An Interview with Cradles to Crayons
How was Cradles to Crayons Started?
Founder Lynn Margherio created Cradles to Crayons® in Boston in 2002 after noticing the volume of new and gently used children’s clothes and toys stored in her family members’ homes. It became her mission to find a way to deliver barely used items like these to families living in low-income and homeless situations. In 2003, Cradles to Crayons opened our first “Giving Factory®” in Quincy, MA and in 2011 moved to a larger space in Brighton, MA. In 2006, Cradles to Crayons opened a site in Philadelphia, and our third site, in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, opened in August, 2016.
Cradles to Crayons’ goal is to serve children in need from birth through age 12 by providing their families with everyday essential items that they might otherwise go without in order to pay for food or rent. Our essential items include clothing, winter coats, shoes, toys, books, and school supplies, as well as chronically needed baby necessities like diapers and hygiene wipes. Our mission is to help children living in poverty to thrive—at home, at school, and at play.
Across sites, Cradles to Crayons has served more than 900,000 children since 2002; we are celebrating the exciting landmark of serving our millionth child in 2016.
WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CRADLES TO CRAYONS AND THE WORK THAT YOU DO?
Cradles to Crayons has developed a unique and efficient operating model that connects communities that have with communities in need. Donations of children’s items are delivered to our Giving Factory or are collected by our trucks at our branded collection bins in communities throughout Greater Boston. Donations are processed and packaged by thousands of enthusiastic volunteers at our Giving Factory and are then distributed free of charge to children in need throughout the state. We are the largest organization of our kind in size and scope in Massachusetts.
Cradles to Crayons serves children by working with a growing network of Service Partners such as schools, hospitals, and nonprofit agencies across the Commonwealth. Our Partners place online orders for the children they are working with and Cradles to Crayons creates an individually tailored “KidPack®” for each child.
Last year, Cradles to Crayons collected 56,000 bags of children’s items and hosted 35,000 volunteer visits in our Giving Factory and at community events. We collaborated with more than 1,300 social workers, teachers and nurses to provide 131,000 children with much-needed basic necessities.
WHAT IMPACTS HAS YOUR ORGANIZATION MADE IN YOUR COMMUNITY THAT MAKE YOU PROUD TO BE A PART of cradles to crayons?
We conduct an annual survey of our Service Partners to gain insight into the impact of our work. In our most recent partner survey, 100% of respondents described our services as either “critical” or “important” to their ability to serve children.
We’re especially excited about our new “Food Access Partnership Programs,” our growing collaboration with the Greater Boston Food Bank’s School-Based Pantry Program and with organizations that provide food to families during the summer when school is not in session. These programs allow us to bring our KidPacks directly to families who struggle with food insecurity throughout the year.
In 2016, Cradles to Crayons convened our inaugural Summit on Poverty, an event that brought together nearly 300 social workers, philanthropic leaders, and local nonprofit thought leaders for a day of learning. Keynote speakers and a series of hands-on workshops focused on the challenges of poverty, reframing our approach, and solutions achieved by innovative collaboration among organizations moving Massachusetts families toward economic independence.
WHAT AREAS OF GROWTH DO YOU SEE FOR YOUR PROGRAM IN THE YEAR AHEAD?
We anticipate serving 145,000 children this year, an 11% increase from 131,000 in 2015. This number includes 60,000 Kidpacks, a 9% increase, 70,000 backpacks filled with school supplies, an increase of 5,000, and the continued expansion of our critical Food Access Partnership Program for families experiencing food insecurity.
An Interview with ReVision Urban Farm
How was ReVision Urban Farm started?
ReVision Urban Farm started as a very small garden in 1990s. It was developed by the mothers of the Revision Family Home shelter (long before it became a part of Victory Programs). The garden would serve as a way to increase the families access to fresh vegetables, and support healthier eating habits for young families the shelter served. The word spread and popularity grew, and with assistance from the City of Boston, two abandoned lots across the street were developed and the small garden became a full fledged farm. As the popularity and word about the farm spread to the local community, shelter staff realized that there were many families and individuals in the local communities facing the same food insecurity issues as their shelter’s families. With community support the local garden became a means to supporting access to fresh vegetables throughout the Dorchester neighborhood. Victory Programs acquired the shelter and farm in 2005, and has since added a farm stand right on Blue Hill Avenue, an 18,000 tract of land within 2 miles of our original farm site, a 2,500 square foot greenhouse and Winter Farming Program.
What does the public need to know about ReVision Urban Farm and the work that you do?
That ReVision Urban Farm’s mission is to provide a wide array of organic fruits and vegetables grown right in Dorchester to low-moderate income individuals and families from Dorchester and surrounding communities. In addition to the families of our ReVision Family Home shelter, our farm serves thousands of local families and individuals each year through our farm stand, farmer’s market stands, Community Supported Agriculture Shares, seedlings program, and new Winter Farming Program. ReVision also donates thousands of pounds of produce to local shelters and food pantries. Lastly, but significantly, it is only through the remarkable generosity of community partners that ReVision Urban Farm is able to accomplish all it does.
What impacts has your organization made in your community that make you proud to be apart of ReVision Urban Farm?
ReVision’s reputation in the local community helped Victory Programs become the first nonprofit to secure the first ever grant in the City of Boston Pilot Urban Agriculture Program, which added an 18,000 parcel of land in Dorchester to our farm. In addition to yielding nearly 4,000 pounds of vegetables last year for our communities, ReVision and our new Tucker Street site serve as a model program in the city’s quest to replicate many more such urban agriculture initiatives across Boston’s inner-city communities.
What areas of growth do you see for your program in the year ahead?
- We expect to reach more families and bring in more revenue through the addition of our Blue Hills Boys and Girls Club Farm Stand and the Mattapan Farmers Market.
- We expect to harvest a lot more honey than in previous years due to establishing 5 new hives.
- We expect to increase our season extension both in the field and the greenhouse as we have learned a lot from our pilot initiative.