for fundholders

monthly lunch and learns

Join ECCF and fellow fundholders for a monthly Lunch and Learn event. Together via Zoom, we will explore different areas of community need, discuss important local data and initiatives and share information about ECCF’s systems-based community leadership work.


past sessions

June 8, 2022 - YOUTH SERVICES

We were joined by Nelly Alba, Director of Recruiting and Persistence of Youth Development Organization (YDO); Linda Saris, Founder and Executive Director of LEAP for Education; Sara D’Alessandro, Director of Programs at Root; and Chris Lovasco, President and CEO of the YMCA of the North Shore.  We had a rich and insightful conversation around the exceptional programming being offered to the youth in our community and the realities of what these leaders are seeing on the ground level, specifically related to the mental health of its staff and the young people in our county.

Takeaways About Youth Services in Essex County

  • YDO had to pivot during COVID and created many online programs. To diversify how they connected with the youth, YDO launched YDOtoGo! where staff went directly to kids’ homes and other public spaces to engage, play games, and participate in activities.
  • LEAP discussed the challenges in reengaging with teens and rebooting teen programming. Additionally, they are addressing the many mental health and behavioral issues that have come about due to the pandemic, specifically with those students that are in transition from middle school to high school and high school to college.
  • Root rapidly responded to community needs as it had to use/re-distribute its inventory at the beginning of the pandemic. Since March 20, 2020, Root has prepared 55,000+ meals to date, there have been over 2,600 youth employment hours/additional training, and in 2021 there were 10 youth jobs created.
  • Mental health was a recurring topic during the Lunch and Learn. The YMCA has a new vision and focus on mental health including incorporating mental health specialists in every school-based program, increasing access, and adding integrative creative therapies, increasing employee wellness support (caring for the caregivers), and collaborating with mental health experts in the field.

Watch the Youth Services Lunch & Learn recording here

February 9, 2022 – WOMEN AND GIRLS

We were joined by Emily Gonzalez, Grants Allocation Committee Co-Chair, and Trish Moore and Wendy Roworth, Co-Presidents of the Women’s Fund of Essex County; Sara Stanley, Executive Director of Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC); Deb Ansourlian, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Lynn; and Susan Staples, Executive Director of YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts for a discussion around the programs and services being offered to women and girls of Essex County.

Takeaways About Women and Girls in Essex County

  • The Women’s Fund has raised and donated more than $2.8 million to over 150 organization in Essex County with programs for women and girls in need. They reported that:
    • One in eight women and girls in Essex County live below the poverty line
    • One in five women of color live in poverty
    • Over 23,000 children in Essex County live in poverty and almost 70% of these children live in single mother families
    • 44% of single mothers have a high school degree or less
  • Deb Ansourlian from Girls, Inc stated that there was an impact on mental health during the pandemic for the girls in her program. Girls, Inc. is now partnering with Lynn Community Health to teach girls about coping, self-care, and meditation to assist with mental health issues.
  • Sara Stanley from HAWC sited an anonymous survey conducted by the Mass Department of Public Health which stated that 67% respondents reported new or increased Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) during the pandemic and 87% report problems meeting basic needs. HAWC triages, connects women to services for aid, and empowers them via stability, safety, meaningful access to resources, mastery, and social connectedness.
  • On occasions where childcare programs close, it creates difficulty for the YWCA families, many of whom are essential workers who do not have alternative childcare options, states Susan Staples. Susan also noted that domestic violence increased during the pandemic. The YWCA’s 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault witnessed a spike in instances of domestic violence and sexual assault during the pandemic as opposed to prior.

Speaker presentations are available here:

Click here to read the Winter 2022 issue of Brigham Health “Standing Tall for Justice” that was mentioned by one of our attendees during the Lunch and Learn session.

Watch the Women & Girls’ Lunch & Learn recording here

November 10, 2021 – BASIC NEEDS

In November, we were joined by Lyndsey Haight, Executive Director at Our Neighbors’ Table in Amesbury; Sue Gabriel, Executive Director at Beverly Bootstraps in Beverly; Carmen Vega, Shelter Manager at Lazarus House in Lawrence; and Russell Poulin, Director of Family Services at Lynn Shelter Association in Lynn for a discussion around what they’re seeing and experiencing within the realm of basic needs and how their organizations are offering assistance, encouraging change, and making a difference.

