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September 20, 2020
Three Mass. Nonprofits Each Win $75K to Form Partnerships

August 25, 2020 — The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, based in Boston, today announced that three Massachusetts nonprofits each won $75,000 in a competition to form partnerships to address issues relating to food insecurity, school readiness, and juvenile justice, which are deepening in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

The competition, developed by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and Aetna, first held last year, aims to seed new innovative, collaborative solutions to entrenched community issues.

In this year's competition, eight finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 50 applicants, which were then winnowed to four winners, including one from New Hampshire:

"Like many industries and sectors, nonprofits have had to quickly adapt and innovate their service delivery models during the COVID19 crisis," said Karley Ausiello, senior vice president for community impact at the United Way. The urgency for innovation and change has only increased as the pandemic has significantly impacted nonprofit resources while intensifying the needs and inequalities they are trying to address in their communities.

"We're incredibly proud that our annual Venture Fund competition in partnership with Aetna was able to move forward virtually this year and stay focused on awarding funds to get promising new ideas into practice."

Receiving funding from the United Way's Social Innovation Venture Fund were:

  • Malden YMCA in Malden, will partner with Deep Why Design to design a digital pantry to provide scalable technology for pantries of all sizes to track clients and inventory in real time, provide a system for homebound individuals to select their own food, and allow individuals the dignity of online ordering and the ability to see the what is available at pantries in their area before they make their way to there. The goal is for all food pantries in eastern Massachusetts to access this computer system.

    "People now realize that many families are one paycheck away from needing to use a food pantry like ours' said Debbie Amaral, president and CEO at the Malden YMCA. "Access to food is something that is a basic necessity that can help you make a decision between paying for medicine, electricity or another basic need for your children. Being able to apply and receive funding for this idea was incredible."

  • More Than Words in Boston, which will partner with the Suffolk County district attorney's office and the Committee for Public Counsel Services to establish training for defense attorneys and prosecutors about trauma, brain development, and the needs of young people to create formal policies for both offices that support these needs. The goal is to drive systemic change and reroute young adults facing adult criminal charges out of the justice system as early as possible.

    "This investment really matters, especially during this difficult time with COVID and during a real moment when the light is shining on racial injustices," said Jodi Rosenbaum, founder and CEO at More than Words.

  • South Shore Stars, based in Weymouth, will partner with Brockton Area Multi-Services to launch Preschool Integrated Supports and Modeling to better meet the needs of children with developmental delays during the "gap years" between early intervention services and kindergarten. The goal is to develop 75 plans to support children and their families in its first year.

    "Our solution is unique because it brings two agencies together to meet a need for children ages three to five who fall into what we call 'the gap" – they have finished early intervention services at age three but they don't start public school until kindergarten," said Debby Stratton, preschool program director at South Shore Stars.

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