kids on bus
kids on bus

Opening Safely Should be a Top Priority


by Karen Frederick and Meghan Adams Siembor

LOWELL SUN 9/28/2020 B: Focus     Page B01 1/2

While public school educators and school systems are still debating how to safely return ( or not) to classrooms, early education programs were allowed to open in July, and if subsidized by the commonwealth were required to open by the end of July to be eligible for continued payment to care for and educate the state’s most at risk, low income children. This allows working parents who have no option of remote work to continue to provide for their families and support our
local economy. On July 8, Community Teamwork opened our doors and safely phased in up to 50% of our previous
enrollment by the end of July. This past Friday we were informed by the Department of Early Education and
Care that we could increase our classroom group size to 100% capacity, from 10 to 20 children. We have
seen no data or public health information which supports this increase.

With the benefit of only one month of reopening data, flu season on the way, and a projected spike sometime
in the fall of Covid-19 virus cases, we feel this is premature and dangerous to our staff, children and their
families — especially as schools are determining in some cities that even 25% of enrollment is not safe.
Looking at this new directive with a racial equity lens is even more disturbing. Our staff represent our
population. There are a majority of people of color who are already hit harder by this virus, as are our students
and their families. The commonwealth and the federal govern

Julia Malakie / LOWELL SUN

We were informed by the Department of Early
Education and Care that we could increase our
classroom group size to 100% capacity, from 10 to
20 children.
We have seen no data or public health information
which supports this increase.

ment that subsidize our programs for low income and at-risk children and families have a responsibility to
ensure the safety and sustainability of our programs. Without our high-quality early education and care
programs, the achievement gap will grow even higher. Parents, businesses, and our economy need us. We
have long talked about the important role of early education and child care in children’s academic
success, and we have long recognized the role child Just last week mobile, rapid Covid testing was made
available to public schools ( not yet open.) We applaud this initiative but ask why this has not been made
available to our programs, which have been open since July.

Across the sate, some early education programs are waiting up to 10 days for test results and several days
to even get appointments for testing. It is crucial that mobile rapid testing for staff, children and their
families be made available to programs already operating and serving infants through school age
children in the commonwealth. Opening safely should be a top priority Early Education Centers

9/28/2020 B: Focus
care plays in the economy. Parents cannot work without safe, affordable, high quality programs. Many
workers and single parents working in nursing homes, hospitals, supermarkets, restaurants shelter,
group homes, and child care centers are low wage workers who depend on state and federally funded
subsidized programs to care for and educate their children.

The subsidized system of the state’s Department of Early Education and Care was fragile prior to Covid,
with state rates as much as 30% lower than private rates. Across the state, our programs are currently
looking at when to close down classrooms, lay off staff, and even close entire centers.
Stable, adequate funding must be made available so that our programs are still here when it is safe to reopen
to capacity. This is a critical time which will determine the future of our field and parents’ access to affordable,
quality education and care for their infants through school age children. Improving educational outcomes for children and
achieving racial equity in our communities starts with quality early education. And supporting families working hard at essential jobs to provide food, housing and opportunity to their families is essential to our economy.

We call on the commonwealth and federal government to adequately and stably fund Early Education
Programs and to provide essential resources such as testing to ensure their future existence and to ensure
our economy can fully recover. Karen Frederick, CEO, and Meghan Adams Siembor, Division Director, Child
and Family Services at Community Teamwork

© 2020 lowell sun. Please review new arbitration language here. 9/27/2020
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Valuable, Virtual Internship

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This summer Project LEARN launched Commencement 2 Careers – Valuable, Virtual Internship

By Emma Murphy

emurphy@ lowellsun. com

Lowell » A new Project LEARN program is giving high school students the chance to gain real-world work experience through local internships even amid COVID-19 public health restrictions.

