An immersive art event titled ‘Sounds of Belonging: Immigrant Stories in Light and Sound’ will mark the 40th anniversary of Wellspring House this Friday and Saturday at the waterfront where Gloucester works Families provide shelter and educational opportunities for them and others through extensive job training and support.
Wellspring serves 400 families on the North Shore each year, helping them gain employment and financial security through stable housing, education, job training and career preparation. Wellspring helps Gloucester High School students find career paths, hone the skills of students with limited English proficiency, and provide job training for low-income adults in healthcare.
“Our mission is not to be homeless,” said Wellspring President and Executive Director Melissa Dimond. “Our mission is about financial security.”
This weekend’s Voice of Belonging will feature the work of social impact artist Stephanie Terelak Benenson. It will use laser lighting, music, spoken word and sound installations to bring the stories and emotions of immigrant families to life. Berenson founded Harbour Voices Public Art in 2017 to help highlight the work that Wellspring and other nonprofits are doing.
“Our ‘Voices of Belonging’ celebration on 6 and 7 May celebrates the multiculturalism of our community and Wellspring’s contribution to personal achievement in Gloucester and the North Shore,” said Patricia Fae, Chair of the Wellspring Board of Directors Ho said in a statement.
Gloucester’s Diamond said: “This is an opportunity for people to check in for the first time and be reminded or understand what our purpose in the community is, and celebrate the work of our organisation with the people we are helping shape their lives. “The resident who has led the organization for the past seven years.
Today, the nonprofit has 37 employees and a $2.8 million budget. Its service area spans the North Shore.
Diamond said Wellspring House was founded in 1981 by a group of friends who cared about what was going on in society, and much of the social service infrastructure was dismantled.
The founders pooled their funds to purchase the property at 302 Essex Ave. as a temporary family shelter. It was one of the first nonprofits in the state to provide shelter for homeless families.
Wellspring’s homestead now houses administrative offices and an education center; the organization has a shelter and a multifamily residence downtown.
Diamond said that after the first decade, Wellspring interviewed families it served and found a need for education and vocational training.
“Having a place to live is essential, you can’t do much without it, but it’s not going to improve your life,” Diamond said. “The way to improve someone’s life is to raise their wages.”
In 1995, the Veronese Community Education Center was inaugurated. In 2002, Wellspring launched a training program for healthcare jobs.
This weekend also celebrated the 20th anniversary of its MediClerk training program at Salem Hospital. Last year, Wellspring partnered with Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals to bring more internships and job opportunities to job seekers.
Many of Wellspring’s adult education classes have moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the silver lining is that this provides Wellspring with greater coverage.
Wellspring offers face-to-face computer literacy classes at the Sawyer Free Library on Dale Avenue, where there is an admissions office for the non-profit English-as-other-language program.
Wellspring also offers in-person regional HiSET high school equivalency testing at education centers, conducting over 20 percent of the state’s in-person exams.
Wellspring is known for learning from and making strategic decisions from the people it serves, Diamond said. The organization’s flexibility, she said, is that half of its budget is privately raised, which allows it to revise or open up its plans to a wider audience.
“There have been many moments in those 40 years when Wellspring responded to demand by adapting programs or adding elements, and that’s what we’re still doing today,” Dimond said.
Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714 or email at [email protected]