Phaedra’s Story

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

From Fear to Determination and Hope

“Right and wrong choices are like twins, they are always together, they speak their own secret language, and confusingly, to people like me, they often look the same.”

Late in 2019, Phaedra realized she needed to learn to differentiate between right and wrong choices. She was tired of living in fear, running from everything she had done to fill needs she didn’t fully understand. For so much of her life, Phaedra had turned to substances and toxic relationships to quiet her unmet needs. She felt like the walls were closing in on her, and she knew she needed help to make a meaningful change.

Phaedra found the support she was looking for at Victory Programs’ New Joelyn’s Home. “What I’m doing right now is working with great counselors,” she shares. “I’m learning to practice patience.” For Phaedra, learning patience gives her the space to think about her choices. She says taking the time to really think through her choices and consider the impact they might have on her future makes it easier to tell those right and wrong choices apart.

“I was choosing from a place of suffering,” she says. “At the time, so many obviously terrible choices seemed like the only choice.” She’s grateful for the support she receives from both staff and other clients at New Joelyn’s Home for helping her develop the tools to forgive herself for her past and think about what she needs to build a brighter future.

“I’m using all of the tools that I’ve learned here to cope with life and to handle life as it comes at me,” she explains. “Life is always going to be life and the tools that I have gained here have given me that strength.”

See Phaedra’s Story in her own words by watching the video below.

 

 

You can support recovery clients, like Phaedra, by supporting Victory Programs. Please click here to learn more.

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Concern for Our Neighbors

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

The following went out to our supporters on August 9, 2019:

If you’ve spent any time near Victory Programs’ administrative building at 965 Massachusetts Avenue, you’ve inevitably seen some of our neighbors. The intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard offers a glimpse into the immense need many of our community members face while trying to manage the challenges of homelessness and addiction.
Anyone who passes through the Mass/Cass intersection on their way into our neighborhood inevitably asks “what is the answer? what should we do?”

To say that it is a complicated, slow, painstaking process feels cliché, but it is very true. This neighborhood is rich with low-threshold services, which is why it is an attractive place for people with nowhere else to go to congregate. There is daily outreach happening alongside an increasingly active police presence. Despite this, there are still large groups of people in a desperate situation with massive, ever-growing, needs.

Things that do or could help: more shelter options, diverse types of housing, harm reduction services, short-term navigation, medication-assisted treatment, safe consumption sites, and more. With individuals as vulnerable as our neighbors, we’ve learned that people have the best chance of success when they have immediate access to services at the exact moment they first consider seeking support. Access to the right service, at the right moment, can save a life and restore dignity and respect.

In addition to the front-page story about recent events in our neighborhood in today’s issue of Boston Globe, we encourage you to read the opinion section from the same paper which features an opinion piece penned by State Senators Cindy F. Friedman and Jeffery N. Roy on the hope represented by safe consumption sites, and another piece by Dr. Jon Santiago, a state representative, on the need for a comprehensive response to address the challenges vulnerable individuals face.

If you have been monitoring the situation and wondering what to do. Please consider contacting your legislators and/or writing a letter-to-the-editor in response to any of the news articles linked above.

The individuals congregating in this area are our neighbors. They are the people who come through our doors asking for services and support when they are ready to seek help. Victory Programs, despite the complicated and heartbreaking nature of the situation, continues to daily find ways to meeting individuals where they are with compassion, evidence-based care, and opportunity.

Sarah Porter, Intermin CEO
Victory Programs

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ReVision Urban Farm Uses Technology, Data, and Hard Work to Maximize Production

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Guest Blog by Conor Brosnan, ReVision Urban Farm Grower

Photo of produce at the farm stand. Everything is in trays and baskets on a wooden table. On the far left, a basket on it's side holds vine-ripe tomatoes, next to it sit peppers, carrots, summer squash, green onions, strawberries, and cauliflower. The top row is kale, lettuce, cabbage and other greens. Victory Programs’ ReVision Urban Farm is a special place; a small slice of farmland evoking the picturesque landscape of America’s agricultural heartland nestled in the heart of Boston’s densely populated Dorchester and Mattapan communities. Our staff strives to blend ages-old best practices for land management with modern, data-driven approaches to improve efficiency and maximize production on a small lot. Unlike many of its larger counterparts, our farm falls on less than an acre of land, which requires us to utilize and maximize every square foot. This urban “land challenge” has sparked a need for a variety of forward-thinking and innovative approaches. Our mission has, and will always be, to bring fresh, nutritious, local food to our community. Fulfilling this mission requires soil, sun, water, and lots of hard work; the hallmarks of any successful farm.

The ReVision team is currently researching and exploring a variety of technological advancements that would improve our yields, efficiency and more effectively fulfill our mission. Planned improvements include maximizing greenhouse efficiency through monitors and updated heating systems and monitoring field temperatures, soil saturation, and even pest issues to improve productivity. Although many of these technological improvements are in the idea and planning stage, we have already begun improving our

Overhead view of ReVision Urban Farm from the third floor of ReVision Family Home showing the gazebo, and fields lush with growing plants.

data-tracking, efficiency, and ability to meaningfully plan for future seasons. This season alone we’ve been able to channel generous support from donors and grants into significant improvements which enable us to better predict harvest yield and plan for future needs.

