First Parish is one of thirteen churches in the Family Promise Metrowest network that provides shelter and meals for homeless families; each church does this several weeks a year. The goal of this interfaith program is to keep families together while they work toward living in their own home again. We started in the summer of 2008 and receive much assistance from our support congregation, First Baptist Church in Framingham.
The guests arrive about 5 pm and share a family-style meal with dinner host volunteers. The guests clean up and we socialize until bedtime, which is early because the MIHN van picks up our guests at 6:45 am on weekdays. Two volunteers spend the night at the church and put out a very simple breakfast in the morning (most importantly–coffee!). The guests spend the day at the Day Center, which is housed on Mulligan Street in Natick. There the director and associate director help guests with goals, such as finding housing, work, and/or childcare. Families are also able to use showers there and wash their laundry. There are education programs for families or kids activities in the large meeting room.
Volunteers are needed for preparing meals, evening companionship, staying overnight, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and for setup before the week and cleanup after the guests move on to another church. To volunteer, contact: Andre Lamontagne Contact Andre
First Parish is one of two metrowest congregations that host the MetroWest Free Medical Program, a nonprofit organization that engages volunteer healthcare providers to offer physical and mental health services to those who are uninsured and underinsured.
The MetroWest Free Medical Program is open at First Parish on Monday evenings for Vision care and Thursday evenings for Women’s Health and Gynecological care. Services are offered by appointment 508-656-0885 for Vision and 508-656-0834 for Women’s Health.
Volunteers at the MetroWest Free Medical Program provide services to about 1,300 patients through more than 1800 visits, annually. The program operates on a small budget and is supported by corporate and foundation grants and individual donations. The First Parish congregation supports the work of the MetroWest Free Medical Program with many active volunteers, the in-kind donation of space to operate the clinical services, and an annual financial contribution from the Share-the-Plate program. This is truly a community program!
To learn more about the MetroWest Free Medical Program, to make a donation or to consider volunteering, visit their website.
The Diaper Project at A Place To Turn
Every child should have enough diapers to be clean, dry and healthy. The Diaper Project at First Parish and A Place to Turn have partnered to help provide referred Metrowest families in financial distress with an adequate supply of diapers for their infants and toddlers. Our volunteers outreach churches, businesses, schools, civic groups, and organizations to host diaper drives. Collected diapers are distributed at A Place To Turn, an emergency food pantry in Natick serving the Metrowest area. For more information, see our website http://www.diaperproject.info.
We collect the following items and donate them to area food pantries: non-perishable food such as peanut butter, cold cereal, hearty soups; canned hams, tuna, and chicken; juice and juice boxes; Parmalat (boxed milk); beans; macaroni and cheese that can be microwaved.
For more information contact Diane Montgomery Contact Diane
Learning English for Adults Program (L.E.A.P.)
L.E.A.P. offers three levels of beginner classes: basic literacy, low beginners and high beginners, and a low intermediate class. In addition, LEAP will offer citizenship prep classes. Ten experienced volunteer instructors from First Parish and the community will teach one or more semesters.
Up to seventy students participate in the program during the year. Students may elect to attend 2 or 3 classes each week. Reading, writing, listening and speaking are emphasized in all classes.
Students are referred to us by SMOC, the Literacy Programs at the Natick and Framingham public libraries, Framingham Adult ESL Program, Metrowest Jewish Family Services, and Metrowest Free Medical Program. Students also learn about the program from press releases in the local media and from word-of-mouth. Our program provides access to English language instruction to students who did not win the Framingham Adult ESL Plus program lottery, students who cannot commit to programs that require 2 or 3 weekly sessions, or cannot afford tuition-based programs. Most of our students are from South America.
For more information contact Eva Benda.
Prison Outreach and Re-entry Working Group
This group form in 2016 to offer support to incarcerated women in Framingham. The mission is to make a positive impact on inmates, their children and women re-entering the community. In 2017, we initiated two programs at the pre-release center, South Middlesex Correctional Center (SMCC): ‘The Kids Corner’ and ‘Each One, Teach One.’
This activity is currently on hiatus per request of SMCC.
The Kids Corner is scheduled once a month during visiting hours. We offer visiting children opportunities to engage in fun activities during their visit, such as collages, puzzles and drawing. Mothers and visitors often join in. The incarcerated mothers can also use the time to discuss personal matters with their adult visitors while their children are engaged in creative play.
The “Each One, Teach One’ workshop series is designed to provide opportunities for developing an d strengthening positive family relationships of incarcerated mothers and their children. Each workshop is a two-part session, with part one focused on teaching the mothers an activity. In part two, the mothers teach the activity to their children and visitors. We provide content-specific handouts, books and other resources to each mother who participates. In 2017, we conducted conducted five two-part workshops in topics including creating miniature greeting cards, working with clay, selecting books and reading aloud, making healthy snacks and meditation and yoga poses. We will continue to expand the list of workshops in 2018.
The mothers have shared that they enjoy participating in the workshops with their children and learning creative activities to do with them when they are released. We have also received positive feedback on the Kids Corner from children, adult visitors and mothers. Many have commented how the programs enhances the children’s visitation experience and others express their gratitude to the volunteers for their time.
The Prison Outreach Group is also tracking criminal justice reform legislation to keep members of First Parish informed about when significant legislation is being considered and when supportive letters and phone calls to state representatives are important.
If you are interested in helping to facilitate a workshop, participate in the Kids Corner or help us keep track of criminal justice reform legislation, please contact Beverly Smith or Kathryn McKee.
Guatemala Working Group
Guatemala Working Group supports improved education and infrastructure (Onil stoves, water filters, improved housing, school supplies) at the Bendicion de Dios school community in Alotenango. This school serves children with limited resources, who otherwise would not be able to attend school, due to the prohibitive costs of a uniform and materials.
The Group meets approximately two to three times a year. It heads up the First Parish Onil stove initiative during the December Share the Plate collection. First Parish has funded over 100 energy efficient stoves that are being used in the school community. The Guatemala Work Group works with the organization Under the Same Moon, a non-profit 501c3 organization whose mission is to provide funding and professional development to the Guatemalan school Bendicion de Dios. It helps with sales of Guatemalan handcrafted jewelry, which both supports employment of over 25 Guatemalan artisans and funds the kindergarten and preschool programs at Bendicion de Dios.
Contact Rebecca Center for more information or to get involved.
UU Urban Ministry
The Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry is a social justice organization in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. With a history of nearly 200 years, this ministry supports youth and adults by providing opportunities for them to develop life skills, further their education, and find adequate housing and services. You can learn more about UU Urban Ministry here.
Our UU Urban Ministry working group provides support for Renewal House, a domestic violence shelter. In the spring the group publicizes a collection of needed items for Renewal House such as toiletries, children’s art supplies, and household items. A collection basket is kept for 3 weeks in the Parish House hallway. Supplies are taken to Renewal House.