This summer Project LEARN launched Commencement 2 Careers, a two- month virtual program that teaches students how to build resumes, dress for the job and use essential tools like Microsoft Excel. After learning those skills in the program’s first few

Interns » 4a

Lowell High class of 2020 graduates Shaveen Gachau and Stacey McGuire, who have internships through Project Learn’s commencement 2 careers program, chat with Lowell High teacher Kendra Bauer and Project learn executive director LZ Nunn.

Franky Descoteaux, director of the entrepreneurship center @cti, poses with Lowell High class of 2020 graduate Koby Pailin, who has an internship through Project Learn’s commencement 2 careers program. at top, 

Julia Malakie Photos /Lowell Sun

From Page 1a

weeks, participating students then intern for a local participating business or organization.

“ COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted our students and families here in Lowell,” Executive Director of Project LEARN LZ Nunn said in an email. “ The goal in creating C2C was to develop real- world work experience and skill building, in a virtual setting, which our graduates can take into college, career and life experience into the future.”

Available to recent Lowell high graduates and rising seniors, the program paired 40 interns with 13 host sites around the city, including Lowell High School and CTI. The students each received a $ 500 stipend and obtained 45-50 hours of work- based experience.

According to Nunn, the students developed skills in collaboration, team work, workplace communication, presentation, research and MS Office Suite.

Recent Lowell High grads and Commencement 2 Careers interns Shaveen Gachau and Bryan Montal said they appreciated the program for the practical skills it taught them.

“I learned how to be professional and how to use technology to my advantage, especially during this time,” Gachau said.

Gachau, 18, just started classes at UMass Boston, where she is majoring in international relations. Just a week into her freshman year Gachau said she has already used some of the technology she learned to use over the summer.

Montal, 18, jumped at the chance to participate in the program because he wanted workplace experience before starting college this fall. Montal is studying computer science at UMass Lowell.

“ Since I was going into college I wanted experience in any type of workplace,” Montal said. “ I just wanted to get experience at the intern level.”

Both Montal and Gachau interned through Lowell High School working with an English teacher to develop curriculum for the 2020-21 school year.

“ I’ve always seen it as a student but never as a teacher,” Montal said of the curriculum development.

Gachau was able to work with her senior year English teacher, Kendra Bauer, to help develop curriculum. According to Gachau, the interns were tasked with reading “ How To Be An Antiracist” and developing questions and worksheets for Bauer’s incoming students.

For Gachau, the internship came at an opportune time. She was supposed to intern for Lowell Alliance earlier this year, but it was canceled just a few weeks in due to the pandemic.

According to Nunn, Commencement 2 Careers was designed to accommodate students who need flexible schedules and who might have trouble finding transportation to and from their internships.

“ There are other interns who have other jobs and summer school and they’re able to fit time in,” Montal said.

Franky Descoteaux, director of the Entrepreneurship Center @ CTI, learned about the program through Nunn.

“LZ always puts together great stuff,” Descoteaux said. “Even in the pilot stage she’s got good ideas.”

Descoteaux participated as one of the 13 intern hosts and oversaw a team of interns who helped her with research. The Entrepreneurship Center had recently received some grants to connect with small, local businesses and help them through the pandemic.

The center’s interns were tasked with identifying all small businesses in the area, categorizing them by type of business and assign contacts. It was a large task that Descoteaux said would have been a challenge for her to complete without the help of the Commencement 2 Careers interns.

Beyond help completing the project, Descoteaux said she agreed to participate because she enjoys working with high school and college- age students.

“ I love helping young people in particular think about their life and what they create for themselves in their life,” Descoteaux said.

Commencement 2 Careers was funded by the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, a grant from the state and private donors. Currently the organization is looking for funding for the next round of virtual internships.

Moving forward, Nunn said Project LEARN hopes to expand the program to serve over 100 students annually.

Both Montal and Gachau said they would recommend Commencement 2 Careers to other students.

“ If you ever need a referral for a job or another internship they’re very open to do it, they’re very good at answering questions ( about) getting a job or career or getting into higher education,” Gachau said. “ We don’t have a class on how to make your resume better, you don’t have a class that teaches you how to dress; these people are offering it.”

