CTI’s YouthBuild Program Manager, elected to Vice President of the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition
Joins CTI as Deputy Division Director of Residential Programs
Lowell Transitional Living Center will be the primary destination for any individual adult seeking shelter, and will serve as the front door for emergency winter overnight services.
Anyone looking for placement should call the shelter at (978) 458-9888 before taking guests to the building to ensure an appropriate disposition. Once there, they will be triaged for a bed at LTLC.
If LTLC is full, staff there will call Life Connection Center at (978) 997-0588 for additional resources, including potential placement in a bed at The Sanctuary, or placement at the non-congregate hotel site.
Individuals should NOT be referred directly to Life Connection during an emergency event, nor should they be sent to “get a hotel room”.
During weather emergencies, additional hotel rooms will only be made available after all available congregate beds at both LTLC and The Sanctuary have been filled.
If LTLC alerts The Sanctuary that they are full, and the Sanctuary is full, Life Connection will alert CTI to secure additional hotel rooms if those are available.
If an individual needs a warm place to wait while a bed is being determined, the Eliot Day Program will be open from 8am to 2pm. In the event of significant snowfall, they may delay opening by one hour to allow for snow removal. Their holiday schedule is as follows:
- Closed on Thanksgiving Day (Take-out Thanksgiving dinner from 11am – 1pm) and Christmas Eve (Friday)
- Open on New Year’s Eve (Friday), MLK Day (Jan 17th, 2022) and President’s Day (Feb 21st, 2022)
If you encounter an individual who appears to be in distress related to the cold, and who seems to be significantly impaired by mental illness, a Section 12 may be appropriate. You can call the Lahey Emergency Services Program for evaluation support. (978 455 3397 or 800 830 5177)
Tewksbury resident Rita O’Brien Dee, surrounded by friends, family, and colleagues, was honored by Community Teamwork in Lowell for her half century of service to the organization. The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health & Development will be a resource for Community Teamwork and providers across the community who are working with children with behavioral, emotional, and developmental challenges. (Paige Impink photo)
By PAIGE IMPINK News Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
TOWN CRIER – Oct 16, 2021
TEWKSBURY — She thought she was attending a board meeting to accept a donation from a supporter of Community Teamwork, a vital services organization she works with in Lowell. But, when Rita O’Brien Dee saw her face on colorful t-shirts and friends and family under a festive tent, she realized something else was going on.
Community Teamwork CEO Karen Frederick welcomed O’Brien Dee and explained the surprise.
“We’d like to welcome Rita and acknowledge more than a half century of service to the community, and to the Community Teamwork family by dedicating The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health & Development,” said Frederick.
Through a generous anonymous donation and a subsequent grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, Community Teamwork was able to establish the program, located at the James Houlares Center on Phoenix Avenue in Lowell. The center will be the headquarters for programs and services that promote healthy social-emotional development for children, increase children’s success in school, strengthen children and families, and mitigate adversity through trauma-informed care.
According to Child and Family Services Division Director Meghan Siembor, “This opportunity could not have come at a better time… This opportunity enables us to meet a critical need and address a significant public health issue — children’s mental and behavioral health.”
Siembor praised O’Brien Dee.
“Her love for children is unparalleled as is her passion for giving back to the community,” said Siembor. “It truly is an honor for me and the staff across the Division of Child and Family services to be able to develop this Center in her honor.”
O’Brien Dee was visibly moved.
O’Brien Dee has been involved with Community Teamwork for 56 years. As a single parent raising five children on her own, she faced difficult struggles trying to work, put food on the table, and keep a roof over the heads of her family.
O’Brien Dee started her career as a teacher aide at Head Start, and earned her Associate’s Degree and quickly became an early childhood teacher at the center. O’Brien Dee was in the classroom for 27 years.
Upon retirement, O’Brien Dee joined the Head Start Policy Council and Community Teamwork’s Board of Directors. O’Brien Dee is also a member of many CTI committees and supports numerous initiatives.
