The past 24 hours with Thrive

Last night, March 16, marked our last 3rd Thursday Community Supper for this school year. Once again, it was a great success due in no small part to help from many generous volunteers. Delicious food was shared and led to parents and children engaging with each other in conversation and play. More and more we are coming together as a community.

After wrapping up the 3rd Thursday event, I went home to wrap up (literally) backpack bundles to be distributed out of the Early Childhood Campus today. I am sure that Aswita did the same for the Upper Elementary campus.

And with that, I will wrap up the word portion of this post and let the photos tell the rest. Enjoy!!

Giving Thanks

aregashshoppingAhh, Thanksgiving. When the weather in the northeast becomes my favorite – cool, crisp, blustery. When we are reminded about the importance of feeling and expressing gratitude. And when the stark contrast is so noticeable between those in need and those experiencing over-the-top abundance.

The picture is of my daughter Aregash during one of our Costco supply shopping trips. As you can see, we have to buy A LOT. Two years ago we were providing backpacks to 15 children. This year we are providing backpacks to over 100!! For each child that’s 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 snacks each week. That’s 400 bagged meals weekly! That’s pretty amazing. It means that 100 children are experiencing less food insecurity when not in school. I suggest we all think of these numbers while many of us enjoy our turkey feasts. Let’s please make sure that we feel and express our gratitude for all that we have.

Along the lines of gratitude, I would like to express my appreciation for so many individuals with whom I get to work because of PHA Thrive:

  • Catie for helping to pack food bundles every week.
  • In for recruiting Catie to the cause.
  • Aswita and her family for doing all that I do at the Early Childhood campus, and then some, for the Upper Elementary campus. And for being the best working partner I could imagine. 🙂
  • My neighbor Liz for packing bundles at my house each week.
  • My friend Oliver for Costco supply runs.
  • My friend Betsy who lives in Tennessee and insists on supporting our work here in Somerville.
  • Nurse Maureen for handling all the sign-ups and distribution at the EC campus.
  • Julia for processing all my receipts for reimbursement and for assisting with all of our fundraising efforts.
  • Byron for quietly and efficiently hauling boxes overflowing with food bundles from the stoop to the nurse’s office
  • Twinx the cat for keeping me company Thursday evenings as I bundle things up to deliver to school.

And that’s just to name a few. There are so many others, including many families who make it a priority to attend our fundraisers, make donations, and offer support in various ways. (Two that stand out are Scott Brooke and Mandy Shear.) It does take a village to make PHA Thrive work. And I am very grateful to be part of such a fantastic village.

Feed (with pizza), Grow,…

Look at this banner for othrivebannerur next FUNdraiser. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Flatbread Pizza is delicious. And if you like to bowl you can indulge in a few strings if you like. (I especially like the bowling shoes as fashion statement.) If you prefer dining at home, why not order a pizza or two to go? We get a percentage of all their pizza sales next Tuesday evening, whether eaten on premises or taken home. Not hungry for pizza? Remember it’s not about you. Think about the child labor that went into this beautiful hand painted banner. 🙂

In all seriousness, looking forward to seeing folks next Tuesday and sharing a slice of pizza and a beer.


September Rush

Welcome back!

After a relaxing summer break, PHA Thrive kicks into high gear this month. Here are just a few activities underway. Please mark your calendars, and help us make this another Thriving year for our community.

Enrollment forms for the food backpack program have been sent home to Upper Elementary families and should go home soon Early Childhood families. If you know of any family that could benefit, please encourage them to sign up.

On Monday, September 12, we will start getting cases of fresh fruit from Food for Free to encourage healthy snacking at our various campus locations. These will continue weekly throughout the school year.

On Wednesday, September 14, we will have a Whole Foods a 5% Day. At all 3 WF locations in Cambridge, we hope to staff tables for lunch and dinner hours to share information about Thrive. And at the end of the day, Thrive will receive 5% of sales for that day!! Save your food shopping for September 14 and do it all at Whole Foods. Encourage all your friends to do the same. And if you can help staff a table at lunch or dinner, let us know by emailing

On Friday, October 7 we will start sending home weekly food backpacks with children enrolled in our program.

