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SPRING 2016 Rosie’s Place Supports All Women Who Parent Our Executive Director on Our Unique Guests Public Policy Awareness Grows Writing Café Inspires ESOL Students


“Honor Your Mother by Helping Another” Host an Event for Rosie’s Place!

Rosie’s Place Supports Grandmothers Raising Their Grandchildren



GROUPS COORDINATOR Rosie’s Place welcomes our new Groups Coordinator, Evelyn Rivera, who has 35 years experience in the human services field. She most recently served as Co-Director of the Emergency Service Center at Bay Cove Human Services/CASPAR. She manages a full slate of groups–including parenting groups that many grandmothers attend–that not only provide support, but also help guests gain practical skills. What groups can Rosie’s Place’s guests attend? We offer a range of groups that we try to match with our guests’ needs. Ongoing groups are Personal Economic Planning to help women budget and save; Anger Management, which helps women find their voice and express their needs; Choices in Nutrition for guests who are interested in making healthy meals on a budget; and a Smoking Cessation group. I hope to make our Nurturing/Parenting Group available in Haitian Creole and Spanish, in addition to English. This group helps parents and grandparents build the tools they need in caring for children. New groups this spring include Relapse Prevention and TraumaInformed Yoga, which is led by Theresa Okokon, our 2015 Kip Tiernan Social Justice Fellow. How are these groups beneficial to guests? I think the most important benefit of groups is that they help women see they are not alone. When our guests share their stories, they see that others have gone through something similar and that their experiences are valid. These groups also encourage our guests to give themselves permission to stand up for their rights and to take care of themselves. Do you have any ideas for new groups going forward? I would like to start a relationships group on how to identify toxic relationships and help women recognize what they are and aren’t getting from their family, friends and/ or partner. I would also like to bring a trauma support group to Rosie’s Place, as many of our guests are survivors of trauma, and perhaps a Seasonal Affective Disorder support group. What is the most rewarding part of your job? I love getting a chance to be creative, to learn more about our guests and then imagine what programming we can develop for them. I am a child witness to violence survivor and that’s why I got into this field. I love helping others and find it very rewarding to be able to empower women and let them know they don’t have to continue to be constricted by what happened to them.

Beverly received help securing and furnishing a new apartment so she could be reunited with her granddaughter Justice. Gloria first came to us unable to afford back rent and discovered she could receive guidance in managing her granddaughter Melanie’s behavior. Tara looks to staff at our satellite office at Franklin Field to make holidays brighter for her grandson D-Kari. And Ginette sees an Advocate regularly for assistance in making ends meet for herself, her teenage daughter and her grandson Carlos. At Rosie’s Place, we welcome women from age 18 to well into their 90s– single women, mothers, grandmothers, even great-grandmothers. The guests mentioned above are just a cross-section of the increasing number of women coming to us for support in navigating their unexpected role as primary parent for their–in most cases–daughter’s child. Grandmothers raising grandchildren has become a trend nationwide. The Associated Press, citing census figures, reports that 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, an increase of 7% since 2009. About one-fifth of these families have incomes below the poverty line. In addition, many are managing a chronic illness and 25% have a disability. The factors cited for mothers not parenting their children are many, and include the opioid epidemic, military deployment and a greater number of women being incarcerated. The grandmothers we serve at Rosie’s Place are most often low-income women who had sought our services before taking on the added financial and emotional responsibility of parenting

again. The devastating earthquake in Haiti brought Ginette and her daughter to Rosie’s Place almost five years ago. Ginette’s commitment to job training and English as a Second Language classes evolved to her seeking Nurturing/ Parenting classes and applications for state assistance once her 16-year-old daughter gave birth. Advocate Sweens Smith has been a steady resource for Ginette. “I can translate for her and reach out to local agencies on her behalf, “Sweens says. “I also try to be a support system, as her daughter is not really involved and she has no one to count on.” Ginette sees a greater impact: “My grandbaby has a roof over his head because of all of you.” When helping grandmothers at Rosie’s Place, we do not require they have legal custody, according to Advocacy Manager Erin Miller. “They don’t have to prove anything to us. We will help a caretaker with the basics and will try to be a safety net to mom and daughter as they figure things out. We have found, though, that if the grandmother hopes the situation is just temporary and doesn’t seek custody, she can’t access benefits that could make a difference.” Erin recounts a recent case of a grandmother whose daughter disappeared, so she moved into the daughter’s apartment to take care of her kids. Soon she received a utility shut-off notice. Struggling to pay her own bills, she turned to Rosie’s Place. We were able to pay the utility bill. “I don’t think any other agencies could have helped her without the renter’s involvement,” Erin says. “Because we are not bound by government funding and regulations, we

