Pulling into the parking lot of St. Aloysius of Gonzaga Parish, I saw some familiar faces and was ready to start the day learning about non-profits in Nashua, NH. As someone who is employed at a local non-profit, I was very excited to network and learn something new!
The first stop on our day-long adventure of visiting local non-profits was at the Nashua Police Athletic League (PAL). To kick off the day, Mike Apfelberg, CEO of the United Way of Greater Nashua spoke about the city and highlighted the importance of leadership. Throughout his presentation, compassion and hope were main components in the discussion. Did you know that approximately more than 10 percent of New Hampshire’s workers are employed by non-profits and there are over five thousand of them? It’s a great state to live in if you are looking for a non-profit career. Moving forward, we got a tour of the newly re-renovated building led by Sue Bee, who worked on the Building on Hope
project. Lastly, we got the pleasure of taking part in a Youth Service-specific discussion panel with Craig Fitzgerald, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua, Mike LaChance, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Nashua, Sharron McCarthy, CEO of GIRLS INK, and Casey Caster, Executive Director of the Youth Council. They expressed the challenges of the hiring process and finding “good workers” to suit the job and the importance of growth working in a non-profit.
The Front Door Agency was our next destination. We were first greeted by Nicole Ennis, Chief Development Officer, and Becky Gagne, Director of Transformational Housing. They provided a brief overview of the Norwell House and we watched a video that described the organization’s mission, which is to help single mothers or expectant mothers take control of their life and work towards self-sufficiency. Some challenges that these families face are balancing money, creating a budget and learning how to maintain healthy relationships. After the overview, we broke into two groups and took a tour of the facility. The newly re-renovated building was beautiful and it truly felt like a comfortable home. Lastly, we were able to discuss in another panel setting, Family Supportive Housing with Becky Gagne, Hannah Stohler, Executive Director of Marguerite’s Place, Amy Wilson, Housing Coordinator with Bridges and Pamela Wellman, Executive Director of Family Promise of Greater Nashua. The same question (What challenges do these families face?) was asked to these panelists and most agreed that lack of quality affordable housing, unreasonable expectations from landlords and transportation was a huge issue families are facing today.
Moving on to our third destination, the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, we were introduced to Michael Reinke, CEO of Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, Jenn Morton, Program Coordinator at End 68 Hours of Hunger, Jon Eriquezzo, President of Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough and Meg Bolton, Program Manager at Nashua Food Council, to discuss food
insecurity. Food insecurity can simply be defined as “not knowing where your next meal is coming from.” Our team learned about the ways these non-profits are funded: grants,
donations, and fundraising. After our discussion, some of us enjoyed delicious beef stew and mac and cheese lunch served directly from the NSKS. We ended our time by taking a tour of the facility and learning about behind the scenes work. The last stop regarding food insecurity was packing bags at the non-profit End 68 Hours of Hunger. Their mission is to make sure all children get through the weekend without the possibility of going hungry because their last guaranteed meal could have been lunchtime at school on Friday.
Next stop, Family Promise of Southern New Hampshire! We started off with a tour led by Matthew Hodgkiss, Director of Operations and Volunteer Engagement. Our team was able to observe the dining room, kitchen, hang-out area, and even the actual rooms where families can live in. They currently have about 25 families and 40 children living in their transitional housing facilities. It’s eye-opening, as these families come together and live in one facility, working on becoming educated to break the cycle and overcome homelessness and sustain independence. Dr. Amir Toosi, Dean of Business & Security at Rivier University, Doreen Manetta, Senior Regional Manager at Enterprise Bank and Kathleen Reardon, CEO of NH Center for Nonprofits took on the discussion of speaking about the rewards and benefits of serving on non-profit boards and community involvement. Our team learned about the importance of getting on a board, how to get on a board, and what are the right and wrong ways of doing so. For me, I personally enjoyed this session because that was one of the questions I had going into Leadership Greater Nashua and the panelists did a great job answering it!
Our last and final destination was the Humane Society for Greater Nashua. We started with an atypical non-profit panel discussion led by Doug Barry, CEO of Humane Society for Greater Nashua, Wendy Hunt, CEO of Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and Beth Covino, President of the Nashua Rotary. Our team learned about how each individual got into the non-profit world and what opportunities are out there. To end the non-profit day, we got the pleasure of getting a tour of the facility to visit the cats, dogs, and bunnies! They are in great hands.
Some of the main take-aways from this opportunity were realizing that many of the panelists are graduates from the LGN program and it was great getting to see how they are still involved in the community today. Everyone was very personable and shared common dedicated traits of helping the Nashua community. It was great to be part of this session because I saw that there are so many wonderful individuals and organizations that are here to support the Greater Nashua community. However, I also realized many organizations share the same challenges and are faced with barriers but with the strong collaboration between many of the non-profits, those challenges can be overcome.
Danielle Crow, Tenant Services Coordinator, NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire