CAAS Seeks a Photo Ambassador!

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Ambassador Description:

CAAS seeks a local photographer interested in learning about non-profit marketing and storytelling. CAAS is expanding its marketing capacity by building a library of usable photos to portray our mission and our work. The ambassador will be responsible for taking, editing, and submitting photos to CAAS that capture the people and places of Somerville. CAAS will have an exclusive license to use these photos. Other projects could include staff and board headshots. Compensation per photo based on experience.


Qualifications:

Must have own photography equipment and editing capabilities. Photos must be a minimum of 1500 pixels.  Familiar with Somerville geography and demographics. Previous experience in a culturally diverse setting helpful. Interested applicants should send portfolio and references to Kate Berliner, Development & Communications Associate; kberliner@caasomerville.org

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CAAS Community Needs Assessment

Our most recent Community Assessment Report & Strategic Plan is complete! This Plan presents the major findings from our 2017 community needs assessment and outlines a three-year plan with specific actions for addressing the community’s most pressing needs.


The low-income community in Somerville lives in a context of serious change and disruption. Political uncertainty in Washington, the effects of decades of worsening income and wealth inequality, and rapid gentrification locally are combining in ways that can only be described as a crisis, calling for systemic change. Our response to this call is rooted in the belief that solutions can and will arise from the imagination and capacity of the community itself. Our community needs fundamental change, and we will respond.


The Top 3 Community Needs articulated by our community are the need for more affordable housing, jobs that pay enough to cover basic living expenses and high-quality, affordable care for children of all ages, seniors and people with disabilities. CAAS, in partnership with the community, will:

1. Advocate and organize for the preservation and creation of safe and affordable housing and will directly help those threatened with eviction

2. Advocate for development that increases the supply of and access to higher-paying jobs for Somerville residents

3. Increase the availability (through our own Head Start program and in partnership with other providers) of high-quality, affordable care for low-income children, disabled persons and seniors.

 

 

Summer 2017 Community Organizing Updates!

The organizing department at CAAS continues to build tenant power! At Clarendon Hill, a public housing project that is set to be re-developed in the next several years, resident leaders have been negotiating with developers to ensure that no one is displaced and that current residents receive benefits from this project. The tenants have won almost all of the things they initially asked for, including the right to two temporary apartment options for each family, the right for everyone to return after the renovation, and access to common spaces in the new market rate apartment buildings. The leaders continue to fight for the right for families with kids in Somerville Public Schools to be able to stay in Somerville during the renovation. At Pearl Street Park, an elderly affordable housing complex, residents have just officially formed a resident association, which will foster community within the building and advocate for residents' rights.

CAAS Champions Donor Challenge kicks off with donation matching

We have set an exciting and ambitious goal for the summer: doubling the number of monthly donors giving automatically to the organization.

We can’t do this without your help!

This week we launch our first-ever CAAS Champions Donor Challenge, asking community members to sign up to give monthly and become “CAAS Champions,” members of our new donor appreciation program. Monthly donors typically give a set amount each month, automatically through a credit card or bank account.

“We’re excited to be launching this program as a way of appealing to people who don’t currently give on a monthly basis, with the added bonus of recognizing and honoring those donors with the Champions program,” said CAAS Executive Director David Gibbs.

The timing of the Champions program is no accident. Two anonymous donors have agreed to match donations made by donors who sign up for monthly giving in July and August. In response, the Donor Challenge kicks off July 1 and runs through August.

Summer is a critical time to acquire new donors and commitments to monthly giving. CAAS has limited unrestricted funding to spend on activities like direct client assistance and community organizing. With federal funding at risk due to the current administration there is no time like the present to commit to end poverty where we live! Become a CAAS Champion today!

“The majority of our current donors opt to give once annually,” said David Gibbs. “Those donations are incredibly important to our ability to serve our clients. They provide us with a source of flexible funding that we can use to respond to emerging needs as they arise.”