Gloria’s Story Gloria’s story is really the story of three women: Gloria, her daughter Sandra and her granddaughter Melanie. Sandra was a guest and using drugs when pregnant with Melanie. She ultimately realized she could not take proper care of her baby, so her mother, Gloria, moved to Boston from Puerto Rico to step in. Gloria has been the custodial parent “since day 1” of Melanie, who has brought her the joys and trials of parenting, albeit at an older age. When Gloria approached Rosie’s Place for help paying back rent about 10 years ago, she was added to our stabilization program, which provides in-home support and services. Manager Evelyn Gonzalez was Gloria’s stabilization worker at the time: “Once I was able to settle Gloria’s housing issues, we started

talking about behavior problems with Melanie, who was about nine years old. Gloria was unable to understand that Melanie had developmental delays and mental health issues. And there had been a language barrier in communicating with her family doctor.” Evelyn intervened on Gloria’s behalf and set up an appointment for an assessment at Children’s Hospital, where it was confirmed that Melanie had bipolar disorder as well as learning disabilities. “Bringing us to Children’s Hospital was a huge help,” Gloria says. From there, Evelyn found a physician who spoke Spanish and accompanied Gloria and Melanie on their early visits. She also went with Gloria to a meeting at Melanie’s school, and ensured that an Individualized Educational Program, tutor and other services

Tamra and D-Kari

stepped in and helped buy time for the grandmother to sort out the situation.” Rosie’s Place’s services include parenting classes, resources and referrals to benefit the grandchild, as well as meals, as children are always welcome in the Dining Room. At holiday time, grandmothers can receive gifts for their young ones at a number of parties we hold and through the Outreach van. Tamra appreciates what Rosie’s Place does for her at Franklin Field–working with a job counselor on a new resume and seeking potential employment leads–and for D-Kari. “Rosie’s Place is fabulous at holiday time, helping us out with toys, clothing, resources. Even transportation. As the ‘adult in charge’ of my daughter’s baby, it means a lot.” Sometimes we can aid our grandmothers most effectively by taking a holistic approach with the family. During home visits to Gloria, her Rosie’s Place housing stabilization worker started to understand what was behind Gloria’s frustration with her granddaughter Melanie’s behavior. While Gloria was our guest, Melanie’s welfare was critical to Gloria’s well-being, so we intervened and took steps to get them both the services they needed. (Read more about Gloria below.) “People’s lives are complicated and roles change and then they become even more complicated,” Erin says. “Some of our guests were just getting by, and as grandmothers they are not getting by. That’s where we come in.” were made available to the family. “Rosie’s Place is a great place to get your needs met,” says Gloria. “I’ve had so many things that I’ve needed help with. When my knees hurt from walking Melanie back and forth to school, Evelyn even got us a T pass. Sometimes I think Rosie’s Place is better than my own family.” Today, Gloria has the occasional meal at Rosie’s Place, visits the food pantry and still dotes on her granddaughter, who graduated from high school last May. Her daughter Sandra remains a frequent presence at Rosie’s Place. We continue to visit Gloria to help with budgeting and housing issues, food stamp benefits and also to provide options and support for Melanie as she decides the next step in her life.

Our Executive Director on Our Unique Guests Dear Friends: One of my favorite responsibilities at Rosie’s Place is giving tours to visitors and supporters who have never had a chance to see our programs in action or to meet some of our staff and guests. I can almost guarantee some of the reactions I hear at the end of a visit: “I can’t believe how clean and beautiful Rosie’s Place is,” “So many women from so many situations and backgrounds visit Rosie’s Place,” and “I never knew Rosie’s Place did so much!” The diversity of our guests is one of our organization’s most striking features. Some of those differences are obvious and easy to see or hear–various languages, different manners of dress, varied ages, use of a wheelchair or cane. Some of our guests have had lengthy work histories; are college graduates (or beyond); are raising families, alone or with a spouse. Other guests have spent most of their lives careening from one unstable situation to the next, barely making ends meet, barely hanging onto a frayed set of supports. It is tempting to distill those many differences into such a handful of features–our guests’ races, their religions, their ages, their mental or physical health. Certainly the typical intake form would attempt to describe the world within Rosie’s Place in those terms. But those “fill in the blank” survey qualities fade when stacked against the continuing, personal interaction that we have with every woman who crosses our threshold. It is there that our understanding of her true uniqueness grows. For many of the homeless and at-risk women who visit Rosie’s Place, the chance to be somewhere safe, warm, clean and dignified is a first-time experience. Many of our guests have lived lives full of loneliness, privation and despair. At least half suffer from mental illness, addiction, chronic health problems or some combination. With their severe poverty, their choices have been few. We understand that our obligation is to create not only a refuge to visit, but a community in which to live. Ever since Kip organized the first volunteer team 42 years ago, Rosie’s Place has greeted every woman with love, respect and unconditional acceptance. We offer the warmth and comfort of community–something that every one of us on this earth wants and needs. And, as you know, we undertake our work within a perspective that is unique, and which guides what funds we will take, who sits on our board of directors and what our responsibility is in seeking justice. We are very grateful for your embrace of our mission and your understanding of Rosie’s Place as a special refuge for women who are facing despair. Each day, we resolve to walk side by side with each of these women—wherever their journey leads.

