2023 Annual Report



2023 was an exciting year for the Worcester Area Mission Society, United Church of Christ, known to many as “WAMS,” because we took leaps of faith to try new ways to do good for our churches and our communities.



  • We became Godparents, of a sort, to an infant program that has already grown into a thriving contributor to the wellbeing of young people in Worcester.  Inner Voice Outer Change (IVOC) was the idea of Isiah Tucker, LICSW, a mental health professional who developed a way to use creating music and multi-media projects therapeutically, to help teens make positive changes in their lives. Isiah had a for-profit LLC, but he wanted to create a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization so his work could be supported by charitable grants.  He needed a fiscal sponsor, and WAMS agreed to fill that role for the first time.  It was a learning experience for both Isiah and WAMS.  We accepted grants on behalf of IVOC, kept them in a separate account for the new program’s benefit, monitored expenses, and paid bills. IVOC received three grants that enabled Isiah to run summer and fall programs of which we were all proud. By the end of 2023, IVOC had become a separate 501(c)(3) tax exempt entity, and WAMS turned the remaining grant funds over to IVOC to continue the impactful work with teens. 
  •  For the first time, the educational work of WAMS reached Fitchburg.  By joining the North Central Chamber of Commerce in 2022, WAMS staff met representatives of the Fitchburg Public Schools.  When they learned about our collaboration with Worcester Family Partnership to create Play Group Plus, they asked us to replicate the program for families who could not access the Fitchburg public preschool program, which had a long waiting list.  The goal of Play Group Plus, to help young children become ready for kindergarten, was as important for those families as for the families in the Main South area of Worcester, where WAMS had been working for a year.  In Fitchburg in 2023, we began a collaboration with both the school department, which referred families to the program, and Making Opportunities Count (MOC), a prominent social service agency.  MOC provides a talented and experienced early childhood educator and beautiful classroom space.  WAMS provides the services of Vanessa Ramos, Director of Programs, and incentives to encourage the families to bring their young children to early education classes on Friday mornings:  a new book for each child every week, a $10 grocery gift card for each family, and bag lunches for everyone.  From the start, the program was popular.  A hiatus in the summer, while a new and bigger classroom was prepared, decreased attendance for a while, but it grew again in the fall.  The experience has been positive for everyone.  We were very grateful to the Massachusetts Woman’s Home Missionary Union and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation for grant support for our Play Group Plus programs in Fitchburg and Worcester.

  • WAMS joined two families and other community organizations at the ribbon cutting of the two units of affordable housing for which WAMS had provided a $50,000 construction loan.  Working as part of the UMass Memorial Healthcare Anchor Mission project, WAMS was proud of being a small part of addressing what is generally agreed to be the biggest problem facing central Massachusetts: the crisis of insufficient affordable housing.  Hearing the new home owners tell their stories, and feeling their joy at owning beautiful homes, were memorable experiences for WAMS representatives at the ribbon cutting.  WAMS continues to serve on the Anchor Mission Investment Committee and looks for other investment opportunities, especially in the field of affordable housing.
  • WAMS organized the first two Gatherings of UCC churches to share their community mission work with each other.  Six congregations from Worcester and south of Worcester came together at WAMS to learn about community service activities and plan for how they could be stronger and more effective together.  Both clergy and lay members participated. The Gatherings were facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Karen Nell Smith, a UCC minister and experienced group leader, and they produced stimulating discussions.  WAMS staff and some members of the WAMS Board of Directors participated.  By the end of the second Gathering, the group had collectively decided to focus, with organizational help from WAMS, on migrant support activities.  It was an exciting decision.  The group thought WAMS should have a part-time staff member to coordinate this work. WAMS then was given the opportunity to apply to the Massachusetts Woman’s Home Missionary Union and was awarded a grant of $13,000, to be used in 2024, to create a coordinator position.
  • Learning of the crisis caused by the dearth of services and supports for the wave of migrants arriving in central Massachusetts from Haiti during the second half of 2023, WAMS began to work with agencies that specialize in migrant services to supplement their resources for the arriving families.  Many people came from Haiti with little more than the clothes they were wearing, and their needs were both great and urgent.  WAMS reached out to the UCC churches in central Massachusetts, and the response was tremendous.  Clothes, shoes, personal care products, diapers, and other necessities were brought to WAMS.  Cash donations were used to buy more necessities, including children’s car safety seats, bassinets, and crock pots for cooking.  In mid-December, WAMS helped run a “shopping day,” at which approximately 90 Haitian families were brought to the distribution center where clothes and other items were stored to pick out things their families needed.  As Christmas time drew near, WAMS learned that no one had thought of gifts for the children, so we put out a special e-blast entitled, “Looking for a Bit of a Miracle,” to our churches.  Money and gifts for the Haitian children began coming in, and working with the Friendly House New Arrivals Coordinator, WAMS staff bought and bagged small toys, books, art materials and gift cards, so Haitian children living in five hotel shelters could have something special for the holiday. WAMS Directors supported this Christmas project, and it was a team effort that enabled 136 children and teens to have holiday surprises.



  • Play Group Plus in Worcester continued to grow in collaboration with Worcester Family Partnership and the Main South CDC.  While it had started with two or three children, it grew to as many as 18 children per session, in addition to their parents and caregivers. 
  • Summer CUBS 2023 was a strong program again.  The Worcester Public Schools reduced the number of days for their summer school schedule, which the CUBS schedule is required to match, so there were fewer class days than in the previous year, but the classes were again creative and effective for the students.  Approximately 38 students attended regularly.  There were two enrichment activities focused on animals.  CUBS was supported by grants from Webster Five Bank Foundation, United Way of Central Massachusetts, the Worcester Arts Council, the Carpenter Foundation, and DCU for Kids.
  • Once again in 2023, WAMS led a book drive that had started several years ago in connection with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day and that has grown.   WAMS was pleased to collaborate again with United Congregational Church.  For the first time, a large school in Fitchburg, McKay Elementary, was included, as well as Elm Park Community School and Woodland Academy in Worcester, and we were able to deliver more than 500 books to the three schools – a new record.


  • The big challenge with our beautiful building at 6 Institute Road in 2023 was our slate roof, which needed some big repairs.  We also put significant resources into replacing broken and breaking windows. Our old leaded glass is so beautiful that we owe it to United Congregational Church, which gave WAMS the building, our tenants, our guests, and ourselves, to maintain it. 
  • WAMS maintains our facilities not only because we should on principle, but also because allowing other not-for-profits to use our meeting rooms and Gallery is part of our mission. In early 2023, the WAMS Board made a recommitment to opening our doors to other organizations that share our values and do good in our community, but that do not have our physical resources.  As soon as the Board’s decision was known, WAMS began receiving call after call asking for information.  The organizations using our spaces varied greatly by size and mission, from small agencies that wanted a meeting room for strategic planning, to large ones, like the Boys & Girl’s Club that held its first Festival of Trees at holiday time, and WPI, which used the gallery for beautiful orchestra and band concerts.


We appreciate everyone who supports our mission and thank them for believing in what we do.  We are excited about doing even more in 2024.  

Respectfully submitted,

Karen E. Ludington, Executive Director