2021 will be remembered as a frustrating year for our society, when the virus we thought we had outrun caught up to us again. But at WAMS, good things were happening despite the stresses of a continuing global pandemic.
- The Board of WAMS completed and approved a new Strategic Plan as a road map through 2023. It confirmed our mission to work with individuals and community partners to inspire economic and educational equity through social change. The plan commits WAMS to expanding our educational programming, becoming an active advocate on education and other issues that affect young people and their families, increasing and strengthening our ties with UCC churches in central Massachusetts, doing more drives to meet community needs, and improving the WAMS infrastructure, including revising by-laws and policies, creating appropriate Board committees, and redesigning our website.
- We returned to offering Summer CUBS in person, with masking and social distancing, and it was a big success. The program was directed again by Dr. Holly Dolan, of Clark University, who also taught a fun and stimulating science course that focused on understanding simple machines. We added grades and created a project-based learning curriculum for the older children. The art curriculum was expanded. We hired five wonderful local high school students as interns, and they not only gained experience in leadership, but also served as strong role models for the kids. Because we recognized that the pandemic had hurt children emotionally as well as educationally, we added an evidence-based social and emotional learning curriculum that was taught by the WAMS Executive Director and Director of Programs.
- Acton Congregational Church agreed to be the pilot site for our new Youth Empowerment Program (YEP!). YEP! is a program to teach young people how to plan and execute a money-making project that will benefit the community. Acton’s large and strong youth group spent the fall doing research to enable them to choose a social service agency to support. The next stage is the project planning, which will involve budget development and monitoring and marketing.
- The Executive Director and Director of Programs organized and hosted a webinar on November 10th about how churches and individuals could help the resettlement of Afghan evacuees who are coming to central Massachusetts. The panelists included staff from some of the agencies contracted to serve the evacuees and the leader of one volunteer Neighborhood Support Team.
- WAMS signed a contract with Daedal Creations to build a new website that would be more effective and user-friendly, and the Executive Director began writing new copy for the site. This work is part of the Strategic Plan commitment to improving external communications.
- WAMS conducted two fundraising drives in 2021. The first was a collaboration with United Congregational Church, UCC and the United Way of Central Massachusetts to buy books for public school children in Worcester. The drive was planned in conjunction with the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast. The breakfast could not be held because of the pandemic, but the drive was successful. Both books and money to buy books were donated, and WAMS delivered more than 200 children’s books to United Way.
- The second drive was created to support a large COVID-19 vaccine equity clinic that the Worcester Department of Public Health sponsored on April 24th. WAMS provided water and healthy snacks to the people who waited in line to be vaccinated. Because hydration is important for people who are being vaccinated, WAMS provided water to vaccine clinics around the City for the rest of the year.
- In the fall of 2021, the WAMS Board Chair, Executive Director, and Director of Programs joined the planning committee for the 2022 MLK Day breakfast. WAMS hosted the planning committee meetings.
- The Executive Director and Director of Programs worked with two Worcester agencies to plan a new Pre-K program for children in the Woodland Academy neighborhood who had not had the opportunity for early education. The start of the program had to be postponed because of the pandemic.
- The WAMS Board approved new Bylaws and created formal Executive, Finance, Governance, and Development Committees with clear roles and responsibilities.
- The Executive Director and Director of Programs sent out frequent e-blast newsletters to the churches and, when appropriate, community organizations, to share information on events and resources.
So despite the continued pandemic, in 2021 WAMS moved forward as the mission arm of the UCC churches in central Massachusetts and made plans for further progress in 2022.