CareZare – LHS Student Creates Caregiving App

Family Caregiving

There’s an app for that!

 

 

LEXINGTON HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR LAUNCHES APP TO REDUCE STRESS AND ISOLATION OF CAREGIVING FOR FAMILY MEMBERS

By Jane Whitehead

While most of his peers worry about college application deadlines, admissions and rejections, LHS senior Logan Wells, 17, has a different focus. He has a business to develop, following the launch in November 2017 of CareZare, an app he and family members created to streamline family caregiving, now downloadable from the App Store and Google Play.

AN APP FOR THE HOME TEAM

Eric, Logan and Hallie Wells

When Logan’s grandmother, known in the family as “Nannie,” was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, the Wells family mobilized to provide the help she needed to stay safely in her own home. After taking the hard decision to remove her driver’s licence, Logan’s parents Hallie and Eric, with his aunt Lisa Wells, organized a roster of companions so that she could still go shopping and see friends, and not miss the three-mile daily walks that she loved.

The Wells family faced a challenge familiar to growing numbers of Americans. A joint study published in 2015 by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimated that 39.8 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult relative, with carers spending an average of 24.4 hours a week on caregiving, often with negative effects on their own health, as well as on their professional and personal lives.

As Nannie’s condition advanced, and her need for more constant and more specialized care increased, Logan saw the dramatic impact on his mother, who with his aunt was the main care coordinator. “Her free time was gone – she was always contacting caregivers, getting updates from them, texting, making sure everyone was on the same page,” he said.

“When we first started,” said Hallie, who works full time for Lexington Public Schools, “there were pieces of paper all over Nannie’s house: the chore chart on the fridge, the calendar on the kitchen counter, the medication check-off.”

Logan saw that juggling the different record-keeping systems and dealing with multiple emails, texts and phone calls among the three professional and six family caregivers was a major source of stress. “You see the toll it takes on your parents,” he said. “It’s something that’s hard to ignore, something you want to improve.”

Not one to turn away from other people’s struggles – he’s also involved with teen suicide prevention efforts through Lexington Youth and Family Services – Logan started teaching himself programming from online tutorials so he could develop an app that would allow all the caregivers to coordinate and share information.

With help from his father, Eric, whose background is in technology, though not in programming, and input from his twin brother Devin and older sister Delaney, Logan produced a prototype app that was field-tested by his mother and aunt and tweaked according to their feedback.

Prompted by Delaney, the family developed their own terms for the different people involved in caregiving. The person receiving care is the “CareStar,” round whom everyone else revolves. The “CareCaptain” is the administrator or coordinator, “CareGivers” are family members, friends or hired care providers invited to join the “CareTeam,” that includes everyone involved, including the person being cared for.

FIELDWORK

Over two years, Logan developed the app to allow members of the CareTeam to post four different kinds of information: heads up alerts, calendar notifications, tasks, and daily journal entries. Now, when caregivers start their shift, said Hallie, “they look at the app and read the recent journal entries and heads up alerts, so if there’s anything significant, they can deal with that.”

A typical journal entry – completed by every member of the CareTeam at the end of a shift – may include observations of Nannie’s mood, activities like having coffee or browsing catalogs, any chores or tasks completed, and maybe a general assessment. “Lots of laughs, great day,” concluded one recent note.

“When we receive these journal entries at the end of the day,” said Hallie, “it’s such a beautiful snapshot – it doesn’t always go well, but all of this is data.” The journal record is a way of tracking and meeting changes in Nannie’s needs. When carers began to note that she was not getting dressed by 2:00 p.m. or that she was starting to resist taking showers, “that was a cue to change to someone skilled in dementia care,” said Hallie.

A recent heads up alert via text from the carer on duty notified the CareTeam that Nannie’s washing machine had started spurting water all over the floor, mid-cycle. Hallie could respond immediately, contact a local plumber, let the next carer know to expect his visit, and share his assessment with everyone. “In that that moment we can try to problem solve and have a whole cast of characters get that information in a timely way,” she said.

Lisa Wells manages all her mother’s health care appointments – “her eye doctor, her dentist, the neurologist, primary care, lab tests, all of that,” – and she has found the app’s calendar feature invaluable. The information that used to be in her head, or on a piece of scrap paper, waiting to be transferred to the paper calendar, can now be immediately shared with the CareTeam. And when Nannie’s medications change, Lisa can post information about the new prescription once, in one place, rather than calling or emailing five different people.

The CareZare App makes it easy to coordinate care for family members and the entire caregiving team.

SCALING UP

Seeing how well the app performed in meeting their immediate family needs, Logan and Eric started to think bigger. “We started to think – we can build this so it’s useful to other people,” said Eric. “We felt there were opportunities to really promote team-based care at the family level,” he said, as well as focusing on the role of the CareCaptain, and giving that person maximum support.

As self-taught programmers, said Eric, both he and Logan recognized their limitations, and they engaged another father and son team, Bruce and Bradley Stuart, of Arizona-based Software Studio, as technology partners. They worked closely together to ensure the app’s functionality and security and the ability to scale it as more people start to use it.

Logan and Eric also sought input from professionals in senior care, running test groups at Brookhaven in Lexington, with workers and residents, and meeting families facing different care-related challenges, such as those with adult children with developmental issues. “Gaining those new perspectives and applying them to the app was invaluable,” said Logan.

To drive revenue from the app, said Eric, they considered different options – advertising, a one-off download fee, or a subscription model – and Logan favored the subscription model. Currently, CareZare is available for a 30-day free trial, with a monthly fee thereafter of $9.95 for each CareStar. “We’ll try it,” said Logan, and if we find it doesn’t work, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

GAP YEAR CHALLENGE

“There’s so much to learn in doing a start-up like this,” said Eric. “There’s the caregiving side, then there’s how to build a business, how to build the product, how to keep focus, the marketing side – it’s such great fertile ground for learning.” Although it goes against the grain in a college-fixated town like Lexington, Eric and Hallie completely support Logan’s decision to spend a year focusing on CareZare after he graduates from LHS later this year.

“It’s definitely scary” not to be heading off to college immediately like most of his peers, said Logan, but at the same time it’s exciting to build on what he’s already accomplished – taking an idea from concept to marketable product, and learning a host of skills on the way, from programming to time-management.

He’s also keen to roll out new enhancements, including simplifying the design of the user interface, enabling the calendar to display Google and Apple calendars in the app, and – prompted by the recent snap of severe weather – providing updated weather information and warnings for caregivers.

With a background in hi-tech marketing, Logan’s aunt Lisa Wells is a valuable source of development ideas. She recently installed a Blink wireless home security camera system in her mother’s house, to monitor the night hours, and is encouraging Logan to incorporate notifications from that system into the app.

For now, though, she’s hoping that more people learn about the app and benefit from it. “It has been a godsend, honestly, from the communication point of view,” she said. “Before, you could spend half your day just calling people and trying to figure things out. I think my dad is up in heaven looking down, very proud of his grandson!”

 

Online Resources for Family Caregivers

American Association of Retired People (AARP): https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/

The organizations below are listed on the website of the National Alliance for Caregiving: www.caregiving.org

Eldercare Locator

www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx
The service links those who need assistance with state and local area agencies on aging and community-based organizations that serve older adults and their caregivers.

Next Step in Care
www.nextstepincare.org

Provides easy-to-use guides to help family caregivers and health care providers plan and implement safe and smooth transitions for chronically or seriously ill patients.

Lotsa Helping Hands
www.lotsahelpinghands.com
 A free caregiving coordination web service that provides a private, group calendar where tasks for which a caregiver needs assistance can be posted.

