in life, and health, not just physical but mental and volunteering to give it back.”
Today his programs are what he calls a “wrap around program.” Boa states: “We nurture and take these kids in and point them in the right direction, they go to school, then to college, and when they graduate they come back to the center to volunteer. Keeping it real and alive and constantly keeping it fresh is the key to making it work.”
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Honoring your roots…

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Working towards a brighter future – the kids volunteering at a South Worcester neighborhood clean up.

Boa points out the picture collages he puts together every year to show the progress of the teams and how far they have come.  He has a program of Asian line dances, with the dragon heads traditionally done once a year for New Year’s, he does fourca year with competitions and practice, because doing so makes every kid want to win.  Boa told me that “Every move means something, when the head turns, or bows, or when the eye’s move, and they are very heavy and have many parts to operate, eyes, ears, mouths etc.”

They have several dragons at the organization, each one costing between $800 and $1000 each.  All donated.

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Boa himself is no stranger to needing help. Born of Cambodian and Vietnamese parents his family lived in a refugee camp before Boa, his parents and three siblings moved to America. The United States was new territory and a whole new culture to absorb.

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Boa and his family in the refugee camp – he’s the baby in photo! Final destination, America!

Boa integrated, mixed with with his classmates in school and started to learn boxing. His life as a child was sort of parentless, as his folks worked around the clock, nonstop, to get established in this country.  

Growing up this way he sought out other Vietnamese kids and learned they all had the same predicament. So he started a club!They had a small space on Chandler Street where he took other inner city kids and taught them boxing. They were young, lean and getting stronger and happier, because let’s face it endorphins are the best smile producers out there! These kids had a purpose, and it grew and it grew.
 
Boa used his resources and made an arrangement with the Boys and Girls Club around 2007 to use space to continue his mission. Which now expanded to swimming as well. It was only for Vietnamese kids at first, but then there were other Asian kids that wanted in, Chinese, Cambodian, and Burmese etc. So with more kids came more issues, like transportation.

What did Boa do? He worked and worked and got donations to buy, repair and register and insure a school bus, all on his own, basically using it as his car, and transported kids to and from the center. 

Now this was turning into a curiosity shop of sorts because parents wanted to know what this center was about.

So in 2011 he procured space in the Denholm’s building and started his mission with new classes, including music, art, acrobatics, dancing, anything that involved culture. I had the pleasure of cooking for his first Thanksgiving party, I brought the traditional turkey, stuffing, potatoes and vegetables, others brought Asian treats, and one friend Kris brought a buffalo dip that is now a staple to the event.  There were 30 or so kids at the first party, now there are 100’s.  One turkey does not cut it anymore.

Five years ago Boa started to introduce Asian LGBT issues at the Asian Festival, it didn’t go over well.  He is an advocate for equality, and he says “unfortunately in the Asian Community, gay is a stigma and it is shameful to the family.  They honestly think you catch it from a hand shake or a cough”  The result of this stigma is suicide, he told me “Asians have the highest rate of suicide because they are not accepted by their family, never mind the society and I want to stop that and make people aware”.  I had no idea and was floored. He still is an advocate for them and they are welcome to the center, where they get to mingle with new generations and family’s coming in. All while keeping Asian traditions alive and well to newborn kids that would not get that anymore, and it is working.  

When you go to the center the kids actually want to perform, or show you their project, last year I played a game with salt and a hard-boiled egg, it was fun, frustrating and challenging and it didn’t come with a box.  Basically you make a small mountain of salt, place the egg on top and blow the sand away without tipping the egg over, I never laughed so hard!

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Boa’s group gives back to the community … a part of Worcester, Boston, America …

This year alone Boa and his organization has been honored with four awards, forced to speak by his director at such places as Harvard, this shy quiet behind the scenes guy does not like public speaking and hi will be the first to tell you he can’t. What he says is his story, from his hear, and what the kids are doing as if they were his own, and that’s when the audience tears up.  His most recent Award was in October from the YWCA, the “Great Guy Award” to “end violence against women”.  You can’t get better than that, the Commonwealth honored them with an award of Excellence, a Humanitarian Award, and an award for being a model Non-Profit organization. All these were in a box until he recently had the courage to build shelves and display them with his awesome collages.  