Lowell high class of 2020 graduates shaveen gachau and stacey mcguire, who have internships through project LEARN’s commencement 2 careers program, talk to Lowell high teacher Kendra Bauer. Gachau worked with Bauer, her senior year English teacher, to help develop curriculum. Gachau said the interns were tasked with reading ‘how to be An Antiracist’ and developing questions and worksheets for Bauer’s incoming students

GLCF MinutemanARC w x
GLCF MinutemanARC w x

Greater Lowell Community Foundation awards additional response grants for rent relief

The grants were part of the seventh and final round of distributions from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist area nonprofits serving vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers provide fresh food delivery for adults with disabilities at Minute Man Arc, a recent grant recipient from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund through GLCF.

LOWELL – The Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) announced that it awarded $290,000 from its GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to nonprofit organizations, this includes targeted funding to provide rent relief to families and individuals that face a loss of housing due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The grants were part of the seventh and final round of distributions from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist area nonprofits serving vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are so grateful to the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund for supporting our neighbors in Greater Lowell who are unhoused or at risk of becoming homeless,” said GLCF President & CEO Jay Linnehan. “These grants boost the efforts of our tremendous nonprofit partners who have continued to go above and beyond during the pandemic to support those who need it most.”

“As of June, Massachusetts and Greater Lowell had the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 17.5%, with the city of Lowell exceeding that rate at 20.5%. Coupled with the July 31st expiration of the Federal Unemployment supplement payments, we at Community Teamwork fully expect to see a secondary increase in demand for assistance from families who are trying stay safe and to remain in current housing,” said Karen Frederick, CEO of Community Teamwork. “We are so grateful for this Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund grant opportunity through GLCF, which allows us to help families so tragically impacted by job loss and housing insecurity as a result of this pandemic.”

The following 10 nonprofits receiving grants in the latest round of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund are:

  • Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell, Inc. – to provide emergency rental and food assistance
  • Clear Path for Veterans New England, Inc. – to purchase and provide food and groceries for veterans and their families unable or without means to access food due to COVID-19
  • Coalition for a Better Acre, Inc. – to provide financial support to low-income residents impacted by COVID-19 for rental payments for low-income housing
  • Community Teamwork Inc. – to provide financial support to low-income residents for housing
  • Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. – to prevent food insecurity among seniors
  • International Institute of New England (IINE) – Lowell – to provide emergency rental assistance
  • Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) – to provide rental assistance in cases of urgent need
  • Minute Man Arc for Human Services Inc.- to purchase and provide food and groceries for home-bound people with physical and mental disabilities
  • Minuteman Senior Services – to prevent food insecurity among seniors
  • Paul’s Soup Kitchen, Inc. – to purchase food to produce meals for the homeless

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund supports those across the state most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis, focusing on essential frontline workers and vulnerable populations including the homeless, immigrant populations, people with disabilities and those facing food insecurity. The Fund works in concert with regional community foundations and non-profit leaders who partner with local leaders to understand the response and relief landscape, strategically filling in where gaps are pronounced. For more information, visit

“The Mass COVID Relief Fund grant opportunity through GLCF was instrumental in enabling Minute Man Arc to purchase and store food supplies for our eight group homes,” said Jean A. Goldsberry, CEO of Minute Man Arc. “Emergency funding like this is supporting the needs of people with disabilities in eastern MA and keeping our most vulnerable citizens safe and healthy.”

To date, GLCF has awarded nearly $2.5 million through 172 rapid response grants to nonprofits battling COVID-19 and the resulting fallout from the virus through the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

Donations to the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund can be made online at or by mail to the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund c/o GLCF, 100 Merrimack Street, Suite 202, Lowell, MA 01852.