Caring.com
www.caring.com
Expert-reviewed content includes advice from a team of more than 50 leaders in geriatric medicine, law, finance, housing, and other key areas of healthcare and eldercare.

Financial Steps for Caregivers
WISER (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement)
Being a caregiver can affect both your short-term and long-term financial security, including your own retirement. For more information on planning for a secure retirement, please visit

www.wiserwomen.org.

Family Caregiver Alliance
caregiver.org/node/3831
A central source of information on caregiving and long-term care issues for policy makers, service providers, media, funders and family caregivers throughout the country.

Caregiver Action Network
www.caregiveraction.org/

Resources include a Peer Forum, a Story Sharing platform, the Family Caregiver Tool Box and more. CAN also provides support for rare disease caregivers at www.rarecaregivers.org

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Is Lexington’s Future RENEWABLE?

 

Is Lexington’s Future

RENEWABLE?

By Mark Sandeen, Chair
Sustainable Lexington Committee

Lexington made remarkable progress towards achieving a renewable future in 2017. We brought our Hartwell Avenue solar facility online – and are now generating 45% of the Town’s municipal electricity demand from our rooftop and landfill projects. We launched a highly successful Community Choice program, which is now providing 100% renewable electricity for less money than our utility’s Basic Service offering to over 10,000 customers – saving Lexington residents about $1.6 million over the first 12 months of the program.

The Town approved two designs for 100% renewable energy schools that will be built to the highest standards for health, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and resilience. Hastings School and the Lexington Children’s Place are expected to generate more solar electricity onsite than they need to operate – from their rooftops and solar canopies in their parking lots.

These are extraordinarily hopeful signs for the Getting to Net Zero Emissions task force; whose 25-year goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Lexington’s residential, commercial, and municipal buildings and to achieve a transition to renewable energy sources for all of Lexington’s buildings. Our guiding principles have been four simple words – Report, Reduce, Produce, and Purchase.

Report – Our first step is to understand what types of buildings we have in Lexington and assess how those types of buildings perform from an energy use and emissions perspective.

Reduce – There are really only two ways to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We can use less energy by investing in energy efficiency or we can switch to using cleaner sources of energy.

Produce – The next step is maximizing the production of onsite renewable energy from our rooftops and parking lots.

Purchase – After reducing energy use and switching from burning fossil fuels onsite as much as possible, we will purchase renewable electricity to supply our energy demand.

Why is the task force focusing on our buildings? Lexington’s buildings generate 66% of our greenhouse gas emissions – 36% from the electricity used in our buildings and 30% from the use of oil and natural gas to heat our buildings.

We’ve hired Peregrine Energy Group to produce an energy and emissions baseline report for all of Lexington’s buildings. They have produced a fascinating report with lots of interesting results. Peregrine found that our residential buildings are responsible for 55% of our building emissions while commercial labs and offices are responsible for 34% of our emissions. The remaining 11% comes from our municipal buildings, retail spaces, non-profits, and health care facilities.

The chart above shows that most of our residential buildings were built in the ‘50s and ‘60s. During that time the average size of a new home was about 1,200 square feet. New homes today are averaging about 4,700 square feet or about 4 times the size of homes built between 1920 and 1980. Many Lexington residents are under the impression that we are tearing down existing homes at a furious pace – after all, it seems like you see a new teardown going on every time you drive around town. But the data shows that new construction is responsible for less than 1% of our building stock each year. What that means is that 25 years from now – we will mostly have the same buildings we have today.

These lessons also hold true for our commercial buildings. Most of our commercial buildings were built in the ‘50s thru the ‘80s. We are building very few new commercial buildings today. The simple takeaway is that we will have to figure out how to retrofit our existing buildings if we are going to be successful at reducing our emissions to zero.

Natural gas usage is up in Lexington. But that is offset by declines in heating oil usage as residential homeowners have been switching from heating oil to natural gas quite rapidly since 2008. Our electricity use has been declining about 1% a year for the past 7 years due primarily to the Mass Save program to encourage energy efficiency. [See chart below]

 

But perhaps the biggest story for our overall emissions has been the beneficial effect of closing our coal and oil power generators in New England. We started with a much cleaner electrical grid than the rest of the country and have now reduced our emissions an additional 30% over the past 20 years.

In Lexington we hope to accelerate that trend by leveraging our positive experience with our Community Choice program that was able to secure 100% renewable electricity for less than the cost of conventional electricity. Our Community Choice program is currently reducing Lexington’s emissions by 98 million pounds of CO2 per year. [See chart above] Now that we are able to provide 100% renewable energy at lower cost for our residents, we’d like to do the same thing for our commercial property owners.

A lot of people are amazed that this is possible. The simple fact is that renewable energy prices are dropping rapidly. Solar panel prices plunged by a shocking 26 percent in the last year — despite having already dropped 80 percent in the previous 10 years and 99 percent since the late 1970s. Wind’s story is almost as amazing. In October, we saw the lowest bids in the world for 1,000 MW of wind electricity at 4 cents per kWh – a 24 percent drop just from February. We are seeing similarly rapid declines in offshore wind prices.

The next series of charts provide a broad overview of our plan for Getting to Net Zero Emissions for all of our buildings. [Figure 1] The upper light blue line on this chart shows what we could expect for our buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions in a Business as Usual case. The light blue area shows the emissions reductions we can expect from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires an additional 1% of renewable electricity per year. The dark blue area represents the emission reductions we can achieve by transitioning all of our buildings to 100% renewable electricity. We would reduce our emissions by 48% when we achieve that objective. We have high confidence that we’ll be able to achieve this as we expect the cost of renewable electricity to continue dropping over the next 25 years.

The light and dark green parts of the next chart [Figure 2] show we can reduce our emissions 34% by switching from oil and natural gas to heat our buildings, if we transition to using heat pumps powered by 100% renewable electricity. The cost and performance of heat pumps has made dramatic gains in the past 4 or 5 years. Heat pumps provide a strong economic incentive to switch from oil on energy savings alone. We will encourage the transition to heat pumps as older oil fired boilers reach the end of their useful life.

With natural gas prices currently at all-time lows, heating with natural gas will cost less than using a heat pump solution. One way to provide a cost effective solution for natural gas customers would be to combine energy efficiency improvements such as air sealing and insulation to reduce the building’s overall energy demand with the transition to a heat pump. Building owners would see a net overall reduction in their energy costs by combining an investment in energy efficiency and heat pumps. [Figure 3]

Interestingly, there is also an opportunity to tap into the $9.3 billion Massachusetts has allocated to repair natural gas pipelines. The idea is that rather than spending the money to repair natural gas pipelines – you could use less money to pay for the new equipment needed to transition from natural gas to heat pumps, from natural gas ranges to induction cooktops. We’ll be trying a pilot project in Lexington to see if that idea pencils out.

Estabrook School

Finally, we have already figured out how to build our new school buildings to be 100% renewable buildings while lowering our total cost of ownership. Our most recently constructed LexHab affordable homes were only 1 or 2% away from generating 100% of their own energy.  We’ve even seen a net zero energy retrofit completed in the Historic District! Net Zero construction is a growing trend in new construction. Net Zero buildings have been delivering dramatic increases in home valuations. We believe that over the next 10 years we’ll be able to adopt a net zero emissions building code for all new buildings in Lexington that will deliver the final 8% in emissions reductions needed to transition Lexington to a 100% renewable energy future. [Figure 4]

Our largest building owners in Lexington, like King Street Properties and Shire are committed to reducing their emissions and are already setting and beating aggressive goals to reduce their emissions. We will be working with them to support their efforts with programs such as the Commercial PACE program, which allows commercial property owners to access new sources for energy efficiency and renewable energy financing.