However, for nonprofits like CAAS, those annual donations are just one side of the coin. Donations in the form of regular, monthly installments provide CAAS with more funding reliability and allow longer-term planning for programming and services throughout the year.

A strong base of regular, incremental donations over time appeals to corporations and grant-giving organizations, and helps solicit further donations from these sources. When a philanthropic-minded organization makes decisions as to which agencies it will award grants or partnerships, it takes into account whether an agency like CAAS already has a solid base of support from the community. Building up a strong monthly donor program will help CAAS directly in providing services to our neighbors, and it also makes us more attractive to other funding sources.

“Making a monthly commitment to CAAS reflects the priority I place on supporting the programs and people helped by CAAS.” said CAAS Champion Judy Perlman, “Each month when my donation is made, I think of it as my way of saying “thank you” to the people who do this work for our neighbors. I love that I get to say “thank you” 12 times a year instead of just once.”

“And I particularly love giving on a monthly basis because it’s so easy and automatic.  I already have so many things to remember and keep track of, but signing up for monthly donations took just a few minutes and that was it. It’s more convenient for me and better for CAAS. Win-win!”

If you are one of many local donors who would otherwise wait until the end of the year to donate an annual gift to CAAS, the organization asks that you consider becoming a CAAS Champion instead. CAAS Champions will receive special “thank you” benefits, including CAAS T-Shirts for the first two donors to sign up, digital badges to post on social media, and special recognition at events and in publications.

It takes just a few minutes and these easy steps to become a Champion:

  1. Visit http://www.caasomerville.org/donate
  2. Fill out the online donation form

For more information, contact Kate Berliner, kberliner@caasomerville.org or (617) 623-7370 x168.

 

CAAS Website Redesign - Request for Proposals!

CAAS Website Redesign RFP

Responses due by July 1st, 2017.

Intro / Project Overview —

Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is looking for assistance in redesigning its website. We have a basic skeletal website now, hosted on Squarespace. We would like our new website to be hosted on Wordpress.Additionally, we would like to improve the access and ease of use of the website. We anticipate that much of the content will remain the same.However, we will look to make visual and navigational improvements. We would like to have this new website up and running by a date to be negotiated, but as soon as reasonably feasible.

Company Overview —

Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is the local federally designated anti-poverty organization. We are a Community Action Agency and belong to the national Community Action Network. The mission of the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is to reduce poverty among local families and individuals while working to counteract - and whenever possible, eliminate - the societal conditions that cause and perpetuate poverty.

CAAS has three major programs: Head Start, Homelessness Prevention (HPP), and Community Outreach. Head Start is a comprehensive developmental preschool program that provides a variety of services to approximately 250 low-income children and their families each year in Somerville and Cambridge. HPP provides a wide range of services to over 375 low-income Somerville residents at risk of homelessness each year. Community Outreach engages CAAS families in collectively pushing for social change through anti-poverty, issue-based campaign work that shifts public policy in Somerville.

Your Audience —

CAAS has 4 general audiences for the website:

  • Donors and funders looking to get more information about our work and ways to give.
  • Potential volunteers and community members looking to get involved with CAAS through giving or volunteering
  • Clients looking for information about enrolling in Head Start, Head Start activities, or Homelessness Prevention help who are in crisis mode.
  • Partner organizations looking for program details or contact information to refer clients to CAAS.

New Website Objectives —

The primary objectives of the new website are:

  • Provide information about who CAAS is in general and what services we offer
  • Attract new donors and volunteers and make it easy for them to give or sign up
  • Ease of making updates and adding content and new pages
  • Ease of navigation and responsive on cellphones, tablets, and desktops
  • Clean and clear navigation and design

Current Website —

At this point in time our website is not easy to navigate. The design feels clunky and messy and is not generally intuitive. We would like the architecture redesigned in a way that flows and links pages in a way that makes more sense for users. We would also like to implement a much cleaner design with fonts and colors that are very bold and easy to read. Currently, the page names listed in the menu don’t accurately describe the nested pages within them.