International Institute of New England (IINE) staff with “back to school” donations. IINE received multiple grants from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund through GLCF to support refugees during the pandemic.




mary renn getting balloons flowers and rocker delivered to her house retired now years at CTI
mary renn getting balloons flowers and rocker delivered to her house retired now years at CTI

‘There was always room in Mary’s heart’

CTI celebrates retirement of beloved employee Renn after 42 years

By EMMA MURPHY | | Lowell Sun

PUBLISHED: August 10, 2020 at 2:27 p.m. | UPDATED: August 12, 2020 at 7:55 a.m.


Kind of like Publisher’s Clearing Hous, CTI had flowers and balloons delivered to Mary Renn recently at her home in southern New Hampshire. Renn also received a CTI rocking chair.

LOWELL — In her 42 years of working at Community Teamwork Inc., Mary Renn went above and beyond. Whether it was organizing the annual event at Lenzi’s or bringing endless patience to her work with CTI’s families and teachers, Renn could always be counted on.

Now recently retired, Renn’s co-workers are already feeling her absence.

“You’d ask her for one thing and she’d come back with 10 things that you needed that you didn’t know (you needed),” said Jenny Pickett, intake manager at Child and Family Services. “She was kind of magic.”

From left, Karen Frederick, CEO, Mary Renn, Rita Dee O’Brien, CTI Board Member,

Renn came to CTI as a teacher’s aide. Her son had been participating in CTI’s Head Start program, in which parents are encouraged to volunteer once a month. Soon, Renn began volunteering more frequently, and it did not take long for teachers to ask if she could help as a substitute teacher.

“By the end of the year, I was going in every week,” Renn said.

What appealed to Renn about Head Start was the program’s independent learning philosophy. The children learned at their own pace, she said.

With CTI’s help, Renn attended Wheelock College and got her degree to teach, all while working at CTI and raising two kids at home.

Over the course of her career at CTI, Renn has served in multiple capacities, including as a supervisor overseeing five classrooms and their teachers. Most recently she worked in intake, helping families through the process.

“She could walk them through the process as patiently, so patiently, as anyone ever could and help them get the services … that they need,” said Pat Sawyer, a longtime CTI associate and teacher. “Very often, when parents arrive at CTI’s doorstep, they are, if not in outright crisis, they are in need, and to have someone like Mary to deal with right away was such a good thing.”

Since Renn’s retirement, Pickett said her team at CTI have already wanted to call her with questions, to which Pickett has had to tell them to let Renn enjoy retirement.

At a recent Zoom party celebrating Renn, Sawyer recalled at least two people asking Renn where to find things at the office.

According to Pickett, Renn’s experience working across CTI’s various departments made her a tremendous resource.

For Renn, the timing felt right to retire this year. At 66, she is young enough to travel and enjoy her hobbies, like sewing and arts and crafts; not to mention her six grandchildren.

“My husband has been retired for seven or eight years and, honestly, I’ve been a little jealous that he gets to stay home,” Renn said.

Though enjoying retirement, Renn said she misses the people with whom she worked. Especially the Friday lunches they would spend together talking about their weekend plans.

“It’s a really diverse group, and everybody looks out for everybody else,” she said. “You know that you’re there for them and they’re there for you.”

At Renn’s recent goodbye Zoom party, she was able to talk with not only her Friday lunch group but co-workers from her early CTI days. She said it was a blast.

“It was people I haven’t worked with or haven’t seen in maybe 15 years,” Renn said. “My old supervisors were there. It was just kind of nice to talk to everybody.”

In addition to the party, CTI organized a “Publisher’s Clearing House”-themed presentation of a rocking chair the nonprofit gave Renn for her retirement.

It is a testament to the impact Renn has had through her work.

Pickett sees Renn’s warmth and dedication reflected in everything she did at CTI; even the annual holiday door-decorating competition.

One year, Pickett’s team decided to decorate their doors based upon children’s books. Renn decided to design her door based on “The Mitten,” which tells the story of a mitten dropped in the snow. Woodland animals find the mitten and one by one they crawl into the mitten and it is able to hold them all.

In creating her door, Renn created animals out of felt and knitted her own mitten so that anyone passing by the door could play out the story and fit the animals in the mitten.

