Be Connected: Stories from our employees in the Office of Public Service and Community Engagement
This week, we have a story from the Office of Public Service and Community Engagement.
Under the Civic Engagement Cabinet, the Office of Public Service and Community Engagement (OPS) delivers collaborative partnerships and programs that promote engagement, awareness, and service in communities throughout the City of Boston. Of course, OPS has had to pivot since the onset of COVID-19. Nevertheless, they continue working to involve, inspire, and improve.
From the beginning of the pandemic, OPS focused on helping the City meet the immediate needs of our most vulnerable residents, including assisting with food and proper PPE distribution. Over the past few months, OPS managed to host twelve community clean ups, and successfully provided residents a safe, socially distanced opportunity to stay active and beautify their neighborhoods. They’ve moved a majority of their regularly scheduled programming online, however, and are continuing most of their outreach and community events virtually.
The team is mindful that this shift poses challenges for residents who don’t own personal computers, are unfamiliar with technology, or aren’t equipped with the right software to participate meaningfully in a digital environment. “While it is good that we have the option to still provide programming, it is a disconnect with some residents who do not have the necessary access or resources,” said OPS Director of Outreach and Service, Kaira Fox.
OPS is also helping to coordinate the City's volunteer initiative, connecting residents (as well as City employees) with a variety of opportunities to help the City meet the needs of the moment — whether that be volunteers to staff food distribution and testing sites, make cloth masks for people in recovery and facing homelessness, enter data into spreadsheets, or provide translation services as needed.
“Right now, the most urgent need is assisting children transitioning back to school with the necessary supplies and safety materials,” said Kaira. “We’re hosting a Back to School Drive to support BPS students for the upcoming school year, and we need help spreading the word. We’re also collecting donations through this Saturday, October 10th.”
Civic engagement may look different these days, but Kaira and the OPS team stress that this is a crucial time to support residents impacted by COVID-19, whether financially, mentally or physically. “The City of Boston has a lot of great options to offer people who want to give back and get involved, and we have a duty to make sure that they are aware of those opportunities.”
The Office of Public Service and Community Engagement has two drop off locations in Allston/Brighton and East Boston where they will be accepting donations for the Back to School Drive. Donations will be accepted until October 10. Email Publicservice@boston.gov to coordinate a pick-up and dropoff, and help spread the word through your internal, external and social media channels using this toolkit.
Sign up online to receive additional volunteer opportunities through the Office of Public Service and Community Engagement.