According to data collected by CTI, mental health has emerged as a prominent community need, jumping from the fourth-most cited community need to the second-most cited need from the prior survey cycles. The impact of the pandemic is notable.
Key information also points to mental health as the most pressing issue in the community behind the need for better housing, according to CTI’s data for the greater Lowell community.
O’Brien Dee is known in Tewksbury for her participation in the Friends of the Library, the Tewksbury Historical Society, and is an active member of the Tewksbury Senior Center, Garden Club, the Democratic Town Committee, and is a former election worker.
O’Brien Dee has been an inspiration and example of giving back to the community, not just in Tewksbury, but in the greater Merrimack Valley.
If you would like to donate to help support the new Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health & Development, please contribute to the Greater Lowell COMMUNITY Foundation c/o The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development
New behavioral health program named for longtime educator Rita O’Brien Dee Community Teamwork Inc.
By Aaron Curtis
Lowell » Rita O’Brien Dee spent the last 56 years committed to her community through Community Teamwork Inc. — a career that started in 1965 when she worked as a teacher’s aide in the Head Start program.
Dee, who was a single mother of ﬁve children in her early 30s at that time, transitioned from an aide to a teacher in 1971.
“I always looked forward to coming back every September and seeing my new kids,” Dee said. “They came in like buds and went out like ﬂowers.”
She spent 27 years at Head Start before moving on to serve children, families and the rest of her community through Community Teamwork Inc. in another capacity. Dee was a member of the Head Start Policy Council and to this day serves on the CTI board of directors.
Dee turned 90 this year, but the energetic and eternally positive Tewksbury resident has not slowed down.
“Rita O’Brien Dee,” said CTI CEO Karen Frederick outside the James Houlares Center in Lowell on Wednesday. “A 56year legacy of community action and still going strong.”
‘They came in like buds and went out like ﬂowers.’ – Rita O’Brien Dee, retired Community Teamwork Inc. educator, of the students in the Head Start and other school programs
The program — still in the planning stages — is called the Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development.
Dee » 7A
Community Teamwork’s new Center for Behavioral Health and Development is dedicated to longtime parent, employee and board member Rita o’Brien Dee, much to her surprise. From left, are CTI CEO Karen Frederick, Marie Sweeney and Rita O’Brien Dee. Julia Malakie / lowell Sun
Frederick, Dee, several of her family members, and CTI employees and representatives were outside the center on Phoenix Avenue for a ceremony to honor Dee and announce the launch of a program that will carry with it her name.
FROM PAGE 1A
“I had no idea,” Dee said. “I am just so honored. It’s such a big thing and such a good thing. I love it.”
Meghan Siembor, deputy director of CTI’s Early Childhood and School Age Programs, said the program will be a resource for CTIand providers throughout the area who are working with children with behavioral, emotional and developmental challenges or who have experienced trauma.
The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development — which will be based at the James Houlares Center — will be the headquarters for programs and services “that will promote healthy social- emotional development, increase children’s success in school, strengthen children and families and mitigate adversity through trauma- informed care,” according to a program ﬂier.
The program was kickstarted by an “generous anonymous donation” and a $ 20,000 grant through the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, according to Frederick.
“We will begin working to do a needs assessment and analyzing the behavioral health needs of the children and staff in our programs and our community, identifying resources that are out there to support them, and identify the gaps in critical services,” Siembor said.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Siembor listed statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show 7.4% of children ages 3 to17 have a diagnosed behavior problem. Of that age range, 7.1% have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% have diagnosed depression, according to the CDC website.
Siembor added those numbers “are constantly increasing.”
The behavioral health of youth in the U. S. was dealt a blow by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to social isolation, ﬁnancial hardships among caregivers and school closures. Siembor said the Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey in October 2020 that showed 31% of parents said their children’s mental or emotional health was worse than before the pandemic.
“This opportunity really could not have come at a better time,” Siembor said about the launch of the new program. “It enables us to meet a critical need in our community and address a signiﬁcant public health issue, which is child mental and behavioral health.”