“In a lot of ways, that is kind of her,” Pickett said. “There’s always room in the mitten for another person. There was always room in Mary’s heart.”

Emma Murphy | Multimedia journalist

Emma R. Murphy joined The Sun as a reporter covering Billerica, Tewksbury and Wilmington in 2019. Previously, Emma spent four years covering Brookline and Needham for the Brookline TAB and Needham Times. A University of Vermont graduate, Emma enjoys kayaking, cooking and traveling. She once hiked coast to coast across northern England.

 Follow Emma Murphy @MurphReports

fund grant recipients Women Accelerators
fund grant recipients Women Accelerators

Grant awards announced to support nonprofits helping women in Greater Lowell

The Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund, a permanently endowed fund of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, has announced the recipients of $43,710 in grants that will support local nonprofit programs that empower women and girls to effect positive change in the community

The Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund recently awarded more than $43,000 in grant funds to support local nonprofit programs that empower women and girls to effect positive change in the community. WWW Fund Grant recipient Women Accelerators, from left, Hagir Mohamed, Debby Fowler, Miriam Margala, Jodie Bruneau, Susu Wong and Kim Meninger.

Lowell, MA – The Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund, a permanently endowed fund of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, has announced the recipients of $43,710 in grants. These grants will support local nonprofit programs that empower women and girls to effect positive change in the community.

“During this unprecedented time of economic hardship and public health crisis, Women Working Wonders is proud to support these five organizations in their work to improve the lives of women and girls,” said Susan West Levine, Women Working Wonders Fund board president. “Now more than ever, our philanthropy and attention are needed in the Greater Lowell community.”

2020 WWW Grant Recipients:

  • Community Teamwork, Inc.for Support for Minority Women Childcare Service Providers – $10,000
  • Dignity Matters Inc.for Period Protection to Support Greater Lowell Providers – $10,000
  • Lowell General Hospital for Cancer Center / Cancer Services Breast Boards for Radiation Therapy Treatment Providers – $10,000
  • South Sudanese Enrichment for Families for Women’s Financial Literacy Programming: Whole Family Health and Stability – $3,825
  • Women Accelerators for The Accelerating Women Leadership Program – $9,885

“Access to menstrual care makes an enormous difference to girls and women who are homeless or living in poverty. Period protection makes it possible for girls to attend school and improve their economic prospects, and it helps women work reliably and access other services to support their families,” said Kate Sanetra-Butler, Executive Director of Dignity Matters. “We’re so grateful to the Women Working Wonders Fund for this new grant, which will help hundreds of women and girls in Greater Lowell through schools and COVID-19 emergency centers. When women support each other, anything is possible.”

Women Working Wonders provides annual grants in three key areas: assist women in transition, provide leadership development as well as contribute to the beautification of the environment.

At a COVID-19 emergency center at Stoklosa Middle School in Lowell, a volunteer hands out menstrual care packages from Dignity Matters, an organization recently awarded a grant from the Women Working Wonders (WWW) Fund.

Founded in 2004 by a small group of women coming together to form a collective giving organization that focused on women’s issues, the fund has made more than $200,000 in grants to organizations supporting women and girls in the Greater Lowell area.

“We are thrilled to receive this year’s Women Working Wonders Fund Grant. The grant will be used to assist us in helping women with their professional and career training in the Merrimack Valley,” said Susu Wong, co-founder of Women Accelerators. “The grant will support our mission of giving women the tools they need to succeed professionally and to affect meaningful change leading to closing the gender gap.”

The Women Working Wonders Fund’s virtual Power of the Purse 2020 event is scheduled for October 15. Tickets go on sale September 1. For information about WWW and the upcoming event, visit:


Greater Lowell Community Foundation

100 Merrimack Street, Suite 202,
Lowell, MA 01852

© 2020 Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

People carry a Black Lives Matter during a vigil in memory of Garrett Foster lastsunday in Austin Texas.
People carry a Black Lives Matter during a vigil in memory of Garrett Foster lastsunday in Austin Texas.

