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On The Rise 20th anniversary celebration: $700,000 fund drive launched

On The Rise 20th anniversary celebration: $700,000 fund drive launched

Program helps homeless women get housing and deal with its challenges

Over a hundred supporters, volunteers, and friends gathered on May 28 at the Microsoft NERD (New England Research and Development) Center at 1 Memorial Drive to mark the 20th anniversary of On The Rise, Inc. The local day program, based at 341 Broadway, aids women who are homeless or in crisis.

The Microsoft Center’s panoramic view over the Charles River provided a dramatic backdrop as On The Rise Board President Carol Goss (photo, right, with Treasurer Anthony Koenig, Jr.) announced the launch of a two-year capacity-building fund drive to support and expand its Keep The Keys initiative. Keep The Keys assists On The Rise women over the longer term as they make the transition from homelessness to housing.

Martha Sandler, Executive Director at On The Rise, Inc.On The Rise Director Martha Sandler (left) also spoke briefly, noting that recent state efforts to get more people into housing have brought a growing need for the kind of assistance and guidance offered by Keep the Keys. Since 2008 Keep The Keys has helped 256 women to get housing, and about 200 of them have stayed connected to the program. Of those 200, 90% are still housed, according to Ms. Sandler. The goal for the fund drive is $700,000.

“With the current housing shortages here in Cambridge, more and more people end up moving to new communities – sometimes far from familiar locations,” she said. “Distance adds new challenges.”

Following the presentations by Ms. Sandler and Ms. Goss, On The Rise volunteers Carolyn Ofria, Jake Savage, and Ildiko Polyak shared some recollections of the organization.

Slides: 1. At left, former board member Suma Nair; at right, board member Joshua Gerber.      2. Carolyn Ofria   3. Koreen McQuilton   4. Jake Savage   5. Autumn Finney, left; Meredith Levenson, right   6. Kelly Blackburn       7. At left: Samantha Jerry; at right, Trish Signet

Keep the Keys: the beginning
The start-up of Keep The Keys was first announced in an On The Rise newsletter dated Summer 2008. Then as now, housing homeless women was an important objective, but follow-up was needed. Keep The Keys was begun to help them get settled in a new place, acquire basic equipment like dishes and furnishings, and deal with landlords, leases, contracts, and day-to-day management. It also keeps them in touch with their community at On The Rise.

On The Rise: the 20-year anniversary
On The Rise itself began back in 1995 when Harvard graduate Katya Fels Smyth organized a project to help women she saw in a local shelter. Located at first in a church basement, the fledgling program grew with the help of generous supporters, and in the spring of 2000 it acquired the handsome Victorian building it now occupies at 341 Broadway.

Volunteers, friends, and neighbors continue to be a mainstay. On The Rise offers the women basic aid: nutritious meals, companionship, seasonal clothing, a safe place to get a shower, rest up, and use a phone or computer. Six professional staff members provide assistance and advocacy on a wide range of medical, social, and legal issues.

Photos for slides #5 and #7 are by Kinga Borondy.
Disclosure: Author is related to an employee at On The Rise.