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Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts’

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Photo: NBC Boston
Project Home Again helps low-income families get on their feet again with furniture from donors such as movie companies finished with their stage sets.

I love writing about experiments that someone has thought up to help people in need. Usually the initiatives blossom and flourish, like the one I will tell you about today. But now is as good a time as any to admit that occasionally an experiment fails (consider one I wrote about helping displaced miners learn coding). I guess, for me, the bottom line is that you have to risk failure in order to move forward. No successes without failures.

In Lawrence and Andover, Mass., success seems to follow each new effort that Project Home Again tries out.

As Judith Kogan reported at WGBH, “When a film is made, sets are built and decorated to make a story seem real. And now in Massachusetts, when filming is done, those sets are having real-life impact, empowering people trying to rebuild their lives to design their own homes, free of charge. …

” ‘Say we’re decorating a dining room,’ explained Melissa Cooperman, a set decorator and buyer for films and commercials shot in Massachusetts. ‘We’ll need a table, we’ll need chairs, carpet, dishes, glasses, artwork for the wall, lighting, curtains, and window treatments.’

“When a film wraps, the producer needs to decide what to do with the accumulated stuff, often an abundance of home goods.

“Cooperman worked on the 2014 television mini-series ‘Olive Kitteridge,’ which was shot on the North Shore and Cape Ann. It had a fully-furnished house and apartment, and fully-stocked drug store.

“ ‘They said they wanted to donate everything,’ Cooperman recalled. …

“Project Home Again gets goods to where they’re most needed and wanted, partnering with about 400 social workers, founder and president Nancy Kanell said.”

Social workers ” ‘go to their clients’ homes with a checklist of everything that we stock. And they sit down with their clients and they go room by room, and decide what they need to make them feel comfortable,’ Kanell said. …

“Project Home Again serves refugees, veterans, people transitioning from halfway houses, and survivors of domestic violence.

“ ‘When they come here,’ Kanell said of the abuse survivors, ‘we roll out the red carpet.’ … Kanell remembers one particular survivor: ‘She came on a day we were closed because she was very afraid of her own shadow at that point. And she just wanted beige. She said she didn’t like color, didn’t deserve color.’

“Kanell and Cooperman found her a green chair.

“ ‘A green that people would be either very drawn to or very opposed to having in their home,’ Kanell recalled. ‘But there was something about it she liked. She sat down on it.’ …

“Kanell and Cooperman started pulling colorful rugs and a colorful table to go with the chair. …

“ ‘She was uncomfortable with it, but you could see she was starting to like it. And I made a deal with her that she could take it home, and if she didn’t like the color, I’d come and pick it up, and she could get all beige things. We even had colorful pots and pans for her! And she called about two weeks later. She said she and her son were so happy they were living in a colorful world, and it changed their outlook.’

“Project Home Again hasn’t just been changing lives. It’s changed the industry as well. Many set decorators now have Nancy Kanell on speed dial so they can get rid of their stuff as quickly as possible.” More here.

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My first glimpses of snowdrops and crocus blooms in 2019 may not look like much as photographs, but if you’ve ever lived where winter temperatures go below zero, you know what the first flowers mean to everyone in the Northeast. Hooray! Celebration time!

The other joy is the quality of the sunlight, which I have tried to capture a little here. All these Massachusetts rambles feature the welcome, warming sun.

The Paddington Bear birdhouse is from the bookshop collection that I wrote about here. The chimney against the brilliant blue sky is atop the Colonial Inn. The little stone by the Main Streets Café flower box says, “Start each day with a grateful heart.”

The meditative circle of stones on a bench was outside Emerson Hospital’s wellness center, which includes meditation in many of its classes.

Shadows from objects in a window caught my eye on my way down the stairs. The garage door is a favorite photography subject for me, probably because of the light. The cardinal and the bird feeder make me think of the wonderful children’s biography of artist Horace Pippin called A Splash of Red — a reference to one of the self-taught artist’s signature touches. My older granddaughter likes looking for the splashes of red in the book.

The last photo is of a quiet street in early morning light.

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Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Dean Kaplan and Sarah Heintz chatted in the apartment they share in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Empty nesters are faced with a challenge: they hate to leave their home, but maybe it would be practical to get a smaller, cheaper place with more people around and less snow shoveling in winter. Meanwhile, grad students have a different conundrum: their university may be in a high-rent area, but they don’t have much money.

Idea!

Dugan Arnett at the Boston Globe describes one creative solution that is working out for both empty-nesters and young adults.

