LAWRENCE, MA —Family Services of the Merrimack Valley (Family Services) launched the public phase of its Campaign to Build Change at a kickoff celebration at the North Andover Country Club on September 22, 2022. The campaign will fund capital renovations of their central building, located at 430 N Canal Street in Lawrence, MA, and establish an Impact Fund for crisis response, program innovation, and professional development. The $3 million comprehensive campaign has raised over $2.3 million to date, more than 75 percent of its goal.
“The purpose of this campaign is not just to complete needed capital repairs and renovations, but to strengthen our foundation as an organization, literally and figuratively,” said Family Services CEO Elizabeth Sweeney. “Our clients deserve to have a space that feels warm and welcoming. Reaching our campaign goal will help us continue providing our much-needed services to the community in a brighter, revamped space that we can all be proud of.” In addition to improving the look and feel of the space, renovations will also result in enhanced safety and security, accessibility, and energy efficiency.
Guests at the kickoff celebration heard from Mariela Arias, a Lawrence mother who had been a client of Family Services and who now works as a staff member in the organization’s youth mentoring department. After sharing a story marked by poverty, homelessness, physical and mental health challenges, and parenting crises, Arias reflected that “Family Services and their staff is one of the reasons I am standing here today. My children and I were not only part of Family Services’ mentoring program, but also their parenting classes and counseling center. They believed in me. They invested in me and my children and made sure we didn’t give up.”
Many philanthropic individuals and organizations have lent their support to the Campaign to Build Change including a local entrepreneur and his wife, who have agreed to match campaign donations up to $150,000.
Other lead donors to the campaign include Lynne Capozzi and Don Bulens, Dick and Lolli Sumberg, the Amelia Peabody Foundation, the Stevens Foundations, Richard & Nancy Haak, Stephen & Catherine DeSalvo, the Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, Ted Lowrie & Kathy McShane, the Moderna Foundation, Pentucket Bank, Kathy Stevens, and Brad and Noni Yount. The kickoff event was sponsored by the Merrimack Valley Credit Union and LCW CPAs.
“Our gift is an investment in Family Services’ future,” said Dick Sumberg, Andover resident and Honorary Chair of the campaign. “I know that our support will have a real and lasting impact and that the lives of so many families will be improved for years to come.”
Through their 20+ programs, Family Services aims to empower and support children and families of the Merrimack Valley to help them reach their full potential. Some of the programs provided to the community include young adult parenting, youth development, and youth mentoring. More information on the campaign can be found on the Family Services website at FSMV.org/buildchange.
6 weeks, 3 cohorts, 2 lessons, and unlimited fun. That’s what this year’s inaugural youth development summer camp consisted of.
Over the summer, Family Services’ Youth Development Program held an educational camp for Lawrence-based youth that taught familiar lessons in our curriculum. The camp, which was newly funded, was designed to be two things: educational and fun. But for Program Manager Jonathan Torres, the camp meant a lot more than just a 2-week commitment from youth participants. “My goal with creating this program was to engage participants while also creating a safe space for them to open up,” Torres said. “The conversations we have at camp give everyone an opportunity for open and honest conversation, some of which may be on topics that they have not been able to discuss before.”
Each week, the program consisted of a different lesson Monday through Thursday and a field trip on Fridays. Week 1 consisted of the Life Skills Lessons & Curriculum Program (ARISE). This lesson consists of topic discussions that will help youth learn how to handle everyday life events and challenges. During week 2, the discussion shifted gears to the Massachusetts Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). In this lesson youth received sexual health and adulthood preparation education. The camp reached full capacity quickly after enrollment opened up with over 30 youth participating.
The program wrapped up on September 8 with an awards ceremony honoring the participants. The event was attended by staff, youth, parents, and some community guests including Mayor Brian De Pena, Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque, members of the Lawrence Police Department, Lawrence City Council President Marc LaPlante, Lawrence City Councilwoman Ana Levy, Community Activist Benjamin Levy, and State Representative Frank Moran.
During the ceremony many parents shared what the program meant to them. “If my child didn’t participate in this program, I would not have been able to work this summer,” noted one parent. “It might seem small but to me and my child, it meant a lot.”
Another parent thanked the staff for providing their children with a safe learning environment. “I took a chance by allowing my child to join an all-day program for 2 weeks. I was hesitant at first—I tend to be overprotective!” said the parent. “But I don’t regret this at all. I hope to be able to enroll my child again next year.”
Family Services is hoping to continue providing summer camps on a yearly basis and receive more funding. “An increase in funds will help us open up our doors for more youth and hopefully for longer cohorts,” Aida Castro, chief program officer at Family Services, noted to attendees at the celebration event. “We, as a society, focus so much on intervention that we often forget about prevention. Programs like this help prevent youth from taking the wrong path; we want to make this camp available to many more kids in the years to come.”
Learn more about the youth development summer camp and what participants had to say in the video below!