Schoolgirls to tap into money sense as Dollar $cholars


Schoolgirls to tap into money sense as Dollar $cholars


WORCESTER —  Several times a year, Debbie Neal will get up in front of a group of girls — not college women — and introduce them to folks who will teach them something valuable: financial literacy.

The program is part of the United Way of Central Massachusetts’ Women’s Initiative, and the financial literacy piece seeks to teach girls through the use of mentors. Ms. Neal, Holy Cross College director of academic budget and operations, will be joined by about 100 other professional women from the Worcester area who volunteer to help teach middle school girls skills that can help them stay out of all kinds of bad places and achieve financial independence.

The Dollar $cholars program has been going on for half a dozen years and is distinctive among such programs, Ms. Neal said.

“The thing that’s a little bit different is we’re bringing in professional women from the community to interact with our scholars. “It gives them exposure to what it means to be a professional woman in today’s world.”

The women don’t just teach the basics of financial literacy. They share their own experiences, the choices they’ve made to pursue their own careers.

The program that began years ago under an outside contractor was taken over by the United Way’s financial literacy committee, which designed its own program, said United Way Women’s Initiative Program Director Anne Wettengel.

“They really felt that what we were getting from the independent contractor was not really in tune with what was going on with the girls in our community,” Ms. Wittengel said.

The community involved has changed as well.

The program has expanded to towns outside Worcester, in the areas under the United Way’s purview, and next monthwill be teaching 250 eighth-grade girls from Shrewsbury’s Oak Middle School.

Ms. Wettengel said the expansion to suburban Worcester gave some people pause, especially those who thought only girls from the inner city needed such training.

“It doesn’t really matter your socioeconomic level; everybody needs to know about budgeting,” Ms. Wettengel said.

Teaching financial literacy isn’t just teaching girls not to be poor; it’s about teaching them independence, no matter where they live, or how.

And girls who are financially independent are less likely to stay in abusive relationships. Those, too, can happen anywhere.

Ms. Wettengel said that in addition to teaching them budgeting and giving them career role models, the Dollar $cholars program gets girls to think about their choice of career and how it can support the lifestyle they expect to have.

It also helps them learn about their financial personalities, Ms. Wettengel said — whether they’re spenders or savers — and how that can impact their lives.

While teaching such literacy can have a profound effect on what these young women do in their futures, Ms. Neal said it also seems to have a profound effect on the volunteers.

“It was something we didn’t expect to happen,” she said. “It’s a win for the scholars, but it’s a very meaningful experience for the volunteers as well.”

Volunteer Janet Moran can testify to that.

Ms. Moran had recently retired from teaching middle schoolers when she first volunteered for the Dollar $cholars program. There, she ran into one of the students from the school where she’d taught, one who’d had serious challenges. After the program, Ms. Moran recalls running into her outside walking down the street with the goodie bag they’d given her. She stopped to ask if she’d enjoyed the program, and got a sincere “Yes.”

“To have reached a kid like that …” Ms. Moran said.

The program hopes to reach not just youngsters but their parents, who can help support their adolescents more if they are engaged as well, and the conversations that arise from the program can go on at home as well.

In its 10th year, the Women’s Initiative continues to enlist volunteers. “In those years, we’ve probably touched 1,500 girls,” Ms. Wittengel said. “We’re helping them become the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Women’s Initiative is looking for 100 women who are willing to volunteer for one day at the Dollar $cholars financial literacy conference to be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 22-24 at Assumption College. To volunteer, email Ms. Wettengel,


From left, Dollar $cholar forum hosts Anne Wettengel, Women’s Initiative Program manager; Judi Kirk, director of community impact; and Kerry Conaghan, vice president of community impact for United Way. (T&G Staff/STEVE LANAVA)

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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

AS I SEE IT: Peace Corps purposeful at 52

Today, in 2013 here in Worcester, we are working to leverage the Campaign for Grade Level Reading with a special emphasis on getting books into the hands of young readers and their families.
A few weeks ago at a national conference focused upon innovations in education, I was chatting with some table-mates. I mentioned the Peace Corps and was stopped. A question was posed: “The Peace Corps? Is that still around?”

I quickly responded that the Peace Corps is a young 52 years old. Empirical lessons that I lived more than 20 years ago I use to this day.