“After living with more than a dozen different roommates in his young life, most of them strangers, Dean Kaplan is well-versed in the particulars of those first meetings — the short introductions, the perfunctory pleasantries, and then the quick getting on with life. …

“In late August, though, as he stood on the front porch of a sizable multistory house in Cambridge ready to meet his newest roommate, he found himself uncharacteristically nervous and eager to make a good first impression.

“Of all the roommates he’d had in the previous few years, Sarah Heintz would be the first septuagenarian. In fact, Kaplan, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and Heintz, a 77-year-old whose grown daughter now lives across town, are part of an experiment in connecting young people in need of cheap rent with older residents who wouldn’t mind a little extra companionship and an occasional hand around the house.

“The notion is driven by the Boston area’s housing crisis, which has propelled rents through the stratosphere [while] some 90,000 spare bedrooms are going unused in the homes of aging empty-nesters.

“That got a pair of MIT urban-planning graduate students thinking: Those rooms might be valuable to young people, especially students. And they might also provide a way for older people, who increasingly are living alone, to stay in their homes as they age.

“ ‘They get helped around the house, doing everyday sorts of things — walking the dogs, going grocery shopping, technology tutoring, and feeling that they can help a young person get started in their life,’ said one of the students, Noelle Marcus.

“To match these odd couples, Marcus and classmate Rachel Goor last year launched a startup called Nesterly, which works roughly on the principles of a dating app, with searchable online profiles and features that help work out details of a lease. …

“That day in August when Kaplan showed up on Heintz’s porch, he came with his mother and some luggage stuffed with clothes. Heintz invited them in and gave them a tour.

“At first glance, they would seem an unlikely pairing. … But as Heintz led Kaplan and his mother through the house, his nerves started to ease.

“ ‘The walls are covered in books,’ Kaplan said later. ‘And that made me feel at home immediately.’ …

“Under the terms of their lease agreement, rent is $800 a month (about half the cost of apartments Kaplan had been looking at before the arrangement with Heintz), knocked down to $700 if he devotes eight hours each month to helping Heintz with a range of chores.

“But even without that incentive, they said, they’ve discovered they like doing favors for one another. He helps in the garden and gives her a hand logging into her e-mail account; she offers him rides to Market Basket and recently taught him the proper way to gut a fish.” Read more here.

I love this idea, but I just have to say one thing. There are plenty of septuagenarians who don’t need help logging on to their email accounts. It’s a lazy journalistic assumption that is really starting to grate.

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Photo: William Raynard/Essex County Sheriff’s Department
From left, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger and department director of food services Kathy Lawrence meet with program director Kate Benashski, Carlos Zagada, and Josiel Cabrera from Haven From Hunger on the farm at the Essex County Pre-Release Center in Lawrence.

Most of my posts about people helping people must seem like a drop in the bucket to readers: the problems of this world are so enormous. But I like to think about what can be accomplished by, say, one person whose better nature is released by a program like the one for ex-offenders described here. And I like to think of the way many such efforts can accumulate to improve the world.

Morgan Hughes writes at the Boston Globe, “Drive around the back of the Essex County Pre-release and Re-Entry center in Lawrence, and you’ll find 6 acres of pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and gourds.

“Inmates at the center run the farm, which yields about 50,000 pounds of produce each season to feed others who are incarcerated and the wider community. Located just behind Interstate 495, the farm is fertile ground for personal growth.

“ ‘We’re giving jobs to the inmates, we use the crops, but it’s also an opportunity to give back to the community,’ Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said.

“At the moment, the farm has about seven inmates who volunteer to plant, maintain, and harvest the produce. They feed not only the roughly 200 inmates at the pre-release center, but those at the Middleton House of Correction and Women in Transition, a women’s pre-release center in Salisbury.

“The facility purchases meals from a third-party food vendor, but the kitchen incorporates the fresh produce into the menu whenever possible.

“ ‘They live there, so they can really see the fruits of their labor,’ Coppinger said.

“About 30,000 pounds go to food pantries and homeless shelters in the Merrimack Valley and throughout the North Shore, said Kathy Lawrence, director of food services for the sheriff’s department. …

“She said, ‘What we can do sometimes is either incorporate [our produce] into the menu and serve it in addition to what’s being prepared, or we can substitute in ratatouille instead of giving them frozen green beans.’

“But even when the harvest is over and the ground begins to freeze, these hyperlocal vegetables are used throughout the year, Lawrence said. Bell and Italian peppers are frozen to use in casserole dishes. The butternut squash is also kept in the freezer and saved for special holiday meals.

“Heather Bonanno-Baker is manager of both Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen and the farm at the pre-release center. She took over duties from her father, who helped inmates run the farm for at least 15 years.

“She said she teaches inmates how to plant and water the crops, manage pests, and harvest at the end of the season. She shows them what a vegetable looks like when it’s ready to be picked, and how to wash it before it goes to a kitchen.