The announcement of the Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development’s launch came as a surprise to Dee. She was led to the James Houlares Center under the guise that there was a grant that CTI
Those interested in making a contribution to help support the Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development, can do so online at glcfoundation. org/donate.
Donations can also be sent by mail, to the Greater Lowell Community Foundation c/o The Rita O’Brien Dee Center for Behavioral Health and Development Fund, 100 Merrimack St., No. 202 Lowell, MA 01852. Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis.
Community Teamwork’s new Center for Behavioral Health and Development is dedicated to Rita O’Brien Dee, left, who gives a hug to CTI chief Financial Ofﬁcer Penny Judd of Kennebunk, Maine.
Dee pointed out she was driven to the center by a fellow board member, Marie Sweeney and that she was needed to appear for a photo shoot. When she arrived, her family members were on hand, and people were wearing T- shirts with her smiling face on the front, along with the name of the new program.
Community Teamwork’s new center for behavioral Health and development was recently dedicated to longtime parent, employee and board member Rita O’Brien Dee, right, and she shared a hug with CTI CEO Karen Frederick at a ceremony announcing the new program.
JULIA MALAKIE PHOTOS / LOWELL SUN
‘We will begin working to do a needs assessment and analyzing the behavioral health needs of the children and staff.’ – Meghan Siembor, deputy director of CTI’s Early Childhood and School Age Programs
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9/23/21 > LOWELL » The goal of Mill City Mentors is to provide support to area youth facing adversity by connecting them with a volunteer mentor to confide in and spend time with.
Mill City Mentors endured a major obstacle last year when the coronavirus pandemic struck, eliminating the program’s ability to have mentors meet face- to- face with mentees.
The program — part of Greater Lowell nonprofit Community Teamwork Inc. — was able to adapt.
With the nation in lockdown, Mill City Mentors switched to virtual mentoring, or eMentoring, in April 2020, according to Program Director Ed Banks. The new method of mentoring turned out to be a success and has introduced a new dynamic to the realm of mentoring.
Tewksbury residents Bruce Gorman and his wife, MJ Gorman, said life was already difficult for 9- year- old Luke Gorman
before the pandemic took hold. Luke is Bruce’s son from a previous marriage. Bruce had previously shared joint custody of Luke with his ex-wife. Now, Luke was living fulltime with him and his wife.
“A (Department of Children and Families) caseworker suggested after talking to Luke that it would be nice for him to have a mentor, a big brother, or someone who he could talk to who wasn’t a parent,” Bruce Gorman said.
“A neutral ground person,” MJ Gorman added.
The mentorship was set up at the beginning of the pandemic, with Banks serving as Luke’s “eMentor.” It worked out well, as Banks and Luke quickly developed a strong relationship, built mostly around a joint love for video games.
“Early on in the pandemic, no one really knew what was happening, so it was good for him to get some sort of socialization with someone outside of our family,” MJ Gorman said.
Charles Calenda is one of the Mill City Mentors volunteers, serving as a mentor to a 10- year- old for the past year.
“(The program) looked like a great way to get involved and kinda help build a brighter and more prosperous future for the kids,” said Calenda, a 25year- old medical student who grew up in Chelmsford.
“It was a very exciting and inspiring moment for me to be able to meet someone I’d be able to have an impact on,” he said.
Calenda acknowledges he was hesitant about meeting his mentee for the first time over Zoom, but the two quickly clicked.
“A lot of the mentorships would have diminished without this option,” Calenda said about the eMentorship program.
For anyone interested in mentoring an area youth or for those looking for a mentor for their family, apply at commteam.org/millcitymentors.
Mill City Mentors Program Director Ed Banks delivers a bike donated by Kevin Kuhs to a mentee. -courtesy of Community TeamWork Inc.
Luke Gorman, 9, of Tewksbury, is seen on a screen during one of his ementoring sessions through the Mill City Mentors program, which is part of Community Teamwork Inc.
By Aaron Curtis acurtis@lowellsun. com Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis
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