Intern Spotlight: Xiaoe Ma

By Madeline Eleazar

Many college students, most often rising seniors, experience a sense of dreadIMG_20160303_174023.jpg and uncertainty when asked if they have a job opportunity lined up once their college career comes to a close.  Those who manage to secure permanent employment post graduation attribute their success to participating in internships and volunteer opportunities. Prior experience is highly desirable to many employers in today’s work environment, so it comes as no surprise that internships present themselves as promising opportunities for students to secure a foothold later on in their job search.

ABCD’s own Xiaoe Ma is a shining example of the impact an internship can have on a student’s career path. As a rising senior pursuing her Bachelor’s in Social Work at Salem State University, she was placed at the East Boston Area Planning Action Council (APAC) as a Social Work Intern in 2015 to fulfill credit hours to complete her degree.  While placed at East Boston APAC, she was introduced to a caseload of clients and assisted them in various capacities, such as completing fuel assistance applications, aiding in their job search, and connecting them to other agencies and resources.  During her internship, Xiaoe gained valuable insight to ABCD’s operational model, the services provided, and the clients we serve – all of which aided in her securing a permanent position with ABCD after graduation.

Now a Case Manager at the South End Neighborhood Service Center (NSC), Xiaoe is performing some of the tasks she performed as an intern, and has added new skills to her repertoire related to new services available to South End clients such as the food pantry and preparing taxes. She even became a Tax Site Coordinator during the 2015 tax season through ABCD’s VITA program.  She is a valuable staff member not only because of her prior knowledge and experience with ABCD programs, but also due to her fluency with Mandarin and Cantonese.  Her presence at the site has greatly benefited the large Chinese-speaking community of the South End, who are glad to have someone assist them in their native tongue.  The South End NSC has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Chinese clients since Xiaoe’s arrival – an estimated 60-70% of the approximately 1,000 clients they serve every month are Chinese-speaking.

When asked about the importance of volunteering and interning, Xiaoe stresses that volunteerism can greatly improve an individual’s outlook on life. “[Volunteering] makes you feel like you are contributing something to the community, and you feel great.”  She notes that even some of the clients that receive services at the South End recognize the importance of giving back, and have expressed interest in volunteering: “They want to help, they want to contribute.”  In addition to an increased connection with a given population or community, Xiaoe has proved that interning is a great way for one forge a path to a career opportunity.

If you are interested in volunteer or internship opportunities at ABCD, please contact Madeline Eleazar, Volunteer Coordinator at (617) 348-6591.



ABCD Volunteer Legends: Thelma Burns

By Carmen FariasBurns, Thelma AR2006.jpg

Every community has its luminaries: dedicated individuals whose passion and vision influence and inspire others to come together in service and support. By this definition, Thelma Burns is one of ABCD’s brightest luminaries.

Ms. Burns first became involved in volunteering by following the example of her father, who was the President of the Ward 14 Betterment Association in Dorchester. She has been part of the Dorchester community all her life and participates in various volunteer opportunities as a way to give back to the community. Ms. Burns, who says she considers volunteering necessary, has volunteered her time as a member of the ABCD Board of Directors for over 30 years. She’s seen volunteerism change quite a bit in that time, remarking that while she sees more young people getting involved, “It’s important to make opportunities available to young people.” She explains that volunteering is particularly important for high school students as it can lead to new and better opportunities, and hopes to see more high school students involved in volunteer opportunities at ABCD.

Volunteering is important to Ms. Burns because it has helped her overcome challenges, both in the community and in her life. A two-time cancer survivor, Ms. Burns was moved by the kindness of the volunteers that helped her during her treatment and recovery.  She now volunteers once a week at the concierge desk at Dana Farber, where she was treated. “I look forward to it,” she says, “I want to give back while I can.”

Ms. Burns offers great advice for those looking to get involved in their communities: “You must have an open heart.” She cites compassion and commitment as the principal attributes of a good volunteer: “[You have to] immerse yourself, don’t just do it to do it.” She believes that organizations stand to benefit greatly from the contributions of its volunteers, and to this end, she recommends that volunteers be knowledgeable about the organization with which they’d like to become involved.

Ms. Burns’ dedication and commitment to service has inspired many to join ABCD’s mission. She was honored for these efforts this past May with the dedication of a building in ABCD’s new campus on Warren Street in Roxbury. The Thelma D. Burns building houses offices, classrooms, and community programs where current and future volunteers continue to carry out her legacy of community involvement.

We are grateful to Ms. Burns for her continued service to the ABCD community, and for sharing her thoughts on volunteerism with us. To learn more about ways to get involved with ABCD’s volunteer program, please see the Volunteer Listing section of the newsletter, or contact Madeline Eleazar, Volunteer Coordinator, at 617-348-6591 or at


A Welcome Letter from ABCD’s Volunteer Coordinator

To Our Readers,

Welcome to  2017!

We, in the Volunteer Office, are looking forward to another year of following exciting stories regarding  ABCD’s volunteers and interns who  make positive and impactful differences throughout the Boston, Malden, Medford, Everett, and surrounding communities.  Our volunteers generously donate their  valuable skills, talents, and time that remain essential to the efforts made by ABCD in overcoming poverty in Boston.

Volunteerism will no doubt hold even more importance to our programs in the coming months.  As human services funding nationwide faces an uncertain future, agencies like ABCD, will continue to rely heavily on their dedicated and driven volunteers to ensure the delivery of critical services to their clients.

With opportunities ranging from assisting ABCD’s network of food pantries, to teaching ESOL classes to seniors, to providing other programmatic support, our volunteers have proved themselves year after year to be invaluable assets to  ABCD’s mission, and for that, we cannot thank them enough.

As the newly appointed Volunteer Coordinator, I am eager to explore new ways in which we can connect volunteers  with meaningful opportunities, forge lasting relationships with our local universities and businesses, and further enhance the services we provide to  Greater Boston residents.

If you are interested in volunteering, whether it be on an individual basis or organizing a day of service for a larger group, I encourage you to review our current volunteer opportunities that are available.  It is because of the hard work and continued support of our volunteers that ABCD is able to assist thousands of individuals every year in their goals to achieve  self-sufficiency and overcome poverty.


Madeline Eleazar

Volunteer Coordinator