SHIRE Pharmaceuticals

King Street Properties – 115 Hartwell Avenue

 

In the near term, we are recommending that the Board of Selectmen take a leadership role by adopting the Sustainable Building Design policy, formalizing the goals for health, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy production, which have shown such great results during the Hastings and Lexington Children’s Place school design.

We would also suggest that the Town start buying 100% renewable electricity for its own municipal electricity demand. The Town of Lexington signed a 3-year agreement with our current electricity provider, which ends in December of 2018. This year would be an excellent time to complete the Town’s move to a 100% renewable electricity future.

A lot of folks ask – what about reducing emissions from our vehicles? While our buildings are responsible for 66% of our greenhouse emissions, our vehicles are certainly next on the chopping block at 23% of our total emissions. The good news is that if we can transition our buildings to 100% renewable electricity – we can do the same for our cars.

Battery prices are declining rapidly and are expected to continue their rapid decline with another 75% price reduction expected within the next 15 years. At the same time, the power to weight ratio of the batteries has been improving rapidly. Those advances have allowed Elon Musk to introduce an electric truck with 500 miles of range and Tesla’s new Roadster with 620 miles of range!

Both trends have lead to soaring sales of electric vehicles worldwide and in Lexington. There were 1 million electric vehicles on the road at the end of 2015, but it took only 18 months for the next million electric vehicle sales. The next million cars will be on the road by Patriot’s Day this year. Lexington is also leading the electric vehicle revolution in Massachusetts with 6.7 times the number of electric vehicles per capita compared to the Massachusetts average. We doubled the number of electric cars in Lexington last year, and hope to do that again this year with our Lex Drive Electric group discount program.

And that revolution is only just getting started. Navigant expects 37 million electric vehicles will be on the road by 2025. Yes, that is more than 10x growth in the next 7 years. And 2025 is when Bloomberg [See chart above] expects electric car sales to really accelerate! Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that the unsubsidized price of electric cars will fall to less than the price for internal combustion engine cars somewhere between 2025 and 2030.

Electric cars already cost far less to operate and maintain than gas vehicles. So when the upfront cost and the ongoing operating and maintenance cost are far less than a gas car – why would you buy a gas-powered vehicle? Especially when an electric car is just so darn fun to drive, has zero emissions when powered with renewable electricity and when you can get up to $7,500 in discounts from the Lex Drive Electric program?

So far we’ve been focusing on the benefit of reducing Lexington’s greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning our buildings and vehicles to 100% renewable energy, and with good reason. It is hard to overstate the importance of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions after watching the most extreme hurricanes and wildfires ever devastate Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California, causing over $400 billion in damage.

But we should also consider that there are really important direct local health benefits from going 100% renewable. By transitioning both our buildings and cars to renewable energy we can eliminate much of the particulate matter air pollution that has dire immediate and local health effects. MIT determined that Massachusetts has the fifth highest premature mortality rate from the particulate matter air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels to heat our buildings. We have the 13th highest premature mortality rate from the air pollution caused by our vehicles. We could save over 3,100 lives each year in Massachusetts by eliminating the particulate matter emissions created by heating our buildings and driving our cars with fossil fuels.

Can Lexington transition to 100% renewable energy for our buildings and our vehicles? The answer is a resounding yes! The economics and the health benefits of renewable energy will not only lower our energy costs and improve our health, but will also provide a more livable climate for everyone. What are we waiting for?

The solar, wind, battery and electric car “miracles” have all gone mainstream. Building and running new renewable energy systems is now cheaper than just running exisiting coal and nuclear plants. China, India, France, the UK, and Norway have all announced they will phase out fossil fuel cars in the next decade or so. Even OPEC has quintupled their forecasts for electric cars. The clean energy revolution is now unstoppable. Are you onboard?


The Getting to Net Zero Emissions task force includes building owners, community leaders and subject matter experts representing residential, commercial and municipal interests:
Joe Pato, Lexington Board of Selectmen, former Chair
Jeanne Krieger, Former Chair, Lexington Board of Selectmen
Paul Lukez, Architect – Author, Suburban Transformations
Wendall Kalsow, Architect – Member, Lexington Historical Commission
Mike DiMinico, Sr. Director, King Street Properties
Melanie Waldron, VP, Boston Properties
Joseph Fulliero, Environmental Manager, Shire
Janet Terzano, Real Estate Agent, Barrett Sotheby’s
Alessandro Allessandrini – Chair, Lexington School Committee
Melisa Tintocalis – Lexington’s Economic Development Director
Lisa Fitzgibbons – Community Organizer, Mothers Out Front
Mark Sandeen – Chair, Sustainable Lexington Committee

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Father’s Death Leads to Search for Meaning The Legacy of World War II

Walter Carter

Monday, November 13

Cary Memorial Library lower level meeting room,

Hosted by the Lexington Veterans Association

The public is invited for coffee and conversation at 12:45 p.m. with the program beginning at 1:15 p.m.

 

Walter Carter was a young boy in Huntington, West Virginia when his father, Norval Carter, a small-town doctor, was killed by a sniper while tending to a wounded soldier, 12 days after landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. As an adult researching his father’s life, he wrote a memoir about his father, then spent years thinking, writing, and speaking about the meaning and the changing views of World War II.

Walter wrote a memoir about his father, then spent years thinking, writing, and speaking about the meaning and the changing views of World War II.

As a young person, Carter held a simplistic view of the war. “It was a good war and the Americans were the good guys”, he recalls. “Some nasty people got aggressive and America had to stop them and set the world right.” After years of interacting with fellow members of the American WWII Orphans Network, helping veterans secure their rightful benefits as an officer of the 29th Division Association, or escorting high school and college students to the Normandy beaches as a board member of Normandy Allies, Carter gradually came to realize that the war was much more complicated and nuanced.

“We weren’t totally the good guys,” Carter continues, “America didn’t do it alone. The casualties and destruction suffered by America were only a small fraction of the war’s total devastation. We made some mistakes and committed some atrocities. There were race and desertion issues. Rather than keeping score, a more useful way to look at the war is to ask, what would the world have looked like if Germany had won?”

After receiving a degree in history from Swarthmore College, Walter Carter earned two masters degrees, one in international relations from Tufts University and one in economics at the University of Rochester. His professional career included service as Instructor in Economics at Hobart College, Senior Economist with Charles River Associates, and, until his retirement in 1999, Economist, Vice President and then Principal with a unit of the McGraw-Hill Company. An accomplished amateur trombonist, Mr. Carter performed with the Newton Symphony Orchestra for 40 years and served as President of the Symphony’s board.

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New Lexington Historical Society Executive Director Erica Dumont is Set to Make History

By E. Ashley Rooney

Lexington Historical Society
Executive Director Erica Dumont

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF LEXINGTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO APPOINT ERICA DUMONT THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Erica Dumont brings enthusiasm, nonprofit leadership experience, and passion to her new position. She sees the future of the Lexington Historical Society (LHS) as being vibrant, relevant in the community, and a center of learning both for families in town and beyond.

One of the opportunities she sees is that the town of Lexington is significant on both a local and national stage. “Where some historical societies struggle to find relevance in their community, the Society has the advantage of operating in the town where the first battle of the American Revolution took place, so there is national and global interest in the town, and an opportunity for the LHS to capture that interest,” Dumont says. Moreover, given that there are over 300 years of history in Lexington aside from the historic battle, Lexington Historical Society also has lots of options for local programming and exhibits to attract visitors.

One avenue of growth, Dumont sees, is more extensive family programming. What about a spinning bee she asks, (adding that this idea came from our programming director), a farming program focusing on Lexington’s agricultural past, an instructional program on colonial clothing and food, or perhaps a program on life in Lexington during WWII? With new families moving to town every day, the opportunity to educate, engage and inform newcomers and the community as a whole about the many facets of Lexington history should be an ongoing project.
Dumont has been the Executive Director of the Wellesley Historical Society since 2013. She says that LHS differs from Wellesley in that it is larger, has a broader reach, and has a focus on historical interpretation.

