News from ROCA:Young Men Head to the Farm

News from ROCA:Young Men Head to the Farm

If you want to change how you feel and think, try do something new and different – this is one of the core lessons from Roca’s cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program. For the high-risk young men and women in Roca’s Chelsea program, an opportunity to do that came in the form of a hooved animal, one that Chelsea rarely sees.

Through a connection with the local high school, Roca was connected with the Ironstone therapeutic horse farm in Andover, Massachusetts. The farm was eager to work with Roca, providing an opportunity for participants to come out and learn how to care for, and eventually ride, the horses at the farm.

The first session of this project took place over four sessions inviting 12 young men from Roca Chelsea to learn the basics of horse care and training. This was a part of the young men’s usual Wednesday class schedule, giving them a change of scenery from the usual classroom.

The first week the men learned the basics of horse care, and the second and third weeks went into more detail about training, grooming, and care for these animals. The final session allowed them to finally ride the horses.

“Because this is a therapeutic horse farm, the staff there works with people who have disabilities or have dealt with traumatic life events, so they understand the population we work with more and wanted to create an experience where you can related to the horses,” explained April Spataro, a Roca program manager.

“We also try to incorporate CBT into this experience, talking about how they felt working with the horses—one of the big surprises is that these young men thought caring for horses was easy, but it’s not.”

Even though this counted as class time, it didn’t feel like it. Over the four sessions, all 12 participants were eager to learn and try out their new skills. Spataro said based on the success of this first group, she hopes to make this a regular course for participants to try.

Roca, Inc. is an organization based in Chelsea dedicated to helping the highest risk young men and women break the cycle of poverty and incarceration through relationships, relentless outreach, and programming. In Roca’s monthly column, we highlight some of the highlights happening from their headquarters.

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Bicycle Laundry Looking to Locate on Willow Street

Bicycle Laundry Looking to Locate on Willow Street

A commercial laundry that uses bicycles to pick up and deliver linens is looking to locate in the commercial/industrial property on Willow and Congress Streets.

Wash Cycle Laundry, a company founded in Philadelphia that has delivered millions of pounds of laundry and pioneered the bicycle laundry, wants to locate its Boston area operations in Chelsea. They were before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Tuesday night, and will go before the Planning Board later in the month. In April, the City changed the zoning regulations in the Willow Street area to allow them to consider the property.

Gabriel Mandujano, the founder of the company, said they are coming right now to service the hotels exclusively in Chelsea, and would be using a new, advanced style of tricycle to pick up and deliver laundry throughout the city.

“We leased a portion of the building and are concentrating our efforts on the hotel market,” he said. “Colwen Hotels signed an agreement to bring us to Chelsea. We’re going to be their laundry contractor. The idea is they have a lot of properties in Chelsea, but they have a large portfolio all over Boston too. This will bring those jobs to Chelsea.”

He said they hope to run two shifts seven days a week, and would employ a total of 75 people.

“We are a sustainable company,” he said. “We do  a lot of environmental and energy savings in the plant. We are founded in Philadelphia and pioneered bicycle delivery laundry. We delivered millions and millions of pounds of laundry in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. We are though practically sustainable and not religiously sustainable, so the chiefly concerned about safety.”

He said that would mean that they would deliver by bike in the Chelsea area, but use vans and trucks to get to Boston and other far off areas.

He said after they get their feet under them, if approved to come, they hoped to begin doing work for other businesses in Chelsea that have a need for a commercial laundry.

He said they would be using a special tricycle cargo bike in Chelsea that has been piloted by the UPS delivery company in Portland. He said they took a trip recently to Portland to test it out and liked what they saw.

“We’re fairly confident that would be the vehicle we would use if we come to Chelsea,” he said. “Philadelphia is completely flat, so we need something here with a little more power.”

He added they are a second chance company, and hope to partner with non-profits in the area to employ at-risk and court-involved residents who need a break. Many of their current employees have a history of homelessness or incarceration, he said.

“That’s one of the main reasons I founded the company,” he said.

If allowed to locate on Willow Street, Mandujano said they could have the build out done in about 30 days.

