<p>This month marks two years since the evacuation at Kabul, in which more than 120,000 Afghans fled the country after the Taliban regained control of the city. Close to 100,000 now call the United States home, but hardships followed many of them across the border.</p><p>“I think there is a reasonable amount of empathy to Afghan veterans,” said John Moses, a Chelmsford resident and veteran who served in Afghanistan. “And if they don’t have empathy, I make sure I remind them that they told me they had empathy.”</p><p>Moses, also a Chelmsford School Committee member, rallied local volunteers to form a neighborhood support team, which assists specific families in their transition to a new life in their community — in essence, it’s a “local support arm” of the federal immigration process, Moses said.</p><p>Even with designated help, Moses said there are still lapses in information for resources, funding and advocacy for refugees whose families remained overseas. There is only so much volunteers could do.</p><p>With that in mind, Moses is founding the Massachusetts Afghan Alliance, a “middleman” organization that will work between the neighborhood support teams and resettlement agencies to ensure “better outcomes for Afghan families,” he said. They intend to serve people across the 3rd Congressional District, including Chelmsford, Lowell, Townsend, Westford, Haverhill, Ashburnham and elsewhere.</p><p>“I kept finding all these different volunteer groups and they’re like, ‘We don’t know what to do. We don’t get information from resettlement agencies. We’re out of money,’” Moses said. “What I want to do is build that middle ground between that and then encourage and improve relationships and resources on the bottom and improve gaps that the resettlement agencies have.”</p><p>The International Institute of New England, a nonprofit immigrant assistance agency, will welcome an estimated 120 refugees between October 2022 and September 2023, Lowell Managing Director Caroline Rowe <a href="https://www.lowellsun.com/2023/05/14/chelmsford-high-student-afghan-refugee-awaits-reunification-with-family-after-two-years-apart/">told</a> The Sun in May. The organization resettled 236 Afghans last year, and Moses said about 3,000 Afghans refugees reside in Massachusetts.</p><p>Specific numbers, however, are hard to come by — Moses said there’s “no visibility” into where and how many Afghans there are in the area, which means they’re often unable to offer support. Through Mass. Afghan Alliance, Moses hopes to track more data around local Afghan populations.</p><p>Moses mentioned Zubair Sadat, a Chelmsford High School student who <a href="https://www.lowellsun.com/2023/05/14/chelmsford-high-student-afghan-refugee-awaits-reunification-with-family-after-two-years-apart/">fled</a> from Kabul in 2021 and is still waiting for his family to join him. Like Zubair, an unaccompanied minor, often only one or two refugees will come to the U.S. together, leaving behind large families that the resettlement agencies don't necessarily know about. That puts a burden on local advocates to help in reunification cases, as well as find appropriate accommodations.</p><p>“What I’m learning is that we don’t know how many Afghans there are in this district at all,” Moses said. “We don’t know how many reunification cases there are, and that has a really long-term downside … You have to prepare for all these people you don’t know are coming and the federal government didn’t tell you.”</p><p>It’s also about resiliency for Afghan refugees, Moses said, and he plans to provide mental health support for those coming to Massachusetts.</p><p>MAA is supported by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, described as a public policy think tank that provides Moses access to a fundraising network, research assistants and access to other fellows across the country.</p><p>U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Lowell, wrote Moses a letter of support to the Hoover Institution before he was accepted, he said.</p><p>Jorge Morales-Lopez, constituent services advisor for Trahan’s office, will serve as a congressional liaison for MAA. Since the evacuation two summers ago, Morales-Lopez wrote in an email that the organization is making “a coordinated effort” to ensure Afghans secure the safety they need.</p><p>“As any Afghan refugee will tell you, the journey doesn’t end when they finally board the plane to the United States,” Morales-Lopez wrote. “There is a significant need for local, state, federal, nonprofit, and faith-based services to support refugees and their families when they arrive here in the Commonwealth, which is why I’m thankful John and the team at Massachusetts Afghan Alliance is prioritizing wrap-around support for every step of this long, difficult process.”</p><p>Terry Symula, of Harvard, is currently assisting two large families out of a formerly vacant town building. Working with a team of volunteers, Symula — now an adviser for MAA — drives family members to appointments, helps with paying bills and advocates for their needs, most recently in court. They call her “grandmother.”</p><p>Behishta, 17, is the oldest sister in her family of nine — six girls, one boy — who live on the home’s second floor. She recently obtained her driving permit and attends English learning classes three times a week on top of school. Behishta is entering her senior year, and after graduation, she plans on joining Job Corps and later becoming a journalist.