CBA Awarded $75,000 for Workforce Development

On January 17, 2019, Coalition for a Better Acre was awarded $75,000 from the Commonwealth’s Urban Agenda grant program, which will be used to support and expand the STEP (Supported Training Education Program) workforce development program.

CBA was one of nine organizations statewide to receive funding. The award announcement, attended by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, was held at Fitchburg State University’s IdeaLab.

“Today’s awards address tough challenges in our urban centers by empowering these important coalitions to identify their resources, work together towards shared goals and create new opportunities for residents,” Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said in a statement. 

STEP is a five-week workforce training program serving low-income individuals, immigrants, and refugees with a high school diploma or equivalent. Participants practice basic skills like verbal and written communication, active listening, and teamwork and complex skills like conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking. STEP also addresses barriers to employment. Graduates are guaranteed job placement at a medical device manufacturing company in Devens, receive financial education and coaching, free shared transportation to and from work for a year, and 18 months of case management and wrap-around services. Launched in January 2017, the program has graduated 49 people, 85 percent of whom continue working full-time.

This model produces well-trained, well-supported employees who are better prepared to accept a job, keep a job and eventually be promoted to a higher-paying position. The goal is to help low income community members break the cycle of poverty and make a better life for themselves and their families, while providing reliable, skilled labor for local companies.

The next step is an expansion of the program, called STEP UP, a social enterprise that would work as both a workforce development training program and a staffing agency.

Participants with high school diplomas or the equivalent who have a language barriers or other obstacles would enroll in a two-week, culturally-appropriate, intensive training and education program in the areas of labor laws and knowing their rights, financial literacy and banking, work ethic, soft skills, and interpersonal skills and be placed in a textile manufacturing job; those who are more highly qualified will enter the 5-week program and be placed at a medical device or other advanced manufacturing company; and those whose English is not good enough for the 2-week program will take prerequisite English classes through our partnership with JVS (Jewish Vocational Services).

The businesses CBA serves will pay training and placement fees, making the enterprise self-sustaining.

We are focusing on the manufacturing field, which remains the 5th largest employer in Massachusetts. The sector employs over 250,000 workers, according to a 2015 report from Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based policy think tank. Yet the sector is also greying; the average highly-skilled manufacturing worker in the state is in their 50s.

“We are very grateful to the Commonwealth for this award, which will support the ongoing good work done by our workforce development staff as they prepare residents for a better future,” said CBA Executive Director Yun-Ju Choi. “Additionally, the companies who employ these workers will be strengthened by having well-trained, well-supported employees on staff.”

“When we empower local leaders and projects that thoughtfully address the unique issues facing our urban centers, we have an outsized impact on the lives of residents,” Polito said. “The Urban Agenda Grant Program relies on the strong partnerships between local government, non-profits and the business community that are critical to fostering economic success and building stronger neighborhoods in every region in Massachusetts.”

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CBA is Hiring a Youth Program Coordinator

Position Summary

CBA seeks a Youth Development Coordinator to lead our Youth Educational Success program and develop a new Teen Program to serve the residents of the Acre community. The Youth Development Coordinator’s role will be specializing in working with youth, developing curriculum for two different age groups (ages 6-12 and 13-18), and creating tools and activities to achieve program outcomes. This person will also be supervising two Americorps staff as well as cultivate relationships with new and existing partnerships. This individual will be working under the supervision of the Director of Programs and in partnership with other program staff of CBA.

Essential Functions/Responsibilities

  • Work with the Director of Programming in developing a program budget and manage the resulting program budget responsibly
  • Develop a work plan, youth development curriculums, a calendar of activities for respective program
  • Conduct program evaluation, data collection, data input into our software, and make adjustments to program based on the data analysis
  • Create a case management system for each youth involved in our youth programs
  • Manage outreach to neighborhood residents, residents of CBA properties, and CBA members through door knocking, one on one meetings and larger community meetings
  • Maintain positive relationship with partners and funders and supply necessary program data to Resource Development Manager
  • Cultivate relationships with parents of youth
  • Represent CBA in the Lowell community at events, meetings and other public activities
  • Work collaboratively with the rest of the organization and find ways to integrate programs with other departments to achieve CBA’s overall goals
  • Support other Program Coordinators in their focus areas
  • Other duties and responsibilities as assigned

IDEAL CANDIDATE

Our ideal candidate will have a passion for community-based development, community organizing, youth development, and will have many of the following skills and experiences:

 

  • A passion for youth development and community development
  • Program development and supervisory skills
  • Three to five years of experience in youth development
  • Demonstrated experience in and commitment to community–based organizing, campaign development and leadership development
  • Ability to work effectively with diverse groups and individuals
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks in a responsible and dedicated manner
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Comfort using technology for organizing, including spreadsheets, databases, word processing, computer graphics, and social networking platforms
  • Ability to communicate in Spanish or Khmer preferred
  • Must be able to work flexible hours
  • A. or equivalent in work experience preferred

 

To Apply:

Send a cover letter, resume and salary requirement to:  pamela.miller@cbacre.org.