New Website Functionality Requirements —

We would like 2 clicks for people to be able to donate, volunteer, enroll in Head Start, or request more information in general. We want the website to function as easily for clients as for volunteers and donors. We also want people to know exactly what CAAS does based on the homepage without having to click any further. We require hosting with an SSL certificate.

Ecommerce Details —

We currently accept donations through Paypal and hope to greatly increase this traffic in the near future. We are open to using Stripe or another payment gateway. We would like to optimize the donation page for one time donations and for monthly giving.

The donations page requirements :

  • Ideally a multi-page form similar to to https://act.350.org/donate/build/
  • The form should include recurring donations with the amount customized by user, recurring donations with a suggested donation, or a one time donation

Budget Details —

CAAS has a strict bidding process for new projects and must collect several competitive bids before a budget can be determined. Please submit your projects costs and fees for this website redesign broken down by service. Please include the following costs:

Website development and design in Wordpress (inclusive of initial project planning and consultation with CAAS staff). This should be a one-time fee.

Website Management (general ongoing website maintenance and upkeep; troubleshooting when needed). This should be included as an hourly rate.

Please include any additional foreseeable expenses.

Proposal Requirements —

Please include the following:

  • Fee outline and details
  • Experience and examples (links to previous work or portfolios)
  • 2 professional references who have hired you for similar projects in the past
  • Sample contract for consulting with businesses on a project

RFP & Project Timeline Details —

Our Executive Director and our Board of Directors will need to approve the final website and other major changes. The CAAS Board of Directors meets generally monthly; upcoming dates are June 27, August 22nd and September 26th. CAAS will try to be in touch with responses within 72 hours of each inquiry. We plan to select a final vendor for our website redesign by August 1st, 2017. RFP Responses due by July 1st, 2017.

Communications -

Communications regarding the website will go through Kate Berliner, Development and Communications Associate at CAAS. She can be reached at (617) 623-7370 x168 or by email at kberliner@caasomerville.org.  

Will you make a difference today?

Dear Friend,

I know you share our belief that no one should live in poverty. Will you invest today in local programs that prevent it?

As a person who is committed to helping working families on a path to economic security, you are probably as disturbed as I am by the threats to programs these families rely on.

We will continue to fight for our vulnerable neighbors - but we can’t do it without you!

Donors like you are helping empower hundreds of families to achieve economic security.

  • Over 275 children and their families are working to break the cycle of poverty by enrolling in preschool and participating in comprehensive services through Head Start.
  • Over 300 individuals facing evictions are now safely and securely housed.
  • Over 350 public housing residents are finding their collective voice, forming tenant organizations, electing leaders, and advocating on issues that affect their wellbeing.

You make this work possible. You know how much your community stands to lose. Working together, we can change lives and strengthen our entire community.

Will you make a difference right now?

You can go to caasomerville.org to make a secure donation, consider making a monthly sustaining donation, or mail your gift of $35, $50, $75, $100 or the amount that feels right to the address at the top and bottom of this message Above all, you will know that you are contributing to the safety and security of those members of your community that need it the most.

If you know a family that needs our help, please refer them to us now!

Thank you for your leadership and support!

David Gibbs
Executive Director

P.S. Don’t put this letter aside. Hard-working residents, children and their families need your support now. Thank you!

CAAS Logo

CAAS Board of Directors Community Elections Results

Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc.

Report of the Governance Committee of the Board of Directors

Results of Election of Representatives of the Low-Income Community

Held January 3-10, 2017

The following individuals (ordered according to the number of votes each received) were elected as representatives of the low-income community:

  • Francis Latanowich
  • Nanci Baren
  • John Ciampa
  • Kate Byrne

Each of the above-listed individuals will be seated on the CAAS Board of Directors at its Annual Meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dan Futrell

Donna Haynes

Justin Hildebrandt

Judy Perlman

East Cambridge Fire -- Support Your Neighbors In Crisis

East Cambridge Fire -- Support Your Neighbors In Crisis
 

You may already know that CAAS provides comprehensive preschool and wraparound services to hundreds of families each year through Head Start.