Takeaways About Basic Needs in Essex County

  • When customers were no longer able to shop in person due to COVID, Our Neighbors’ Table created an online grocery shopping platform. This system has been highly successful and has quadrupled the demand. They have seen over 50,000 orders, distributed 2 million pounds of food, and served 5,600 neighbors.
  • Food insecurity is a symptom of economic insecurity, stated Sue Gabriel of Beverly Bootstraps. Massachusetts is the third most expensive housing market in the nation and has the second highest cost for childcare. Beverly Bootstraps assists by providing adult education, food assistance, client support, youth and family programming, and a thrift shop for its clients.
  • Lazarus House has seen a 70% increase in guests relying on daily meals in the soup kitchen and a 27% increase in guests relying on the food pantry. Over 400 individuals are visiting their soup kitchen every day for to-go meals.
  • Russell Poulin at Lynn Shelter Association noted that the cost of housing has skyrocketed, and landlords are becoming more selective, making it even more difficult for individuals and families to find housing. In addition, Poulin stated that Lynn Shelter Association is not seeing vouchers becoming available to individuals and families. The organization provides individual emergency shelter, family shelters (which includes housing and job assistance, childcare, transportation, and parenting skills training), and permanent supportive housing to help combat this.

Speaker presentations are available here:

Watch the Basic Needs Lunch & Learn recording here


In September, we were joined by Robert Dais, Statewide Director of GEAR UP Massachusetts; Allison Caffrey, National Director of Development and former New England Executive Director at Let’s Get Ready; and Dr. Lane Glenn, President at Northern Essex Community College for a discussion around what they’re seeing and experiencing within the education field, recent data and trends, and how their organizations are making a difference.

Takeaways About the College Readiness and Higher Education in Essex County

  • The decline in college enrollment has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Massachusetts public college enrollment of new students declined most significantly by Black students (30.8%), Latino/a students (23.7%), and White students (20.2%).
  • In 2021, GEAR UP and Lawrence High School staff went door to door and assisted with completing FAFSAs in students’ homes. Its hands-on programming is the reason why GEAR UP Lawrence has a 91.3% FAFSA completion rate.
  • Let’s Get Ready offers “choose your own adventure” programming where students can select the level of coaching that they want and need. “Near-Peers” implement the program, mentor, and create strong relationships with the students. This model is the reason why Let’s Get Ready college students graduate at double the rate of students from similar backgrounds and enrollment only dropped 2% from 2019 to 2020.
  • Northern Essex Community College tackled digital equity by providing Wi-Fi parking spots, laptop lending programs, and creating new online degree programs that weren’t available before. In the Fall of 2020, NECC saw the smallest enrollment decline of any public college in Massachusetts.
  • “Non-traditional” is the new “traditional”. College readiness and higher education programs have had to pivot during COVID and create new ways to attract and retain students. These “non-traditional” educational programs seem to be the future of the education field.

Speaker presentations are available here:

Watch the College Readiness and Higher Education Lunch & Learn recording.

July 2021 – WORK FORCE

In July, we were joined by Mary Sarris, Executive Director at MassHire North Shore Workforce Board (NSWB); Jennifer Edwards, Director, Global Programs at GE Foundation; Alex Nova, Deputy Director at the Lawrence Partnership; and Melissa Dimond, President and Executive Director at Wellspring House for a discussion around the recent data, trends, and impacts they’re seeing within the workforce.


Five Takeaways About the Workforce in Essex County:

