The year 2020 will be remembered as a painful, and in far too many cases tragic, year for our nation, our community, our churches and, truly, our world. It was a year in which the political and racial divides in the United States were exposed and acknowledged more than at any time in over 50 years. It was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected our services. But despite all the troubles, the year at WAMS included progress and significant accomplishments.
- WAMS, in partnership with United Congregational Church, UCC and the United Way of Worcester, sponsored an MLK Day of Service Book Drive in conjunction with the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. Our wonderfully generous supporters made it possible to distribute book bags filled with books to four different elementary schools located in underserved neighborhoods in Worcester.
- The Board of Directors, working with consultant Chuck Gordon, finalized the new WAMS Mission and Vision: Mission: WAMS works with individual and community partners to inspire economic and educational equity through social change. Vision: Fueling inclusion, voice and opportunity for all.
- The Board of Directors, moved by the needs of the Worcester community that was struggling to help individuals and families affected by the pandemic, voted to donate $5,000 to the Worcester Together fund. Worcester Together became a powerful collaboration that raised and distributed funding for food, shelter, education, mental health, and other services, and organized and coordinated resources.
- Mary Robbins kept the Summer CUBS program going remotely. She organized volunteers, including some Board members, to distribute educational and enrichment materials to students who could only participate in the summer school at Woodland Academy remotely. While plans had been made and funding allocated to increase CUBS numbers and programming in 2020, including the addition of a robotics component, the pandemic made expansion impossible. Nonetheless, CUBS served about 27 students.
- During the summer the Board retained Chuck Gordon’s services again, this time to lead the process of filling the vacant administrative leadership position. The Directors decided the position should be Executive Director, rather than Minister and President. Mr. Gordon recruited a diverse group of candidates and coordinated a four-stage interview and hiring process.
- Karen E. Ludington was hired as the new Executive Director and joined WAMS in that role on October 5, 2020. To prepare for strategic planning, she began to meet individually with all Directors and with community agency leaders. When Ms. Ludington started, Ann Lewis, who had set up the WAMS office when we relocated to 6 Institute Road, returned on a temporary basis as a part-time Administrative Assistant to reorganize the office and our records.
- On October 7, 2020, Program Director Mary Robbins led an informative webinar on affordable housing.
- An important building project was carried out in 2020: remodeling the rest rooms at WAMS and making the individual rest room across from the WAMS office completely accessible for people with physical impairments. These improvements make our building much more welcoming and comfortable for groups that we hope to invite to use it for important community discussions and activities once the pandemic is over.
- The Board of Directors made an important decision in December: to be the first agency in Worcester to join the UMass/Memorial Healthcare Anchor Mission. UMass/Memorial community hospitals are allocating one percent of their large endowment to use for loans at moderate interest rates to get community projects going. The goal is to address the social determinants of health. WAMS has allocated one percent of our much smaller endowment – $50,000 – toward these loans. This focus on creating real and lasting change is very compatible with our mission and vision. Our Executive Director is joining the UMass/Memorial committee that reviews project applications. The Board hopes the WAMS commitment will inspire others.
- In late fall, WAMS took on a short-term, but important, project: a winter coat drive for children and teens at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester. With strong support from some of our church and individual supporters, we ultimately were able to deliver 181 new jackets and coats. We were very grateful for the generosity of all the people who made this project such a success.
- In December, the Board and staff began a strategic planning process. The Board wants to increase the impact WAMS has on the community and churches we serve, and the plan that we complete will be the roadmap to achieving that goal.
So, despite the stresses and limitations of this very difficult year of pandemic and turmoil, WAMS continued to have a positive impact on children, youth, and families, and we are dedicated to the hard work required for further growth.