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Boa raises money for his group by participating in various fundraising events …

By the way, Boa only started receiving a pay check a couple years ago when a Board of Directors was formed. Just saying.

So in closing, this is what I feel is the true spirit of America. The organization still needs donations; funds are always needed for the programs – any donation is appreciated, even if it is just your time. Worcester’s college students from WPI, Clark, MPCHS and others all volunteer to tutor the kids – it’s a beautiful thing.  

Check Boa and his group out at www.seacma.org or email Boa at boa@seama.org to learn more. The agency is located in the former Denholm’s building 484 Main St., suite 400.  

Did you know Billy, owner of the Broadway restaurant and catering, …

By Rosalie Tirella

… has been cooking the Thanksgiving dinners for Catholic Charities holiday meals for the elderly/disabled FOR ALMOST 15 YEARS?

That’s right! THOUSANDS OF MEALS! HUNDREDS OF HOURS OF FOOD PREP – HARD WORK AND HUSTLE IN THE HOT BROADWAY KITCHEN … FOR MORE THAN 15 YEARS. FOR FREE. VOLUNTEERING for Worcester. And Billy shuns the spotlight! Doesn’t want the recognition – just wants plenty of elbow room in the Broadway kitchen to prepare the hundreds of turkey meals for Worcester seniors, while his waitresses and cooks do the other work – serving the Broadway customers who come to this Worcester culinary landmark on 100 Water St. for the sweet ambiance as much as the amazing breakfasts, bottomless cups of coffee and homemade baked mac and cheese.

Billy is for family, church, friendship, silly jokes, smiles, bantering with customers, rescuing dogs …

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Jett loves visiting the Broadway where the waitresses sneak him strips of bacon when Rosalie isn’t looking!

… talking city politics with city pols!, giving the poor kids sitting at his counter big $2.50 homemade Broadway ice cream cones for a buck cuz that’s what the kids put down on his counter, while twirling around on those red vinyl Broadway seats and chatting Billy up. Everyone is smiling and laughing … Billy especially!

BILLY IS THE BEST! He is the best of what Worcester once stood for and still stands for in many quarters. Not the fake gentrifiers who use social media to catapult themselves into a kind of fake prominence with their mostly fake friends … and cheat along the way, ever so skillfully. They’re an affront to the Green Island that so many of us remember and love – the Green Island that was all about authenticity, modesty, being so good, so true outside the limelight for your neighborhood, for your city, for your husband or wife, for your kids. You just did a good thing. Period.

Thanksgiving time the Broadway is for remembering Worcester’s poor, Worcester’s forgotten – frail old folks who won’t be able to cook their own Thanksgiving feast and may not be going out to celebrate with family – or even have family with whom to break holiday bread.

Every year Billy and his family fill the gap! They get the call from the Bishop, and Billy and the wonderful Broadway folks step up and volunteer.

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The Broadway is located at 100 Water St., Worcester!

Every year about this time, if you walk into the Broadway, you’ll see Billy and his wife Betsy and their staff (most of them with the Broadway for years) running all around the big yet cozy kitchen pulling scores of basted and baked turkeys out of huge shiny silver ovens, with long doors, carving the turkeys up, spooning mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and veggies into the aluminum trays that scores of Elder Services of Worcester County volunteers will deliver to Worcester seniors. And the seniors get gravy … and dessert! Billy is focused, running up the tile floor to fetch a huge pot, a helper is stirring the gravy, big ladles and spoons are dipped into big pots and pans, the prep table in the center of the kitchen is overflowing with all things good and tasty … the place smells like heaven. After all, it’s the Bishop who provides the birds! But Billy provides everything else: the sides, the cooking, the work (all those pots, pans and utensils to wash!) Most of all, BEST OF ALL … THE LOVE.

Thanks, Billy!

West Side: Fitness Circuit Built at Newton Hill with Local Funding and Volunteer Labor!

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Jett has yet to explore Newton Hill (with Lilac, of course)!

On Sunday, August 30, members of the Friends of Newton Hill at Elm Park and volunteer students from Worcester State University worked together to install the final two platform boxes to complete stage one of the implementation of Newton Hill’s new fitness circuit.

