Trinity Boston Foundation works to create stronger communities

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Most Bostonians and Boston tourists know the Back Bay Trinity Church Boston, the historic landmark in Copley Square. But few are aware of the social outreach and engagement that takes place behind the Church’s impressive stonewalls.

Founded in 2007, the Trinity Boston Foundation is the service arm of Trinity Church. The Foundation’s mission is to unlock opportunities and change the odds for Boston’s underserved youth.

Louise Packerd, the executive director of the Trinity Church Foundation

Louise Packard, the executive director of the Trinity Church Foundation

It all began with two projects: the Trinity Boston Counseling Center (TBCC), which provides mental health services for individuals, families and groups in Boston through direct services and referrals ; and a summer camp that eventually became the Trinity Education for Excellence Program (TEEP). As these two programs grew , it became clear to church leaders that they were becoming too large to be funded by the church’s operating budget. Finally, church leaders formed the Trinity Boston Foundation as a subsidiary to manage both projects.

Today the Foundation continues to grow under the leadership of Executive Director Louise Packard, who has shepherded the Foundation from the beginning. As a result of Packard’s leadership, the Foundation developed a third program in 2009: “Sole Train: Boston Runs Together,” a non-competitive running and mentoring program that supports kids from Dorchester, Roxbury, Brighton, Jamaica Plain and Boston’s South End.

Currently, the Foundation operates with a yearly budget of $2.5 million. Its staff of 20 regular employees plus graduate interns work with over 500 youths and families each year.

“It’s been great to be on this journey with [Packard], to watch her grow and learn, as I grow and learn, and as the Foundation grows and learns,” said Jessica Leffler, the director of Sole Train, one of the Foundation’s signature programs.

Most recently, Sole Train has been a major focus of expansion. Packard, who sometimes takes part in the evening runs, said, “We’ve been working hard on our evaluations, our metrics, and our data but if you go running, you know that 140 kids running regularly have better mental and physical health than if they weren’t doing it.”

Sole Train hopes to work more closely with the Boston Athletic Association in the future, growing the number of kids participating to as many as a thousand.

TEEP, housed at Trinity Church, is a five-week summer program that continues into the school year. Made up of more than 130 students ranging from rising seventh graders to college students, it consists of a tuition-free character and leadership program that equips students with academic support through experiential learning and community building skills. As students reach high school, they become mentors for the incoming middle school students.

“There’s a lot of creating the community and paying it forward, which is great,” said Packard.

For its part, TBCC has become a model for embedding clinical support in organizations across the city. TBCC works with local schools such as the Dever-McCormack Middle School, City Year, and the Department of Youth Services, the state juvenile justice department, to provide urban communities with clinical mental health support.

In the future, the Trinity Boston hopes to partner with other Boston-area non-profits to build on its success of community building.

“Being a part of a church, we have this incredible building, but we also have access to a lot of volunteers, both within the church and outside the church,” said Packard.

Through church connections, Packard was given two tickets to a recent Red Sox game at Fenway Park. She passed them along to a Sole Train ‘Old Sole’, or, adult volunteer and a ‘Young Sole,’ a student participant. The ‘Young Sole,’ Alex from Dorchester, thought that being able to attend the game made that day “the best day of his life.”

Packard said, “There are so many little things that turn out to be big things, and if we just have those relationships then we can make those connections, which is wonderful.”

Contact Beth Treffeisen at [email protected]