Her first position after graduating from Salem State University was working at Old North Church. Since then, she has been fascinated with early Revolution history, and LHS fit right in. Currently, she is completing her MA in History at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

Dumont looks forward to partnering with other organizations in Lexington and beyond to have a broader community impact. “I feel that partnering with organizations in Boston would allow us to capture the attention of tourists and museum goers and. hopefully, increase visitation to Lexington’s historic sites.”

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LexHAB is out front on effort to preserve affordable housing in Lexington

By Jim Shaw

Lexington has undergone many significant changes over the past few decades. Great public schools and excellent municipal management have made Lexington a very desirable community. This has led to an increase in ethnic diversity, and skyrocketing home values that no one could have predicted. While the future looks bright, the rising cost of housing in Lexington have left some with little hope of calling Lexington home. The Lexington Housing Assistance Board, or LexHAB, recognized over three decades ago that more and more families who either wanted to stay in Lexington or relocate here, were essentially being priced out of the market. Since 1984, LexHAB has been at the forefront of preserving and expanding affordable housing opportunities here in Lexington.

Celebrating the dedication of LexHAB’s newest properties are (Top L to R): Kyle Romano, Chris Traganos, Lester Savage, town manager Carl Valente, Mark Sandeen, selectman Doug Lucente, selectman Suzie Barry, LexHAB counsel Pat Nelson, LexHAB chairman Bill Kennedy, LexHAB board members Bill Hays and Martha Wood. Standing to the left are LexHAB board member Henry Liu, Representative Jay Kaufman, and LexHAB vice chair Bob Burbidge.

Developers set their sights on Lexington nearly twenty-years ago and the “tear-down” craze began in earnest. Homes that were remotely affordable were grabbed up by developers, torn down, and redeveloped into what locals have dubbed “McMansions.” More and more opportunities for affordable home ownership slipped away with little objection. The ability for kids who were raised in this community to put down roots of their own was essentially foreclosed upon as hundreds of potential “entry-level” homes were lost to builders. Some believe that town officials were slow to address the situation because the new, larger homes were bringing in significantly more tax revenue. Even more, Lexington’s Vision 20/20 speaks specifically to affordable housing. Under the theme Promote and Strengthen Community Character, points 3 and 4 encourage the Town to: “Provide increased housing options to promote diversity of income and age, and create strong incentives to maintain and expand affordable housing.” This made the need for affordable housing options even greater, and LexHAB rose to the challenge. Since it was established, LexHAB has built an inventory of nearly 70 properties, providing dozens and dozens of families the ability to call Lexington home.

One of the original LexHAB board members, David Eagle, had a vision for creating a program that would benefit the community in a profound way, while providing opportunities for its partners. Dave, who passed away in 2015, suggested that the Lexington Rotary Club could act as the general contractor to build homes to add to the LexHAB inventory. They would invite students from Minuteman Regional High School to provide the skilled labor under the supervision of their instructors. Everyone would win. LexHAB would add beautiful new homes to its stock, the Rotary Club would establish a new and vital way to serve the community, and the students at Minuteman would experience real-world conditions as part of their education. The property recently developed by LexHAB at 11 Fairview Avenue is the 14th home built in cooperation with Minuteman High School and students from several shops including carpentry, electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

Lester Savage of Lester Savage Real Estate/Century 21 Commonwealth assumed responsibility as project coordinator when Dave Eagle passed. Savage has served on the LexHAB board for many years and was eager, yet cautious to step into the role. Lester explained that his predecessor Dave Eagle made it seem simple, but it clearly wasn’t. Savage said, “Dave was a problem solver. He had a keen ability to get to the heart of a problem. He made things run smoothly and dedicated thousands of hours over the years to advancing this program. I was worried that his shoes were going to be too large to step in to.” By all accounts, Savage and the other members of the LexHAB team stepped up in a big way. In fact, they are currently negotiating the building of at least two additional sights. The larger of the two involves the construction of two 3-family dwellings at the site of the former Busa Farm on Lowell Street.

Lester is quick to share the spotlight with his fellow board members, the contractors and the students from Minuteman High School. He said, ” Working with the students at Minuteman Regional High School has become a tradition that we look forward to. This particular project on Fairview consisted of two buildings; one is essentially a remodeling of an existing building which we turned into a single-family dwelling, the other is a brand new building that will accommodate three families and adhere to strict ADA standards for handicapped accessibility. In order to complete the project on time, we essentially split the project between the students at Minuteman and a company named Feltonville Building Company. This concept worked very well in that it didn’t place too much of a strain on the students from Minuteman and allowed a good company like Feltonville to construct a beautiful new building. This was truly a win-win situation.”

Savage added, “If I needed someone to fill a gap at the old house I could get someone to take care of it. The students finished about 90% of the job, certain aspects were beyond their ability. But, the students, as always, did an extraordinary job. Their work is beautiful. They built it to a higher standard than most contractors. It was an old house so there were framing issues and Chris Traganos from Minuteman’s carpentry shop really worked closely with the students to do things the right way.”

As the project leader from LexHAB, Lester depended on advice and counsel from other members of the board including chairman Bill Kennedy and vice chairman Bob Burbidge. He also looked to draw on the experience of others who have participated in the past. Kyle Romano and Chris Traganos from Minuteman have been involved in previous projects. Lester explained that Kyle Romano from the plumbing shop was his liaison to Minuteman. He said, “It was my first time leading a project like this for LexHAB, so Kyle helped me to better understand the expectations of working with the students. At the end of the day, they met and exceeded my expectations. I can see why Dave Eagle was such a proponent of working with them.”

The concept of approaching the construction from two perspectives was a bit daunting. In one situation they were dealing with redeveloping an existing property. They were also looking to build a brand new multi-family building that would meet their low energy consumption stands. So, while the students focused on the redevelopment project, Feltonville Building Company was selected as the general contractor for the multi-family building.

Feltonville owner, Ian Mazmanian, was impressed with LexHAB from the very start. He explained that he had never quite seen the level of commitment to building such a large inventory of affordable housing. Mazmanian said, “Working with LexHAB was an incredible experience for us. It really opened my eyes to what is possible when good people come together to do good things. Working with Lester Savage and the others that LexHAB was especially rewarding. These are people who are committed to the idea of providing quality affordable housing to folks who might not otherwise have an opportunity to reside in a community like Lexington. Clearly, there is a need, and we were honored to participate in this project.”

Like Lester, this was Mazmanian’s first experience at leading a LexHAB construction effort. He said, “This was our first experience working with LexHAB, and it couldn’t have been more fulfilling. We had been working with Transformations [the original contractor] and circumstances prevented them from continuing on the project. We were ready and eager to take over the project.”

There were certain challenges with the specs on the project. For example, the project was originally intended to meet handicapped accessibility standards. It was changed to meet ADA standards (Americans with Disability Act). The differences are subtle, very important. It affects counter appliance requirements and basic mobility needs. But, Feltonville was able to adapt to the change seamlessly.

Mazmanian explained that he was pleased to see the students from Minuteman on the site, and that he was impressed with their commitment and skill levels. He said, “Although we were principally retained for the new 3-family building, we were involved to some degree with the old house project. We pulled the permits and assisted the students from Minuteman as needed. They were a great bunch of kids who are clearly devoted to honing their skills. I really enjoyed working with them.”