Our new germination chamber, purchased through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, tracks and controls humidity, temperature, and the overall environment for growing seeds, which has already drastically improved our germination rates. The germination chamber also helps us reduce our consumption of water, soil, compost, and other resources while addressing the dreaded anxiety of waiting on the unknown germination outcomes. Not only does the germination chamber save time, money, and headaches, it also allows us to grow and sell microgreens at markets year-round.

Another improvement we’ve been able to make this season is mapping our available growing space through an in-depth spreadsheet. Every single, row is mapped out with the planted crops and expected yield for each in via an advanced and user-friendly interface. Volunteers planting seedlings in the greenhouse at ReVision. The volunteer on the left is a woman with ebony skin and just below shoulder length dreadlocks wearing a black sweater over a grey shirt. She is smiling and leaning over a seed tray. The woman on the right has pale skin and short, light brown hair. She is wearing a shirt with horizontal grey and black strips and sunglasses. She is holding a pen which she is using to make holes to put seeds into. Our new system allows up to see at-a-glance how many plants are in each bed, what variety each is, and more accurately project what will be available for CSA subscribers, farmers markets, and community partners. Looking forward, this data will provide us the information we need to make informed changes to crop plans and ensure that we are maximizing our available growing space.

Urban farming is entering a new and exciting chapter that intersects the need to understand and utilize both nature and technology. Our goal at ReVision Urban Farm is to lead by example, adopting the best practices that will help us bring affordable, nutritious, local food to our community. By committing to both data and cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned sweat and hard work, our small piece of land will be able to change the culture and approach to food and nutrition in our neighborhood and beyond.

Curious about ReVision Urban Farm?

Give us a call at 617-822-3276 or stop by our farm stand at 1062 Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester, open Fridays from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM through October.

You can also support our work by making a donation to the farm here or calling our volunteer coordinator at 617-236-1012 x227 to ask about available work shifts.

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Thank you, Bank of America!

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Thank you to Bank of America BOAGrants for awarding Victory Programs $25,000 to support FamilyFinancialEmpowerment & JobReadiness services at Chamblet, Portis, and ReVision Family Homes!

“This financial literacy workshop taught me how to budget my money. The presenters were really positive & made the experience great.” – Erin, Portis Family Home support positive services thankyou financialliteracy budget

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Cummings Foundation Invests $100,000 in Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Enhancement Project

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Funding will expand access to critical services like comprehensive STI/HIV/Hep C testing, naloxone distribution, and other low-threshold harm reduction services for some of Boston’s most vulnerable community members.

Victory Programs was selected as one of 100 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 each through the Cummings Foundation’s “$100K for 100” program. Victory Programs was one of 574 applicants to apply for during a competitive grant cycle.

Victory Programs operates 19 health, housing, and prevention programs in the Greater Boston area, with a primary focus on individuals who actively use, or are in recovery from injection drugs and other addictive substances; individuals and families who are homeless and/or facing potential housing insecurity; and people living with chronic, life-altering infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. All of Victory Programs services are grounded in evidence-based models of change and individualized care plans to help clients identify, and work towards personal goals.

Sarah Porter, Victory Programs Interim CEO, and Ed Ahern, Government and Foundation Grants Manager, joined approximately 300 other guests to represent Victory Programs at a reception at TradeCenter 128 in Woburn to celebrate the $10 million infusion into Greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. With the conclusion of this grant cycle, the Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $260 million to Greater Boston nonprofits alone.

“We are so grateful for the Cummings Foundation’s partnership,” shares Sarah Porter. “This grant will make a remarkable difference in what we are able to accomplish. The $100,000 from Cummings Foundation will support enhancements to our Mobile Prevention Team, augmenting their ability to access the individuals in our community who are most at risk for fatal overdoses and those with the highest risk of exposure to HIV, Hepatitis C and or other STIs.  Through the purchase and retrofit of a specialized van, services will move deeper into the community providing innovative, evidence-based prevention and treatment options for people who may otherwise struggle to access critical care.”

This grant will provide vital operational support for the Mobile Prevention Team (MPT) Enhancement Project over the next two years.  This project will bolster the MPT’s efforts to reach those at high risk for opioid overdose and the acquisition of disease, including HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and STIs.  The fully equipped van purchased as a part of this project will enable the MPT team to travel throughout Boston’s communities and provide syringe services, risk assessments, navigation to prevention and treatment services, and much more.

The $100K for 100 program supports nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“By having such a local focus, we aim to make a meaningful positive difference in the communities where our colleagues and leasing clients live and work,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s executive director. “We are most grateful for the nonprofit organizations that assist and empower our neighbors, and we are proud to support their efforts.”

This year’s diverse group of grant recipients represents a wide variety of causes, including homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. Most of the grants will be paid over two to five years.

The complete list of 100 grant winners is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

Cummings Foundation announced an additional $15 million in early May through its Sustaining Grants program. Through these awards, 50 local nonprofits will receive ongoing funding of $20,000 – $50,000 for 10 years.

The history behind Cummings Properties and Cummings Foundation is detailed in Bill Cummings’ self­ written memoir, “Starting Small and Making It Big:  An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist.” It is available on Amazon or cummings.com/book.

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