What does it mean to be an organization with a heart? How can a business, nonprofit or otherwise, create a culture of caring around their day to day functioning that permeates every aspect of their operation? While I’d never claim that the Brookline Teen Center somehow embodies the pinnacle of this pursuit, I would like to share some of my thoughts about the incredible empathy and caregiving that lies at the heart of our place.
So often, it is in times of distress and despondency that character is revealed most fully. Time and again, the BTC has proven that when a member of our community is suffering, we will be there to offer support in absolutely any form. Our basement, in addition to featuring maker spaces and ping-pong tables, has served as a makeshift storage facility countless times when families have faced eviction and obviously lacked the funds to pay for a storage unit. Many teens have celebrated their bar and bat mitzvahs in our dynamic and fun space. But it has alternately hosted multiple wakes and services after the tragic loss of a teen or a teen’s family member, giving the grieving family and community a zero-cost, comfortable, and familiar space in which to come together.
BTC funds don’t just go to staff salaries and rent. When a recent BHS graduate who had spent hundreds of his after high school hours with us needed money to register for the Spring semester at MassBay Community College, it was BTC’s name on the check. And when the family of one of our newer members, recent immigrants from South America, didn’t have the cash to pay the security deposit and realtor fee on a new apartment, the teen center was there with the money.
One of my favorite BTC stories involves a teen center regular who served as manager of the varsity basketball team for four years. What he lacked in height and athletic ability, he more than made up for with his thousand watt smile and winning personality. When the coach decided to give him a uniform and a starting spot in the last home game of his senior year, BTC staff was ready. We printed up 700 posters of his smiling face and laid them out on the bleachers before the game. It was the best attended BHS hoops game in decades.
You have my word that we will maintain our commitment to our community and continue our practice of what I call ‘aggressive caring.’ We’ll be reaching out to groups in Brookline that sometimes feel on the outside looking in, like students with disabilities and those just arriving from foreign countries. We’ll make the BTC even more accessible, adjusting our hours and looking at creative ways to provide transportation. And of course, we’ll ensure that no teen will ever be excluded from any of our program offerings for financial reasons.
And, of course, the beauty and gift of this approach is that it doesn’t stop at our front door. Anyone reading this, any community member, can join forces with the BTC to become a force multiplier! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, or to respond when I inevitably post something about a need for a foster home or a pair of downhill skis. We, and our teens, are all in this together.