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Getting to Know Massachusetts [Part 1]

2015-May 28
by Megan MacDavey, Program Officer

Over the course of my life, I have spent quite a bit of time in the Greater Boston area given its close proximity to family and friends, as well as the relative nearness of Boston to Buffalo for big-city activities like concerts, sporting events and general site-seeing. [Interestingly, it's almost the same distance to drive from Buffalo to NYC as it is from Buffalo to Boston!] But in my role as Program Officer, I now get an exposure to a whole new, wonderful layer of Eastern Massachusetts - people and organizations working to improve the lives of children and young adults touched by issue areas that the Foundation supports. The nearness of this geography to people and places I love feels like icing on the metaphorical cake. 

As Nick described previously, the Tower Foundation staff usually wrap a lot of visits into the days or week-long stretches that they are in the Massachusetts area. On this particular trip, in April 2015, Don Matteson, Chief Program Officer, and I were able to meet with some current grantees, and potential partners and applicants. A full-blown summary would be exhausting for you readers, so instead I'll offer you a few takeaways and share a photo album with some pictures from along the way. This post will cover my time on Cape Cod. My next post will focus on my time in Essex County.

Travel Journal: Cape Cod

My arrival on the cape (by way of car) took longer than expected due to a number of chaotic and unforeseeable, yet at the same time, totally predictable, circumstances related to traveling with my then, nearly one-year-old son (the details of which I will leave to your imagination). We arrived in Hyannis, on what we would later recollect as The Only Sunny Day That Week, with just enough time to completely fill, for the first time in my life, a hotel luggage cart with an assortment of baby-related "necessities" (this has to be some sort of parental initiation milestone), and to meet-up with Don and head to our first meeting.

Community Health Center of Cape Cod

Don and I met with several staff at the bright and inviting Community Health Center of Cape Cod in Mashpee. There we heard about the exciting progress they have made through their "Increasing Access to Behavioral Health Services" project which the Tower Foundation funds. Through this project, the health center is working to enhance its behavioral health services for young people on the Cape by expanding access for patients to these services, training clinicians in working with this population, and strengthening some of the work flow logistics associated with providing behavioral health care services. The demand for behavioral health care has increased so much since the program has launched that the health center has added another pediatric behavioral health counselor in addition to the one counselor originally planned for in the project design.

In addition to the programming updates, we heard a lot about the opioid epidemic on the Cape and the work of the health center to meet the demand for substance abuse services as a result. Between the Foundation's grantees and partners, the Trustees who live in the area, and the Cape Cod Times emails delivered every morning to our inboxes, I had already heard a lot about this issue. But hearing about the community impact of this epidemic in-person brought further clarity to the issue for me. 

Cape Cod Regional Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative

The conversation about the opioid epidemic on the cape continued the next morning as Don and I met with Cheryl Bartlett who is the Executive Director of the newly formed Substance Abuse Prevention and Public Health Initiative out of Cape Cod Healthcare. Cheryl is working to forward the agenda of a group of service providers, government agencies and funders to create a regional, community-based approach to reducing substance abuse among young people on Cape Cod through education and prevention.  We were excited to hear about the developments of the coalition and their work to establish a substance abuse prevention and education fund to support groups that are working to realize this vision. There are a lot of exciting opportunities here moving forward.

Cape Cod Child Development

Don and I met with Sue Daggett, Development Director, and Anne Colwell, who prior to our meeting had joined the organization as Executive Director just weeks earlier. Despite her newness to Cape Cod Child Development, she shared with us her passion for the services that the organization provides and for the cape, and her vision for the future. We toured the space, which houses a number of pre-school classrooms, meeting rooms and office space for the many employees that provide home-based services. We also visited the lovely, quaint Cottage House and were submerged in Anne's vision for a community meeting room. We talked about the many opportunities facing the organization in the near future and the need to bring as many community services on-site as possible for the parents they serve to have streamlined and easy access to services in one location. In spite of the misty weather, we concluded our visit by walking to the main drag of Hyannis to enjoy some delicious food at the Naked Oyster Bistro and talk grantmaking!

My first visit to the cape as a Program Officer for the Foundation was wonderful. The cloudy April weather couldn't hide the energy and enthusiasm that all of our hosts exuded for the work that they do. To our hosts: I'm grateful for the chance to meet with each of you and get to know your organizations and communities better. And to those working on the cape who we didn't get to meet this time around, I look forward to meeting-up in the near future!

Click below to see all of my pictures from this trip on our Instagram feed:

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