Lester explained that Transformations, the original contractor was unable to continue on the project. They had been working with Ian Mazmanian from Feltonville who stepped right in that took over the project. Lester said, “The folks at Feltonville are honest, and they do good quality work. Their clerk-of-the-works, Dave Woerpel served as the site manager and he really helped the project to move along. I would recommend them to anyone.” Lester also expressed gratitude to several local contractors and builders who provided goods and services at below market rates. They include Bob Foss Contracting, Arlex Oil Corporation, Arlington Coal & Lumber, J.M. McLaughlin Excavating and Wagon Wheel’s landscaping division.

Zero net energy is a concept that is becoming a standard here in Lexington. Last month in his Colonial Times column, Mark Sandeen outlined LexHAB’s commitment to very low to zero net energy consumption. Mazmanian explained that he appreciated LexHAB’s commitment to meeting very low net energy usage standards. He said, “One aspect of the project that I was particularly impressed with was the commitment to zero energy consumption. LexHAB was firm in their resolve to build a close to zero net energy facility. In the end, we achieved a 1 to 2 net energy rating.” Savage added, “There’s no reason why you can’t produce affordable housing that will be affordable in the long run, especially when it pertains to energy consumption. Our energy rating at the new property is better than 99% of the homes that are being built. Where in the top 1%. We are committed to drastically reducing the carbon footprint. Lexington is ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing consumption, and we want to honor that commitment by doing everything we can to achieve high energy standards on all of our new properties.”

Mazmanian emphasized that working with LexHAB was a uniquely satisfying experience. He said, “The overall experience of working with LexHAB was better than I could have imagined. Lester spent a great deal of time working with us and we felt supported throughout the entire project. I look forward to future opportunities to work with LexHAB.”

For Savage and the rest of the LexHAB organization, the challenge of identifying affordable building opportunities is becoming much greater. Lester explained that in order to meet their criteria, they have to be able to acquire land and build for well under $500,000 per unit. With land values in Lexington constantly climbing, meeting their budget limits is becoming nearly impossible. Lester said, “The challenge for us is to find a site that is affordable and within our budget. At Fairview Avenue we were able to acquire a good size parcel of land for around $500,000 and keep the construction cost to under $900,000. With the cost of land constantly increasing, it really is a challenge to find buildable lots within our budget to allow us to increase our inventory of affordable housing. We were able to build the Fairview properties at a cost of about $380,00 per unit.”

Savage added, “The multi-family property at Fairview should serve as a good model for what we hope to do at the Busa Farm property. In order to build affordable units you have to have multiple units. It’s really the only plausible way to keep total building costs under $500,000 per unit. If we wanted to build a single-family and keep it affordable, we would have to buy a lot for approximately $300,000 and keep building cost under $200,000. The multiple-unit concept was how we were able to keep the costs in check.”

LexHAB is a working organization comprised of individuals who have dedicated countless hours of service for a cause that grows more important every day. Lexington is fast becoming an exclusive community with few housing opportunities for low and moderate income families. The work of LexHAB and the people who make it happen has never been more necessary.

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Lex Eat Together

THE POWER OF KINDNESS, COMMUNITY
AND A HEARTY DINNER

Above, Head Chef Bruce Lynn with the new LET spice cabinet. Below, some of the fresh food prepared each week by LET. COURTESY PHOTO


By Jane Whitehead

Every Wednesday afternoon, the community room at Lexington’s Church of Our Redeemer transforms into an elegant dining space. Volunteers wheel out round tables, haul stacks of chairs, spread tablecloths, set out bread baskets and water jugs and arrange flowers, to welcome guests to a three-course dinner, free to anyone in need of a good meal and companionship.

Since its launch in October 2015, Lex Eat Together (LET) has served more than 5,000 meals, welcomed an average of 64 guests a week, and built a network of over 200 volunteers. “I’m proudest of the community we’ve created,” said LET co-founder Laura Derby, referring to the wide range of backgrounds and ages among guests and volunteers.

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are

On a Wednesday in late September, the LET menu included Udon Chicken Soup, Battered Pork with Tonkatsu Sauce, with sides of rice, Napa cabbage and butternut squash. Among the early arrivals for the 5:15 p.m. dinner were regular guests Ruth Amiralian and her friend Mary.

“Look at what we get,” said Amiralian, gesturing to the table setting, the flowers, the basket of assorted breads. “To be able to walk in and be greeted with such love, kindness and graciousness is unbelievable,” she said. And as a long-term worker in the food industry, she’s impressed by the high quality and presentation of the food. “They have fine chefs,” she said, but most importantly, “they do it with their heart.”

Volunteers make LexEAT Together possible! Clockwise from left: 3-Bruce Ward, Shailini Sisodia, Toby Ward, Daniel Palant and Barbara Palant.


“I think I have fallen into a little heaven,” said Mary. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are – there’s a comfortableness, nobody’s haughty.” “This is our night out,” said Amiralian. “We could never afford to go out to eat.” She gives a warm welcome to a young man in his twenties who takes the seat next to her. He lives in neighboring Douglas House, a facility that provides independent affordable housing for brain injury survivors.

At another table was a group of Mandarin-speaking Chinese guests, all residents of Lexington’s Greeley Village, with their volunteer interpreter Ming-Chin Lin, who runs a senior daycare center in Billerica. “It’s very good to get together, we’re very happy, and we’re here to learn the culture and manners of America,” said Ziying Shi, who moved here over ten years ago from Shanghai to be with her daughter and family.

A Hard Place to be Hard Up

LET founders Laura Derby, Harriet Kaufman and John Bernhard saw how deprivation can escape notice in an affluent community, as volunteers with Lift Up Lexington, a group that supported homeless families parked temporarily in local motels. In 2104, having brought George Murnaghan of Redeemer’s vestry committee on board, they took a year to research and plan their response to the problems of food insecurity and social isolation in Lexington and surrounding towns.

After wide consultation with town officials and community groups, and research visits to other towns’ meal programs, including those in Concord, (where Harriet Kaufman volunteered for 25 years) Bedford and Chelmsford, the group inaugurated a weekly dinner in the newly refurbished community room at Our Redeemer, with its adjacent commercial kitchen. As an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit with no denominational affiliations, LET pays rent for the space.

Helen Zelinsky with trays of colorful appetizers. COURTESY PHOTO


“It is a little-known, painful and rarely acknowledged truth that some of our neighbors go to bed hungry,” said State Representative Jay Kaufman, at the LET launch in October 2015. According to the non-profit Feeding America, one in ten people, and one in seven children in Massachusetts struggle with hunger.

Even in Lexington, where the average annual household income in 2015 topped $150,000, around 1200 residents live at or below the poverty level, some 200 households receive fuel assistance, over 70 residents use food pantries and eight percent of school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. And these figures likely understate the level of financial hardship in a high-cost town like Lexington. “People’s circumstances can change very quickly, with sickness, unemployment, or divorce,” noted Harriet Kaufman (no relation to State Representative Kaufman.)

Baked into the LET recipe from the start was a commitment to an open-door policy, and to respect for the privacy of all guests. At LET dinners, there is no sign-in, no need to give a name or address – though guests can choose to write their first name on a stick-on label at the welcome table. “Who needs to know if you’re from Bedford or Lexington?” said Head Chef, Bruce Lynn. “If you start asking questions like that, people feel uncomfortable.” Murnaghan estimates that around 60 per cent of guests come from Lexington and neighboring communities, with some making “quite long journeys on public transport” from towns further afield.

Waste and Want – The Food Link Connection

The flip side of the US hunger emergency (one in seven Americans is food insecure) is a colossal mountain of wasted food. That forgotten bag of salad lurking in your refrigerator is part of an estimated 52 million tons of food that end up in landfill every year, together with another 10 million tons discarded or left unharvested, according to ReFED|Rethink Food Waste (www.refed.com.)