CBA offer competitive compensation and excellent benefits.

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and consider qualified applicants for employment regardless of expression, age, color, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or any other protected class.

CBA is Hiring an Accountant

The Accountant is responsible for overseeing the accounting and reporting for CBA, and its related entities, including cash, preparation of account reconciliations, to ensure that all transactions are prepared in a timely manner. This position requires a strong working knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles, real estate development accounting, familiarity with the OMB Super Circular, and a high degree of interaction with the real estate team, vendors and funders.

This position possesses the willingness to assume additional responsibilities, is organized, detail oriented, able to work collaboratively and solve routine problems independently. The position also has strong growth potential.

Essential Responsibilities:

General Ledger/Financial Reporting

  • Prepare and process monthly journal entries. Produce timely monthly financials by 1) reviewing general ledger activity, (2) calculating monthly accruals and prepayments, (3) posting all journal entries and (4) compiling, reviewing, consolidating wholly owned, and distributing final monthly reporting packages for the relevant companies.
  • Ensure that monthly income statements reflect budget, actual and variance amounts.  Identify significant variances and research explanations for variances. Create and maintain supporting schedules and analyses and reconciliations of balance sheet accounts including reconciliation of intercompany balances.
  • Support and assist the external accounting/audit firms with year-end requirements, ensuring that all audit requested schedules and workpapers are prepared in accordance with agreed upon audit schedule; assist with financial statements and tax returns. Prepare miscellaneous financial reports for various funding agencies, etc.

Banking/Treasury

  • Prepare and process deposits and cash transfers as needed. Maintain line of credit activity reports;(if needed) and calculate and post applicable interest on a monthly basis.
  • Monitor daily cash balances for significant bank accounts and prepare cash flow forecasts.

 

 

Real Estate

  • Maintain real estate development set of books.  Maintain schedule and provide information and reporting to auditors for related cost certification process. Assist auditors during the cost certification process.

Budgeting/Forecasting

  • Assist in the preparation of the annual budget in consultation with the Director of Finance
  • Assist program directors and managers with the preparation of the budgets.

General Accounting Support/Administration

  • On-boarding of new hires and processing payroll which presently, is prepared by third-party.
  • Processing of accounts payable/receivable.
  • Other duties as assigned.

 

Qualifications:

  • Accounting experience required.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Finance required.
  • Familiarity with real estate development in a non-profit setting desired.
  • Experience working with SAGE 50 preferred.
  • Previous experience with month end closing and reporting.
  • Knowledge and experience working with GAAP, A-133 audits and familiarity with OMB Super Circular
  • Grants management experience as it relates to compliance and reporting of government, corporate, and foundation grants preferred
  • Detail oriented team player, accurate, having ability to solve problems
  • Strong time management skills to handle multiple tasks and effectively prioritize workload
  • Proactive and strategic thinker who enjoys creating and improving systems and processes

CBA offer competitive compensation and excellent benefits. Send a cover letter and a copy of your resume pamela.miller@cbacre.org.

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and consider qualified applicants for employment regardless of expression, age, color, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or any other protected class.

 

Join the Team!

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Coalition for a Better Acre is looking for an AmeriCorps member to work as a Career Coach for the participants and graduates of our STEP (Supported Training Education Program) Workforce Development Program and right-hand person to our workforce development staff.

The job description and information regarding how to apply can be found here:  Job Description

What is STEP?  STEP  is a  6-week, 150-hour job-readiness training class covering soft skills such as written and verbal communication, active listening, and teamwork and complex life skills like conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking as well as financial education to prepare participants for successful careers with our employment partners in the medical device manufacturing field and other growing, well-paying industries.

STEP guarantees job placement upon graduation–a certainty no other job training programs in the region provide—a completion stipend, free shared transportation to and from work for a year, and 18 months of follow-up case management and wrap-around services.

Since January 2017, 42 people have graduated and been placed in jobs. Eighty percent of those graduates continue working full-time.

Empowering New Leaders

“Next Monday I’m starting at the Lowell Police Academy,” Andeth (Andy) Van announced to her Empower classmates on the evening of their final class to a chorus of gasps, followed by cheers and applause.

“All the skills, the lessons, and techniques I have learned here – the entire time I was thinking ‘how can I apply this to my life’,” she said. “I really want to make an impact in the community, hopefully in a profound way. “

Andy is one of 16 who graduated from Empower on May 17. Empower is a nine-week interactive resident leadership course offered through a partnership between Coalition for a Better Acre and Lowell Alliance. Throughout the nine weeks participants expand their own personal and professional networks while gaining the skills, knowledge and resources needed to lead and create grassroots change in the community.