</p><p>Finding permanent residence was a challenge. Behishta and her family have lived in Germany, Philadelphia, Texas and Worcester over the last two years, but will stay in Harvard at least until the end of this upcoming school year, in June, when their lease is up.</p><p>Though her sister, Shayesta, 16, calls Harvard “jungle city,” Behishta said she feels a sense of community there. In Afghanistan, young women are not entitled to an education, but here, Behishta said she has hope for her future.</p><p>“I’m so lucky,” she said. “We don’t have this good chance in Afghanistan … They did decide who you want to marry and what age you want to marry, with who, and there’s a lot of people who are married at age 12, 15, 14, which is sad. And my mom, she told me, ‘You can decide anyone you like, you can decide,’ and that made me so happy.”</p><p>Still, the reality of life in Afghanistan hangs above their heads. Their uncle worked with Americans as a contracted employee, but since the Taliban took control, he’s been in hiding.</p><p>“He has a lot of opportunities to come here, and there’s no way to come because the Taliban don’t like him go,” Shayesta said of her uncle. “The airport is locked. There’s no way to go there.”</p><p>Resources for incoming refugees exist in silos, Symula said, so getting support is up to a number of volunteers making lots of phone calls. MAA could help with that, she said.</p><p>“It’s hard to get all the services that they’re entitled to,” Symula said. “You call MassHealth, it’s ‘Push one for Spanish.’ There’s no way to get to somebody that can help you by getting a translator … Sometimes you’re educating the people on the phone about the people that you’re supporting, because they’re not aware.”</p><p>Though Symula’s work is admirable, Moses said she is a special case. Many families are unable to receive that level of care and funding.</p><p>“We want to find better solutions,” Moses said. “It shouldn’t take an extraordinary act from a town and some people in a town.”</p>
In the peak of summer, a number of local beaches are closing due to spikes in bacteria levels, as well as harmful algae blooms.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health monitors the state’s public beaches, curating a list of beaches deemed unsafe for swimming.
A total of 60 Massachusetts beaches are currently closed, the vast majority of which are caused by “bacterial exceedance,” including the Littleton Town Beach, Townsend’s Pearl Hill Pond, Ashby’s Damon Pond Beach and Westminster’s Crow Hill Pond Beach, the last three of which are state Department of Conservation and Recreation properties.
Chelmsford’s Health Department announced Heart Pond would be closed indefinitely, starting Monday morning, due to a “harmful algal bloom,” according to a notice posted on the town’s website.
Mark Masiello, Chelmsford’s environmental health inspector, said the state now has to visit to test the water and determine when they’ll reopen it. Heart Pond will be closed for about seven days, Masiello said, but that could become longer or shorter, depending on the state’s findings.
The town typically closes Heart Pond based on visible algae inlet, Masiello said, but the DPH will need to test the pond again next week, as algae can be hidden below the surface.
“A swimmer did say to the lifeguard [Monday] morning that when they were outside the swimming area, that when they got out of water, there was green all over their arms,” Masiello said.
Most common in the late summer and early fall months, algae blooms can be toxic and “release harmful gases,” according to the DPH’s website. Signs are now posted around Heart Pond forbidding people and their pets from swimming, wading or boating in the water, and those who do come in contact are asked to rinse off.
Lowell’s Rynne Beach was closed Friday for “high bacteria levels,” according to an alert on the city’s website. The Lowell Health Department stated the beach would reopen when those levels dropped, and the water would be tested every 48 hours. It’s unclear whether the beach is still closed, and Director of Health and Human Services Lisa Golden did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, which oversees, in part, Littleton and Townsend, did not respond to requests for comment.
Around this time last summer, the Tewksbury Health Department found three times the state limit of cyanobacteria in Long Pond.
The Fourth of July, a uniting national force, is around the corner, and in Massachusetts and its neighboring states, the holiday holds historic significance.
New England was the home of the first American settlers, served as the central backdrop for pivotal battles in the Revolutionary War and continues to represent the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution — think Town Meeting.
In recognition and celebration of the region and country’s history, residents tend to go big with their Independence Day festivities, and there’s possibly no bigger parade than that in Chelmsford.
Starting at McCarthy Middle School at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the parade will move along North Road through the town center toward the Chelmsford Public Library. Jeff Hardy, chair of the Chelmsford Parade Committee, said police and fire departments estimated 15,000 to 30,000 attendees in years past.