You may not know that CAAS acts as a safety net for these and other families when they are in crisis -- whether that’s the threat of homelessness or a disaster taking everything.

A Head Start family of four lost their home and all their belongings in a massive East Cambridge fire that destroyed or damaged 16 buildings over the weekend.

CAAS Family Advocates have been working tirelessly with the family to provide shelter, clothing, food and transportation assistance. They are also working with the City and other agencies to coordinate supportive services.

Your low-income neighbors need your support now and throughout the year in order to emerge safely and securely from these types of events.

Your donation today will support our ongoing efforts to serve and advocate for families in their times of need.

We know you share our belief that no family should face these crises alone. Thank you for your support!

From Facing Eviction to $35,000 Settlements: Hardship to Hope in CAAS’ Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP)

The Santiagos, a family of 9, were referred to HPP by Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services in June of 2016. They received notice of eviction and were seeking assistance with their housing search and in negotiating with their landlord for more time to secure new housing.

HPP Advocates soon learned that the Santiagos were enduring deplorable conditions. These included: severe rat, mice, cockroach, and bedbug  infestations, broken windows, faltering heat, and a gas main shutoff that left the family without a working stove or hot water. The family frequently faced impossible choices, such as between bedbug bite medication for their children and adequate food.

The Alyas, residents of the same building, sought HPP’s assistance soon after. This family of 7 had been subjected to the same, terrible conditions for 8 years. They, too, were facing eviction.

On September 1, 2016, both families were summoned to Somerville District Court. With the assistance of HPP Advocates, both families won negotiated settlements of $35,000.

The building subsequently sold for $1.1 million.

We know you share our belief that no family in this community should endure these hardships. With 35% of your neighbors struggling to meet their basic needs, stories like these are far too common.

Please donate today to prevent homelessness and help your neighbors in need.

Board Elections

Do you want to help set the direction for Somerville’s anti-poverty agency? The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is seeking candidates for its Board elections, coming up in December.

“We’re at a critical time in the history of Somerville and CAAS. Without strong voices advocating for our low-income community, we may lose much of the diversity which makes Somerville such a great, strong place to live,” said Board member Justin Hildebrandt. “In order to be a board member you must be a Somerville resident with a commitment to the well-being of Somerville’s low-income persons and households.”

The CAAS Board is responsible for maintaining the mission, values, and financial integrity of the organization. The Board normally meets on the fourth Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM of each month (except for July and December). CAAS actively seeks to increase the racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of its Board. If you are interested in serving, please contact Dan Futrell, Board President (617-651-1070 or dfutrell@gmail.com) or David Gibbs, Executive Director (617-623-7370 x102 or dgibbs@caasomerville.org) by December 27, 2016.

Board elections will take place during the week of January 2, 2017, at various locations throughout the City of Somerville. All low-income residents of Somerville (up to 175% of the federal poverty level) are eligible to vote in these elections. Newly elected board members will be seated at the Annual Meeting to be held on January 24, 2017.

The mission of the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) is to reduce poverty among local families and individuals while working to counteract, and whenever possible eliminate, the societal conditions that cause and perpetuate poverty. For more information, see www.caasomerville.org, or find us on Facebook.

