All posts by Bern

Norwell, Hanover Churches Partner with Local Shelter

Supper club promotes community relationships between volunteers, families in need
By Kaila Braley
Posted Jan. 23, 2016 at 4:26 AM Scituate Mariner and Patriot Ledger

Tilynn Wakefield, of Hanover, was cooking dinner with five or six other moms at St. Helen’s church in Norwell, when she heard a little girl in the other room banging on the church’s piano.  I asked if she wanted to learn a song, so I taught her ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’” she said. “She kept going and going and asking, ‘Is this right?’ Once she got it, she ran around the room.”  Wakefield, a parishioner of St. Mary’s church in Hanover, over the past few months has been volunteering with a supper club that brings together volunteers from three local churches with families who are staying at a local homeless shelter, which is not specifically identified to protect the privacy of the people living there.

Norwell resident Noël Ashekin, a parishioner of United Church of Christ in Norwell, came up with the idea to start a monthly supper club with the local shelter after the church ran a capital campaign in order to increase their community outreach.  “I thought we could help beyond feeding them or providing clothes and furniture. I know families in poverty often face depression or isolation, so we thought it would be a good thing to do to cook and then sit and eat with them,” Ashekin said.

United Church of Christ funds the program, at $500 a month, and has invited volunteers from St. Mary’s in Hanover as well as St. Helen’s in Norwell, where about four to six volunteers cook and eat the food with anywhere from eight to 12 shelter families, Ashekin said. The church volunteers partner with Friends of the Homeless, the organization that runs shelters on the South Shore, to invite families.

Assistant Program Director for Friends of the Homeless, Sharyn Burden, said families living in shelters have access to private kitchens and are able to cook their own food, but the program offers families the opportunity to meet and spend time with church volunteers and foster relationships throughout the community.  “This program has been quite successful in bringing families together in the community, with the hopes of relationships developing that will make a difference in people’s lives,” Burden said. “It has been well received by the guests at the shelter with more than half of our families involved on the last Sunday of each month.”

Wakefield wanted to get involved with the program because she knew a family who has been living at the shelter. She said it has been wonderful for her and her family to get to know the families from the shelter.  “Some of them are coming from bad situations, but the kids wanted to play football with my son. They couldn’t wait to hang out with him,” she said. “My family sees how they live and what some of them have undergone.”

Burden said; “Building relationships in the community is valuable, and has included more Norwell groups, including a local Girl Scout troop that donated food for the most recent meal, and Norwell Farms, which has expressed interest in donating food to the program as well.  Cooking together with the families breaks down the boundaries between volunteers and recipients,” Ashekin said.  “It’s a great catalyst for community building and learning about different cultures.  Some of the families are from Haiti.  As the families cook together, they share stories about their lives, and learn about each other.  Some of the families staying at the shelter have taught the volunteers about different styles of cooking…  Food can be a great equalizer. As we’re sharing food, the line between giving and receiving is blurred. We’re just sitting with families and friends and eating together,” She added “Something magical happens while cooking—conversations start.”

To volunteer with the program, contact Noel Ashekin at


Remember How Excited You Were About Your First Apartment?

Home With Friends, Frist ApartmentThis picture is of Deanne’s little boy in front of their first Christmas tree in their first apartment!  Your support, combined with her hard work, her mentoring team’s support, and intensive case management, has made this possible!  In spite of many setbacks, and with the financial and prayer support of many such as yourselves, she is in a very different place than she was a year ago!  Her per diem position at the hospital doesn’t pay enough for her to live on, but on 12/28 she is scheduled to take the test to become a Certified Nurse’s Assistant, which will provide more job opportunities.

Of course, we know that it is nearly impossible to live in the Boston area on a CNA salary, but Deanne is now beginning to dream of what the next step might be  —  perhaps becoming an LPN.  For some of us, this doesn’t seem very high on the career ladder, but for someone who  dropped out of school in 10th grade – seeing possibilities in life is nearly a miracle!