Given the extreme popularity, residents will set up chairs — effectively placeholders — along the route to ensure a good view of the processional. The practice is so common that the Department of Public Works cracks down on those who set up too early. This year, people have to wait until 12 p.m. Saturday to claim their spot.
Each year, the parade also spotlights a Hometown Hero, a local who made a considerable difference that year, Hardy said. They found their hero in former Police Chief Jim Spinney, who retired at the end of May after serving almost 33 years in law enforcement.
“Jimmy was phenomenal. He was a great chief and a very kind person, and you could see that at his retirement party, all the respect of the other officers that worked under him,” Hardy said. “It kind of solidified it for me that day, seeing how the whole force comes together.”
Chelmsford’s parade marshals are John and Linda Carson, a husband and wife duo who organize the annual two-mile John Carson Road Race in honor of their son, John, a record-breaking Chelmsford High School distance runner who passed away in 1987. The run takes place 30 minutes before the parade.
Special parade guests also include Chelmsford youth organizations and sports teams, elected officials and Pat Patriot alongside cheerleaders for the New England Patriots. But the real draw, at least according to Town Manager Paul Cohen, is the entertainment.
“The Parade Committee is very consciously expanding the diversity of the bands in the parade, because we really want to expand our audience,” Cohen said. “We are, by fact, the largest Fourth of July parade in the Greater Lowell area, and so we’re really taking a step forward to expand the diversity of the musical talent in the parade.”
Paradegoers will view performances from the classics: the Chelmsford Minutemen, Chelmsford Community Band and the Suburbanettes Twirl Team. But Cohen said this year, the town invited Chinese lion dancers, Spirit of Africa, the Worcester Kiltie Pipe Band, Latin dancers and a mariachi band to perform for the crowd.
The party starts July 2, with a free concert in the center common from 6-8 p.m. and an art festival at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts from 5-8 p.m. On Monday, the CCA continues its art festival from 3-9 p.m., and the Chelmsford Lions Club’s Country Fair kicks off at 5 p.m. in the center common. There will also be kiddie train rides at the rear of the public gardens from 5-8 p.m. and a Chelmsford Community Band concert at the center common from 7-8:30 p.m.
The big three-day affair went on hiatus during the pandemic, but now that it’s officially returned, Hardy said it’s back in full force.
“COVID cut into us a little bit,” Hardy said. “Now we’re finally past that, I feel like we’re going to be back to normal this year.”
Stepping outside of Chelmsford, residents closer to Lowell can enjoy their own celebration at Boarding House Park, where musical acts and food trucks will open at 5 p.m. on French Street July 4. Performances will continue until 8 p.m., when attendees will head to Bridge Street for a clear view of the fireworks display, which starts around 9:03 p.m.
Diandra Silk, the assistant director of communications and marketing for Lowell Cultural Affairs & Special Events, said the evening will also include face painting and roving performances that will add to the experience.
“I’m particularly excited about the bubbles,” Silk said. “I think those are always a big hit for all ages … I’m excited to see (everything) against the backdrop of Boarding House Park and then also with the fireworks, it should be just a really special night in Lowell.”
With the change in venue — previously at LeLacheur Park — City Manager Tom Golden wrote in a press release that he anticipates a fun, family-friendly time.
“We’re beyond excited to bring our Fourth of July celebration to Boarding House Park this year,” Golden stated. “We’re looking forward to a fun evening filled with good food, music, and celebrations with neighbors, friends, and family. We’re grateful to the National Park Service for their support in bringing these festivities to a venue ideally suited for reflecting on how far we’ve come as a city.”
Further west, Fitchburg’s Civic Days begins with a block party of more than 100 vendors on Main Street from 4-10 p.m. Monday, followed by fireworks at 10 p.m. and the parade Tuesday beginning at 10 a.m.
If you’re interested in simply catching a local fireworks display, a number of surrounding towns are gearing up for their own explosive show before, on or after the big day.
Wilmington: July 1 at 9 p.m. at the Wilmington High School field
Pepperell: July 1 at 9:30 p.m. at Nissitissit Middle School’s Athletic Field
Tewksbury: July 3 at 9:30 p.m. at Livingston Street Park
Fitchburg: July 3 at 10 p.m. at the Rollstone Hill quarry
Lowell: July 4 at 9:03 p.m. at Bridge Street (near Boarding House Park)
Groton: July 10 at 9:15 p.m. at Groton Field on Playground Road.
