Newsmakers: Some money, some awards and a high schooler walking against hunger

Editor’s note: Newsmakers is a new regular feature spotlighting accomplishments of Newton community members, businesses and organizations.

Six Newton artists awarded Mass Cultural Council Creative Individuals grants

The Mass Cultural Council has announced almost $2 million in grants to creative individuals across the commonwealth, including several Newtonians. The Mass Cultural Council FY2024 Grants for Creative Individuals grants total $1,925,000, with grants at $5,000 each.

Newton award winners and their creative specialties include:

  • Ralf Gawlick, music
  • Homa Sarabi, media arts           
  • Darlene Flores, folk/traditional arts
  • Cheyanne Barrientos, music
  • Ariah Dawson, music
  • Anu Kandikuppa, literature

This is the first year the Agency has offered the Grants for Creative Individual program, which provides unrestricted financial support to artists, culture bearers, and creative practitioners to equitably advance creative expression throughout the Commonwealth. The program attracted about 4,400 applications.

Guitar and flowers. Google Commons

Newton North student runs seventh Walk for Hunger

Newton North High School junior Ethan Diamondstein, 17, was among 3,500 participants in Project Bread’s 56th annual Walk for Hunger on May 5.

Participants walked a three-mile loop around the Boston Common or in their own neighborhoods, and this year the Walk for Hunger is expected to raise more than $1.3 million to help fight food insecurity in Massachusetts.

After the 11-member Newton Food Pantry walking team finished walking the three-mile loop around Boston Common, Diamondstein continued with his own 19-mile route. Diamondstein’s goal is to raise $2,200. To date, he has raised $11,000 for the cause.

“Food insecurity is one of the greatest problems in our society, and I admire Project Bread’s goal of fighting the issue through advocacy and policy work,” says Diamondstein. “Everyone deserves to have enough food and not worry about where their next meal is coming from. By walking, I can make a small contribution towards that goal.”

This was the seventh consecutive Walk for Hunger as a member of the Newton Food Pantry Walk for Hunger team. Diamondstein volunteers at the Newton Food Pantry and has the impacts of hunger in his city.

The Walk for Hunger first began in 1969 and features family-friendly activities, programming and games.

“Funds raised through the Walk for Hunger directly contributed to Project Bread’s work to successfully lead the Feed Kids Coalition in advocating for the passage of permanent Universal School Meals in Massachusetts last year,” said Erin McAleer, Project Bread’s CEO. “Our Walkers make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of Massachusetts residents, but hunger is still a pervasive problem in our state with 1 in 6 households and 1 in 5 households with children currently facing food insecurity. Participating in Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger is one way we can all do something real to make sure our neighbors can access and afford the food they need.”

Ethan Diamondstein of Newton walks the Walk for Hunger. Courtesy Photo

Brigham & Women’s awards William James College $2.4 million for health workers program

William James College has received Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s (BWFH) Community Health Impact Funds in support of its Community Health Workers Pathway Program (CHWPP), which is designed to build linguistic and cultural capacity in the behavioral health paraprofessional workforce. The program will serve four Boston communities and address social determinants of health through language accessibility, digital and financial literacy training, access to childcare and transportation services, and behavioral health career pathways.

“Congratulations to William James College for securing this remarkable mental and behavioral health funding,” said Tracy Sylven, Mass General Brigham’s Director of Community Health for Brigham and Women’s/Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. “Based on their innovative proposal, we know that they will make a significant impact, and we look forward to finding more ways to collaborate as their program unfolds.”

Over a three-year period, the CHWPP will establish career pathways to paraprofessional positions in the designated communities for 120 individuals who are underrepresented in the behavioral health workforce, including refugees, immigrants, bilingual and bicultural individuals, first-generation students, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, career changers, and English language learners.

“The Community Health Workers Pathway Program will help reduce gaps in access to culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health services and build the capacity of community health workers to support residents as they navigate the often-complex health care system,” said Gina Benjamin, MSW, LICSW, William James College Program Director, Community Health Workers Training Program. “We appreciate BWFH’s generous support and commitment to reducing systemic barriers to accessing mental health services in the Commonwealth.”

William James College. Courtesy Photo

West Suburban YMCA Honored at Watertown Savings Bank’s 25th Annual Customer Choice Awards

In recognition of its contributions to the community, the West Suburban YMCA has been awarded an impactful nonprofit grant as part of Watertown Savings Bank’s 25th Annual Customer Choice Awards.

Awards were presented during a special ceremony held at the American Legion Post on April 9.

The Customer Choice Awards, an initiative by Watertown Savings Bank, aim to celebrate and
support local nonprofit organizations that make a meaningful difference in the lives of
community members. The recipients are selected through a voting process where community
members have the opportunity to nominate their favorite nonprofit.

“We are deeply honored to receive this generous award from Watertown Savings Bank,” said
Jack Fucci, President and CEO of the West Suburban YMCA. “This grant will enable us to
further our mission of promoting youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility in
our community. We are immensely grateful to the bank and community members for their
support and recognition.”

The grant will be utilized by the YMCA’s Annual Fund, which enables the Y to keep programs
open and accessible to all.

West Suburban YMCA. Courtesy Photo