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Sadness Across America

The shooting deaths of two black men by white police officers in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, and then the assassination of five white officers by a black sniper in Dallas, have shocked Americans of all ages, races, color, and creeds.

These tragic deaths that have filled the headlines this past week have unleashed a wide range of emotions, but there is no question that a sense of sadness is the overwhelming feeling that has enveloped all Americans.

The racial intolerance that we thought had been relegated to the history books of the 1960s and ‘70s, when racial unrest ripped apart our inner cities and large-scale riots were commonplace, has resurfaced. The multitude of events of the past two years, starting with the catalyst of the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, has made it clear that despite the progress America has made in the past 50 years toward achieving racial equality, our nation still is a long, long way from attaining the goal, as stated by Dr. Martin Luther King in his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech, “when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

At a time when we should be united in our desire to confront the threat posed by foreign terrorists, we are ripping ourselves apart — we have met the enemy, and he is us.

And what makes our sense of sadness so pervasive is the hopelessness we feel in terms of finding a solution to problems for which we know there are no easy answers. Yes, we could have better training for our police officers. Yes, we could have better gun control laws that would not allow the sale of high-power military assault rifles with armor-piercing bullets that place our police at unnecessary risk. Yes, we could spend more on education and other programs that attempt to end the cycle of poverty and violence in low-income areas.

But deep-down, we know that while such measures and others might have some positive effects in ameliorating the racial divide, they will not address the root of the problem of prejudice in America.

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Roca’s Founder Molly Baldwin to Speak at ‘Disrupting the Poverty Cycle Conference 2014′

Roca’s Founder Molly Baldwin to Speak at ‘Disrupting the Poverty Cycle Conference 2014′

On Thursday, April 10, Molly Baldwin of Chelsea-based non-profit Roca will be speaking at the 2014 Disrupting the Poverty Cycle Conference hosted at UMass Boston.

Baldwin’s work as Founder and CEO of Roca – an organization dedicated to moving high-risk young people out of violence and poverty – has gained significant notoriety of late due to Roca’s cutting edge partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts aimed at reducing incarceration and increasing employment among justice system involved young men around the state.

Roca also serves roughly 200 high-risk young mothers per year, helping them change destructive behaviors, and gain economic and social stability. Baldwin will focus her comments at the conference largely on Roca’s successful work with these young women.

According to the conference organizers, the mission of this year’s program is “to provide the opportunity for pioneering stakeholders across diverse sectors to share practical emerging approaches to engage low-income families in a journey to economic self-sufficiency. Experts in program delivery, applied research, public policy, philanthropy, and program participants are invited to this gathering with the purpose of generating cross-sector dialogue among those with a vested interest in seeing low-income families succeed.”

Baldwin will be participating in the event along with many prominent leaders, including keynote speaker Dr. Harry Holzer of Georgetown University, and panelists from respected organizations such as MDRC, Pew Charitable Trusts, CFED, and Jobs for the Future.

For Baldwin, who has worked for almost 30 years on addressing the issue of poverty among teenage and young adult mothers, the conference is an exciting opportunity.

“To be counted among such an esteemed, dedicated group of leaders is a real privilege – but more importantly the conference is creating a much-needed forum to discuss deeply critical issues that have yet to be resolved in this society,” said Baldwin.

More specifically, Baldwin adds, “These days, it’s getting harder and harder for working class and low-income single mothers to make ends meet – particularly with the group of high-risk young mothers that Roca serves. We need to speak openly and honestly about the issues affecting these young women, their children, and explore new approaches for helping them get out of the poverty cycle.”

The one-day conference was created to do just that.

Conference organizers are hoping to accomplish three overarching goals, as stated on the conference website:

•To hold a vital, engaging forum on U.S. poverty and economic mobility rooted in contemporary economic conditions and policy debates;

•To foster cross-pollination between academics, program leaders, public officials, and low-income individuals;

•To leave every attendee of the conference with at least two new ideas that can reshape/improve their work.

To register for the conference, visit Crittenton Women’s Union website at The Conference will be held on Thursday, April 10, 2014 between 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at the UMASS Boston Campus Center, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston.


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