On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order to create the U.S. Peace Corps. Although more than 50 years old today, the U.S. Peace Corps remains as important and as vibrant a program as when it was first envisioned.

My wife Theresa and I, emboldened with spirit and the sense that we could make a difference and that we could learn so much, joined the Peace Corps as volunteers in 1991.

I served as a Youth Development Program Specialist assigned to the Montego Bay (MoBay), Jamaica Boys and Girls Club. The MoBay Boys and Girls Club, as all Boys and Girls Clubs are throughout the world, was a place of great hope. More than 500 kids between the ages of 4 and 25 used the Club every day, and their lives were enriched from the experience.

On my first day, armed with organizational and management questions, I met the directors of the Club, Pops and Mr. Earl. I asked how they recruited kids to join. Did they have a strategic plan? Were there operating policies and procedures? What impacts did they hope to accomplish with each child?

And then I asked about the club’s budget. Pops put his arm around my shoulder and smiled.

“When we have money, we spend it; if we don’t have it, we don’t spend it.”

I believe to this day, that response from Pops was the best definition of budget management that I have ever heard. Further, in the 20 years that I have led nonprofit organizations, I have put into practice the essence of Pops’ policy, and that has led to balanced budgets wherever I have been.

There were other lessons, too, that I learned and that I use to this day.

One of my first tasks at the Boys and Girls Club was to assist Herman, the Rasta builder in the construction of a library. Herman was the engineer and architect. I was the laborer. The tools were rudimentary; a “level” was a two by four and a marble — simple, yet effective. We constructed a small cinderblock room with two open-air windows and many, many shelves.

I then wrote letters to all of my friends and contacts back in the United States asking for book donations. About two weeks later, I began to receive package slips from the post office. In three months time, we received more than 5,000 books. Some were amazingly useful: Chilton’s auto repair manuals. Others were filled with knowledge — including a set of encyclopedias — and others filled the shelves, like the 50 copies of Jack Benny’s autobiography.

Today, in 2013 here in Worcester, we are working to leverage the Campaign for Grade Level Reading with a special emphasis on getting books into the hands of young readers and their families.

While in Jamaica, I chose a supplemental project when serving as a volunteer. That project was to reinvigorate Street School, a program for the children who worked and lived in the market (and who did not attend formal school).

We crafted a three-part, three-hour day for these children: a recreational activity, often soccer or Frisbee, a healthy and filling meal, and then academics of math and English.

One young man, aged 11, struggled with the alphabet. He had the courage to tell me that all of the 30 or more children struggled, too. For them, the alphabet was more of an arts and crafts project; they did not comprehend that the letters of the alphabet represented sounds, which when put together formed into words.

I learned more than 20 years ago that early education for all children and the development of language-rich environments is critically important for future academic success and secondary school graduation. This too, today, is a focus of Gov. Deval Patrick’s Gateway Cities and education efforts.

While in the Peace Corps we served as volunteers, building relationships with people — children, shopkeepers, small business developers, public health officials. Those relationships and the knowledge transfer assisted in nation building, both for the countries that we served in and for our own country when we came back home.

The U.S. Peace Corps is 52 years old. It is as important and as vital today as when it was created.

Tim Garvin is president and CEO of the United Way of Central Massachusetts.

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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Drilling into curiosity: Scientists sharpen an inborn drive

Some think of science as separate from ourselves. It may seem like “work,” something you either have an interest in or don’t.

James B. Garvin thinks otherwise.

The career NASA scientist — older brother to Tim Garvin, chief executive officer of United Way Central Massachusetts — met with the Telegram & Gazette editorial board Thursday on his way to a meeting of the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society.

“All the elements of discovery are built into all of us,” he said.

But our innate interest in our surroundings, from the sky to the mysteries beneath our feet, too often dies down by the time we reach our teens. Math is hard, advanced science is complicated, engineering takes patience, and the desire to really know the world gets clouded over.

That is too bad, because science is an endless joy and opens the doors to careers clamoring for its skills.

Mr. Garvin, like his brother at the United Way and other local leaders, wants to help young people capture their inner scientist and keep it for life.

