East End House, Inc. is a community center in Cambridge that provides vital services to all members of the community, regardless of age or ability. With over 419 volunteers, it is literally “bursting at the seams” according to Emily Bullen, an employee. The Cambridge Community Center offers quality childcare to families of all backgrounds and mentoring programs for middle-school children, while the Cambridge Challenge for teens and Senior programs that decrease social isolation are also popular. There is a food pantry in collaboration with volunteer programs that gives youth and the neighborhood valuable experiences in community service. Since opening its doors in 1875, the East End House (www.eastendhouse.org) provides much needed programs for approximately 3,700 individuals in the greater Boston area each year.
The current economic situation places more importance on community centers than ever. They address our nation’s social issues such as unemployment, education, poverty, youth development, caring for aging seniors, and obesity. Approximately 65 percent of the East End House constituents live at or below the Federal Poverty level, and 63 percent rely on a single income. For 135 years, programs at the East End House have targeted individuals and families of all ages while serving the community.
About four times a year, according to Ms. Bullen, there is a renovation project that goes on at the community center, but none like the one on September 22. That recent Tuesday, 150 volunteers from ARAMARK, a leader in professional food services, uniform apparel for health care institutions, universities, schools and businesses, came to roll up their sleeves and get to work on refurbishing the center and planting a new vegetable garden. The day of service was part of ARAMARK Building Community, a company effort that supports local community centers in more than 25 cities. It also continued the bond between the Massachusetts Association of Settlement Houses (MASH) a network of eight community centers in Greater Boston, and ARAMARK, the partnership that was launched in 2008 with the Elizabeth Peabody House in Somerville.
ARAMARK, mentioned in FORTUNE magazine’s 2009 list of “World’s Most Admired Companies,” seeks to address issues that matter to its clients, employees, customers, and the community by focusing on employee advocacy, the environment, health and wellness, and community involvement. The company lived up to its commitment that day at the East End House.
Working with City Year Boston, a group that engages youth in full-time community service, and ARAMARK’s volunteer partner, ARAMARK employees completed 37 service projects on the East End House, including refurbishing the building’s exterior, building planter boxes, painting murals, building new storage shelves, bookcases and benches, and repainting the interior walls and bathrooms.
At 10:15am, the volunteers arrived en mass, walking into the closed-off street, where Mike, the DJ, had set up a sound system that would play the music for the rest of the afternoon. The volunteers separated into groups, in which they met each other with a huddle like athletes before a game. Before getting to work, the groups closed with the rallying cry, “ARAMARK Building Community!”
Cindy Ferguson started the day off by introducing City Year, a major partner and contributor to the effort of the day with a warm greeting and physical training exercises. From jumping jacks to running in place, she accompanied the activities with commands of encouragement like those of a drill sergeant. The groups then began their service for the day, by painting, building and scraping.
“We’re really grateful to ARAMARK,” said Michael Delia, CEO of East End House, with a smile on his face.