The Giving First program donates 50% of the non-pledge offering each month to a charitable organization that we feel is consistent with Unitarian Universalist principles and First Parish Arlington’s mission to challenge the excesses and injustices of our time. The program began in November 2009, and First Parish has donated well over $80,000 to more than 50 organizations.
Bikes Not Bombs collects thousands of bicycles every year from Greater Boston and surrounding communities, and uses them in three ways. First, most of the bikes are sent to economic development projects in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Other bikes are used in their local youth programs that teach teenagers bicycle safety and mechanics and provide them with bikes to keep for themselves. Bikes Not Bombs also resells some of the donated bikes at its bike shop, which employs some of the youth program graduates and supplies some of the funding for its other work. Learn more at bikesnotbombs.org
Roca improves the lives of some the toughest-to-reach people –those between the ages of 18-24 who have been in and out of jail, are potentially gang-involved, who have limited or nonexistent family support and are largely impoverished. Roca also offers a young mothers program. Their staff are relentless in their quest to recruit participants and they do not give up on anyone, even if they fail the program.
Roca has four sites in Massachusetts: Chelsea, Boston, Springfield and Lynn. Once enrolled, young people are employed on Roca-supervised work crews from 7:00 am - 3:00 pm, learning essential job skills such as reliability, working hard and being a team player. After crew work, they participate in classes to obtain life and job skills training, educational assistance and cognitive behavioral therapy. Often, after a long day, the participants often chose to stay in this safe and supportive environment to have fun and play sports, such as basketball, or go on outings where they continue to interact with positive role models. Once it is demonstrated that they are “workforce ready,” Roca has partnerships with employers who agree to hire these young people. Roca meticulously tracks their data in order to be accountable and to receive funding. The results are highly impressive—this is an intensive, longterm model that works to disrupt the cycle of recidivism and poverty.
Roca is a nationally recognized organization that is starting to spread beyond Massachusetts. It has the support of the law enforcement community and is highly regarded within the judicial system as a way to reduce crime and help people to lead productive lives. More information including personal stories of Roca’s impact can be found at www.rocainc.org