Earlier Thursday, he visited with students and staff from Clark University and University Park Campus School, and got word that an 11-year endeavor was at last playing out on Mars. The rover Curiosity drilled into the surface with its heavy robotic arm, and on Earth, NASA’s years of putting together math, minds and mechanics resulted in samples of powdery rock holding clues to the planet’s past. Would that past include life?

This is live science, and we can all join in, zooming in for a look on our laptops the way we would peer at a bug on a lake or stoop to study the soil at our feet. Though the fresh-drilled hole on Mars is extremely distant, technology puts it inches from our eyes.

Data, formulas and experiments are pieces of science, but the process is driven by the basic questions everyone asks, particularly when young. What is it? How does it work? How does it all fit? At its core, science is simple and universal.

As a boy, Mr. Garvin loved rocks, and then fossils, and then — digging deeper, getting older — loved and pursued science. For him, those childhood hours among the rocks did not get lost.

He studied the Mars surface on his cellphone, and passed it around.

Mr. Garvin, chief scientist at the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said science and technology are exploding, that his generation caught an early wave but that children in elementary school now truly have wonders ahead. It’s our job to teach them, prepare them and keep the flames of curiosity burning.

“We want to get kids interested in science at a young age,” Tim Garvin said. As part of that push, the United Way is supporting the Summer Learning Collaborative, aimed at bridging the achievement gap in Worcester and six other Massachusetts cities.

Marcy Reed, president of Massachusetts operations for National Grid, told the editorial board Thursday that she looks at supporting such initiatives through the United Way as “an investment both personal and business.” She wants young people to know that science “is not a foreign language,” that they can do it and it matters.

She pointed out that a well-educated, technologically grounded workforce is vital to her industry. And: “Our customers are clamoring for information about energy.” This is marvelous, she said, and it’s how she “gets juiced up by science.”

James Garvin’s message was that “The things we take on are tough” — and that only adds to the value and the excitement of the work.

He mused that much has changed since man walked on the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. We can explore the ocean depths or outer space using robots and electronics. This is unprecedented access to the universe. We should all be alive to it, and we in Worcester are particularly blessed to be in a place where bioscience, robotics and other research are thriving.

It’s an old saw of science that answers bring more questions, tumbling out ahead so that the science path branches and winds and never ends.

Whether they’re looking through telescopes or microscopes, scientists are on the frontiers of answers, creating more than enough exciting work for the future. That’s something for our young people — and those who are care about them — to think about.

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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Dial 211 for help in a non-emergency situation

As New England braces for the Winter Storm, United Way of Central Massachusetts would like to remind you that Mass 2-1-1 is the commonwealth’s primary telephone information call center during times of emergency, a service provided through United Way. If you are in a non-emergency situation and need assistance, please dial 2-1-1. Mass2-1-1 will direct callers to services most appropriate for their needs, while saving the 9-1-1 system for life and death emergencies.

United Way of Central Massachusetts is a nonprofit organization that connects people and resources to improve the community. United Way ensures that the most vulnerable among us have a safety net to stabilize them today, while working to break the cycle of poverty for the next generation. For more information about United Way of Central Massachusetts, go to

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United Way of Central Massachusetts Seeks Grant Proposals

United Way of Central Massachusetts is seeking proposals from nonprofits seeking funding to prevent and reduce violence in the lives of girls and those looking to helping children and youth succeed.

United Way of Central Massachusetts seeks applications for its Women’s Initiative grants, the deadline for which is Feb. 1.

The Women’s Initiative focuses on building, strengthening, and supporting the development of confident and safe girls. Specifically, the programs funded by the contributions received from community members must have a primary goal to prevent and reduce violence in the lives of girls within its 30-town service area.

The Women’s Initiative’s current priority is to prevent violence in the lives of girls by addressing underlying causes and investing resources to create positive change.

Last year, grants ranged from $14,500 to $55,000. Grant requests considerably higher than the average will be considered in cases where applicants demonstrate an extraordinary level of formal collaboration and/or a comprehensive scope of service. This year the Women’s Initiative anticipates awarding close to $250,000 in grants.

For more about Women’s Initiative grants, click here.

Applications for United Way’s Creating Community Change grants, known as C3 grants, are required by Feb. 21.

C3 grants are two-year grants with funding beginning on Oct. 1, 2013 and ending on Sept. 30, 2015. The current grant ranges from $15,000 to $78,000 and the typical grant award ranges from approximately $24,000 to $44,000.