For the third year in a row, Highrock church in Quincy has held a Christmas Benefit concert for Home with Friends, raising awareness of homelessness issues, as well as thousands of dollars!  This year, the people from Common Art were back, displaying and selling their creations during intermission, and Herb Newell (Executive Director of Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore) and I were a part of the choir. It was a high energy celebration – and our gratitude goes to the many people who were involved or who came to celebrate with us!

It’s only a week until Christmas – and 2 weeks until the end of 2015.  If you are considering some end-of-year donations, please think about Home with Friends – your gift will bring hope in numerous ways to families struggling with homelessness, helping them to break the cycle! See our website to donate online, or mail your check, marked Home with Friends, to PO Box 202,  N. Weymouth, MA 02191.

As always, if you have questions about what we do, or would like me to speak to a group, let me know.  Also, I have attached our recently revised brochure that not only tells you about our program but communicates some basic facts about family homelessness.

Again, thank you, and may your Advent and Christmas celebrations be blessed!

Highrock Christmas Benefit Concert, Who Are You Inviting?

A Benefit Fundraiser
Home With Friends

benefit concert, christmas concert, highrock

Highrock Quincy

presents its third annual

Christmas Benefit Concert
at the
Highrock Church
315 Whitwell Street, Quincy, MA
is hosting
Three Performances

Saturday, December 12th at 7pm
Sunday, December 13th 4pm


Adults $15
Children $5
Seniors $10

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This year Highrock has stepped out in faith and has scheduled three CONCERTS! Here is how you can help…

Invite Someone to the Christmas Benefit Concert!

Friends? family? coworkers? neighbors? Who will it be? There must be names on your hearts. For them this is a concert for us this is a mission opportunity for them to hear the gospel don’t let it pass you by.

Spread the Word

You can do this on Facebook, Google+,  Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, any! Over 700 people have been invited on Facebook. Let’s help Highrock break 1000! Click on the ‘Invite’ button and invite all your Boston Area friends, family and coworkers.

Buy your tickets now!

For you AND your guests. This year there is a special promotion, buy-two-get-one-free. Take advantage of this and bring those people whom you believe will benefit from joy, peace and goodwill.

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Annual Festival of Trees Gala and Silent Auction

Hingham Mothers' Club, Festival of Trees, Gala, Silent Auction

Hingham Mothers’ Club, Inc. will host its annual

at the
Hingham Community Center
70 South Street, Hingham, MA
Christmas In the Square

Friday, December 4th from 5 p.m.– 9 p.m.
Saturday, December 5th from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

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On display will be beautifully decorated trees up for silent auction and dozens of raffles, made up of donations by individuals, groups, and businesses. This is a free event and open to the public! Even if you do not wish to bid on any trees, it is a festive event! My Gym will be on site holding fun obstacle courses for the children on Friday night and Linden Ponds will distribute delicious hot cocoa and cookies for all both Friday night and Saturday morning!

In addition, on Saturday, December 5th, the Mothers’ Club will host its annual Festival of Trees GALA. This ticketed event will showcase an additional 25 silent auction trees and amazing raffles as well as a live band, open bar and delicious food. Tickets are on sale now and this event will sell out! Go to to buy tickets and to learn more about this event!

Festival of Trees, Hingham Mothers' Club, Christmas Gala, Christmas TreesThe Hingham Mothers’ Club is a non-profit run entirely by volunteers. The money raised at both events benefits the Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore and the Hingham Mothers’ Club Scholarship Fund.

Last year, as a result of Festival of Trees, the Hingham Mothers’ Club was able to donate $15,000 to Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore. This is with thanks to the participation and support of the local community!

We, Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore, are very fortunate to have organizations such as the Hingham Mothers’ Club who care very much about seeing homeless families become home ready families. We look forward to seeing you on December 4th or 5th or both!

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photo credit: Angelic Aspirations Christmas Tree detail via photopin (license)

Shaw’s Stamps can Help Formerly Homeless Families Equip Their New Kitchens

Shaw’s Stamps? Say “Yes!”

free cuisinart, cuisinart, shaws, homeless, Next time you are in a Shaw’s Supermarket, instead of saying “No” when the cashier asks if you are collecting stamps for their flatware promotion, please say “Yes” instead.  Then put the stamps you do not want in an envelope and mail them to:

Judith Patt
c/o Promise Church
204 M Tall Oaks Drive
South Weymouth, MA 02190

“No need to bother pasting them in the little book either,” says Judith. “We will take care of that.”

