Gerber Joins On The Rise Board

Gerber Joins On The Rise Board

1369 Coffee House Owner Joins On The Rise Board

  • Posted on: 21 September 2012
  • By: mholbrow

Photo, above: Josh Gerber at the 1369 Coffee House in Central Square.

Joshua Gerber, owner and operator of Cambridge’s 1369 Coffee Houses, will be among the table hosts September 27 at the 15th Annual Prepare For Winter Dinner at the Royal Sonesta Hotel (details below). The event will benefit On The Rise, Inc, a local day program of assistance for homeless women in Cambridge, Somerville, and Greater Boston; members of its Board of Directors are hosts at the dinner. Gerber joined the board recently. A resident of Somerville, he succeeds his uncle, Gerry Wolf, both on the board and as proprietor of the 1369s.

original 1369 coffee house, 1369 Cambridge Street at Inman Square“It’s sobering to see how many of the people right around us are in need or very close to it,” Gerber said in a recent interview.

The original 1369 coffee house (left) is at 1369 Cambridge Street in Inman Square; its sibling is at 757 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square. On The Rise sits midway between them, at 341 Broadway.

“In the coffee houses and in the neighborhood, we see a cross section of street life,” Gerber said. “Some things you can’t do anything about, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care. I try to balance what I do as a business owner with what’s needed in the community.”

Gerber went on to discuss why he was drawn to work with On The Rise, whose program begins by addressing the women's basic needs: safe haven for the day, a meal, a bathroom, a phone, a smile. Many who come here face complex issues -- abuse, addiction, trauma, and mental or physical health issues -- that make their situations precarious. Last year nearly 400 women were aided here; the number has been rising.

Joshua Gerber, 1369 Coffee Houses (center); Carol Goss, On The Rise Board President (left); Martha Sandler, OTR Exec. Dir. (right)."I’m impressed by On The Rise's incredible open door policy for any woman in need, and by the lasting connections they establish,” Gerber said. “Just providing services isn’t enough; there has to be a trusting relationship and access to resources.”

Photo, right: At "Taste of Cambridge" last June, Gerber (center) chatted with Carol Goss, On The Rise's board president (l), and director Martha Sandler (r). His 1369 coffee houses participated in the city-wide event, which showcased local food and drink and raised money for area charities including On The Rise.

On The Rise takes a long-term relational approach to the women and the issues they confront, Executive Director Martha Sandler says. Like Gerber, she is a Somerville resident.

“The roots of homelessness often lie in violence and abuse, sometimes going back to childhood. It can take a woman a long time to work through that,” she explained. “The first step is to find some safety and establish trust. Then she can start to look further ahead, and deal with issues that go beyond just surviving today.”

On The RiseOn The Rise (left) offers the women support and advocacy as they begin that process. A follow-up program called “Keep The Keys” helps those who have managed to get housing as they move in, learn to deal with landlords and property managers and become part of a new community. Money raised at the yearly Prepare For Winter Dinners provides a major part the funding for its emergency assistance and long-term supportive programs.

Gerber’s social concerns go back to summers spent as a camp counselor and to his work after college with Teach For America in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. TFA is a national corps of college graduates and professionals who serve schools in low-income communities.

“That was my first deep encounter with poverty in America,” he said.

A native of North Carolina, he grew up with one foot in New England. His mother was from Worcester, and the family continued her hometown connections. He studied anthropology and philosophy at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, graduating in 2002.

Gerber serves on the Steering Committee of Cambridge Local First, and he helped launch the city’s Sustainable Business Leader Program (SBLP). He is a supporter of MassEquality, which promotes equal rights for the state’s LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual) community.

“I’ve been giving some thought to what I can bring to On The Rise,” he said. “My community experience is part of that. And it’s important for non-profit boards to be active in fund-raising -- I hope I’ll be able to help there.”

Naturally the topic of coffee came up during the interview, which was in the Central Square 1369. Now Gerber got up from the table and took a spot by the espresso machines.

“This is a Guatemala coffee from La Laguna farm in San Pedro; it’s a new introduction,” he said as he filled a cup. He commented on the coffee’s fine points: balance, brightness, acidity, a suggestion of citrus and nut. Social and environmental factors are also considered in choosing the coffees offered here, he said.

Indeed, coffee was the original link that connected On The Rise and the 1369s back in the 1990s, when they were all newly established, according to Sandler.

"They've always been supportive -- in the old days they'd give us coffee and pastries for our events. As they grew more involved with our mission, they came to be important financial supporters, in addition to being wonderful ambassadors in our community, serving on the board, and helping the women in a hundred other ways."

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15th Annual Prepare For Winter Dinner: A Benefit for On The Rise, Inc. of Cambridge
Royal Sonesta Hotel, 40 Edwin H. Land Boulevard, Cambridge
• 6:00 pm: Reception & Silent Auction     • 7:00 pm: Dinner
Event Chair: Denise Jillson, Executive Director of Harvard Square Business Association
Individual Tickets $175
Information: Jennifer Tsolas at 617-497-5757; jennifer.tsolas@ontherise.org