Starting Small and Making it Big

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

The Cummings Foundation has been a major contributor to Victory Programs’ success by offering significant financial support for vital services..  They first supported our Boston Living Center Meals and Medical Case Management Services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS with a two year grant in FY2014.  Their latest grant in FY2017 supported our renovations of two facilities to establish two new recovery programs for women, enabling us to respond to both the tragic closing of our recovery home in 2014 when Boston Harbor’s Long Island was ordered evacuated, and the growing surge in opioid addiction and deaths across Massachusetts.

Bill Cummings story and his philanthropic focus has tremendously benefitted Victory Programs, but it can also benefit anyone who is committed to improving our society. We highly recommend that you read Bill Cummings’ memoir Starting Small and Making It Big. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the remarkable philanthropic efforts of the Cummings Foundation. Below is a book review on this memoir!

STARTING SMALL AND MAKING IT BIG

An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist

Review by Heather Lauten, Esq.

Today’s corporate temperament prizes decisions made on the basis of a simple opportunistic edict: do what will produce the greatest revenue while consuming the fewest resources. There’s nothing wrong with that thinking, per se, but there’s a vital piece missing from those broad strokes: doing what’s right.

This value system (not to mention our current political discourse) has clouded the confluence between opportunity and opportunism, promoting thinking in which the latter is the province of the prosperous and the former describes a concept that people feel has escaped them. What remains is a society in which too many believe they’re helpless to effect change, compelling children to march for their lives in Washington in the face of public apathy, and allowing the civic void to be filled by those who mask intolerance and ignorance by calling it innovation.

In his new memoir, “Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist,” Bill Cummings offers a welcome rejoinder to this diminished thinking, showing us not only that hard work and diligence can lead to success but also that success can foment fundamental justice and genuine structural change along the way.

When Cummings first went into business for himself, negotiating a good deal to purchase a hundred-year-old beverage enterprise in 1964, his dad gave him some advice about opportunity that stuck with him: “The most important thing about being lucky,” he said, “is recognizing good luck when it comes along, and then taking advantage of it. Life is mostly what we make of the opportunities that come our way.”

“Starting Small” details Cummings’ story of how, with a practical sensibility and belief in himself and others, along with an eye for making his own luck, he worked his way from conventional working-class beginnings to founding a real estate company with a portfolio of more than 11 million square feet of debt-free space in his totally unleveraged style.

What makes Cummings’ self-made-man narrative unique, and worthy of attention, though, is the rest of the story. With the kind of detailed guidance that budding entrepreneurs will earmark for reference, and the charming conversational tone of a man who enjoys telling a tale, Cummings’ book describes not only the life he and his wife, Joyce, have created by making the most of the opportunities that have come their way, but also how they have become philanthropists on a scale few accomplish, having already given more than a billion dollars to charitable causes.

Members of the Giving Pledge, established by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, Cummings attributes his and Joyce’s extraordinary dedication to giving back to their community-to institutions large and, mostly, small-to what he describes as their “belief in the goodness of all humanity.”

That strong-held belief, Cummings illustrates from the beginning of “Starting Small,” comes from his and Joyce’s strong family backgrounds, and life-long association with like-minded people who shared their values and supported their endeavors, but it’s also clear that Cummings genuinely likes people and has the gift to recognize their best qualities.

“At Cummings Properties, one of our major goals is to find out what good employees do best and then keep them busy doing it,” Cummings writes. In “Starting Small,” Cummings paints convivial portraits of his colleagues, many of whom have long tenures with his company, the average length of service for the 360-person firm being more than 11 years.

On the occasion of one colleague’s 40th anniversary of service with the company, Cummings describes how equipment operator George Holland received not only an engraved rocking chair celebrating the milestone, but was shocked to be handed the keys to the company’s first brand-new backhoe, which had his name painted prominently on the door.

Other stories are tender, and at the heart of the book is a tragedy, when Cummings’ protege, 41-year-old Jamie McKeown, was stricken by a fatal heart attack. Cummings’ account of his more than 17 years spent mentoring Jamie, and his profound pleasure in having cultivated a person who cared as much about improving his community as he did about growing a company, explains how the loss served as a sort of turning point for Cummings’ altruistic views.

In describing Jamie at his funeral service, Cummings said “no man I have ever met cared more about doing the right thing,” and that Jamie “led by example.” Cummings writes, “Although Joyce and I had formed Cummings Foundation 10 years before Jamie died, his death was a stark reminder to me that if she and I were to do meaningful good things, together with the foundation, we really needed to get started.”

Doing the right thing, leading by example, and incorporating charitable giving into every aspect of his immensely successful business is how Bill Cummings has honored Jamie and others who have impacted his and Joyce’s thinking, some on a grand scale, and many, many others on a small, local level. In some ways, “Starting Small” is a textbook on how-and why-to give, as individuals, and, importantly, as an integral part of the corporate culture.