Judith and others at Promise Church are collecting the stamps to give to Friends of the Homeless of the South. They will redeem these Shaw’s Stamps for flatware to give to families moving out of shelters and motels and into more permanent housing.

“We’d love your help in collecting as many stamps as we can before the January 5th deadline,” Patt says. “That gives us up to January 19th to redeem them for the families.”

Ask the Shoppers Ahead of You Too!

Shaws, Cuisinart, stamps, utensilsIf you are in line and the person in front of you says “No.” Think about taking advantage of that opportunity too, Judith suggests. “When you ask if they would mind giving you the stamps to help temporary shelter guests move into permanent homes, you will be surprised at how generous your fellow shoppers can be.”

For more on this easy, painless way to help FHSS clients, contact

How Do You Earn Shaw’s Stamps?

These Cuisinart Saver Stamps are earned for every $10 you spend at Shaw’s. Why not take advantage of this wonderful opportunity? And for other donation ideas, visit our website donations page.

Promise Church is a newly forming church of the United Church of Christ. They gather for worship and fellowship in homes around the Weymouth and Quincy area on Sunday evenings. Church members provide ongoing support to Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore to help build stronger parents, children and families; to secure education and employment opportunities; and to find safe and affordable permanent housing.

First Home with Friends Family Strides Toward Independence

Home with Friends has a success story to share with you. For our dedicated volunteers, generous donors, ever-energetic supporters, old and new friends, here is the update you have been asking for on our new Home with Friends program from Program Director Lora Wooster. See below for her list of things you can do to help support the families.

They Always seem happy to see me!

St. Paul's, Home With FriendsThe first family in our Home with Friends program – Deanne and her pre-school son – lived at our Norwell shelter for almost 3 years. She began meeting with the mentoring team from St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene in Duxbury last year. And despite some self-doubt at the start, she has since made great strides toward self-sufficiency.

Perhaps that is why, when asked about her experience with her mentors, she beams. One of the things she likes best about meeting with them, she says, is that “they always seem so happy to see me!”

Confidence to Meet Her Goals

When she joined the program, Deanne (not her real name) who is in her late twenties, had already faced a number of life challenges and disappointments that damaged her self-confidence and resilience. She grew up with her grandmother while her parents was incarcerated. She never finished high school, and she held a series of unskilled, low-paying jobs. But with encouragement from her mentoring team — and the Secure Jobs program at Father Bill’s and Mainspring – she:

  • completed her GED last October
  • moved into her first apartment in March
  • started training to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in June and
  • found a part-time job at a local hospital in July

Next: A new Career & No Subsidy

She got high marks in her CNA classes and graduated as a Certified Nursing Assistant on September 3rd. That means she is more than ready for the next challenge: to find a full time job that keeps her on her career path in nursing so she can afford an apartment on her own. Up to now she has had a rental subsidy from the state. Now that the subsidy has ended, her mentoring team’s church, St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene in Duxbury, will provide a decreasing rental subsidy for another year.

Car Troubles and a Short-Term Fix

Along the way, Deanne has been learning that it takes time and effort to build the life skills and confidence that will help her succeed. She is also learning that there will be occasional setbacks that she will need to overcome. For example, when her car died recently, she was able to resurrect it for the time being with the help of her mentoring team and a local mechanic. Unfortunately, the car probably will not last until winter, and she needs it to keep her job. (See our “What we need now” wish list below.)

Her Chance to “Grow and Bloom”

Daylilies, day lilies, Home With FriendsLike the daylilies that survived the heat and drought of my garden this summer, Deanna has overcome many challenges to grow and bloom. And even though she still worries about her finances – she tells me that she could not have made it this far without her social worker and her mentoring team.

Two More Families Matched with Mentors

Highrock NorthSt combinedWe now have two more families on board and teamed up with wonderful mentoring teams from North Street Community Church of the Nazarene and Highrock Covenant Church of Quincy. Both moms are working and one moved into an apartment with her son in August; the other is still looking for an affordable apartment. I will bring you more details in a future update.