“ ‘I’m big into teaching the public about agriculture, growing your own food, and where it comes from,’ Bonanno-Baker said. …

“When Lawrence collected some feedback from the farm workers, she said some common themes were ‘a sense of pride in what they’ve grown’ and feeling rewarded to be able to give back to the community. One told her: ‘Hard work leads to positive results.’

“Lawrence teaches ServSafe to inmates working in the kitchen, a certification in food safety necessary for many jobs in the food industry. Coppinger said working on the farm provides another skill they could use to find a job when they are released.

“ ‘From the minute you arrive at intake in Middleton, to when you are about to be released at the pre-release center is trying to get them in better shape to get out of here and not come back,’ he said.

‘I always like to say, “Thanks for coming, but don’t come back.” ‘

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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Photos: Lowell Sun/Rick Sobey
Gardener Thomas Sarantakis harvests a watermelon at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden in Lowell, Massachusetts. The garden was recently highlighted in a podcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Many of us are fascinated by news from distant parts of the world. At Suzanne‘s Mom’s Blog, as you know, stories of far-away events and customs get featured quite a lot.

Today in a twist, I’m highlighting something the London-based British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wrote about near-to-me Lowell, Massachusetts.

Rick Sobey at the Lowell Sun wrote a story about the story in late August.

“The community garden is blossoming in Back Central. Giant kale as tall as the 5-foot, 8-inch gardener, in addition to monster zucchini and an enormous pumpkin.

” ‘Wow, they’re, like, Jurassic,’ Alexis Pancrazi says of the kale at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden.

“Pancrazi speaks to gardeners, immigrants and others to learn about the community gardens’ impact across the city. She recently released her findings in a 27-minute podcast segment as part of BBC World Service’s ‘Neighbourhood’ series. The title of the radio segment broadcast last week was ‘How a Garden Grows.’

” ‘We’ve been working with her for over a year on that piece, so we were really excited it finally aired,’ said Lydia Sisson, co-director of Mill City Grows. … ‘We hope this will bring more attention to the power that community gardens have.’

“The segment shines a light on Mill City Grows’ first community garden, the Rotary Club garden founded in 2012. … The segment discusses how community gardens across the country are blossoming in the place of empty lots and blight.

“In Lowell, the community gardens are helping improve urban access to fresh produce, Pancrazi says.

” ‘It’s so much more than just the food,’ says Mill City Grows Co-Director Francey Slater. ‘It’s the sense of belonging to a community. It’s the people that you meet. That sense of ownership you develop — transforming a piece of your neighborhood that had been blighted and ugly and vacant and dilapidated, into something that’s really rich and lush and welcoming. … There’s something so celebratory about that.’ …

“The series is a collaboration between the BBC World Service and the Sundance Institute. It’s available for streaming here.”

More from the Lowell Sun here.

Hat tip: Meredith on Facebook.

Flowers at the Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden in Lowell.

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My new photography resolution, which I hope to stick to through the winter, is to capture shadows whenever the sun is out. Apart from the fact that I really like sunlight and shadow, I know I can find examples even in months when the photographic attractions of flowers and sailboats are not in evidence.

Today’s photo collection includes Massachusetts fall color, decorations for Halloween (I particularly liked that there were three witches, as in Shakespeare), curiosities from the MIT Museum (I loved Arthur Ganson‘s walking wishbone — and all his kinetic sculptures), and a graffiti warning in a Central Square alley.

“Come away, O human child!
“To the waters and the wild
“With a faery, hand in hand,
“For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Read the rest of the W.B. Yeats poem here.

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September is already more than half over. How did that happen? Before it’s time for photos of Jack o’ Lanterns, here are a few pictures of September in Massachusetts. Most were taken by me, but the lovely praying mantis photo is my husband’s.

The star clematis has gone berserk all over town this September. So pretty. The herb garden is behind my church, as are the church sexton’s lovingly tended bonsai trees. Mist is rising over the community garden in the early morning.  I shot the ear of corn in the garden of the Old Manse. The great-looking fungus was along the conservation trail by the river. I do find fungus extraordinarily intricate and beautiful. If you’re on Instagram, follow @chasonw for some great examples.

The elephant looks real but is a statue at a home in my neighborhood. Not a street I usually walk down, so I was really taken by surprise when I passed it recently. The offbeat ceramics are in the window of the Lacoste/Keane Gallery, and the glass jellyfish are in a shop called Artisans Way.

I wind up this array with an end-of-summer farmers market, where a tiny boy with a tiny guitar was emulating a musician and a little girl was making friends with a goat.

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