SPOON-FED:

Beneficiary Spotlight: Cambridge Women’s Center

What is the Cambridge Women’s Center?

The Cambridge Women’s Center is a monument to a historical movement, and a present-day safe space for women to get their needs met. 

In 1971, a feminist group occupied a building in Cambridge, demanding women’s spaces. The 10-day sit-in raised awareness and funds, resulting in the down payment funds used on the 4-story house out of which we currently operate. Today, the Cambridge Women’s Center is a supportive community space, based in a home, open to all women. We provide all of our programs free of charge and have sustained our grassroots, volunteer-based organization for 48 years. By opening our doors, we are on hand 55-hours, 6 days a week, when other programs are closed, effectively filling in the gaps in social services. We see an average of 25-35 women daily, women from all walks of life.

What types of programming do you provide?

With just two paid staff and over 60 plus volunteers a week (200 plus volunteers a year), we offer 3 unique programs:

  • Drop-In Program – providing a physical safe space for all women
    • Food, clothing, computer access, a library, an art room and more
    • Relationship building, emotional support and resource referrals provided
  • Helpline – telephone line for providing emotional support and resource referrals 
    • We have an updated resource database with over 250+ organizations in the area providing a wide array of support
  • Groups – 25-30 free groups each month 
    • Groups range from trauma support to yoga to financial management to meditation! 

Can you tell us a little bit about the people you serve? 

“I would not have a job if it wasn’t for the Women’s Center,” says J., a member who used our library and computers during her job search. “I don’t have a home, and this place feels like home,” says V., a member who has been experiencing homelessness for several years. “I work in management and attend support groups [here] for free, something my insurance would not cover,” says another member.

The women we serve are diverse, in experiences and use of the space. We serve a large majority experiencing the effects of being low-income or in poverty. While 30% of our community members depend on our food to meet their weekly food needs, and 40% are experiencing homelessness, 25% receive a moderate income and regularly attend programs for other reasons. We work with women who come by one-time, or come by every day. Women who are housed, and women who are socially isolated, women who are able-bodied and women with several mental or physical disabilities. Diversity is key to building and sustaining our unique community and we believe all the women have a gap in service to be filled, and hope to provide that space.

Why is your work important right now? 

Our systems are broken, the systems put in place to help only cover portions of the needs. Our work is important because there are vulnerable members of our community who the system does not work for, and the social services do not fully provide for. Whether it be one’s insurance company failing to meet a support group need, or a social service unable to provide support to a member – the system fails. Our work is important for the hundreds of unique women who utilize our services each year, women who often report feeling most comfortable and safe in our space.

Nearly 80% of the women we serve have survived some form of trauma. Our work is important because we are building connections and community across lives who are in need of support. Our work is important today, just as before, because women are still in need of spaces to call their own – to learn, heal, grow and dream together.  

How did you learn about Lovin’ Spoonfuls?

We met Lovin’ Spoonfuls in 2012 or so, and have been happily receiving support since! As a Center with programs staffed by volunteers, and food received through donation, we’re very dependent on food rescue to meet our needs. We have been so grateful for the partnership.

How has the partnership been helpful to your community and how has it grown?

With a shoestring operating budget, (under $200,000), and minimal funds for programs, we are reliant on our community partners, such as Lovin’ Spoonfuls, to meet our weekly food needs. Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and other in-kind food rescues, provide nourishment on a weekly basis to our members. Lovin’ Spoonfuls in particular provides the bulk of our food weekly, helping to cover 4 out of 6 operating days of food needs, serving an average of 15-20 women food daily.

Particularly, what we value with Lovin’ Spoonfuls is the consistency, pleasant delivery staff, and follow up on any concerns. We have increased the amount of food we take each week to compensate for the rise in homelessness and food insecurity within the state in the past three years.

How can people support you?

There are truly dozens of ways to support the Cambridge Women’s Center, with only two paid staff it is community that makes us run – that means you! However, what we need most right now is for believers to spread the word about the important work we are doing daily, and consider becoming a donor. We began through grassroots organizing, and believe we can sustain through our community as well. We are reliant on small donations and grants to help us continue to serve 30+ women a day, and increase our capacity to maintain our unique programs. 

Donations can be made through our website on our Network for Good page (please note, our IRS registered name is “Women’s Educational Center, Inc.”). We also invite you to follow us on Instagram and Facebook: @cambridgewomenscenter.