Yoga studios around Somerville kicked off 2014 by hosting special classes where the proceeds went to local nonprofits and time was set aside for community-building. Upward Facing Somerville was created by Chandra Cantor, a yoga teacher and Somerville resident who wanted to find a way to connect people by giving back.
And Cantor did just that during the six Upward Facing Somerville events held in January. Attendees raised more $1,600 for area nonprofits and many brainstormed ways to keep helping after the initial classes were over.
“Each event was successful,” Cantor said, who was so inspired by the outpouring of support for the community that she decided to keep Upward Facing Somerville going. In addition to the possibility of having more donation yoga classes in the future, Upward Facing Somerville and Somerville Beat are teaming up to spotlight a different local nonprofit every month.
This will hopefully allow people to more easily find ways to get involved in organizations in the community that need their help. We hope the stories become a resource for those looking to give back and assist nonprofits in spreading the word about their work.
In March, we’re highlighting Second Chances, a Somerville-based nonprofit that provides clothing to people in need. Second Chances has worked closely with Bow Street Yoga (34 Bow St.) in the past and they paired up again for the Upward Facing Somerville project. Bow Street raised nearly $500 for Second Chances and attendees participated in a robust discussion after the class.
“There was a vibrant conversation after,” Cantor said. “It was a model of how I want [Upward Facing Somerville] to be. I was inspired.”
Second Chances Founder Andrea Shapiro practices yoga at Bow Street and was touched when the studio selected her organization to be the beneficiary of the Upward Facing Somerville class.
“It’s an incredibly warm community. It’s been nice to be a part of that,” Shapiro said of Bow Street.
Shapiro, who works as a management consultant for nonprofits, started Second Chances almost exactly nine years ago (March 23, 2005) when she noticed some of the organizations she works with were struggling to meet the many needs of the populations they serve.
She wanted to create a “more efficient way to get clothes to folks who need it so they could be successful.” And emphasized the “importance of people to have dignity and choices to take the next steps in their lives.”
When another local nonprofit that provided clothes to those in need closed, Shapiro had the chance to acquire some of its clothing donation bins and Second Chances was born. The organization now has five clothing donation locations–three in Cambridge, one in Watertown and a brand new one at the Somerville Whole Foods (45 Beacon St.) that opened earlier this month.
“I’d love to be able to grow our program,” Shapiro said. “There’s a huge demand for our services and we’re able to meet a small percentage of it. We’d like to be able to meet more of it.”
Currently Shapiro and a few Second Chances volunteers collect the clothing and distribute it to partner organizations. Those groups give the clothing to people who need it for things like job interviews or weddings.
“We’re not making things more stressful for the folks receiving our services,” Shapiro said. “We’re fairly invisible. The clients who receive our services don’t even necessarily know where to clothing came from.”
But all of those being served by Second Chances are located right here in the community. Those donating the clothes are community members as well.
“The folks that we’re serving don’t have the mobility to access programs elsewhere,” Shapiro said. “We’re making an impact in folks lives in our community. And our donors are folks in our community. We’re always keeping it in the community.”
Beyond clothing donations, Second Chances’ biggest need is cash. Like many nonprofits, the organization operates on a tiny budget and increasing it would allow for things like hiring another staff member and perhaps even opening a showroom where clients could come and select their own clothes.
“We’ve been really successful with getting a lot of clothing donations. Now we want to leverage the generosity of folks in the community to grow our budget,” Shapiro said. “We’d like to have a location that people could actually come to to pick up clothing and donate clothing. It’s very empowering.”
How to Get Involved
Donate clothing: Bring it to one of Second Chances’ bins (a new one opened at the Somerville Whole Foods, 45 Beacon St.) this month.
Donate money: Second Chances is a 501(c)(3) so all financial donations are tax deductible.