Truths about Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter and seeking change is not “anti-police”, it is pro-community

Sun | Page B01 and B02 Sunday, 2 August 2020

By Karen Frederick, CEO Community Teamwork

An opinion piece that recently ran in this paper accused peaceful protests about racial injustice of being “ anti- police” — a common attack we have heard on the Black Lives Matter movement for years. Being an advocate for reform, training, and enhanced social service capacity is not “ anti- police.” It is pro- community.

Support centered on Black Lives Matter, commonly referred to as BLM, is a national movement. I could not disagree more with the author of the oped. Citizens and elected representatives, like Congresswoman Lori Trahan, seek constructive change.

So, here is the truth about the movement that the author of the negative op- ed elected to ignore.

As a result of the BLM movement, communities across our country are engaged in long overdue conversations about racial disparities rooted in hundreds of years of discriminatory practices, policies and laws that continue to negatively impact the Black community.

These disparities have real consequences. The committee’s selection is based on three criteria: running skills, teamwork and leadership. The Black community endures higher rates of unemployment and poverty. And they live at a greater risk of homelessness than their neighbors. Of course, these challenges are only made worse by the global pandemic we currently face.

Community Teamwork staff and I have witnessed these struggles firsthand in our work with families and individuals throughout the Greater Lowell region during the COVID pandemic.

BLM and its supporters like me are far from “ anti- police”; so too are the elected officials that the op- ed author labels as such. From the day she was elected, Trahan has been a tireless Community Teamwork advocate and partner. She cares deeply for her hometown of Lowell and all the communities she represents. Her support for Community Teamwork has never wavered. In fact, it is because of that support, along with that of Senator Ed Kennedy and Representative Jim Arciero ( among our many bipartisan supporters) that Community Teamwork can strengthen its programs.

Together, their support and advocacy helped us garner the resources to address the critical needs of low- income people in the 70 cities and towns we serve.

Our clients are fortunate to have leaders like them representing us. These are challenging times. Yes, Black Lives Matter and seeking change is not “anti-police”. It is constructive leadership. Karen Frederick of Dracut is CEO of Community Teamwork.

People carry a Black Lives Matter during a vigil in memory of Garrett Foster last sunday in Austin, Texas.


2 City Councilors Resign from CTI Board in Wake of Racism Vote

by Elizabeth Dobbins Lowell Sun

Newly elected and sworn In Lowell City Councilors L-R, front row, Rodney M. Elliott, Rita M. Mercier(Vice Mayor), John J. Leahy (Mayor), John Drinkwater, back row, Daniel P. Rourke, Sokhary Chau, David J. Conway, Vesna Nuon and William Bill Samaras. SUN/ David H. Brow

LOWELL — Veteran City Councilors Rodney Elliott and Rita Mercier said they would step down from Community Teamwork Inc.’s board of directors after voting against a motion to declare racism a public health crisis in Lowell — a declaration CTI vocally supported.

“I thought it would be better if I resigned and I could not be an effective board member,” Elliott said.

CTI Chief Executive Officer Karen Frederick said she intends to reach out to the councilors and speak to them directly.

“I am grateful for the time they’ve been on the board and I respect their decision,” she said.

She said she has not yet received their official letters of resignation. CTI is a prominent Lowell non-profit, which “mobilize(s) resources for low-income people, providing opportunities for them to achieve stability, self-sufficiency and have an active voice and participation in the decisions that affect their lives.”

Elliott said he has been on the board for eight years. Mercier has been on the board 14 years.

CTI issued a statement in support of a letter drafted by Merrimack Valley Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which called for the declaration of racism as a public health crisis among other reforms.

“These declarations are an important first step in the movement to advance racial equity and justice and must be followed by allocation of resources and strategic action,” read a statement emailed out by the organization. “For these reasons Community Teamwork is in support of the efforts of the Merrimack Valley and Lowell Diversity Equity and Inclusion Consortium and is urging the city of Lowell to also take this first step and declare racism as a public health crisis.”