The commonwealth, country and world are painted in rainbows every June, marking the start of Pride Month and an effort for LGBTQ+ people to be seen and heard in their identities.
But Pride encompasses more than the grandiose parades and large-scale parties and celebrations. Towns and communities across Massachusetts are recognizing and holding space for their own residents in different ways, in solidarity, collaboration and validation.
Here’s a look at the upcoming LGBTQ+ happenings this month in Greater Lowell and beyond.
Taffeta, a new music venue out of Western Avenue Studios, will be creating “all around queer vibes” on Trans Tuesday, an event featuring performances from local trans artists and a live DJ, on June 6 from 8-11 p.m. Portions of the proceeds will be donated to Trans Resistance MA, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
Food trucks will be stationed outside, and drinks will be served. Tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door.
For a thorough look at drag itself, the Pollard Memorial Library — in partnership with the Wilmington Memorial Library — is inviting Matthew Wittmann to cover the United States history of drag performances in a Zoom lecture June 8 from 7-8 p.m.
Wittmann, curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, will utilize photographs and primary source materials from the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Registration for the virtual session is open on the library’s events page.
At the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center, literary scholar Heather Barrett and historian Resi Polixa will walk through local LGBTQ+ history, weaving in stories of the city’s immigrants and mill workers of years past. Interested parties can join the walk June 10 from 10-11:30 a.m.
And following Billerica’s recent proclamations in support of LGBTQ+ rights, Billerica Access Television is holding an art installation and reception at the historic Howe School at 390 Boston Road June 10 from 2-5 p.m. The mixed media art will honor and celebrate community pride and allyship, with remarks from guest speaker Kelly Jenkins at 3:30 p.m. and a film screening from Elliot Gale.
The party continues in Chelmsford, where residents can prepare “to dance, sing, cheer, and slay” at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts’ “Celebration! A Drag Show” June 10 from 7-9 p.m. In partnership with Chelmsford Community Services, the night of performances is only open to adults 21-plus — though will be “family-friendly” — and there will be a cash bar.
Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for seniors, and they can be purchased through the CCA’s website or by contacting the box office at 978-250-3780 or email@example.com.
Beforehand, the town will host a handful of free activities and resources for families at the Market on the Common from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Every June, Rainbow Merrimack Valley — formerly Rainbow Chelmsford — distributes rainbow flags to allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community by request through an online portal, as well as in person outside the CCA on Saturdays. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org or access the contact form on the organization’s website, rainbowchelmsford.com.
For the education-seekers, SpeakOUT Boston — speakers who address discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community — are visiting the Chelmsford Public Library to teach attendees how to be allies for transgender people.
The event is part of the library’s Compelling Questions lecture series, which seeks to hold discussions around challenging topics with a current day impact.
SpeakOUT Boston encourages attendees to “Ask Us Anything” in an effort to combat misinformation and increase understanding. Registration is open on the library’s website for the event, which will be held June 21 from 6:30-8 p.m.
The Pride party kicks off June 16 with the Acton Pride Weekend! Drag Show Event. Drag performers will take the stage at the outdoor Thomas E. Tidman Amphitheater at NARA Park from 8-10 p.m.
Audience members should bring blankets and chairs, as well as their own food and drinks. Food and alcoholic beverages will be sold on the premises. Tickets for those 14-plus are $10 on Eventbrite and $15 at the gate.
Readers can find their next summer page-turner at the Parker Memorial Library’s Virtual LGBTQ+ Book Club, where attendees can discuss author Ashley Herring Blake’s “Delilah Green Doesn’t Care” and “Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail” that may serve “as a springboard to discuss the challenges,” the event description states.
The book club is open to teens, adults and seniors who are interested in exploring books with LGBTQ+ themes alongside LGBTQ+ librarians. The Zoom runs June 26 from 7-8 p.m., and more information is posted on the library’s website.
NoWoCo Pride — a group representing LGBTQ+ residents and allies of North Worcester County — is organizing its first annual Pride Parade at Fitchburg City Hall July 22, starting at 2 p.m.
It’s just one of several events in the county this and next month continuing the Pride celebrations, which includes a Pride Paint Party at Main Street Studios June 18 from 1-3 p.m., a Gardner City Hall Lighting July 16 and NoWoCo Pride’s fifth anniversary gala July 19. Tickets to paid events can be purchased through NoWoCo’s website.