Arlington-based food rescue organization Food Link, Inc., founded in March 2012 by DeAnne Dupont and Julie Kremer, seeks to combat this cycle of waste and want. Their mission is to divert potentially wasted food to people who can use it. With over one hundred volunteers and two paid staffers, Food Link organizes the daily collection of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread and prepared foods that would otherwise be wasted from 12 local grocery and prepared food stores, and delivers this daily haul to 30 social service agencies serving people in need.

Kerry Brandin with strawberry soup. COURTESY PHOTO


In LET’s planning phase, Lexington resident and Food Link volunteer and board member Ivan Basch immediately grasped the potential synergy between the two projects. He offered to source a proportion of LET’s needs from Food Link donors, who include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Panera Bread and other smaller specialty stores.

“They tell me what they want, then I get as much as I can from Food Link, and go shopping for whatever else is needed,” said Basch in a recent phone conversation. (Sometimes the source is as local as his garden, as in the case of a recent order of chives.) Under the oversight of Head Chef Bruce Lynn (who also volunteers for Food Link), LET’s chefs get their menus and weekly shopping lists to Basch by noon on Sundays, and he gathers as much as possible from Food Link, then buys the rest with an LET charge card.

Depending on the menu and on the week’s donations, rescued food makes up between 60 and 80 percent of LET’s food costs, Lynn and Basch estimate. Other costs include venue rental, kitchen equipment and insurance. Once a month during the school year, from September to June, LET also purchases a ready-prepared meal from the Minuteman High School Culinary Arts Program.

“I really love the Lex Eat model, because that’s a value-add to the rescue,” said Basch. “There’s so much love and proficiency in turning the rescued food into a fabulous meal,” he said, noting that LET is “about as far from a soup kitchen as you can get,” with its three-course menus and attention to attractive presentation.

Harriet Kaufman turns rejected bouquets into elegant centerpieces. COURTESY PHOTO


Volunteer Task-force

After retiring as Director of Lexington’s Community Education Program, Robin Tartaglia moved to Cambridge, and followed her passion for food by signing up for a ten-month full-time professional training program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. From LET’s launch Tartaglia has been part of the team of around six vetted volunteer chefs who run the LET kitchen, plan the menus, devise the detailed shopping lists, organize the volunteer assistant cooks, and oversee the presentation of every plate.

“I’ve learned a great deal,” said Tartaglia. “I’ve learned how to cook these large quantities, and I do love managing the very eager and highly qualified volunteers we get in the kitchen.” (Like most other LET volunteer slots, the Assistant Cook spaces fill up weeks ahead of time, as people vie to wield the industrial-size salad spinner or learn what it takes to make Moroccan Chicken for 70.)

Although adults cook and serve the food, in the set-up and clean-up crews, high-school and middle-school students work alongside parents and grand-parents. Luisa Ozgen regularly superintends room set-up, with a sharp eye for detail and a set of laminated instruction cards to make sure the day’s crew forgets nothing, from switching on the hot water urns to bagging the fresh fruit that every guest takes home.

A healthy meal, lovingly prepared. COURTESY PHOTO


“I like to feel needed, and it’s great to see all these people I’ve known for two years,” said Libby Wallis, head of the clean-up team, as she cheerfully surveyed the remains of chicken noodle soup and battered pork (all food waste is composted or saved for animal feed.) As on many Wednesday evenings, Ed Lidman was methodically feeding the industrial dishwasher. “This was a job I knew,” said Lidman, laughing. By day, he works on data quality at Beth Israel Hospital.

With ten people drying steaming silverware, piling clean plates, rolling away tables, stacking chairs and vacuuming the dining room carpet, clean-up is done by 7:00 p.m. “There’s nothing more basic and human than sitting down and eating with someone else,” said George Murnaghan, “and it’s wonderful to be able to make that happen every week.”

 

To volunteer or donate to Lex Eat Together:
www.lexeattogether.org
To volunteer or donate to Food Link:
www.foodlinkma.org

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Lexington Park

By S. Levi Doran

Many of the quotes used herein are from advertising brochures in the collections of the Lexington Historical Society Archives.

Today, the 48 acres on Bedford Street opposite Westview Cemetery are home to dozens of families. A regular residential neighborhood, very few passing through here would give thought to how it appeared one century ago. And still fewer would guess that this was where Lexington Park stood and operated for nearly two decades, during which time it was one of the premier such parks in the area — right up there with Norumbega. [Read more…]

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LHS Peer Leaders Spread Hope, Health, and Strength

By Joan Robinson, MSW, LYFS Board Member

BEGINNINGS Last fall, Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) committed to hosting and funding Sources of Strength (SOS), a program designed to build self-confidence, define one’s own strengths, and know when and where to seek help. Seven high school students who are members of LYFS Youth Advisory Board, were asked to identify diverse groups and leaders at LHS. They then invited 46 LHS students and 13 adults to attend a daylong training event. In November of last year, this mix of students and adults spent a powerful day learning how to help others and more consciously use and further develop their own Sources of Strength. This prevention program with proven results increases teens’ connections with adults, builds resilience, and develops protective factors called Sources of Strength for navigating adolescence and life.

MISSION AND METHODS The primary stance of SOS is positive, focusing on resiliency rather than trauma. Historically communities come together after a tragedy, while SOS hopes to encourage the LHS and Lexington community to come together to prevent tragedy. When students feel there is a supportive environment–a safety net–they are less likely to feel alienated.
Consequently, they are less likely to get involved in self-destructive behaviors, and more likely to ask for help with their feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.
As the year has progressed the SOS peer leaders, with the guidance of LYFS director Erin Deery, have developed a number of activities aimed at improving connections between students and with trusted adults. Some activities have been directed towards encouraging students to recognize and define their own Sources of Strength. They may feel more comfortable to reach out to family, friends, a trusted coach, minister, teacher, the school nurse, etc.
Any peer leader program must have adults talking with students: the students know what is going on, and the adults have experience with the world at large. The hope is that both the students and the adults will “spread the word” about the importance of talking with, not at, each other to the community of Lexington. This process is designed to remind students that they are not alone, and to destigmatize asking for help.

LEXINGTON SOS VISION With the committed and creative leadership of LYFS Adult and Youth Board members, together with the energy and dedication of the developing peer-to-peer social network, it seems possible to positively change Lexington youth norms and culture. This collaborative effort is supported by the schools, town, and many community groups and, with continued support, it could become a comprehensive wellness program impacting many people and touching every corner of our community.
As the LHS 2015-21016 school year comes to a close we asked two SOS peer leaders have crafted descriptions of two SOS activities: The Teacher Appreciation Progect and The Compliment Project, they carried out to to improve the LHS community environment.


Lexington High School teachers wear yellow Sources of strength bracelets in support of the program.

Lexington High School teachers wear yellow
Sources of strength bracelets in support of the program.

THE TEACHER APPRECIATION PROJECT

Approachable teacher mentors are key for a healthy high school culture.

By JULIE KAN
LHS Student and Peer Leader

A core part of students’ lives is mentors — adults or older individuals in whom students put their trust. Whether it be a teacher, a parent or guardian, a sibling, or a guidance counselor, a mentor is an important Source of Strength for many. In times where guidance is needed, students will often turn to an adult for advice.

Ideally, the school environment should be a place where adults are encouraged to help students with their lives, where students feel completely comfortable turning to any adult for support—a place where, no matter where you look, there is always someone smiling, ready to hear what you have to say. Lexington High School is a community in which individuals can find the best help they need if they ask for it. However, many students are unable to find guidance because they are simply unaware of where to go for help.