Mercier and Elliott instead supported a resolution regarding racism that stopped short of labeling it as a public health crisis, during a contentious City Council meeting Tuesday night. A sentence on the CTI website said this alternate motion “commits to no actual change in business as usual.”

Elliott said calling for a declaration of racism as a public health crisis in the city exposes Lowell to a “potential liability.”

At the meeting on Tuesday night, City Solicitor Christine O’Connor said a specific finding by the City Council on a declaration of racism as a public health crisis could have an “adverse impact” for future lawsuits against the city. Framing the motion as a response to a larger, national issue would avoid this issue, she said.

Elliott also took issue with an email sent by Carl Howell, which called the resolution Elliott supported “dismissive, tone deaf and non-committal” and urged the council to be on the “right side of history.”

While Howell is an employee of CTI — the division director of housing & homeless services — he sent the email as an individual.

Elliott said he felt calling his resolution “tone deaf” was a personal criticism.

“I feel I am on the right side (of history). … I’ve listened to people for 23 years as a city councilor,” he said.

Mercier also took issue with Howell’s email.

“People shouldn’t have taken this personal and yet they did,” she said.

She said she does not like to be disrespected and she is not a racist.

“You can call me any name you want, Elizabeth,” Mercier said, referring to the Sun reporter she was addressing. “Don’t call me a racist and that’s what that man was implying.”

Howell did not respond to two emails seeking comment.

Prior to the vote, CTI posted on social media a notice reminding residents of the vote. Part of the notice read, “There is an alternate motion that commits to no actual change in business as usual.”

That was Elliot’s motion and he took offense to it.

Elliott said he believes CTI helps many people in need and wishes the organization well.

Mercier and Elliott were appointed to the CTI board of directors by Mayor John Leahy earlier this year, though Frederick said this was an oversight and is not how people are appointed to the board anymore. The two councilors’ appointments continued from previous years.

Frederick said the board meets again in September and is expected to select another councilor, or councilor’s representative, and community member to fill the spots.

She said CTI plans to continue to work with the city.

“We are good partners,” she said. “We differed on an issue. I think that’s just the world.”

Leahy said the resignations during the City Council meeting came off as “foolish” and he believes the councilors could have waited until the next day.

“If you’re in politics, we take the criticism along with the praise,” he said.

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mcc and training on zoom
mcc and training on zoom

MCC Partners with CTI to Transition Course to Virtual Platform



Helping Clients at Home Lowell Sun REV
Helping Clients at Home Lowell Sun REV

Community Teamwork, Inc. HELPING CLIENTS AT HOME

Published in the Lowell Sun, Thursday, April 23, 2020

Virus housing crisis brewing

Lowell Sun Wednesday, 1 April 2020

By Elizabeth Dobbins

edobbins@ lowellsun. com

As the coronavirus pandemic impacts the paychecks of many in the Greater Lowell area — and rent and mortgage payments come due — officials are asking how to keep people housed.

“ Making rent in the coming months is going to be a big concern,” said Lowell City Councilor John Drinkwater.

Last week, Drinkwater made a motion asking the City Council to support a Statehouse bill placing a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the current emergency. Councilors unanimously voted in favor.

“ I think it’s a good motion and a very timely motion,” said Councilor William Samaras.

The bill proposed by state Rep. Mike Connolly, D- Cambridge, and state Rep. Kevin Honan, DBrighton, was referred to a committee on housing on Monday. The bill accompanies a mid-March court order, which suspended most eviction proceedings in the state until April 21.

“ In many ways it’s the same proposal,” said Democratic state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D- Acton, who is supportive of the bill. “ It was filed before the courts took action.”

Mike Weinhold is the supervisory attorney for Northeast Legal Aid, a nonprofit that represents low- income clients in Lowell and other areas. He said even with the new court order, navigating the eviction process still poses challenges for tenants, who very rarely have legal representation.