What We Need Now for Home With Friends

  • Deanne needs a halfway-decent used car. If you have one you would like to donate, you could receive a tax deduction for its value, and Deanne would know that she will be able to get to work this winter. Contact me.


  • We continue to need funding for staff to provide case management for families and to train and equip volunteers to minister to families in motels. If you would like to organize a fundraiser, please let us know, or to donate right now, use the donate button on the Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore website. (Please do not use our old PO Box)


  • Please help us increase the awareness of family homelessness in Boston and on the South Shore. You can do this by:
    • Inviting me to speak with the groups you’re involved with at your church or in your community.


  • Subscribing to the FHSS blog to hear more stories!


Thank you for your acts of compassion and your sharing, giving attitudes in the past – and the future! God’s love has shown through you.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Lora Wooster is the Program Director for our Home with Friends program, she can be reached at 617-939-3709


Norwell Recreation Department: Summer Fun and Great Memories

Norwell Recreation Logo--full address-02Norwell Recreation Department and Norwell Schools deserve a great big “Thank You!” The generosity of local community organizations, and the hard work of the staff at Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore made it all possible. Eight children living in temporary shelter or motel rooms went back to school this fall with plenty of stories to tell when their teachers asked, “What did you do this summer?”

The boys and girls, ages 5 through 12, were selected for the Norwell Recreation Department’s pilot initiative. This initiative offered 6-week scholarships to the town’s summer recreation programs for kids from kindergarten to 8th grade.

“Our day-long programs give kids the opportunity to get outside and get active, socialize with friends, and do a variety of things they wouldn’t do if they stayed at home,” explains Recreation Department Superintendent George Grey. (According to their brochure: No electronic games allowed.) “And from what we heard from the parents and the kids, they had a blast!” he says.

Who Gets These Ideas?

Grey and Michelle Henderson, social workers for the Norwell schools, came up with the idea in early June. The idea was to give under-served children in the town’s schools a chance to participate in the Rec Department’s summer activities. Tuition was covered by the Recreation Department’s Scholarship Fund. However, additional registration and transportation costs were needed to be taken care of before the program could get underway.

Go Team!

That is where ace coordinator Sharyn Burden from Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore stepped in. “Fortunately, we were able to secure generous donations from local residents and organizations such as: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Norwell Police, Masonic Angel Foundation, and Friends of Norwell Kids in Need to pay for program registration and driving the children to and from their activities each day,” says Burden. “We can’t thank them enough for giving the kids such a wonderful opportunity.”

Shout Out to Norwell Recreation and Norwell Schools

Norwell Recreation and Norwell Schools worked together to arrange for staff and a vehicle to transport the participants. Burden quickly coordinated the schedules to and from program sites.


Norwell Recreation, Norwell, FHSS

Two of the children attended the KinderScene sessions at the Town Hall for ages 4 to 1st grade where daily activities included games, crafts, songs, stories and outdoor fun.
Five of the children were in the KidScene camp at Vinal School where 2nd-5th grade children enjoyed field sports, soccer, Dr. Spy dodgeball, music, games, and crafts. This year’s KidScene 4th and 5th graders also went on field trips to Launch Trampoline in Norwood and Boston Bowl in Dorchester.


Norwell Recreation, FHSS

The middle school camper who attended the SummerScene program (for grades 6 to 8 – another Norwell Recreation program) had the opportunity to participate in the camp’s daily on-site activities and take day trips to Canobie Lake Park, Water Wizz, Boston Paintball, Lazer Gate, and Metro Rock.
Popular theme days for all campers this year were “Olympics Day,” “Messy Day,” the “Wacky Wednesday” inflatable obstacle course, and “Foam Day” where Norwell firemen joined the fun by using firetruck foam to create what Grey calls “the wildest slip-and-slide this side of Boston.”

Would they do it all again next summer? “YES!” said participants. “Absolutely,” says Grey. “The success of this pilot means we’ll be looking at sponsoring kids again in the summer of 2016.”

Tell Us Your Thoughts?