On Tuesday, October 11 we will host a fundraising evening at Flat Bread Pizza in Davis Square. We hope that you will come, encourage friends and family to come, ask total strangers to come. Again, how much we earn will be determined by how many people dine and how much they eat that evening at Flat Bread. (Maybe we don’t need lots of people – just a few super eaters…)

We are off to a great start!! Help us keep it going.


Yay May!

I both love and dread May. I love it because it offers our first taste of spring as well as hints of the looming start of summer. I dread it because it is so packed with activities, as though we’ve woken up with a start, remembering all the things we want to get done before summer comes.

In the midst of all the busy-ness, we hosted our 2nd annual THRIVE fundraiser this past Saturday. Because so many of our friends, families and colleagues squeezed our activity into their own busy schedules, we had a VERY SUCCESSFUL day. Huge thanks to Aswita, Maureen, Erin (and Erin’s mother who made so many lovely baskets for our raffle), Anja, Julia, the Harvard Kennedy School students (Joe, Joe, Michael, Ben and Paul), The Independent (especially Jenna), our DJ Justin, and our EMCEE Josh. (By the way, Josh was one of the funniest auctioneers I’ve ever seen! Loved the way he worked the crowd!) And not one but two PHA Heads of School were in attendance – both outgoing Jed Lippard and relatively new Angela Allen.

Besides it being a fun way to spend an afternoon, when all is tallied up, it will likely amount to more than $5,000 raised to support our THRIVE efforts. In addition, we recently heard that we will once again be the recipients of a $5,000 MIT Community Service Fund Grant. So we will be continuing to THRIVE!

However, so long as there are children in our community needing the support of weekend food backpacks, our fundraising work will continue. Our donate link now takes you to a page where you have the option to make ongoing donations. Commit to any amount that you are comfortable with, and make it weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or annually. Consider this: $5 weekly would sponsor one child for the entire year.


It was Friday before April break. I was rushing to drop my daughter off at school and make it to an 8:30 meeting. I had no time for socializing.

Filomena, a wonderful woman regularly at the school to drop off or pick up her grand niece, opened her arms and embraced me in a hug and a “Thank you”.  When I returned her hug with a somewhat puzzled look, she informed me that Byron, the school maintenance man and all around great helper, told her I was responsible for putting together the weekend food backpacks. She wanted to thank me for doing this for the children in our community. While I certainly appreciated her hug of thanks, I replied that without Byron magically taking care of whatever I leave on the back stoop, the food would never get to Nurse Maureen’s office. And without Nurse Maureen, the food would never get out to to the intended kids’ backpacks.  And without other PHA staff, parents, friends and community members supporting what it is we do, none of it would be possible. And what I really wanted to express is my gratitude for being so welcomed into this community, and allowed the opportunity to take on a role that was meant for me.

Filomena went on to comment on the waste of uneaten food she sees so often while others are going hungry. And isn’t this the real problem? We live in a world in which some of us have more than we need while others need more than they have, and figuring out how to better balance this out is the challenge. And wasn’t this an interesting conversation to have? Except I had to get to my 8:30 meeting, which I did, almost. (What’s 5 minutes late when I was having such an important conversation?)

Fast forward to Saturday, when I attended the Empty Bowls event raising funds for Food for Free. They are an organization whose sole (or maybe “soul”) mission is to facilitate the exchange between those with more than they need and those who need more than they have. And while there’s still both more waste and more need than there should be, I feel tremendous gratitude for the folks at Food for Free who are working every single day to decrease both.

Too Busy to Blog!!

My recent lack of blogging does not mean there has been a lull in Thrive activity. Quite the opposite, in fact. Here’s a brief rundown as well as a preview of upcoming activities.


  • We kicked off Third Thursdays. Since then, we have hosted 3 VERY SUCCESSFUL community suppers attended each time by 75-90 community members. There has been dancing. There has been drama. And there has been great food and great company. Come out to one sometime and see for yourself.


  • We extended our reach and impact against hunger. We are now sending home 64 food backpacks every weekend with children at the Early Childhood and Upper Elementary campuses. That is more than 4 times as many backpacks as we were sending home a year ago!