Inspired by a project originally created at MIT, the Teacher Appreciation Project was Sources of Strength’s way to recognize teachers for being outstanding mentors. Each student Peer Leader nominated one teacher he or she felt was a person who was not only a role model but a trusted adult who students would be able to talk to if they ever needed someone. The 45 nominated teachers selected by the Peer Leaders each received a yellow wristband that read: “Tell me about your day,” signifying that they were approachable. The nominated teachers did not hesitate to wear their wristbands. In the Arts and Humanities lounge, teachers who received the bright yellow bands proudly waved their arms in the air, joyfully exclaiming, “Ooh, I got one of these!”

In an interview with English teacher Mr. Olivier-Mason, he explained how he felt honored to receive one of the yellow bands. He thought the bracelets helped to remind people of overcoming the “professional relationship” between teacher and student — that this can and should be more of a “human relationship.” He continued on to say that even if students don’t need to approach teachers about something, “There is comfort in knowing that if they did want to, people are there.”
At the end of the project day, the nominated teachers were told to gather outside the building for a group photo. Teachers walked out into the sunny school courtyard, looking confused about where to go. Amidst the afterschool buzz in the Quad, student peer leader Bill Gao directed all the teachers to one area as other students bustled around. The teachers smiled and laughed, some holding up their wrists to flash their yellow bracelets at the camera. Even Principal Laura Lasa, left a meeting to join in for the photo.

The purpose of the Teacher Appreciation project was to commend teachers for being trustworthy adults who are making a difference in students’ lives. This appreciation is meant to encourage nominated teachers to continue to be supportive, to celebrate positivity in the classroom and to inspire other teachers to mentor their students as well.

LHS, Sources of Strength Peer Leaders used this event to advocate for strong, healthy relationships between students and teachers. The next step is to familiarize more students with the bracelets so that students can actually feel comfortable approaching a teacher for help, and have the opportunity to form a special bond with a trusted adult.


THE COMPLIMENT CHALLENGE

Creating a more positive and communal environment at lhs is one of the cornerstones of sources of strength.

By SHIRA GARBIS
LHS Student and SOS Peer Leader

One of the goals of Sources of Strength is to create a more positive and communal environment at LHS and SOS decided to create a one-day project to do just that.
In early March each member of SOS came to school with a sheet of paper and a simple task. The sheet read, “compliment someone in your next class who you wouldn’t normally talk to.” Each member of SOS went to their first class of the day, gave someone a compliment and passed on the sheet. The idea was that the person who received the compliment would then go on to compliment someone in their next class and hopefully start a chain of positivity.
Although this project was non-tangible and we couldn’t measure how much of a success it was, we hoped to have done a small part in creating a more positive and supportive environment throughout our school. In the future, SOS hopes to reach out to not only students but also other adult members of the community and challenge everyone to be someone’s source of strength.


LHS PEER LEADERS FROM SOURCES OF STRENGTH CONTINUE TO WORK FOR A LEXINGTON WITH LESS STRESS Pictured above from Left to Right: Emily Lo, Julia Kan, Shira Harris and Maya Joshi-Delinty

Pictured above from Left to Right: Emily Lo, Julia Kan, Shira Harris and Maya Joshi-Delinty

Lexington Youth and Family Services Sponsors Sources Of Strength
and continues to offer free and confidential counseling

LYFS is a safe and confidential place to talk and get support. If you or someone you know is having a hard time – feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed; using/abusing drugs and alcohol; having trouble at home; having suicidal thoughts, come in and talk to us! We will listen and can help.

LYFS is located on the side of First Parish Church on the Lexington Battle Green. Open every Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm (September – June) or by appointment. We have a private entrance, office and waiting area, and offer confidential therapy to teens free of cost!

How is LYFS funded? LYFS receives funds from private contributors in the community and grants from the Foundation for MetroWest and CHNA 15. It is a 501(3)(c) tax deductible organization.


INTERESTED IN CONTRIBUTING?
Make checks out and mail to:`Lexington Youth and Family Services
c/o First Parish Church / 7 Harrington Road / Lexington, MA 02421
For questions please email our Treasurer: Bill Blout,at BBlout@LYFSInc.org.
DONATE ONLINE: http://www.lyfsinc.org/donate.html

LYFS is located at First Parish Church(private entrance on right side of church), 7 Harrington Road, Lexington, MA
Call or Text: 781-862-0330
Director/Clinician: Erin M. Deery, LICSW

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Voices & Visions—Building Supports to Address Youth Concerns—The Lexington Coalition

Untitled

The Community Coalition invites everyone to gather at Grace Chapel  on March  9th to continue work on the three goals identified by the 80+ participants who attended the October 7th Kick-Off: 

  • Reduce stress and improve wellness
  • Address mental health issues
  • Prevent underage drinking and substance abuse

Steering Committee members include representatives from community groups, including Selectman Suzie Barry, Kate Ekrem and Brent Maracle from Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association, Eileen Jay from the Chinese American Association of Lexington and the LHS Site-Based School Council, Bettina McGimsey Chair of the PTA/PTO Presidents Council, and Kathleen Lenihan (LHS PTO Co-President), as well as Val Viscosi (Director of School Counseling), representatives from the the Police, Fire, and Human Services Departments, and School Committee members Sandro Alessandrini and Jessie Steigerwald.

The Coalition was formed to bring town and school staff together with community members to build a stronger network for youth. Lexington has had a long-standing commitment to supporting community, but organizations have not always worked in concert. Adopting a coalition approach offers many benefits, including aligning on goals, pooling resources, scheduling events so they build on one another, and reaching a broader section of the community. While town and school staff have frequently undertaken outreach efforts together, the Coalition aims to also bring community volunteer organizations to the table to find new ways to address concerns around stress, mental health, and substance abuse.

The October meeting also identified some possible improvements. Sharing and learning from data will be a part of the Coalition’s early work; for example the Coalition aims to utilize data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to inform its work. Gathering input from students directly represents another concrete step. The Coaltion also plans to make more consistent use of a shared events calendar to avoid situations where two events targeted at the same youth-focused audience are inadvertently scheduled on the same day.

The Coalition welcomes new members, as well as anyone who wishes to attend just to learn more about the goals and how the Coalition is working to achieve them.

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LHS Peer Leaders Spread Hope, Health, and Strength

Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) Sponsors Sources of Strength Program

By Bea Mah Holland, EdD, MSW

LYFS Board Member and SOS Adult Advisor

 

Front Row (L-R) Mona Tavangar, Bill Gao, Emily Zhang, Gili Grunfeld, Maya Joshi Delity, Logan Wells, Vivek Gopalakrishnan. Back Row (L-R) Connee Counts, James Mercier, Betsey Weiss, Bea Mah Holland, Bill Blout, Scott LoMurray and LYFS Director, Erin Deery. Courtesy photo by Betsey Weiss.

Front Row (L-R) Mona Tavangar, Bill Gao, Emily Zhang, Gili Grunfeld, Maya Joshi Delity, Logan Wells, Vivek Gopalakrishnan. Back Row (L-R) Connee Counts, James Mercier, Betsey Weiss, Bea Mah Holland, Bill Blout, Scott LoMurray and LYFS Director, Erin Deery. Courtesy photo by Betsey Weiss.

 

Lexington and SOS’s beginnings

Last fall, when Lexington Youth and Family Services committed to hosting Sources of Strength (SOS), a resilience-building program, seven smart and energetic LYFS Youth Board members identified diverse groups at Lexington High School and their leaders, then actively recruited them to attend a daylong training event. Last November 46 LHS students and 13 Adult Advisors—a mix of community and school adults who have a relational connectivity with Sources of Strength Logostudents—spent a fun and powerful day learning how to help others and more consciously use and further develop their own Sources of Strength.