  • A jobless rate of about 5% is considered by economists to be “full employment.” The current unemployment rate on the North Shore of Massachusetts is currently at 6.4%, indicating that the labor market has returned almost to “normal.” “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were back to 5% in the next couple of months,” said Mary Sarris, executive director of North Shore WIB.
  • Job growth in Massachusetts, and on the North Shore, IS happening, but the labor force is not growing at the same rate. Workers under the age of 55 declined by 1% and those over 55 increased by 30.9%.
  • To increase the workforce pipeline for the advanced manufacturing industry, we need accessible training and certification programs and to educate the general public – especially young people – on the opportunities that exist within the sector. “Youth don’t think it’s cool. But it is really cool,” said Edwards, who pointed out that Black Hawk Helicopters are manufactured at GE Aviation in Lynn.  Workforce development challenges cannot be solved by a single organization. “We are always looking to collaborate to drive impact and row the boat in the same direction, instead of all of these silos popping up,” said Jennifer Edwards, director of the GE Foundation. “
  • Wellspring House opened its testing center for the High School Equivalency Test in July of 2020, when most other testing centers closed. Today, they process nearly 25% of test takers in the entire state.
  • Skilled talent in textile manufacturing is abundant in the city of Lawrence, but one of the barriers to connecting people to jobs is the language barrier, said Alex Nova, deputy director of the Lawrence Partnership, who backbones the Lawrence LEADS programs, where an idea to help foster improved communication between companies and local residents was born. Transportation, as it relates to getting to work, is another barrier, mentioned Melissa Dimond, executive director at Wellspring House. Innovative solutions are helping to break that down though. Cape Ann Transit Authority On Demand is a public, on-demand transit service that picks people up and takes them where they need to go in Gloucester – for just $2. “It’s going like wildfire,” said Dimond.

Watch the Workforce Lunch & Learn recording.


In June, we first heard from local leaders working in this space including: Nicole McClain, Founder/President at North Shore Juneteenth Association, Inc.; Marquis Victor, Founding Executive Director at Elevated Thought; and Dr. Alexandra Piñeros-Shields, Executive Director at Essex County Community Organization (ECCO). They provided fundholders and donors with exclusive insight into the racial equity challenges they’re facing in Essex County. Then, we heard from ECCF’s Beth Francis, President and CEO and Hehershe Busuego, Director of Programs & Racial Equity, as they presented the Foundation’s racial equity strategy.


Five Takeaways About Racial Equity in Essex County:

  • The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation technically ended slavery. But June 19, 1865 is the day that General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and brought the news to those in the deepest parts of the former confederacy. June 19 – also known as Juneteenth – commemorates this critical turning point in our nation’s history and was made a national holiday just this week when signed into law by President Biden. Juneteenth has become the most prominent Emancipation Day holiday in the United States for Black Americans. North Shore Juneteenth Association uses programming and events year-round as a tool to educate the community and help dismantle racism.
  • Marquis Victor, of Elevated Thought,  noted that he’s seen increased divisiveness and a hesitancy to move on from broken systems. Youth power is essential for definitive progress.
  • The “canary in the coal mine” analogy was used by Alexandra Piñeros-Shields as a way to compare race as the canary and the coal mine as the mind or the system of systemic racism. The mine (the system) is toxic. We need to tend to the canary, but we need to fix the mine.
  • ECCF’s racial equity strategy purpose: 1) Ensure ECCF is an equitable and inclusive organization, 2) Actively leverage our resources, relationships and platforms to advance racial justice in Essex County and beyond, and 3) continuously assess and evaluate learning, operational practices and investments for effectiveness at advancing racial equity and racial justice.
  • Our guest speakers mentioned that grassroots organizations rarely ever have the capacity to do the work they’d like to accomplish. They are overburdened by the amount of responsibilities. Many organizations could use funding and mentorship.

Watch the Racial Equity Lunch & Learn recording.


We heard from Stephanie Sladen, MSW, LISCW, Executive Director at Children’s Friend and Family Services (CFFS) and Vice President of Justice Resource Institute (JRI); Frank Gomez, Director of the Early Psychosis Program at CFFS; Kimberlie Flowers, MSW, LICSW, Clinical Director at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley (ESMV); and Michael Tarmey, RN, MS, Vice President and Associate Chief Nurse, Behavioral Health at Beverly & Addison Gilbert Hospitals of Beth Israel Lahey Health about the impacts they have seen in the field in the face of COVID and how their organizations are tackling these issues as they move forward.