The guest speaker for this year’s final session was Peter Martin, one of the organizers of last year’s effort to keep Lowell High School downtown, a true grassroots movement that came together quickly and brought together people of all ages, ethnic, political, and socio-economic backgrounds.

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“I have been involved in a lot of campaigns, but never one that caught fire so quickly and had so much energy,” he said, adding they collected 800 signatures in four days to present to the City Council in favor of keeping the high school downtown.

Martin spoke of the darkest point in the movement – the night in June when the City Council voted 5-4 to move the high school to the Cawley Stadium site. But, he said, the activists who had already put in so much work and knew there was close to 65 percent pro-downtown support among the city’s voters, did not give up.

fullsizeoutput_37f2“Sometimes you have to lose to win,” Martin told the class. “We had to lose to really wake people up.”

The campaign split into two groups – LHS Downtown, focused on supporting pro-downtown City Council and School Committee candidates and Save Lowell High, focused on collecting the 7,000 certified voter signatures required for a ballot initiative.

They formed alliances, stretched outside their comfort zones, knocked doors and really listened to people.

Martin said he looked to Lowell’s mill girls, who attempted strikes several times in the 1830’s, for lessons in leadership and perseverance.

“They got absolutely crushed the first two times they did it, but they kept at it,” he said.

In the end, LHS Downtown and Save Lowell High won, as voters chose seven pro-downtown councilors and five pro-downtown School Committee members. The ballot question seeking support for keeping the high school downtown prevailed with 61 percent of the vote.

“There is no substitute for putting in the work,” Martin said.

Empower graduates not only learn the skills and strategies to become catalysts for change in the community, they put them into action, choosing two student-conceived projects to work on over the next several months.

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Six well-formulated and thoughtful ideas were pitched including Mana Kheang’s mobile library cart for immigrants; Dave Richmond’s plan to learn and share unknown and often dark history stories of how the U.S. has been involved in the politics of developing nations; Pamela Andrews’ desire to hold a big touch-a-truck event coupled with a resource fair and goods drive; and Hope Anderson & Tiffaney Ross’ campaign to promote voter and candidate education.

Once the pitches were done and votes counted, the class chose two projects on which to collaborate.

fullsizeoutput_383bThe first, proposed by Emily McDermott, is to support the proposed ban on plastic bags for stores 3,000 sq. feet or larger, in Lowell, as well as obtain and distribute reusable shopping bags to low-income residents. The group is planning to attend the May 29 Lowell City Council public hearing in support of the ban. Seventy-seven other communities in the Commonwealth have already taken the step to ban plastic bags.

fullsizeoutput_3833The second group will work on Pam Larocque’s plan to organize Lowell Play Day on the last weekend of August, an event where organizations who serve the city’s youth can provide games and activities for kids, educational workshops for parents, food, resources and more, promoting the importance of play to a child’s development.

Look for our Empower graduates as they work on these projects this summer.

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For more information about Empower, visit: Empower

Reviving the Smith Baker Center

 

 

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CBA Director of Real Estate Craig Thomas addresses the Smith Baker Advisory Board.

“The building is beautiful and amazing, but deteriorating,” CBA Director of Real Estate Craig Thomas told members of the Smith Baker Advisory Board at the inaugural meeting last week. “”It is not heated. There is significant water damage and it needs to be weatherized and stabilized.”

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The 50-member board, chaired by Jim Geraghty, made up of business leaders, philanthropists, educators, non-profit executives, elected officials and community members will be integral to CBA’s upcoming capital campaign to raise the funds needed to  restore and preserve the Smith Baker Center, turning it into a vibrant community center and performance space.

 

 

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In 1884 the First Congregational Church, an imposing four-story 12,458 sq. foot brick High Victorian Gothic style edifice was erected on the lot that is now the corner of Merrimack Street and Cardinal O’Connell Parkway.

It replaced a smaller meetinghouse-style church that had been built in 1827, a year after a group of 50 people from the corporation boarding house, interested in the traditional forms for New England orthodoxy, had secured the land from the Locks and Canals Company. Founding father and industrialist Kirk Boott was not thrilled with this turn of events, as it went against his order that all mill operatives attend his church – St. Anne’s, which had been built the previous year.

The new First Congregational Church of 1884 was designed by famed architects Merrill and Cutler, who also designed Lowell City Hall, the Central Firehouse on Palmer Street (where Fuse Bistro is now) and the Howe Building in Kearney Square.

Fully furnished – including the pipe organ, the building’s price tag was $57,390.

It remained a church until 1968, when the congregation merged with the Highland Congregational and All Souls Churchs to form the Christ Church United on East Merrimack Street.