Preference will be given to applications that demonstrate an extraordinary level of formal collaboration and/or comprehensive scope of service which reach one or more of the intersections between education, health and family stability.

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United Way of Central Massachusetts Announces Women Initiative Grants

A one year grant, beginning July 1, 2013, has been announced by United Way of Central Massachusetts, and applications are open until February 1 to apply for the funding. Up to $250,000 is anticipated to be awarded through The Women’s Initiative one year grant program.

Non-profit organizations that are financially stable are eligible to apply for the grants. Businesses must be located within 30 Massachusetts cities designated by United Way. The focus of eligible businesses must be programs which promote equality, education and confidence in young women and teach skills to prevent conflict.

The Women’s Initiative program is dedicated to reducing violence among girls age 10-14 in Central Massachusetts. Businesses that receive grant funding are those whose goals match the mission of the Women’s Initiative to “build, strengthen and support the development of healthy, safe and confident girls.”

Grant funding is provided by United Way of Central Massachusetts. The non-profit organization was founded in 1920 and continues to raise funds to help families in need within central Massachusetts. Through volunteers, donations and fundraising events, the organization strives to support community needs in the areas of education, health and family stability.

For more information, visit

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Grant $ for Women Website

Firefighters build ramp for retired colleague



WORCESTER —  A pack of more than four-dozen city firefighters converged on a Burncoat Street home early this morning, but not to battle a blaze.

The off-duty firefighters showed up with power saws, nail guns and a truckload of lumber to build an elaborate wheelchair ramp for a retired colleague, John Carey, 63, who recently lost a leg below the knee due to complications from cancer.

His wife, Mary, is a petite woman who wouldn’t have been able to help her tall, heavyset husband in and out of the house without the ramp.

“Now, I’ll be able to pull up to the front and wheel him in when he comes home,” Mrs. Carey said happily.

Her son, Micheal Vayo, added, “This is the difference between him being homebound or going out and having breakfast with his friends.”

Mr. Carey, who served 37 years in the Worcester Fire Department, most recently in the Fire Prevention section, is undergoing rehabilitation following his surgeries. He is expected to be able to come home in a few weeks, his wife said.

The family might have found it difficult to find a carpenter and crew who could complete the project in time, and they certainly would have found it costly.

But the group of Fire Department volunteers, who dub themselves the “Worcester Fire Ramp Gang,” are old hands at ramp building. They have constructed more than a hundred ramps over the years, mostly in Worcester County, and they never charge a penny. The men volunteer their time and pay for the materials with donations from local unions.

“There was a need for a ramp, so we just come out and do it. It’ll be done by the end of the day,” said Frank Raffa, former president of the firefighters union.

Mr. Raffa, his sweatshirt coated in fresh saw dust, said the group figures it has built the equivalent of a mile of wheelchair ramps out of 2-by-6-inch planks.

“That’s a lot of board,” Mr. Raffa said.

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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

United Way Offering Grants for Women and Community Programs

GoLocalWorcester News Team

The United Way of Central Massachusetts is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) aligned with its strategic vision to “Live United” by investing in educational opportunities, supporting strong families, and building healthy communities. Organizations that meet the qualifications specified in the funding guidance document are invited to apply.

United Way of Central Massachusetts has two funding opportunities: WOMEN’S INITIATIVE, a one-year grant beginning July 1, 2013 and CREATING COMMUNITY CHANGE (C3), a two-year grant beginning in October 2013.

Interested parties are invited to learn more about these funding opportunities and the online application process, ANDAR, by attending an information session on Friday, January 4, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at United Way of Central MA, 484 Main Street, Suite 300, Worcester. (Snow date of Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.) Please RSVP to before January 3, 2013.

United Way seeks applications in the area of Women’s Initiative, to be submitted by February 1, 2013 and Creating Community Change, to be submitted by February 21, 2013.

A complete funding guidance document for both Women’s Initiative and for Creating Community Change can be found on the United Way of Central Massachusetts website at
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United Way Announces Community Support Fund

GoLocalWorcester Lifestyle Team

The United Way of Central Massachusetts is asking residents to give the gift of fuel, food, and shelter to a local family.