Public Policy Programming Makes The Political Personal Local and national public policy affects us all, but for the women of Rosie’s Place it can mean the difference between being able to access the help they need and continuing to go without. Whether the issue is shelter regulations, lack of available resources or eligibility for benefits, legislation can have a significant bearing on the lives of our guests. The Rosie’s Place Public Policy department both works to represent the interests of our guests at the State House through direct lobbying and coalition building and to make a personal impact by empowering guests to be actively involved in advocacy. “So many of our guests think there’s nothing they can do to improve their lives and it’s gratifying to see that view change after they’ve had some exposure to the workings of the political process,” says Public Policy Director Mehreen Butt. Our four-session Public Policy Training not only gives guests an overview of government and the democratic process, but also equips them with the information they need to become actively engaged. Last December, seven guests participated in this training, which involves active discussion, presentations and quizzes. The challenging curriculum, presented by Mehreen and Rachel Lochner, public policy assistant, started with an introduction to public policy and its value as a solution to problems, as well as the importance of voting. The second session dug deeper into city, state and federal government and its impact on guests’ lives. They learned techniques to effectively share their story with elected officials during a training led by public speaking instructor Lani Peterson. They then developed and practiced short personal testimonies that they delivered to Senator Linda

“This is a heartfelt thanks for all that you do for women like me. Thank you for all the ways you make the world seem a little more like heaven. The days are always much brighter when one knows of a place to get a hot meal, make a call, use the computer or simply sit in silence. Thank you for touching my life in ways you may never know. In my journey of life, I have been blessed to know you because you made the burdens a little less heavy.”

Dorcena Forry, D-Dorchester, at the State House. During this meeting, guests discussed the conditions at the city shelter and the need for support services upon reentry after incarceration, among many other issues. “Staff can, and do, represent our guests at the State House,” says Mehreen, “but it’s more powerful for them to be able to share their own story with policy makers.” Guest Norma B. says she was eager for the training because she wanted to know how to talk to people and ask questions so that she fully understands the policies that affect her. “I learned the proper way to present myself to get the help I need,” she says. Upon completion of the training, these guests joined other Public Policy Training graduates who have testified at hearings, met with their legislators and become active members of other community organizations such as the T Riders Union and M-Power. “Through these trainings, we have created a network of guests who are ready to affect positive change in the community,” says Mehreen. Voting is one of the most basic ways to make sure guests’ voices are heard. Our Public Policy department engages guests during local and national election seasons through voter education and mobilization activities such as candidate forums, voter registration and a non-partisan election guide. “It’s amazing to assist our guests in making the connection between voting and policy change,” says Mehreen. Since January, staff has registered more than 40 women to vote, and on March 1, we escorted guests to their polling locations to cast their ballot in the 2016 presidential primary. Please visit to read the Public Policy newsletter and learn more.


Excerpted from a thank you card sent by Angella O., a former guest.

With hope,

Note from Angella O.


“The past few weeks at the Writing Café have been so eye-opening, inspiring and rewarding. I’ve enjoyed working with each woman and really admire their courageousness and determination. I was lucky to have two personal friends join me in volunteering and they have been equally moved by the experience.”

Rosie’s Place accepts no government

funds and relies instead on committed supporters like you!

Michelle Laczkoski

ROSIE’S PLACE NEWS is published three times a year to inform our friends about activities and events taking place throughout the Rosie’s Place community. OUR MISSION is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for poor and homeless women to maintain their dignity, seek opportunity and find security in their lives. Executive Director Sue Marsh Director of Development Leemarie Mosca Director of Communications | Editor Michele Chausse Communications Coordinator | Contributor Cara Rotschafer Design Colette O’Neill We’d love to hear from you! Please contact us with your comments at 617.318.0210.

Feedback from Michelle Laczkoski, audience development director at Boston Business Journal and teacher in the Women’s Education Center’s Writing Café this winter.