And for the pet lovers, NoWoCo is inviting furry friends to participate in a Paws Up for Pride at the Fitchburg Dog Park July 20 at 7 a.m. There will be vendors and a pet costume contest.
CHELMSFORD — When approached by two strangers filming in her office, Director of Veterans Affairs Regina Jackson had some concerns.
Citing potentially confidential information about her clients, Jackson asked them to step aside. She said she felt “intimidated,” even more so when they declined to share their names, told her she was acting hostile and lacked manners and suggested she was failing other veterans.
The interaction was uploaded in a YouTube video, in which Josh Abrams — the face behind the channel “Accountability For All” — enters the Chelmsford Town Offices alongside his fiancé and fellow YouTuber “Bananer Anna” to conduct a First Amendment audit: an exercise in which people film town officials in public to ensure they “are representing their citizens in the right way” and don’t violate the expression of residents’ constitutional rights, Abrams said.
But Jackson said she believes Abrams’ mission was solely “to provoke a response” from municipal workers and make them “look foolish.”
“They didn’t ask any questions about veterans issues,” Jackson said. “They didn’t want to make an appointment to sit down for a claim. They weren’t interested in getting any information about Chelmsford veterans or any veterans or any issue at all … They were just two people trying to make money off of silly YouTube made-up controversies.”
Abrams’ visit to Chelmsford is one of his latest encounters, which are often met with anger, confusion and discomfort. His confrontations with employees and town leaders garner thousands of clicks, and his stop in Chelmsford, posted last week, has almost 30,000 views. Since sharing his first video nearly four years ago, Abrams has amassed 122,000 subscribers.
Abrams recently stopped in Littleton, Westford, Fitchburg and Wilmington to conduct similar audits, some by request. In Littleton, on May 15 — the same day as his Chelmsford visit — Abrams said town staff couldn’t be nicer, but that’s a pretty rare phenomenon.
“It’s a shame I don’t have more positive interactions,” Abrams, a Stoneham native, said, “because when they’re positive, I post them too … We really do want the folks that are doing a great job for their community to get the same exposure as those who react negatively, which is probably about 85% of the time.”
Abrams declined to tell The Sun where he resides now, but The Boston Globe reported he lives in Townsend.
Littleton Interim Town Administrator Ryan Ferrara said the town’s portrayal was simply a result of successful preparation. Having heard about the First Amendment audits in the area, Ferrara said staff were briefed on the group and told to “answer their questions and be polite,” Ferrara said.
While such an incident may be “shocking” to those untrained or unaware of the audits, Ferrara said it’s par for the course. He said he feels it’s within their rights to film and that it’s something that “goes with the territory” for public-facing employees.
“Ultimately, it’s important for staff to remember we serve the public,” Ferrara said, “and we need to always be courteous and professional regardless of who comes to our door.”
Littleton Select Board members addressed the video with Ferrara during their Monday night meeting. Though he thinks the video’s thumbnail “is incredibly clickbaity,” member Matthew Nordhaus said the video was generally positive and showcased the great work of the town’s employees.
“I think they’re a little bit trollish,” Nordhaus said at the meeting. “Nevertheless, the Littleton Town Hall staff could not have been shown in a better light. Everyone was incredibly friendly, polite, warm, and the person who was recording the video was impressed with their professionalism.”
Though Chelmsford also expected the auditors’ arrival and understood their purpose, Town Manager Paul Cohen said those who conduct the walkthroughs seem to purposefully irritate people. In his view, the videos are “just meant to harass and humiliate.”
“I think public officials and employees respect the values of transparency and public records and right to information so forth, but that’s not what these efforts are about,” Cohen said. “These are efforts about who they can agitate so they can get something on film that they can then put online to humiliate people. That’s sort of the unfortunate part of it.”
As a result of Jackson’s experience, Cohen said they’ll be installing a Dutch door to her office to provide a slight protective barrier between her and the public.
Cohen said Jackson’s longtime dedication to public service and effective outreach to her clientele outweigh a minuteslong conversation with random people with alternative intentions. After speaking with Jackson about the incident, Cohen characterized the pair’s behavior as “reprehensible.”
“Here’s a woman who devotes and has devoted her career to helping veterans, particularly those in need,” Cohen said, “and that’s not what this was about … I’m going to rely on the track record as opposed to somebody who’s in there with a video trying to get a reaction out of people for entertainment purposes.”
Though her office had no issues with Abrams, Chelmsford Town Clerk Tricia Dzuris said Jackson handled their presence “with dignity and grace” and if anything, Abrams’ and his fiancé’s response “showed the kind of character and the motivation for them.”
