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


Blue Hills Bank Pavilion Concert Series

By Carmen Farias

BHBP Lisa SwainBHBP Emily SheaBHBP Kim Jordan

ABCD is proud of its diverse pool of employees committed to empowering the residents in our communities. The skills employees provide to the agency during work hours are as diverse as their musical tastes. After work, dedicated staff can be found catching a concert as they volunteer at the ABCD Kiosk in the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion during its summer concert season.

Starting in 2012, ABCD has partnered with Live Nation to bring information about our programs and services to the 5,000 concertgoers that fill the amphitheater’s seats at shows featuring acts such as Florence + The Machine, Brian Wilson, Meghan Trainor, and Santana, to name a few. ABCD is thus able to connect with a wide audience to raise awareness about the needs of the communities in the Boston, Malden, Everett, and Medford areas. Concertgoers who visit the kiosk can obtain information about upcoming ABCD events, make donations, sign up for volunteer opportunities, and enter a raffle to win tickets to other music or sporting events.

Employees who volunteer at the kiosk are able to combine their passion for their work with their love of music, sharing both with concertgoers. ABCD is lucky to have such devoted employees. Thanks to all who have volunteered at the Pavilion this summer!

Volunteer Appreciation Event: Thank You Volunteers!

By Madeline Eleazar

VAE Volunteer Testimony
A volunteer from the Jamaica Plain site shares her story with staff from the neighborhood sites at the Volunteer Appreciation Event.

On April 27th, ABCD hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciation Event to commend and celebrate the devoted volunteers and community partners that had participated in various programs and sites over the past year.  Hosted by returning co-emcees Carmen Farias, Volunteer Coordinator, and Angelina Camacho, Program Manager of Financial Futures Initiative, the event recognized volunteers and corporate partnerships with individualized certificates, speeches and the ever popular Georgetown ABCD Cupcakes.

This year’s event also included a creative way for volunteers to share and reflect on their involvement with the ABCD family.  Posters handed out prior to the event, were filled out by attendees to highlight what their experiences volunteering with ABCD programs had taught them and also why they chose to dedicate their time.  Many touched on the important ideal of giving back to your community, the significance of helping others in need, as well as learning job skills to advance one’s career.  One volunteer, who chose to speak about what she wrote, drew a few tears from the crowd as she recounted how grateful she was for the work done by ABCD, how she was helped when she was in need, and subsequently was committed to giving back to those in similar situations.

Several organizations received special awards for their dedicated volunteer work including: The Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, UMASS Boston, Bunker Hill Community College, Shire, Boston College, Capital Crossing, Capital One 360, and Jumpstart.

Deepest thanks to all our volunteers and interns!

Food on the Move: Allston/ Brighton Mobile Food Pantry

By Madeline Eleazar

Volunteers from GladlyDo and staff from AB/NOC prepare to distribute bags of prepared food to the motel sites.
Volunteers from GladlyDo and staff from A/B NOC prepare to distribute bags of food to the motel sites.

For many families in Boston, keeping fresh, nutritious food on the table is an arduous task.  With stagnant wages and the rising cost of living, many Boston residents are finding it difficult to properly feed themselves and their families.  Fortunately, there are a number of food pantries scattered throughout the city that they can access, whose services provide a much needed resource used by residents struggling to make ends meet.

The Allston/Brighton Neighborhood Opportunity Center (A/B NOC) provides one example.  The center’s main food pantry, which serves the Allston/Brighton neighborhoods daily, has seen their client base grow in recent years.  To meet the expanding needs of the community, they have implemented a new Mobile Food Pantry service whose purpose is to make healthy food options more accessible to families searching for permanent housing solutions who currently live in shelter accommodations in area motels and hotels.  Currently, the A/B NOC Mobile Food Pantry serves about fifty households per month; that’s approximately 200 people!  For this new initiative to be successful, it requires not only the talents and time of the NOC staff, but of community volunteers, eager to lend a hand.

Every third Monday of the month, staff and dedicated volunteers assemble and distribute bags of food to families in the motels.  Volunteers select a variety of shelf-stable items as well as fresh produce that is provided by Food for Free, a volunteer organization based in Cambridge.  Food for Free also assists in the transportation and distribution of the meals, which is no small task!  Volunteers sent from Gladly Do, a volunteer-based organization which serves as a resource for college students and young professionals to locate volunteer opportunities in their area, assist in the preparation of the bags.  There is even an ongoing partnership with the Plymouth Congregational Church, whose members cook, package, freeze and deliver homemade soup to the A/B NOC on distribution day, to supplement the prepared bags of food.

In addition to becoming a mobile operation, the Mobile Food Pantry has also been adding components for other services to aid their clients.  The A/B NOC has formed relationships with community organizations and agencies that frequent the motels to assist families and individuals in completing WIC (Women, Infants and Children) applications, promote job training classes and even hand out applications for temporary employment opportunities.  The Mobile Food Pantry is more than a food pantry; it provides families with some beginning steps and resources to become self-sufficient and successful.