“I feel connected to Rosie’s Place because where I came from is not that different from where many of the women who use your services came from. My grandfather died in a tragic accident in Italy when I was young and times were difficult for my family…I wish my mother and grandmother had a Rosie’s Place back home to give them a helping hand. So I never forget my personal life experience as I live in Boston, my new home.” Excerpted from a talk given by Mario Russo, owner of Salon Mario Russo and a generous supporter, at Rosie’s Place’s Annual Meeting on March 3.

Mario Russo

First-Ever Writing Café Inspires ESOL Students Not long after joining Rosie’s Place last year, Women’s Education Center (WEC) Director Sara Jorgensen created a survey to learn more about what our guests might want in their English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) classes. Overwhelmingly, they asked for more focus on building their language skills through writing. That response spurred the creation of the Writing Café this winter. Over five weeks, from mid-January through February, the WEC classrooms buzzed with activity during what is usually the interim period between the fall and spring semesters. More than 190 students worked closely with 38 volunteer teachers, either three mornings or two evenings each week, to express themselves, writing in the journals they were given for that purpose. Guest speakers and writer panelists were invited in weekly to share the ways in which they have recorded their life experiences, inspiring the students to pen their own stories. Topics such as “What does it mean to be a woman?” and “Art and writing” fueled guests’ creativity, and a panel including longtime community activist Mel King and local author Rishi Reddi urged the women to share their stories, emphasizing that each one is worth telling. One guest, Scheena, wrote about the “generational gap” between herself and her sisters. “Hearing Donna [an artist who spoke to the group about her family] got me to thinking about past hurts and how to understand them now that so many years have passed.” “The participation of so many women–both existing students and guests we haven’t met–was exciting,” says Sara. “I think the combination of a warm writing environment, trained tutors, inspirational speakers, beautiful journals and encouragement for attempts or successes has given some of our students the courage to take another step towards expressing themselves through writing.” The Writing Café culminated in two days of presentations, during which the writers shared their stories, reading aloud to a large and supportive group of fellow students. Some women–such as Zhixin, who was a scientist in China–spoke about memories of their earlier life, while 70-year-old Askale from Ethiopia simply stated her likes and dislikes. One after the other, women from all over the world stood in front of the gathering and “found their voice through writing,” says Sara. Writing will continue throughout the spring semester. Plans are in the works to publish a booklet of student writing by May, thanks to the involvement of a volunteer teacher who works at a publishing company. “There is something contagious about a group of women writing,” says Sara. “Women who write declare, ‘I am important and I will be remembered.’ When our first student publication is released, I can imagine great delight over the variety of voices showcased. I think the women themselves will be the most surprised.” Read the Boston Globe’s story here:



Did K ? You


Music has been in the air at Rosie’s Place since fall, thanks to the vibrant presence of music therapy students from the Berklee College of Music. Groups of students are supporting our English as a Second Language classes by working with guests to write lyrics that reflect their life experiences and then create songs. You can hear the result at Also, these talented musicians perform in the Dining Room during dinner each week, often inviting guests to join them in drumming and other forms of music. Self-Advocacy Organizer Adrianna Rosembert was honored at Fenway Health’s Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch last year with the Trailblazer Award, which recognizes her work with underserved women at Rosie’s Place and dedication to social justice. Adrianna’s mission is to empower our guests to work towards and achieve self-sufficiency by building their knowledge and confidence. Thanks to our loyal friends who enabled us to run a free full-page ad about income inequality in the Boston Globe through the GRANT program. The 2016 GRANT voting has started again, so we ask all subscribers to choose Rosie’s Place when they send in their ad vouchers. Thank you!

Excitement ran high as the Boston Celtics visited Rosie’s Place in January! Many thanks to the Celtics CommUNITY Crew and TD Bank for preparing and serving dinner once again this year. They were joined by, from left, current Celtics power forward Amir Johnson, former Celtics star Dana Barros and team mascot Lucky, who posed for photos with guests and signed autographs.

Our Friends of Rosie’s Place young professionals group gathered for a February night of fun, fundraising and fitness with a spinning class at Recycle Studio. For information about the group and upcoming events, email Kristen Leonard at

Thanks to generous individuals and community and corporate groups, we were able to brighten the holiday season for our guests and their families by providing toys to 284 children and presents to 731 women—the most gifts ever distributed! Left: We handed out gifts at a party for families at our Franklin Field satellite office in December. Right: Women living at home who are served by our Outreach program received gifts for their children and a little something special for themselves during a party at our Norfolk House location.