We are grateful to Norwell Recreation and Norwell Schools, among other organizations for their partnership with us. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about future school vacation events. shelter life is not just a seasonal event, it can be year round for some families. You may leave a reply or go to our  Facebook or Google+ pages.

What do you think of when you think of home?

Home cookingI imagine one of the things that comes to mind is “home cooking.”  Our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness also dream of home cooking.  When families leave the shelter for their own place, they need to supply all their furniture and household items.  In order to help these families get settled, the people of Promise Church collected Cuisinart pots and pans provided by Shaw’s Supermarkets.

Shaw’s offered one stamp for every $10 spent; we needed 100 – 120 stamps for the size cookware we wanted to collect, so we asked our friends for help.  People from UCC churches, churches of other denominations, local groups and individuals, all combined their stamps in the weeks before Christmas.  These stamps were redeemed and the result was 40 saucepans, fry pans and chef’s pans to give to families to use when they are in shelter and to take with them as they leave shelter for their own place.  Dorothy Newell, president of Friends of the Homeless said, “A new skillet for a family moving into our homeless shelters!  What could be more welcome!  And many thanks to Shaw’s stamps and all who collected them to make this Promise Church project possible.”

Helping the shelters run by the South Shore Friends of the Homeless has been an ongoing mission of Promise Church.  Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore is dedicated to helping homeless families by providing food, clothing, furniture, shelter, education, and advocacy.  They address a whole range of needs, from physical to emotional, from personal to social, and from psychological to spiritual.

Promise Church is a newly forming church in care of the Pilgrim Association of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ.  We gather for worship and fellowship in homes around the South Shore area.  It is sometimes hard for such a small congregation to see that they are making a difference.  With the help of many friends, this pile of cookware is a visible expression of our care for others.

Friends of the Homeless is grateful to Promise Church for their commitment to helping home-ready families get the items they need to move in. If your church would like to participate in a similar way, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Dorothy Newell at






Trunk or Treat

Living Hope Four Square Church in Hanover invited our guests from Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore to Trunk or Treat last Sunday.  This event brought a lot of joy to parents and children like.

What is Trunk or Treat?

Well, it’s like a Halloween tailgate party for our shelter guests and their children. They wander trunk to trunk gathering their bounty of delectable treats. The children also had a chance to show off their costumes too! Along with playing lots of fun games where they could win prizes. All we can say was it was a real treat for all!

Here are some pictures from the Trunk or Treat event. Tell us below or on our Facebook page what events you plan to put on during the holidays.

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More Wise Than I – Friends of the Homeless

2014_09_12 Fixers ImageMore wise than I – The occasional musings of someone who aspires to be “a friend of the homeless,” for others who want to do the same: “Everyone wants to fix everything.” Our culture has developed a whole social strata of people fixers — psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, therapists, counselors, social workers, just to name a few.

Don’t get me wrong, I value those very highly those who make it their goal to help others. I work with them everyday. I am one with them and one of them. But I also value friendship, something we are all called to, and I worry that we have become so enamored with the “professional” approach to helping others that we have undermined the value of friendship. We’re scared to be helpers and friends merely because we lack a credential.

As Oz said to the Tin Man: “You don’t need a brain, you need a diploma!”

One of the gold standards of the people-fixing field is the MSW: Master of Social Work — as if there were such a thing. Does anyone ever master Social Work? On the one hand, this is a good reason for a little humility, a reason to keep studying and learning. And on the other, if no one masters social work, and everyone is still learning to swim, then all the rest of us of us can be more free to dip our toes in that water, not with a sense of entitlement, but at least with a little less fear that we just don’t know enough to make a difference in someones life.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

— Henri J. M. Nouwen

Perhaps Henri Nouwen has it right. The best approach to helping is befriending, listening to, hearing, touching, feeling with others, and caring.

As often as not we do not have a cure. We do not even know the cure. Perhaps there is no cure; however, the best treatment, friendship, does not rely on a remedy, but simply on being present in the moment. This simple thing, friendship, matters.

What are some ways you have personally reached out to the homeless through the years. We would love to hear about it below, or feel free to share about it on our Facebook or Google+ pages.