Since 1982, the Coalition for a Better Acre has developed 476 units of affordable rental housing and 50 homes for first-time homebuyers in the Merrimack Valley.
But, our work doesn’t end with housing.
In recent years the focus of our mission has shifted to ending the cycle of poverty and leading families on the path to economic self-sufficiency. Doing so includes building not only safe, warm, affordable housing, but also programming that provides economic, educational, community building and civic empowerment opportunities.
YES (Youth Educational Success): Last year CBA launched YES, an after-school program that serves 25 neighborhood kids in grades 1-8 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. four days a week. The mission is to provide academic support and open the door to activities and experiences they otherwise would not be able to access. In addition to homework help and an afternoon snack, the kids engage in arts & crafts, STEM activities, cooking classes, Taekwondo and Girl Scouts. Earlier this year, a group of older kids in the program designed and launched their own blogs through a partnership with Kids in Tech, Inc. They are also exposed to college life through interaction with Middlesex Community College Service Learning students, as well as career options through a series of Career Day speakers.
STEP (Supported Training Education Program): The workforce development arm of our organization, STEP recently graduated its second group of students. The six-week program equips high school graduates and GED recipients with the skills they need for career success and places them in entry-level positions within medical device manufacturing companies in Devens; graduates are provided with free transportation to and from work for one year through CBA’s partnership with transportation company QRyde. The program includes financial education and case management to help ensure graduates’ success once the official training is completed.
Financial Opportunity Center: Since 2007 the Financial Center has counseled more than 1500 Merrimack Valley homeowners in foreclosure prevention and reported an average success rate four percent higher than agencies providing similar services nationwide. As the number of foreclosures dwindle, the Center has begun to focus more of its resources on financial counseling and financial literacy education. The staff would like to expand their reach to provide basic financial literacy education to members of STEP. Incorporating basic financial literacy, such as how to fill out a W4 form, understanding how checking accounts and direct deposit work and how to best use your bank, into the STEP program is a natural way to help ensure their employment success and is in tune with our mission of helping to make people self-sufficient.
Civic Engagement and Community Building: Building community and empowering residents to be more involved in their city is central to our mission. To that end, we work to provide outreach to members of the community to help them learn about the issues facing the city. We recently hosted a successful informational meeting about the options for a new Lowell High School that drew more than 200 people. In recent years we have held fun, informational events to introduce candidates running for City Council, School Committee and State Representative to voters and are holding monthly community dinner aimed at bringing information and resources to residents in a fun, family-friendly venue. At the end of April, 300 people joined our 30th Annual Acre cleanup and we team up with the ACTION neighborhood group each June for their Acrefest party on the North Common and for National Night Out each August.
We need your help to continue and expand upon this important programming and continue increasing opportunities and quality of life for the residents of the historic Acre neighborhood, the first stop for so many immigrant groups and home to many proud Lowellians.
We will be holding our annual fundraiser – 6 Degrees of the Acre – June 22 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the beautiful former Saint Jean Baptiste Church on Merrimack St. The event, which will include food from a variety of ethnic Acre restaurants, entertainment, exhibits and raffles, will attract more than 250 professionals, business owners, and civic leaders from Greater Lowell.
For tickets and sponsorship opportunities, visit: 6Degrees