Roxbury Office
Contact: Kevan Barton, Program Director

c/o BCYF Vine Street Community Center
339 Dudley Street
Boston, MA, 02119
Phone: (617) 427-1155
Fax: (617) 427-1125
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Cambridge-Somerville Office
Contact: Jessica Cirone, Program Manager
c/o The Parenting Journey
366 Somerville Avenue
Somerville, MA 02143
Phone: (617) 591-9400 
Fax: (617) 591-9411
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Liz Powers

Age: 22
Location: Boston
Affiliation: Harvard University

LIFT-Cambridge volunteer Liz Powers was hooked on serving people in her community from the first time she volunteered as a freshman with a local homeless shelter.  She became deeply invested in the needs of the people seeking refuge there and wanted to develop more meaningful, impactful relationships with them beyond serving breakfast a few hours a week.  After seeking out other programs, a professor recommended that she contact LIFT-Cambridge and she dove into volunteering immediately.  Three years later, diploma in hand, Liz is continuing to serve LIFT clients and the greater Cambridge community.

Over the course of her volunteer experience, Liz went above and beyond to serve her clients and quickly distinguished herself as a leader among her fellow volunteers.  Throughout her busy junior year, she served as a Student Director and wrote a proposal to the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative University conference.  She traveled with three fellow LIFT-Cambridge volunteers to share their idea to expand mental health support for Cambridge residents through LIFT’s services and other community partner agencies with hundreds of other college students and global leaders.  Liz organized LIFT-Cambridge’s homelessness awareness demonstrations on the campus of Harvard University during two National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Weeks, and led efforts to create the LIFT-Boston Bike Project, an ongoing project that addressed what she saw recurring need among LIFT for affordable transportation that was not provided by the MBTA. She says, “I had clients who were unable to access existing social services like food pantries or go to job interviews because they couldn’t afford to take the T. In order to fill this gap, I created the Bike Project to refurbish abandoned bikes.”  She recruited several community partners and volunteers to donate and refurbish bicycles, then gave the bicycles, along with helmets, locks, and a mandatory bike safety course, to LIFT clients.

For three years, Liz was also the coordinator for LIFT’s “Faces of Cambridge” photo gallery, where LIFT clients were given disposable cameras to capture the spirit of the city of Cambridge.  Volunteers and amateur photographers in the community also contributed photos to a gallery exhibition during Harvard’s Arts First week.  Liz recalls the powerful experience of standing next to one of her clients, who was beaming with pride that her photos were on display to the public; she says it was a significant influence in choosing to pursue her next career move.  The recent Harvard graduate will spend the next year working on a project sponsored by the Stride Rite Postgraduate Fellowship program to develop an arts curriculum for low-income individuals and families.

Liz says, “During my time at LIFT, at the end of each client meeting, I wrote notes about the services that I provided and the next steps we would take together. After almost every client meeting, I marked “listening and support” as a service provided. To be honest, when I first began volunteering I did not realize that “listening and support” was arguably the most important service that I could provide my clients. Many of my clients do not have any friends and family offering them support and encouragement. Many feel isolated and alone. Many do not feel part of any community. For the past few years I have been thinking about how, in addition to providing one-on-one service, I could help clients fight these feelings of isolation. I have been thinking about how to design a program that could help create a sense of community for some of the countless lonely individuals that I have met with.”

Modeled loosely after a sewing collective she participated in last year, Liz has already begun to develop partnerships with local art suppliers and art colleges to help support the program, which she hopes will provide low-income Cambridge residents, among them many LIFT clients, a fun, therapeutic outlet and a free option to be a part of a community.