It is only with the help of committed volunteers, the NOC staff and their partners, that the Mobile Food Pantry is able to operate at its current capacity and serve the growing number of families in need of food assistance.  If not for their time, effort and resources, homeless families living in Allston/Brighton area motels would be hard pressed to obtain food items that would provide nourishment, peace of mind, and not to mention lessen the financial burden of purchasing fresh produce and goods.

For more information on ways to get involved in Allston/Brighton or in any of ABCD’s Neighborhood Sites, please take a look at our individual and group opportunities. You can also contact Carmen Farias, Volunteer Coordinator, at 617-348-6591 or Madeline Eleazar, Recruitment/Volunteer Assistant, at 617-348-6387 or reach both via email at

Community Health: ABCD partners with UMass Boston

By Carmen Farias

ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew (third from right) and Executive Vice President Sharon Scott-Chandler (left) thank Anahid Kulwicki, Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (third from left), Linda Dumas, Associate Professor in the Nursing Program (second from right), and Carla Coutinho, a Nursing Intern at Parker Hill Head Start (second from left), for their support.

The well-being of our communities depends on a variety of factors, health being one of the most important among them. In an effort to improve the overall health of the members of our communities, ABCD has partnered with the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Since the fall of 2012, UMass Boston has provided approximately 40 Nursing Interns from an Urban Community Nursing course, placed at various ABCD programs for a semester-long clinical rotation. In the three years of the partnership, interns and ABCD programs alike have felt the profound impact of a partnership focused on the betterment, physical and otherwise, of our communities.

Nursing Interns play key roles in their placements at ABCD’s University High School, where they have facilitated much-needed instruction in a variety of health topics essential to the students’ wellbeing. Nursing Interns at UHS created a health class curriculum based on exploring a topics such as CPR training, emergency preparedness, smoking, sexual and reproductive health, and hand washing techniques through interactive activities and discussion. The Nursing Interns prepared lessons each week and executed the activities in the classroom with the students, culminating in a Health Fair at the end of the semester in which UHS students presented on a topic of their choice. In the Head Start program, Nursing Interns have assisted ABCD health managers in running vision and hearing screenings for preschool-aged children and conducting informational workshops on relevant health topics for the children’s parents.

In providing Nursing Interns, UMass Boston has been unwavering in its commitment to help ABCD carry out its mission of empowering individuals, families, and communities in Boston to achieve their full potential. Linda Dumas, the faculty member in charge of the Urban Community Nursing course who is also an ABCD Board Member, continually thinks of ways in which she can tailor her curriculum to better prepare the Nursing Interns to serve the clients they encounter in their placements across ABCD. In turn, the interns are able to develop a deep understanding of the needs of the clients and think critically and creatively about how best to help clients meet these needs. The Nursing Interns empower ABCD’s clients to take control of their health. Through this partnership, ABCD gives the Nursing Interns the opportunity to become involved members of the community, and provides a training ground essential to the development of future Boston-area nurses.

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences was honored at the 2015 Volunteer Appreciation Celebration, where ABCD had the opportunity to both thank UMass for the past three years of support and to further strengthen ties for the future. ABCD is grateful to UMass for generously making its skilled and talented students available for the betterment of our communities, and we look forward to welcoming a new class of Nursing Interns this fall.

For more information about partnership opportunities with ABCD, please contact Carmen Farias, Volunteer Coordinator, at 617-348-6591 or Madeline Eleazar, Recruitment/Volunteer Assistant, at 617-348-6387 or reach both via email at

Remembering Field of Dreams

By Madeline Eleazar

FOD 2015 Volunteers          FOD 2015 Fenway Park

Few ballparks in America evoke the same feelings of historic significance, legacy and passion that Fenway Park does when one catches a summertime game. But recently some lucky players and volunteers got to experience those feelings and much more; a chance to attend and participate in ABCD’s 18th annual Field of Dreams event, where they had the opportunity to walk and play on the coveted turf, explore the Green Monster, shake hands with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and most importantly, help raise crucial funding to ABCD’s SummerWorks Program.

Held on a sunny Wednesday on June 10th, the event’s goal is to raise money for the SummerWorks Program, which provides summer jobs for over 1000 low-income city-youth, ages 14-21.  During SummerWorks, teens learn valuable skills pertaining to job-readiness, financial literacy, responsibility and career exploration.  This year, ABCD and its participating company sponsored teams hit a grand slam that even “Big Papi” David Ortiz would envy, by raising a record $335,000!  Not only are the sponsors to be applauded, but also the dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers that helped make the day a success.

Eager and knowledgeable volunteers helped by keeping “the book” for each team at play, ushering players from the locker rooms to their respective dugouts and by signing in guests and spectators alike in the main ballpark entrance.  It’s because of the support and assistance of ABCD’s volunteers that Field of Dreams and similar events are successful.

Everyone at ABCD would like to thank the Fenway Park staff, its Field of Dreams company-sponsored teams, and the volunteers for such an exciting and successful day!