$27M wish list aims at better lives for kids.


Byline: Jacqueline Reis

WORCESTER - It isn't hard to list problems with Main South, poverty being chief among them. But finding the precise problems that affect children, the ones that matter most to their parents and families, is another matter.

So when the United Way of Central Massachusetts was drawing up its application for more than $27 million over five years in a federal Promise Neighborhood grant, it went right to the source. Partners working with the organization interviewed 107 parents and 50 young adults in the neighborhood in the hopes of building a better support network for children from birth through when they join the workforce.

The Main South Promise Neighborhood application, led by United Way, with a dozen partners including the public schools and Clark University, is one of 35 the federal Department of Education will consider as it chooses four to six projects to fund. The application was last month, and the applicants should learn next month if they will be chosen.

The program is based on the Harlem Children's Zone, a tightly woven network of services for children and families within an almost 100-block area of New York.

The United Way and its partners were one of 21 teams nationwide to receive a planning grant from the federal Department of Education last year, and when it came in, Mayor Joseph C. O'Brien and his staff urged the coalition to make sure some of that money reached the neighborhood, not just agencies doing research, said United Way of Central Massachusetts President and CEO Timothy J. Garvin.

So Joseph M. Corazzini, United Way assistant project director and community organizer for the Main South Promise Neighborhood Partnership, gave parents like Afaf Mohamed, Karmary Adolphe and Thuy Ngo stipends to interview acquaintances, and acquaintances of those acquaintances, and a third group of acquaintances. Parent Winifred Octave joined the effort later.


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