  • We completed and submitted another grant proposal to MIT’s Community Service Fund to see if we might get an additional round of funding to help sustain our growth.
  • And we were joined by Dr. Angela Allen, new Head of School, at our Third Thursday community supper. She engaged us in conversation about how to sustain and grow our program, and invited more conversation to explore how best to meet the food insecurity needs at the Upper School campus. Partnering with local Central Square restaurants may be one angle to explore.

Coming up in April:

  • We will hear from MIT regarding our grant proposal. (Fingers crossed!!)
  • We will be attending Food for Free’s Empty Bowls fundraising event on April 16, 5-8pm at Mudflat Pottery. They have been fantastic partners to work with, and they host a great event. Please come if you are in the area.
  • We will host another Third Thursday, this time on the second Thursday (April 14) due to April break.
  • And we will be working feverishly to prepare for our own fundraiser.

Coming up in May:

  • Our second annual Thrive Fundraiser, May 7, 2-4pm at The Independent in Union Square. Be there, be in the Square, and be part of something really important. Help us eliminate hunger at PHA.
  • And if you can’t attend our fundraiser, you can always just click on the “Donate” link anytime, from anywhere, using any credit card, (preferably your own).

Dinner and a Show!

GreetersIt was shortly after 5pm, when I arrived with my daughter in tow. The locked cafeteria door was opened for us by a very polite and quiet teenage boy. We entered a room full of teenagers in huddled conversations around a few cafeteria tables. Hmmm. I wandered upstairs to Nurse Maureen’s office assuming she would be there seeing to any number of details she manages on a daily basis. On her door was a sign suggesting that volunteers for the Third Thursday dinner should meet her in the cafeteria at 5:10. Back downstairs we go.

While waiting for Maureen to take charge as she does so effectively, I started setting up the chafing trays. I inspected to make sure that casseroles were in the warming ovens. I moved items unrelated to our community meal out of the way, and started unpacking juices and waters. And sure enough in just a few minutes Maureen appeared. She immediately got the crowd of teenagers engaged in setting up dinner tables with red checkered table cloths, centered with jars of fake flowers, while I set up salads and rolls on the secondary buffet table, and plates and plastic utensils on to the side of the main buffet . Others got cans of sterno lit and water in the chafing dishes, and then brought out the trays of casseroles from the warming ovens. Finally chairs were set out in front of the stage so that after dinner, guests could enjoy the Afro-Caribbean dance performance and lesson. Set up finished just in time for the crowds to start coming through the food line.


This is how I would describe the perfect evening of dinner and dance, attended by 80 or so PHA families, friends, teachers, administrators. Don’t miss our next one on March 17. And for those that can, please make a contribution to support our efforts to end hunger at PHA by going to our Donate link.


Hugely Successful Third Thursday!

THRIVE - volunteersSince I am at a loss for words, I’ll fill this post with the words of others.

[From Heather Grunwald of Community Cooks to the cooks]

A HUGE thanks for cooking wonderful food for the first THRIVE community meal!!  The hardworking crew that pulled this off had no idea how many people would show up… turns out over 75 Prospect Hill Academy community members came by!  I was there to see your food thoroughly enjoyed – the room was filled with smiling faces!!  Apparently, the kids were so excited all day, talking about how they were going to have dinner with their friends…

[From Maureen MacCarthy, PHA Nurse]

My heart is full this cold Friday morning despite a long day + late night yesterday. Our inaugural “Third Thursday Dinner” was a rousing success, with over 75 PHA Community members joining for dinner, social time, and FUN! I would like to thank all of the staff who took their precious personal time to attend and engage with families and each other.  A particular expression of thanks to Branigan Reed, Hermaine Jean, Margareth Chan, and Marcello Gooden who joined “the work crew” throughout the entire event.  Thank you Jed Lippard who brought his family and friends, and also rolled up his sleeves to help in clean up.  A HUGE THANKS to Angie Surpris Our ECC Family Liaison & FAB Co-Chair, In Paik our ECC FAB Co-Chair, and THE AMAZING Barbara Goguen without whom this never would have begun!  THIS is why this school community is – and will always be – my life’s “work”, a privilege I cherish every day.

Lastly we must thank Vicki I, Heather Grunwald,  Mary Todd & all of the Community Cooks who prepared a delicious repast!