For example, he said the courts are notifying tenants of eviction proceedings and, in initial communications, provide court dates that do not reflect the stay on evictions, resulting in inaccurate dates.

“ They’re going to think they’re going to have to go to court in the middle of the outbreak,” he said.

With the courts almost entirely closed to in- person proceedings, he said it’s harder for people to connect with legal aid. Usually “ lawyers for the day” are set up at a table in the court to offer services to those who qualify.

Eldridge said the legislation also addresses the issue of foreclosures, providing some relief for people who own their own properties, including landlords who may not be collecting as much rent to pay mortgages.

“ Certainly we need to take action there,” he said.

Not all are fans of the proposal. On March 19, Executive Director of MassLandlords. net Doug Quattrochi wrote a 10- point rebuttal. He argued against the stringency of the penalties landlords could face and instead called for an extension of the court order if necessary and establishment of an emergency basic income.

President of the Greater Lowell Landlord Association Dick MacDonald said last week that he isn’t sure what actions are needed.

Many people, including landlords with other jobs, are out of work, he said. The federal Department of Labor reported 147,995 nonseasonally adjusted advance unemployment claims in Massachusetts for the week ending on March 21, a nearly 20 fold increase over the previous week.

“ It would be helpful if tenants were able to get some funds to help pay their rent,” MacDonald said.

He said the situation will be challenging for both landlords and tenants.

“ What would be helpful is if this thing would be over with,” he said.

Eldridge said he is sympathetic to the challenges facing smaller property owners, but larger property owners likely have the capital to forgo full collection of rent. Financial assistance to residents from the state or federal government could help, he said.

Lowell Mayor John Leahy, who supported Drinkwater’s motion, said banks could alleviate some of the strain if mortgage holders were able to extend their mortgage and delay payments in the wake of the crisis.

Still, eventually, everyone needs to pay their mortgage or rent, he said.

“ Fair is fair,” Leahy said. “ Everybody has to take a little bit of responsibility on this.”

Drinkwater said he believes the eviction issue isn’t just about housing, but also supporting small businesses, many of which owe rent during this period even as revenues plummet.

The pandemic also raises challenges for homeless shelters where people are often living in close quarters, he said. The city can work with institutions to provide types of housing that limit the spread of COVID-19 better than the traditional shelter, like dorms, according to Drinkwater.

Organizers at Lowell nonprofit Community Teamwork Inc. — which provides a variety of services from meals to fuel and rental assistance — said they are already seeing the impact of this crisis on people contacting their office.

“ The impact is really profound for so many of our clients who are facing job loss and all those other impacts that we all know about,” said Connie Martin, division director of energy and community resources.

Martin said the agency has seen an uptick of people who need food and housing support. Last week, CTI received $ 1 million in additional funding from the state to provide short- term financial assistance for people at risk of becoming homeless.

“I think that’s going to be what allows us to keep people housed once the courts open ( and owe) that back rent,” Martin said. “ Landlords are going to look to being made whole.”

Though the CTI offices are closed, staff members are still available by email or phone, including at 978- 654- 5607 and C o v i d R e s p o n s e C T I @ c o m mteam. org, according to CTI Director of Development and Marketing Kathleen Plath.

“ We’re not going to capture every need, but we want people to know we are open,” Plath said. “ We’re open for business and we’re basically taking care of our client’s needs in a different format.”

Plath is also the owner of two restaurants: Cobblestones in Lowell and Moonstones in Chelmsford. When dine- in services around the state closed, she said she had to lay off over 75 employees.

“A lot of them we are sending them to resources like Community Teamwork,” she said. “ We set up our own emergency fund with what we had and what we’re able to provide just to help them out. And the first two people who asked us to help was to help with rent.”

As a business owner, she believes local government could help ease the burden on businesses through tax abatements. Like tenants who have lost their jobs, the business will not make up this lost revenue even after they reopen for dining- in, she said.

“As we know it’s a chain,” Plath said. “ It’s a cascading effect. It’s going to hurt everyone.”