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Network to 'interrupt the cycle of poverty'

Date: 8/18/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Ten human service organizations within the city have joined together as one collaborative, the Westfield Family Support Network, with a mission to "interrupt the cycle of poverty."

The Network -- which includes the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield, the Carson Center for Human Services Inc., the Family Support Coalition, Westfield Head Start, the Westfield Athenaeum, Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS), Westfield Community Education/DOMUS, Westfield Public Schools, Westfield State College and Holyoke Community College -- was established with a $50,000 grant from the Beveridge Family Foundation Inc., as part of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts' "5 & Under Initiative: Access to Opportunity for Children in Poverty."

"There are a lot of things that are happening in Westfield that people have blinders to -- and poverty is one of them," Ann Lentini, executive director of Domus Inc., told Reminder Publications. "And if you don't work with it [people will not be able to lift themselves out of poverty]."

She explained that the grant money will be used to hire a part time coordinator for the Network -- based at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield -- who will complete family intakes and coordinate services relative to individual needs.

Lentini noted that various educational services available include childcare, parenting support, adult literacy and GED classes.

"Participants in the [Network] will have access to a variety of programs that they otherwise might not receive because of their [financial] circumstances," Barbara Trant, volunteer coordinator for VIPS, said.

Lentini added that a portion of the grant funds will also be distributed among the organizations within the Network.

Nancy Neiche, vice president for programs at Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, said various organizations submitted grant proposals but that the Westfield Family Support Network was chosen for its comprehensive collaborative.

"There are definitely people with needs [in Westfield] and we have 11 other projects in the region but none in Westfield," she explained. "So far we have been impressed by their level of commitment and planning ... [to help] those who want to create a better life for themselves and their children."

Trant said being a part of the Network promotes a symbiotic relationship between organizations to ensure that families are connected with appropriate services without unnecessary overlap.

"This is a good opportunity for us to put together a complete program for families that are struggling in Westfield," Trant said. "We still have those real problems [with poverty] that exist everywhere but we have less opportunity for funding. We have to do more with less, which is why we have to form these partnerships."

For more information or to volunteer with the Network, contact Bill Parks via e-mail at or Lentini at