 

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Union United

Union United was formed in 2014 to advocate for “Development without Displacement” in response to rapidly increasing gentrification in the Union Square neighborhood and the anticipated arrival of the Green Line Extension and associated real estate development. Initially a collaboration of the Somerville Community Corporation, The Welcome Project, and CAAS, it quickly grew into a broad coalition that numbers over 100 organizations, unions, churches, and individuals amongst its members. David Gibbs, CAAS’ Executive Director, has been attending its meetings since Sept. 2014, and for the last five months he has served as a member of its elected Steering Committee. Union United has been the major voice calling for Community Benefits Agreements to be negotiated directly between the neighborhood and developers specifying the contributions that will accrue to the community in connection with development activity. The list of benefits sought includes affordable housing, protections for small businesses, local and fair hiring practices, green and open space commitments, and many others.

For the first couple of years Union United’s only “staffing” was by SCC’s community organizers, who put countless hours into organizing its many activities (which have included testifying at BOA meetings, submitting written comments on USNP and other city documents, petitioning, door to door outreach, demonstrations, and tabling, amongst many others). With the arrival of Sara Halawa and Sara Levy, our Community Outreach staff members, CAAS has been able to devote some additional staff time to Union United, increasing its capacity to engage in community processes such as the pending Union Square zoning amendment and a recent proposal for the formation of a Union Square Neighborhood Council which will represent the neighborhood in dealings with the City and developers.

CAAS will continue to devote time to this work, consistent with our mission, to ensure that the wealth generated by Union Square redevelopment is distributed fairly and to those most in need. The battle to reverse wealth/income inequality is happening right here in front of us, and it’s very exciting to be able to “think globally and act locally” in this way.

 

Communities for Healthy Living at CAAS!

The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in collaboration with CAAS and ABCD Head Start, was awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to implement the Communities for Healthy Living (CHL) program in Head Start programs in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. This five year program is unique in its family-focused approach to promote positive lifestyle behaviors including diet, physical activity, and healthy technology use among children and their families enrolled in Head Start. The research team and community partners recently completed year one of the program and preparations for implementing the CHL trial run in Spring 2017 are underway! This work is collaboratively directed by a community advisory board representing each Head Start agency.  Over the past year the CAAS advisory board, which is made up of Head Start parents and staff, community representatives, and Harvard students and researchers, met over 8 times to collaboratively adapt an empowerment focused curriculum and a variety of health related resources that will be rolled out in CAAS centers starting in fall 2017. In addition to deciding on the focus, content, and design of curriculum sessions and materials, the advisory board members also worked hard to create a set of partnership principles to guide the group’s relationship building and management process. The advisory board will continue to meet monthly to share their ideas and voice their opinions on the content and learning methods (including social media messaging) to ensure that CHL remains accessible and relevant to the families CAAS serves.

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Community Outreach at Clarendon Hills!

CAAS’ community outreach team has been working on a tenant rights action project at the Clarendon Hills housing project in West Somerville. The Somerville Housing Authority has partnered with private developers to redevelop the site, which would temporarily displace the 216 families that currently reside there. The redevelopment will involve increasing the density of the site by adding 300 market-rate housing units and rebuilding the current affordable housing units. CAAS is working with residents to organize a tenant association that will represent tenants’ voices during the process. Given the vulnerable population currently living in the housing project, ensuring that tenant voices are heard during negotiations is a key goal of CAAS’ community organizing team. Through this process, the tenants hope to solidify their rights and get answers to important concerns about residents’ rights to stay in Somerville during the redevelopment process, whether or not children will be able to stay in the Somerville School District if their families move, and whether all current tenants will be guaranteed the right to move back when the development is completed.

 

If you’re interested in supporting the residents at Clarendon Hills, please contact Sara Halawa, CAAS Community Outreach Specialist at (617) 623-7370x176 or shalawa@caasomerville.org for more information.

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Efforts underway in Somerville area Head Starts to empower parents and increase healthy behaviors

Press Release

 

Efforts underway in Somerville area Head Starts to empower parents and increase healthy behaviors

 

September 15th, 2016 – Somerville/Cambridge, MA

 

The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to implement the Communities for Healthy Living program in Head Start programs in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville over the next 5 years. This novel program engages Head Start parents and staff as co-leaders to build parent self-advocacy and life skills and promotes healthy diet, physical activity and sleep behaviors in children, which are the keys to optimal, lifelong health.