A single paperback can be purchased online via Amazon.com and Cummings.com/book for $16.95. Options for discounted bulk purchases – three paperbacks for $40 or a case of 26 books for $300 – can be found at Cummings.com/book. All books are shipped free of charge. Many readers have raved about the book for use as graduation gifts.

Ms. Lauten, an attorney, is a member of the Cummings Properties team.

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Liberty Mutual Steps Up to Volunteer at ReVision Urban Farm

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

For the past few months things have been incredibly busy at ReVision Urban Farm as staff work to recontour the soil and prepare for the upcoming growing season. Luckily, thanks to large groups of volunteers from Liberty Mutual as part of Liberty’s annual “Serve with Liberty” community service program for their staff during the first two weeks of May, the Farm has made significant progress!

Liberty Mutual Volunteers at ReVision Urban Farm

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Red Sox Raffle Winner

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

5/3/2018 – Congratulations to the lucky winner of last night’s raffle, George Wong!

George will have the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park on #PrideNight, June 7, when the Sox face off against the Detroit Tigers.

Special thanks to everyone who helped make this unique opportunity possible, especially our friends at Big Night Entertainment Group, Boston Chops, Boston Pride, the Boston Red Sox, Eastern Bank, and Explorateur Cafe, Restaurant & Bar!

We sold 78 raffle tickets and raised $7,800 to support the Boston Pride Committee and Victory Programs!

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Slow Down and Breathe

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Regular exercise is an important part anyone’s health and well-being, however, for people with HIV/AIDS the benefits of working out include potentially preventing or reversing some of the common complications of HIV infection and treatment such as lipodystrophy, and higher levels of cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels. Exercise can also increase bone strength, strengthen the immune system and improve overall health outcomes.

“As important as exercise is for humans, generally, for physical and emotional health, it becomes that much more important when managing a chronic illness,” explains Jamie, a certified yoga instructor who volunteers weekly teaching a class for people living with HIV at the Boston Living Center (BLC). There is a core group of 4 to 6 BLC members who routinely attPhoto of Jamie, volunteer yoga instructor and BLC memberend Jamie’s class, with other members dropping in from time to time.

Jamie takes pride in developing classes that will have a lasting benefit for his fellow members. “I want to make sure it is not just about stretching, but also about strengthening,” he shares. “Strength supports stretching.”

Jamie doesn’t just volunteer at the Boston Living Center. He’s been a member since 1998 and he ran the Boston Marathon four times as part of the BLC’s team. “I was really impressed and inspired the first time they [the BLC] did it and asked to join the next year,” he says. “I didn’t really think of it as 26 miles. It was just one step and then another.”

Jamie’s yogic practice started 30 years ago, when a friend talked him into joining him for a class at the Metropolitan Health Club. Although skeptical at first, Jamie found himself working yoga into his everyday

life. “Any activity can be yogic. It is all about attention and intention,” he says.

After years of personal practice, Jamie decided to take the next step and become a certified yoga instructor in 2014. “My practice had lapsed and it was a good way to recharge it,” he shares. When he teaches at the center he guides his students through a gentle, restorative flow. “It helps me to slow down. I’m always pushing other people to do that, to slow down and breathe.”

Please click here to learn more about the Boston Living Center

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A Place Called Home

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Victory Programs’ supportive housing services provide vulnerable populations with a safe, affordable home base from which to build stable, sustainable, and relatively independent lives. “We help people who are chronically homeless and people who may be facing barriers to housing like a history of incarceration, chronic illnesses like HIV/AIDS, substance addiction, or mental health concerns,” shares Tashonna Simmons, Director of Supportive Services.

Victory supportive housing programs include Cedar Family Home, a permanent supportive housing program for families whose head-of-household is living with HIV/AIDS; Ruah House, a permanent supportive housing and stabilization program for women living with HIV/AIDS; Serenity Supportive Housing for individuals living with HIV/AIDS; Victory Housing on Warren Street, a low-threshold, permanent housing program for chronically homeless individuals; and Bobby White Housing Services, which provides mobile, medical case management services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

“Our medical case management services work with individuals to provide the educational tools and ongoing support they need to help regain health, maintain housing and enhance quality of life. Our goal is to provide clients with individualized plans to identify strengths,” explains Simmons. Medical case managers work with clients on medication adherence, preventative care and social needs. Supportive housing residents who do not qualify for medical case management services receive services through a supportive case management program. They receive assistance with recovery services, risk reduction, or other non-medical challenges.

Nathaniel, a resident of Serenity Supportive Housing, likes living at the program. “It’s quiet, it’s not like being in a program,” he says. Nathanial has been at Serenity for more than four years. “When I first came here I was pretty self-sufficient but I didn’t have the network,” shares Nathaniel. “If I ever need something I can just ask. There is a difference between being supported and enabled, I learned that from my mom.”

For many residents, living in supportive housing gives them a chance to live independently. Each individual or family gets their own apartment. “Living in my own apartment gives me my independence back and makes me feel capable of handling the day to day affairs of life,” shares Alan, a resident of Victory Housing on Warren Street. “I am surrounded by people who care about me.”

Please click here to return to the Victory Programs landing page. 

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