Five Takeaways About Mental Health in Essex County

  • In-person interaction has been extremely important as people are missing and needing face-to-face dialogue. Last year, CFFS had telehealth sessions with their clients and also dropped off basic care essentials and cleaning supplies in order to connect with their clients. ESMV’s Meals on Wheels drivers have had to adjust to a new way of interaction with their clients since they are unable to socialize in the way they are accustomed to. ESMV has also started providing electronic pets as companions to not only assist elders with dementia, but also those suffering from loneliness.
  • Understanding how to get mental health assistance to people when the system is currently so overloaded is challenging. It was said that organizations will need to partner with schools, especially as they start up again next fall and teachers start identifying student needs.
  • It is important that duplications are reduced and ideas are easily shared across the regions. There are various ways that this is being accomplished via system of care meetings, network resource sourcing, and community needs assessments.
  • Telehealth has increased access for many families. Organizations are brainstorming how they can make technology easier and more accessible for their clients.
  • This year, organizations have had to focus on how to help their client families access basic needs such as food, diapers, etc. It’s been a challenge to help families maximize their safety while also helping them with their preexisting mental health conditions.

Watch the Mental Health Lunch & Learn recording.


In April, we heard from Erina Keefe, Sustainability Director of the City of BeverlyLauren and Patrick Belmonte, Co-Founders / Co-Directors of Change is Simple and Gabe Shapiro, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Partnerships of All In Energy, Inc. about what they’re seeing and experiencing within the climate resiliency and environmental justice sector.

Five Takeaways About Climate Resiliency and Environmental Justice in Essex County:

  • Lower income communities – cities and towns that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – are receiving lower efficiency-savings than more wealthy communities because the clean energy industry lacks diversity, a barrier that hinders innovation, impact, and trust.
  • 98% of emissions in the City of Beverly come from two sources alone: buildings and transportation.
  • The City of Beverly is one of the first communities in Massachusetts to acquire an electric school bus and operates the first Thomas-Built all-electric school bus in New England.
  • Hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and environmental experiences can greatly influence a student’s decision to choose a career that is geared towards environmental sustainability. Additionally, solving systemic challenges within our educational system, combined with more professional development in the STEM space for educators, will increase student access to STEM learning.
  • Coalition-building within and around the clean energy industry is critical to the equitable distribution of the benefits of the state’s growing clean energy economy.

Watch the Climate Resiliency Lunch & Learn Recording.

March 2021 – HEALTHCARE

In March, we heard from Dr. Kiame Mahaniah, CEO of Lynn Community Health Center in Lynn, MA and Dr. Jeff Geller of Kronos Health and the Integrated Center for Group Medical Visit in Lawrence, MA. Dr. Mahaniah’s overarching interest in medicine is the pursuit of social justice and the interaction, communication, and complexity of doctor/patient relationships. Dr. Geller is a national leader in developing alternative medicine group programs for the underserved. His work has been visited by two different Surgeon Generals.

Five Takeaways About Healthcare in Essex County:

  • Providers can learn more about – and give better care to – their patients when they spend more time with them.
  • Dr. Geller’s Group Care model – seeing multiple patients with similar needs simultaneously – gives him more time with his patients, increases access to medical care, allows for improved cultural sensitivity and helps patients combat loneliness, an increasing concern during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Loneliness is a determinate of illness; Dr. Geller discovered that within two weeks of attending group visits, his patients’ loneliness decreased by 70%.
  • Addressing the digital divide now will prevent the gap from growing as advances in telehealth shift the healthcare industry to an increasingly virtual model.
  • Healthy people and communities require more than just healthcare, noted Dr. Mahaniah. Access to employment, education and housing opportunities contribute greatly to overall health.

See Dr. Geller’s presentation.



In February, Jason Etheridge, Executive Director of Lifebridge Northshore, and Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director of Harborlight Community Partners, provided fundholders and donors with exclusive insight into the challenges facing nonprofits battling homelessness in Essex County.

Five Takeaways about Housing and Homelessness in Essex County:

We know that homelessness is one of the major social challenges we face in our region, but we also learned some surprising facts that may help us understand the issue – and the possible solutions – more deeply.

  • It costs a community $100,000 each year to support just one person living on the streets.
  • To provide a supportive housing environment would cost a fraction of that: $25,000.
  • Homelessness is a systemic issue with multiple root causes that need to be addressed simultaneously.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to stimulate the conversations necessary to foster collaborative solutions.
  • Advocacy at all levels will play a critical role in solving homelessness in Essex County.

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    Danvers, Massachusetts 01923