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The Root Cause Blog
04 Mar

Guest Post: 2013 Social Innovators Collaborate to Clear Snow in Roxbury and Roslindale

Written by Olivia Allen

Each year, Root Cause’s Social Innovation Forum identifies innovative nonprofits in the Greater Boston area working to solve a wide variety of social issues, including healthy aging and youth violence prevention through workforce development. Despite the specificity of these issues, two 2013 Social Innovators, AgeWell West Roxbury, a program of Ethos, and Safe City Academy, a program of Dorchester Youth Collaborative, recently united to address the well-being of seniors in the community.

The Social Innovators teamed up to assist seniors in West Roxbury and Roslindale after a severe snowstorm in early February rendered many homebound or potentially inclined to injury. Greg Hill, program manager for Dorchester Youth Collaborative, heard about AgeWell West Roxbury’s shoveling campaign at a Social Innovation Forum event and recruited five Safe City Academy participants to shovel snow from the residences of seniors involved with AgeWell West Roxbury.

An emphasis on community service is a central component of Safe City Academy programming. “We do this on a regular basis. We want our young people to understand the importance of giving back,” said Hill. In the past, the maintenance of 18 foreclosed properties in the Greater Boston area served as an opportunity for community engagement as well as income generation while participants simultaneously worked to earn GEDs. While this program is no longer in existence, a sense of responsibility, a stringent work ethic, and a spirit of volunteerism persist among Safe City Academy participants.

While responding to an urgent community need was a natural impulse for Hill and his program participants, Ray Santos, community relations director for Ethos, contended that simple acts such as shoveling snow from driveways, sidewalks, and porches for local senior citizens supported AgeWell West Roxbury’s core mission. “We try to keep seniors living as independently as possible. For some seniors, any amount of snow on the ground can make them homebound when they are normally pretty active.”

Speaking to the benefits of their recent partnership beyond the tangible service provided to seniors, Santos said, “I really like the idea of having youth work with older adults. I think they can learn a lot from older adults, and [seniors] can appreciate the youth and vitality of the younger generation.” Hill also believes that the partnership was a mutually beneficial experience as it provided direct service to senior citizens while bolstering Safe City Academy’s community service offerings to Safe City Academy participants. “We understand we can’t do everything, but coming together and collaborating makes each agency stronger,” said Hill.

For Hill and Santos, two nonprofit leaders working tirelessly to improve the livelihood of two distinct populations, their current position as Root Cause Social Innovators has ignited a sense of excitement and urgency to continue a collaborative relationship. “AgeWell is about organizing, galvanizing, and mobilizing the community to help seniors and getting lots of different groups involved,” said Santos. “We would not have been able to serve the seniors and fulfill our mission if we had not been selected as a Social Innovator and made that connection with Safe City.