Overall, Dzuris said she was proud of how the town dealt with the YouTubers and feels the experience was one she can “check off” in her career as a public official.
“We greeted them with a smile,” Dzuris said, “and when you do that and there’s no defensive action, I think they’re just perfectly content to walk away.”
Tempers also flared in Westford on Monday, when Abrams filmed Building Commissioner Henry Fontaine’s objection to being on camera. When Abrams defended his right to record, Fontaine said they’d be calling the police.
Officers later showed up, reiterating Abrams’ ability to exercise his rights, and Fontaine explained he was seeking more information on who they were and the reason they were there.
When asked about the encounter over the phone, Fontaine said the office was too busy for him to comment. Town Manager Kristen Las said she would not comment on the incident, adding that she was not present in the building when the auditors stopped by but was already aware of their actions in other communities.
“I’ve spoken with various employees, and various employees have had different reactions and takes on it,” Las said.
Police were called during Abrams’ audit in Fitchburg, but for more serious reasons. While Abrams was filming, ironically, outside the city auditor’s office a few weeks ago, a new employee expressed her discomfort with the camera and reached for Abrams’ phone and wrist.
City officials called the police, but Abrams said he decided not to press charges for assault and battery when he learned the staffer is not originally from the United States.
“That’s not a great way to start her life in a new country,” Abrams said, “so I decided to give her the opportunity to apologize, and she did and she was very remorseful and I dropped the charges, they were let go.”
Despite Abrams’ understanding, Jackson said Abrams and others like him are just looking to capture a viral moment. In the aftermath, she said she hopes to still provide an open-door policy to local veterans.
“It’s a welcoming environment,” Jackson said, “but when you come in with the purpose of trying to get us angry or mad or provoke us, that’s just a waste of my time, a waste of their time.”
Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale did not respond to multiple requests for comment prior to this article’s publication. The City Auditor’s Department in Fitchburg also did not respond to a request for comment.
FITCHBURG — The recent affiliation agreement forged between The Arc of Opportunity in Fitchburg and Chelmsford-based Incompass Human Services brings together two state human services organizations who are dedicated to the same mission — to support individuals with disabilities and their families.
According to a press release as an affiliate of Incompass, The Arc will work together with the human services agency that serves nearly 500 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries throughout Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence to advocate for the needs of the people they serve and expand their reach across those areas as well as Fitchburg and Northern Worcester County.
“We are thrilled to welcome The Arc of Opportunity into our organization as our newest affiliate,” stated Incompass CEO Jean Phelps in the press release. “This agreement will allow us to leverage the strengths of both organizations to better serve our individuals and their families and communities. Together, we will be able to develop new initiatives and implement collaborative activities to positively affect each organization’s impact.”
The press release conveyed that both agencies offer similar programs and have a history of working together to advocate for the workforce and the people and families they serve.
The Arc of Opportunity has been providing day, home, family, and employment supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in North Central Massachusetts for more than 70 years out of their headquarters in Fitchburg. For more than 65 years Incompass Human Services has delivered enriching supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries so that they can lead fuller and more prosperous lives.
Incompass is one of the founding affiliates of the New England Human Services Collaborative along with Peabody based Bridgewell, Inc. NEHSCO is a consortium of human services providers with a shared vision rooted in access and innovation that was created to address the growing need for collaboration and shared resources among human services agencies in the region, as demand for services in the network increases.
The Arc is also led by a woman, CEO and President Mary Heafy. Her views on the collaboration between the two agencies sync with Phelps’ thoughts.
“We are excited to become an affiliate of Incompass Human Services and be a part of the NEHSCO umbrella of providers,” Heafy said in the press release. “This agreement offers us access to share in a wider range of resources and expertise, which will help us to offer more comprehensive services to the individuals and families we serve.”
The press release went on to say that consistent with the NEHSCO affiliation model, both agencies will continue to operate under their current name and leadership structure and will maintain their current programs and services.
“I’m pleased to see another agency embracing the power of collaboration,” shared NEHSCO CEO and Bridgewell President and CEO Chris Tuttle in the release. “One in 10 people in Massachusetts are served by the human services system, and it’s a number that is growing. As an affiliate to Incompass Human Services, The Arc of Opportunity will immediately have access to the burgeoning knowledge library and training programs we are creating at NEHSCO as we aim to meet that demand and spur innovation across the sector.”