With more than 1 in 4 children in Worcester living below the poverty line and the average age of a homeless person in Central Mass at 8 years old, the United Way of Central Massachusetts asks you to please remember that many people within the community struggle to meet their basic needs during the winter holiday season.

“We need your help to ensure that every family has heat, food on the table, and a roof over their heads this winter, ” said the organization.

“We ask you to please consider making a one-time, end-of-the-year donation to the Community Support Fund, a fund designated to meet immediate needs in the areas of food, fuel, and housing.”

Through contributions received from individuals, corporations, and foundations in Central Mass, the United Way of Central Massachusetts provides resources to a number of programs at local partner agencies throughout the year. During the winter months, however, additional resources are needed to meet the increased and immediate demand for food, fuel, and shelter.

“Working together, we can ensure that all of our neighbors are healthy, safe, and warm this winter!”

Focused on connecting people and resources to improve the community, United Way funds programs serving people in 30 cities and towns in Central Massachusetts (including Auburn, Barre, Boylston, Brookfield, Douglas, East Brookfield, East Douglas, Grafton, Holden, Hubbardston, Leicester, Millbury, New Braintree, Northbridge, North Brookfield, Northborough, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Spencer, Sterling, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, West Boylston, West Brookfield and Worcester.) United Way ensures that the most vulnerable among us have a safety net for stabilization today, while working to break the cycle of poverty for the next generation by focusing on the building blocks for a good life: Education, Family Stability, and Health.

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Nonprofits hit road for charitable tax deduction

Coalition visits Capitol Hill to lobby legislators

If you were to eliminate this, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it will result in less giving to groups like the Worcester County Food Bank.

WASHINGTON —  The Charitable Giving Coalition — a group of nonprofit supporters from 40 of the 50 states — traveled to Capitol Hill yesterday to advocate for the charitable tax deduction, a tax break that could be on the chopping block as negotiations proceed to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Among the participants was Tim Garvin, president and chief executive officer of the Worcester-based United Way of Central Massachusetts, who represented his group at seven meetings in congressional offices throughout the day. His group is a branch of the parent United Way organization that focuses on fundraising efforts in the community.

In an effort known as “Protect Giving,” an estimated 280 people from more than 50 nonprofit organizations descended on Capitol Hill to plead their case to members of Congress and their staff to preserve tax incentives for charitable giving.

“I think it’s phenomenal, the scope and breadth of geography and interest, and making the message that this is about preserving individual choice,” Mr. Garvin said. “But it’s also about the impact that comes from all those donations in so many sectors.”

In Central Massachusetts alone, Mr. Garvin said, 11,602 individuals contributed to his group last year, for a total of about $3.5 million. He added that more than 60,000 people were helped, and that for each individual donor, about five lives were touched.

Joined by officials from several New England based educational institutions — Boston College, Harvard University and the University of Vermont — as well as the Boston-based Huntington Theatre Company and the Ocean Conservancy, Mr. Garvin met with staffers from the offices of Sens. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as well as Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.

During one of his visits, Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts also stopped by to hear about Mr. Garvin’s advocacy.

Mr. Garvin also had the opportunity to sit down with U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, who later said that elimination of the charitable deduction would be “tragic” and limit necessities such as food and shelter for the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

“If you were to eliminate this, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it will result in less giving to groups like the Worcester County Food Bank,” Mr. McGovern said in a telephone interview. Of the day’s lobbying effort on behalf of the deduction, he added, “I believe it is worthwhile that they are here — because it’s important to show members that it encourages organizations that help improve our community.”

Contrasting the charitable deduction with tax code provisions that benefit corporations seeking to avoid taxes or to transfer operations overseas, Mr. McGovern stressed that the tax break involved in the charitable deduction case was not a loophole. He added that out of “all the places to look to find savings, this should be the last place to look.”

Mr. Garvin pointed to a poll last week by the United Way parent organization that found 79 percent of Americans want the charitable deduction to remain untouched. Mr. Garvin emphasized that the deduction is utilized equally, regardless of whether an individual earns $50,000 or $250,000 annually.

Mr. Garvin said that representatives of the Charitable Giving Coalition visited an estimated 240 legislative offices.

“I was absolutely thrilled with today and everyone we met with was receptive,” he said. “They certainly expressed appreciation of what the nonprofit sector has done for the economy and every community in America.”

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Worcester T&G