Dear Friend of PHA,

I don’t think any of us had any idea how forever changed we would all be from the year 2020, but as we think ahead to 2021, we can hope and work towards rebuilding our lives and our community with compassion and generosity guiding us and moving us forward.

At Project Home Again, 2020 was a year of thinking fast on our feet and adapting. We rented some warehouse space in Lawrence so that we could prepare for helping more clients and ramp up our contact free distribution of furniture and household goods. We partnered with Bread & Roses, Lazarus House, Community Giving Tree, and the People’s Pantry to pool our physical and mental resources to combat food and housing insecurity during this unsettling time. This led to PHA touching the lives of an additional 500 families this year and the working relationship has been so successful that we have all decided to keep our collaboration going strong even after we have put COVID behind us. In a year with few bright spots, this was surely one of them, as was being awarded a Cummings Foundation grant that will provide us with $25,000 for four consecutive years.

As an integral part of the safety net in our community, I represented PHA on several committees both in the Merrimack Valley and the greater Boston area, all addressing the urgent needs during this crisis and the underlying inequities once again exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic. I attended a number of racial equity workshops and took a good hard look at our own practices. We just received our first grant to fund a new position we are creating to start to address our own lack of diversity. As soon as we raise the rest of the funds, we will be hiring someone from the community we serve to begin working at PHA. We  have created a program to allow someone to learn about PHA from the bottom up, while getting an education in non profit management from first Northern Essex Community College and then from the Tisch College of Civic Life’s Institute for Non Profit Practice. I am not sure I can accurately convey how excited we all are for this to happen.

Although we had to change the way we operated and could not have our clients come into PHA to shop, our staff and volunteers were extraordinary in taking great care to look at the notes our social worker partners sent us about their clients. They continuously put together beautiful rooms of furniture, bedding, and household goods to ensure each and every client felt special and well cared for. With a limited number of staff and volunteers able to be at PHA since March, it is remarkable that we still touched the lives of over 2000 people in our community. 

Some truly positive things did happen for PHA during this difficult year, but next year, even when the vaccine has been distributed, the new normal is going to be bleak for many in our community. Because of the prediction of a record number of evictions, domestic violence cases, unemployment, loss of health benefits, all in a community hit harder by COVID than most, we are gearing up for our most challenging year since we began in 2003. An advocate recently sent us a note updating us on one of our clients (a domestic violence survivor) who had just visited PHA. She wrote, “Thank you so very much for your attention to Jane’s needs. Your assistance has given her the confidence to move forward, past the trying times she has gone through. She was smiling ear to ear and so hopeful as I left her to settle in.”

That is what your donations do, and so much more. We, and the community we serve, are grateful for any donation you can make this year.

 Wishing you an abundance of health and joy in 2021,

Nancy Kanell

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