SOS, a preventive program with proven results, increases teens’ connections with adults, builds resilience, and develops protective factors called Sources of Strength for navigating adolescence and life. “This is really the first peer-leader program that has shown impact on school-wide coping norms and influence on youth connectedness,” according to University of Rochester psychiatry professor and researcher Peter Wyman.  SOS is presently on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), the gold standard of prevention programs in the U.S.

The LHS SOS Peer Leaders have already accomplished much. Through peer-to peer contact and messaging on Facebook and Instagram, they encourage each other to activate and mobilize at least three or four of their Sources of Strength, knowing that having several strengths is more powerful than one. SOS is now in 250 schools and communities in over 20 states, is one of the nation’s most rigorously researched peer leader programs, and has been the subject of research and evaluation efforts at universities, including Stanford and Johns Hopkins. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is currently funding a six-year randomized study of SOS to measure the impact of 1,500 Peer Leaders on 15,000 adolescents in more than 40 high schools.

SOS’s Mission and Method

Sources of Strength GraphicAlthough intervening in crisis situations and making lifesaving connections has been a hallmark of SOS, the ultimate mission of SOS is upstream: prevention of the very onset of suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior, and attention to other factors such as substance abuse, depression, bullying, and violence. As was stated by one community, “Hope, Health, and Strength messages are developed with local voices and faces, saturating our school and community with stories of resiliency instead of messages of trauma.” November, Scott LoMurray, the founder’s son, masterfully trained 59 Lexingtonions.

Most schools have used less time-consuming approaches such as assemblies and presentations. However, there is now agreement that any sustained effort must include adults talking with kids; since the kids often have the best information, students must be part of the intervention and not just its target. And in several communities, relational connections that use teams of peer leaders mentored by adult advisors to change peer social norms have created a cultural shift to a safer environment. Destructive behaviors are lessening because of a contagion of strength.

Lexington SOS Vision

With the committed and creative leadership of Lexington LYFS Adult and Youth Board members, together with the energy and dedication of the developing peer-to-peer social network, it seems possible to positively change Lexington youth norms and culture. This collaborative effort is supported by the schools, town, and many community groups and, with continued support, it could become a comprehensive wellness program impacting many people and touching every corner of our community.

The authors are indebted to SOS for permission to incorporate their material in this article. For further information, please access Sources of Strength website, https://sourcesofstrength.org.


 

About Lexington Youth And Family Services

Located at First Parish Church
(private entrance on right side of church)
7 Harrington Road
Lexington, MA 02421
Call or Text: 781-862-0330

LYFS is a safe and confidential place to talk and get support. If you or someone you know is having a hard time – feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed; using/abusing drugs and alcohol; having trouble at home; having suicidal thoughts, come in and talk to us! We will listen and can help.
LYFS is located on the side of First Parish Church on the Lexington Battle Green. Open every Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm (September – June) or by appointment. We have a private entrance, office and waiting area, and offer confidential therapy to teens free of cost!

How is LYFS funded? LYFS receives funds from private contributors in the community and grants from the Foundation for MetroWest and CHNA 15. It is a 501(3)(c) tax deductible organization.
INTERESTED IN CONTRIBUTING?

Make checks out and mail to:
Lexington Youth and Family Services
c/o First Parish Church / 7 Harrington Road / Lexington, MA 02421
For questions please email our Treasurer: Bill Blout, at BBlout@LYFSInc.org
DONATE ONLINE:
http://www.lyfsinc.org/donate.html

 


 

 

What are your Sources of Strength?

In January, during an LHS lunch hour, SOS Peer Leaders provided the opportunity for over 100 students to make individual Source of Strength posters, be photographed, and have the photos be posted in high-traffic locations, both on site and online.

Hadar Boker and Carrie Tassel

Hadar Boker and Carrie Tassel

“I thought it was really great to see
that people were so motivated by
their own passions and hobbies.”
“It was really cool seeing everyone from
the high school joining
on a project we worked hard to create.”
Nana Adu and Noam Watt

Nana Adu and Noam Watt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Logan Wells, LHS Student
LYFS Youth Board Member and SOS Peer Leader    

 

Lexington High School Lunchroom, January 8th

LHS students curiously walk into the lunchroom, wondering why there are so many people huddled around a table—some laughing with their friends, while others are stopping for a second and thinking before writing on paper. Upon closer look, they see that these students are actually writing their own Sources of Strength, then having a picture taken of them holding their signs. As the months roll by, students will see pictures of themselves and their peers with their Sources of Strength in the local newspaper and the LHS Gazette, on social media, and in the halls of LHS, reminding them of the many people who are in the community they can go to if they need help or just want someone to talk to.

SOS Projects and Training

The SOS Poster Project—students making Sources of Strength posters and sharing them with the school and the community—is just one of the projects in the ambitious campaign of support created by the Peer Leaders of Sources of Strength. It first began last November in the newly renovated Lexington Community Center where a group of 46 LHS students, selectively chosen by their peers as influential in the community, met for their first Sources of Strength daylong seminar.

SOS is safe and trustworthy. The training is both fun and strengthening, non-threatening and informative. We came to realize that everyone goes through both good and tough times and, as a result of the training, we are now better equipped to connect friends to the help they want and need.

We learned the importance of having a support system, and how friends, relatives, and even pets could have a lasting impact on our lives. We learned that even top specialists in their fields said they had mentors to look towards while they grew up, mostly for support and guidance. We learned how a community can do the same thing but, instead of the lucky few having access to a mentor, there would be an ecosystem that would support all of us on our growth path or whenever we needed help.

However, those who attended the seminar were not just students. There were also adult volunteers interested in making Lexington a more supportive community. The goal of SOS is not just to help the high school become a more supportive system, but the Lexington community as a whole. All of the attendees worked for eight hours, with no loss of energy as the hours went by—all 46 LHS Peer Leaders and 13 Adult Advisors stayed for the entire day. Everyone participated equally, whether it was in something silly such as team charades, or talking about who they look for when they themselves need help.

One of the Adult Advisors, Jamie Katz, graduated from LHS in 1969 and has a daughter who graduated from LHS just last year. He found both the mission and the training compelling.

“None of us can go it alone,” Katz said. “We all need our family and friends, our pets, or our passions to help us find joy, laughter, and strength. It’s painful to see our teenagers lose sight of their Sources of Strength, to see them feel so isolated and alone. Even the phones they use endlessly often increase the alienation and pressure they feel. We need to remind them, again and again, that their friends will be there for them, their dogs need them, their soccer teams rely on them, and their parents love and will support them. And the teens need to teach us how we can best help them, not further burden them.”

What’s Next for SOS Lexington?

Since then, everyone in the group has been determined to make a difference and allow for everyone in Lexington to have, and understand, that they have access to someone whenever they want it. There is a planned “Challenge Day” at LHS in a few weeks, where another 100 LHS students and 25 teachers will get an experience akin to the one SOS had in November. This will allow for even more support in LHS, especially with the teachers participating, who students often spend more time with than their parents.

LYFS Director Erin M. Deery, LICSW, has these thoughts on the future of SOS: “I hope that SOS continues to grow in Lexington and that these messages of hope and strength just become part of the way things are done in this community. We have all seen how communities come together after a tragedy, but what if in Lexington we came together to prevent tragedy?  I hope that we can repeat the SOS training annually and continue to strengthen partnerships with LHS, other community agencies, places of worship, businesses, and organizations. We want to change social norms, increase help seeking, and promote strength and wellness not just for teenagers, but for the entire Lexington community. “

So don’t be surprised if you soon see SOS around Lexington, such as in Lexington Center. We are planning to team with Lexington businesses in order to send the message that SOS is a community-wide project, and we intend to help every person included in it.

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