 

The Communities for Healthy Living program, led by Kirsten K. Davison, the Donald and Sue Pritzker Associate Professor in Nutrition and Associate Professor in Social and Behavioral Sciences, was developed and pilot tested in Albany, NY by Davison and her colleague, Janine Jurkowski.  Preliminary evidence from the pilot study showed improvements in parent empowerment and a decrease in the percentage of children that are overweight or obese. The new funding will allow Davison and her research team of Head Start collaborators to adapt the program to meet the needs of families in the Greater Boston area and rigorously test its effectiveness using a randomized controlled trial.

 

“This funding presents an exciting opportunity to rigorously test a unique health program that was co-designed with Head Start parents and staff to ensure it meets the needs of the Head Start community, builds on existing resources within Head Start and across these communities, and which can be sustained within the existing infrastructure of Head Start following the completion of the study,” said Davison.

 

The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) and Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) are Harvard Chan’s two partnering community agencies on the project, and each will play a significant role as collaborative research leaders in the development and execution of the project.  

 

“Participating in this collaborative process has already resulted in direct benefits to our program, families and ultimately our community,” said Matthew Kardonsky, former Health Specialist at CAAS Head Start, and former site-PI for the Communities for Healthy Living project. “The CAAS Head Start program has historically been a pioneer in both the fields of Early Education and Family Empowerment. This collaboration has sparked a level of engagement and excitement within CAAS Head Start staff, families, and community partners that has resulted in new levels of programmatic engagement. We could not be more proud to be involved in a project that puts families in the driver’s seat of creating a curriculum that will result in positive behavior change.”

 

Sonia Carter, Nutrition Coordinator at ABCD Head Start, and a second site-PI for the project, also appreciates the project’s innovative approach to helping parents create a healthy lifestyle. “One of the most exciting and invigorative aspects of the grant is the Community Advisory Board (CAB). Parents, staff, and community partners make up this board,” said Carter. “As CAB members, parents are developing their leadership, facilitation, and advocacy skills as they create the modules that they will eventually co-lead with Head Start staff. This speaks to the tremendous impact this model will eventually have on the healthy growth of our children.”

Co-investigators on the project include Janine Jurkowski,  associate professor of health policy, management, & behavior at the University at Albany; Sebastien Hanuese, associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard Chan School, and Elsie Taveras,  director of pediatric population health management at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

 

Over the next 5 years of this program, Head Start parents, staff, and the Harvard research team will collaboratively adapt the parent empowerment curriculum for the diverse range of families served by CAAS and ABCD, test its effectiveness, and, in the end, create a curriculum that can be used by Head Start centers across the nation.

Thank you to our summer development intern!

Hi! My name is Emma Brown, I'm an American Studies major at Tufts University and this summer I had the privilege of being CAAS' development team intern. I had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects and contribute to CAAS' fundraising efforts through research and outreach. The development team kept me busy all summer with tasks such as planning and promoting future events, updating the website, and sending out our mid-year appeal letters, just to name a few. I also volunteered at the annual Taste of Somerville event in June, attended community meetings with CAAS' Executive Director David, and shadowed one of CAAS' HPP advocates for a day. Every day at CAAS was exciting, dynamic, and full of new experiences. I can't believe it is almost over, but I am so grateful for the opportunities and new perspectives that CAAS has given me, and I know I leave this internship having been made richer by the many memories I have made and the amazing people I have met along the way. 
This summer has flown by. In just a few short weeks, I'll be starting my senior year at Tufts. I am not sure what my post-grad future will hold, but I know that if I am surrounded by colleagues who are as supportive of one another and as committed to justice as the folks at CAAS, I will be incredibly happy and extraordinarily fortunate.