About a dozen students from the Community and Leadership Experience at Worcester State (CLEWS) program helped to install the wooden box frames and spread stone dust at two locations off Highland Street on either side of Doherty Memorial High School.

The work completed Sunday completed stage one of the fitness circuit install for the Friends of Newton Hill, as all twelve stations placed around the Newton Hill section of Elm Park now feature an elevated platform box. The ten other boxes were built and installed by the Park Stewards Summer Work Program with the help of the Friends of Newton Hill.

The Friends of Newton Hill conceived of the fitness circuit – a twelve station circuit featuring elevated boxes with apparatuses to facilitate different exercises – earlier this year and secured $15,000 in funding from the George F and Sybil H Fuller Foundation, Spencer Bank, and Serrato Signs. Plans for the fitness course were presented to and approved by the Parks Commission in June.

Newton Hill’s fitness circuit will be the first of its kind in Worcester County. Circuit training is a popular fitness trend and parcourse-style fitness stations are adaptable to different exercises and accessible by people of all skill level. The course will expand upon the recreational opportunities already provided at Newton Hill, like disc golf, hiking, cross-country, tennis, and basketball, with the hopes of attracting more visitors and improving the health of the community.

Stage two of the project, which involves the installation of informational signs featuring recommended exercises for each station and the exercise equipment, will be completed by early October by members of the Friends of Newton Hill and volunteers from a number of local colleges.

Local students have played a pivotal role in the Friends of Newton Hill’s maintenance and enhancement of the park. This past spring, students from Worcester State University, coordinated by the Honorable John J. Binienda Center for Civic Engagement, helped to plant a perennial flower bed around the Newton Square World War II Memorial. Worcester State University has supported the Friends of Newton Hill’s efforts by helping to coordinate volunteer work for its students since 2011.

Other local colleges have also taken advantage of Newton Hill’s abundance of volunteer opportunity. Students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity helped to shovel out the Newton Square Memorial and to paint the park benches in Newton Square this past spring. Students from Clark University and Assumption College helped to shovel out Newton Square’s basketball course in late March, making it spring’s first usable outdoor court. And, Students from Assumption College frequently intern with the Friends of Newton Hill, performing a number of parks maintenance activities.

Thank you, volunteers!

By Sue Moynagh

The holiday season is behind us now, and I think it would be a great time to recognize all those who volunteered their time and effort to help make these days special for those in need. There is something about the Thanksgiving and Christmas season that brings out the “spirit of giving” and makes people want to reach out to their neighbors, especially those who may not be as fortunate as they are.

A volunteer is defined as a person who freely chooses to help someone or offers services without coercion or pay. There are many reasons that a person volunteers, but usually it is a way to share and connect with those who may be going through tough times, a way to give thanks for the blessings that we often take for granted, or just a way to feel good about oneself. For many, it is to help in some way to make the world a better place. In any case, these generous people provide essential services to churches, agencies and organizations that sponsor events that benefit others. The “Toys for Tots” drive is one of many holiday events that emphasize the importance of volunteers.

Most people are familiar with “Toys for Tots.” This campaign to make Christmas special for children is sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps, who do an outstanding job every year. New toys and games are collected and distributed to those who register and qualify. I spoke to Anita Gallant from Oak Hill CDC who acts as a one-on-one liaison between the Marines and Worcester area agencies. She also oversees the registration and distribution of toys by local non- profit groups. About 25 to 30 such agencies participate in the program each year. Anita has been acting in this capacity for 12 years now and deserves a special thank you for her hard work. Continue reading Thank you, volunteers!

The Community Ministries Fund: Making a difference in Worcester County

By Matt Wexler

Improving our community is a noble goal, one that every citizen should aspire to. In particular, the Worcester area’s churches and congregations believe helping the community is of the utmost importance. Nothing demonstrates this better than the Community Ministries Fund, which has been supporting local social improvement efforts for the past several years.

The Community Ministries Fund was established in 2006 by the Worcester Area Mission Society and the Worcester Area United Methodists. For years, these groups had funded seed grants to local neighborhood programs, hoping to improve the lives of those living there. Yet a more united effort was needed to effect the big lasting changes these churches hoped were hoping for. Continue reading The Community Ministries Fund: Making a difference in Worcester County