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CBA Real Estate Project Associate Thomas Emery, Director of Programming Julia Gavin, Executive Director Yun-Ju Choi and Director of Real Estate Craig Thomas in front of the Smith Baker Center.

On December 14, 1969, it was dedicated as the Smith Baker Community Center by the Acre Model Neighborhood Organization, as part of the Model Cities Program.  Rev. Smith Baker (a descendant of Mayflower passenger William Brewster) was the pastor of the church from 1870-1890 and returned as pastor emeritus from 1907 until his death in 1917. He and his wife, Isabella, are buried in Lowell Cemetery.

The building served as the city’s Senior Center until the new center on Broadway opened in April 2003. It has remained vacant since that time.

Over the years the performance space, that is said to have near-perfect acoustics, has played host to an impressive line-up. In 1988, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac brought poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti to read to a packed house of 1,000; in 1989 poet and inspirational speaker Maya Angelou was brought to the Smith Baker by Middlesex Community College; in 1995 as part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Patti Smith performed with Thurston Mooe of Sonic Youth. The historic stage has also seen performances by the Lowell Opera Company and Angkor Dance Troupe.

In 2016, the City of Lowell chose CBA to bring the Smith Baker Center back to life. Known as “Lowell’s Cathedral,” the 133-year-old building located at the gateway between the Acre neighborhood and Downtown Lowell, has the potential to be a community center for all Lowellians, as well as a sought-after performance venue.

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CBA’s plans restore the cathedral’s chapel as a performing arts center and the offices as a community center. The building will become home to CBA’s workforce development, afterschool, and financial education/counseling programs and be anchored by CBA’s offices. Having this space will allow for the expansion of CBA programming to serve more people. The large space and commercial kitchen will also allow it to become a place to take Zumba, yoga, dance, art, cooking and other continuing education, cultural, and enrichment classes.

While the bulk of our work centers on serving low-income families in the Acre neighborhood, the Smith Baker Center will be a community center with classes, programming, events, and performances for all of Lowell.

We envision it becoming a center for cultural exchange, with residents from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds having the opportunity to, for instance, take a Cambodian or Greek cooking class; learn some Bhutanese or Irish dance moves, or pick up a few conversational Spanish phrases. It will be a place where the city’s celebrated diversity can shine in action every day.

It will also become a focal point at which residents and visitors can celebrate the life and works of Lowell’s favorite literary son, the legendary Jack Kerouac and a place for organizations and institutions like the Angkor Dance troupe, Middlesex Community College, UMass Lowell, the Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series and countless others to hold events, meetings and performances.

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The 600-seat performance hall is an excellent small to mid-sized venue for local acts, small regional touring acts, and other special events such as speaking engagements, poetry readings, weddings and other celebrations. Not only does the size sit right in the middle of the larger auditoriums and smaller school buildings available in town, the use of a commercial kitchen with room for a bar makes it a perfect place for events with culturally appropriate food.

Redeveloping the building will drive investment in a neighborhood in Lowell that has shown enormous potential for improvement, but still remains underdeveloped and under-resourced. As Lowell has recovered from the economic recessions of the 1980s, low-income and moderate-income working-class residents have been left behind. In the Acre neighborhood, 35% of residents live below the poverty line and 42% speak a language other than English at home.

The project’s total cost is estimated at $16,518,372. CBA will use a combination of New Market Tax Credits, Federal and State Historic Tax Credits, grants, and individual donations to fund the project.

The operations and the programming for the building will be funded through grant money, ticket and concession sales, as well as rental income including that from having the CBA offices on-site, keeping the center sustainable.

Our vision is inspired by the success of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a set of community-based organizations that is creating pathways through education to employment in a neighborhood in need and using arts programming to inspire urban youth and innovative career training to support struggling adults in Pittsburgh, PA. The founders of Manchester Bidwell believed that bundling job training, arts programming and exhibition space for youth with a performance space open to community members would combat the devastation wrought by the collapse of the steel industry. Today, Manchester Bidwell’s programs have grown into nationally recognized enterprises and serve nearly 3,900 Pittsburgh youth every year, providing a unique haven that fosters a sense of interconnectedness in the city. Closer to home, we are looking closely at the model employed by the New England Center for Arts and Technology in Boston, which developed as a replica of the Manchester Bidwell model and opened its doors in September 2013.

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Rendering of CBA’s vision for the Smith Baker Center

Bringing life back to the Smith Baker Center is in line with CBA’s mission to revitalize the Acre neighborhood. A vibrant community center and destination performance space will spur economic growth in the neighborhood. At the same time, the variety of programming available and events held, will both help Acre families become financially self-sufficient and build community as both Acre residents and those from other parts of the city come together to learn, share culture and enjoy art and performance.