Since last summer, volunteers from the law firm Ropes & Gray have been holding a weekly debt clinic at Rosie’s Place to help guests with loans, medical debts, credit reports and more. From left, attorney Melissa Mostow and paralegal Rachel Ryan triage guests’ needs in the Rosie’s Place lobby.

WBUR hosted its 13th annual reading of A Christmas Carol in December, raising more than $22,000 to benefit Rosie’s Place. The sold-out event was held at The Omni Parker House, where Charles Dickens began his first American reading tour of the beloved novel in 1867. The dramatic renditions of select passages by WBUR personalities, from left, Delores Handy, Tom Ashbrook, Robin Young, Bill Littlefield and Bob Oakes brought the timeless holiday tale to life. Rosie’s Place celebrated Black History Month with activities and events throughout February. Guests participated in art and writing workshops and learned about income inequality and voting rights in trainings. Ten guests visited The Museum of African American History’s Abiel Smith School and African Meeting House. The month culminated in a celebration dinner prepared by staff and their families, with music, dancing and raffles.

“Honor Your Mother by Helping Another” at Boston Interiors From April 8 until Mother’s Day, May 8, Boston Interiors is celebrating Mother’s Day through a special partnership with Rosie’s Place. Shoppers can make a suggested donation of $25 or more in honor of a loved one and receive a Mother’s Day tribute card from Rosie’s Place. Both donor and recipient can share in the good feeling that they are helping local women in need. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to Rosie’s Place, and no Boston Interiors purchase is necessary to participate in this giving program. In addition, handmade items from the artisans at the Rosie’s Place Women’s Craft Cooperative, including earrings, key chains, book marks, necklaces and bracelets, will be available at each store for purchase. Visit Boston Interiors in Burlington, Hanover, Mashpee, Natick, Saugus, Stoughton and Westborough to take part in this Mother’s Day giving event or go to for more information.

spring WISH LIST Host An Event For Rosie’s Place! Spring is here and people find they are energized and ready to start new activities. Many of Rosie’s Place’s friends show their support by sponsoring events on our behalf. Events planned with your work colleagues, congregation or family are a wonderful way to channel your talents and passion to raise muchneeded funds, while also spreading the word about our vital work with poor and homeless women. Below are some examples of popular fundraisers, or you can use your creativity to start your own! • • • •

Please support Rosie’s Place

by donating online at or by sending a gift in the enclosed envelope.

We thank you!

Sports tournaments, such as volleyball or golf Fashion shows Bake sales Sale promotions (i.e. proceeds from product or special purchase)

• • • • • •

New or gently-used bath towels T-shirts Shorts Bathing suits Flip-flops Lip balm and sunscreen

Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 6:00pm Black Falcon Terminal, Boston


• • • •

Performances or concerts Races Raffles at your work, school or church event Casual Fridays at your workplace

Do you have a celebration this spring or summer? You can give a gift in honor of a loved one’s special day or make Rosie’s Place the beneficiary of your own occasion. • • • •

Wedding Graduation Bat Mitzvah or Bar Mitzvah Birthday

For more information or to share an idea, please visit or contact Katie Amoro at or 617.318.0211.

Looking ahead to summer, when the days are long and hot, we are focused on providing our guests with seasonal items that will help them stay cool. Some of the most in-demand items include:

Safe and Sound Gala


Are you already planning a special event? Consider having it benefit Rosie’s Place.

Please be our guest for an evening of food, friends and philanthropy at our annual Safe and Sound gala. Enjoy delicious cuisine by Boston’s best chefs and beautifully paired wines, as well as an opportunity to bid on premier, insider-only silent and live auction packages. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available. To support the event or for more information, contact Kristen Leonard at kleonard@ or 617.318.0232 or visit

All donations can be dropped off at Rosie’s Place between 8:30a.m. and 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday. As always, your generous support of our work is greatly appreciated!

New England Coffee Golf Tournament Monday, May 9, 2016 Andover Country Club, Andover

It’s New England Coffee’s 100th Anniversary! Help celebrate by being part of the 24th annual Charity Golf Classic to benefit Rosie’s Place. Enjoy breakfast, lunch and a round of golf at the beautiful Andover Country Club. Whether you choose to play, sponsor or attend, please contact Cristina Sadler at or visit


Thursday, October 13, 2016 Hynes Convention Center, Boston Join Rosie’s Place at our annual luncheon–the best in Boston! This year’s featured speaker will be Jeannette Walls, author of the bestselling memoir The Glass Castle. For sponsorship or ticket information, contact Katie Amoro at kamoro@ or 617.318.0211 or visit 889 Harrison Avenue Boston, MA 02118


Rosie's Place Spring Newsletter 2016  

Recent news and stories from Rosie's Place.

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