Easing tensions between Brazilians, town residents

Liz Mineo

Through a grant from a MetroWest philanthropy, a Newton organization will create a program to foster understanding between longtime Framingham residents and Brazilian immigrants.

"There is social tension between the recent Brazilian immigrants and the longtime Framingham residents," said Emma Reinhardt, founder and president of HERvoices. "We hope we can begin to soften the tension between the two groups, and people start looking at each other as people. It's my belief that tension comes from misunderstanding."

HERvoices, a nonprofit that promotes cross-cultural understanding, received a $5,000 grant to start producing a multimedia presentation featuring personal stories of women and girls from both groups. More money will be needed to complete the project.

The video presentations will feature 40 people, 20 representing Brazilians and 20 representing longtime Framingham residents. They will be shown sometime later this year at schools, libraries, community centers and other public forums.

Reinhardt's group was one of the 17 nonprofits that received a total of $75,000 in grants by the Crossroads Community Foundation, a Natick organization created to keep philanthropic dollars in the area and benefit local charities.

Thirty-seven organizations applied for the grants, said Heather Jack, director of grants and programs.

"We chose them because we felt they reflected a wide array of needs in the community and because they're doing good work," said Jack.

Among those was Accion USA's Boston office, a large nonprofit micro-lender that received $5,000 to fund outreach efforts to the MetroWest Brazilian community. The money will help cover the salary of a Portuguese-speaking loan officer and ads in Brazilian newspapers to recruit new clients in MetroWest, said Matthew Royals, senior associate with Accion USA.

"One of our bigger challenges is to get the word out there about our loan programs," said Royals. "A lot of people are not able to access credits through banks, and we want people to know we're out there and are able to help them obtain loans."

The New England Wild Flower Society also received a $5,000 grant to translate its garden map and brochure into Spanish and Portuguese to better serve those groups, said Debra Strick, marketing and public relations director.

'We had wanted to do it," said Strick. "We're thrilled we can do it now. The garden is also a community cultural center, and we want all the communities to enjoy it."

The new brochures will be ready in July, when the next big exhibit at Garden in the Woods, headquarters to the society, will take place, said Strick.

Of the 17 grants, four went to nonprofits based in Waltham and the other four went to groups in Framingham. Among those from Framingham was "A Suitable Image," which helps low-income women join the work force by providing them with free interview outfits.

The $2,500 grant will fund donor software to help better meet the needs of both clients and donors, said Linda Brooks, group founder and executive director.

The other grant winners were:

  • Children's Charter of Waltham, to create a client database that would help its fundraising efforts.
  • Danforth Museum of Art of Framingham, to help purchase a software package that will help with registration and management of classes, events and activities.
  • Employment Options Inc. of Marlborough, to help create an internal program called Technical Assistance Division of Family Options that will offer 24-hour support and assistance to families with parental mental illness.
  • Leadership MetroWest of Framingham, to hire a consultant to help the group work on strategic fund development.
  • Organization for the Assabet River of Concord, to help expand its Water Wise Workshops to more towns in the watershed.
  • Springwell Inc. of Watertown, to create a program to identify elders with mental health conditions, determine if they are receiving treatment, and identify barriers that prevent them from receiving treatment.
  • Waltham Alliance to Create Housing of Waltham, to help build the capacity of its classroom and conference space.
  • The Center for the Arts in Natick of Natick, to expand its Little Artists theater program for pre-school children.
  • Greater Waltham ARC of Waltham, to help with its Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) training for their staff to expand programs for ASD-diagnosed children and families.
  • Parenting Resource Associates Inc.of Lexington, to strengthen its program called COMPASS that prepares homeless families to be successful in their communities and works to prevent future family homelessness.
  • Cooperative Elder Services Inc. of Lexington, to build an Alzheimer's video library to be used for ongoing staff training, care-giver support groups and community education.
  • Community Farms Outreach of Waltham, to help build greater recognition for Waltham Fields Community Farm.
  • Milford Regional Medical Center (Center for Adolescent Health) of Milford, to conduct a needs assessment to determine resources required by adolescents and their families in the area.

Liz Mineo can be reached at 508-626-3825 or

MetroWest Daily News