Here's what you can do:
Missed volunteer VCO101 & Training or want electronic copies of all the info we handed out?
Here's what you can do:
1. Watch the VCO video!
Soccer Nights isn’t the only thing teeming with life in our neighborhood this summer; just across the street from Russell Field, at the Fresh Pond Apartments, there is a bright red, 4ft x 8ft garden bed, modestly blooming with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, a ravenous mint plant, and much more. It is the plot of VCO’s Youth Garden Club, which enjoyed its second growing season, led by volunteer, Dana Staley. Dana brought her expertise from her position as Garden Outreach and Engagement
Coordinator for the Boston Natural Areas Network. Along with VCO veteran volunteer, Sue Rosenkranz, and a delightful group of new volunteers, Dana met weekly with a core group of kids to explore the world of gardening from the ground up (pun intended!). They began with basics of identifying different vegetables by name, look, and feel, and then took their knowledge out to the garden plot where they planted a mix of seeds and seedlings. They spent the following weeks
watering, weeding, and watching. Things got exciting when it was harvest time, and kids got to take home the spoils of their labor and proudly share them with their families. As the summer went on, the garden club often met for story time picnics, where they would sample healthy snacks and read stories like Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, which teaches about the importance of the environment. It has been fun and exciting to see kids increase their understanding of where food comes from and experience joy in growing things of their own. We’re encouraged by the club’s growth and excited for what next spring will bring!
Our 7th annual Ramadan Dinner was a tremendous success! Held Wednesday, July 16th, at the Fresh Pond Apartments, the night saw a bustling, very packed community room come to life with more than 100 kids and families praying, talking, laughing, and of course eating together. The Ramadan Dinner is one of VCO’s most unique and meaningful events, occurring annually at the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting that many of our Muslim neighbors observe. Iftar, which literally means “fast-breaking,” is the meal fasting Muslims eat at the end of the day just after sundown.
During most of Ramadan, the Iftar is typically eaten in the home with one’s family. Toward the end of the month, as the holiday Eid approaches, Iftars turn into more communal affairs, and VCO has been privileged to cohost a large-scale community Iftar party with our neighbors for the past seven years. “We had a lot of people working together,” said Claire Lindquist, Resident Services Coordinator at the Fresh Pond Apartments. “It was a great opportunity to meet other community members I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I think it’s important for us as people of different faith communities to say we are all together in this North Cambridge community, and it was great to have a space to do that.”
Soccer Nights went by in a flash of five hot, sunny, action-packed days of immense fun and World Cup energy. We had record numbers this year, with as many as 223 kids and 104 volunteers on the field in ONE night. Inspired by the global soccer buzz surrounding the World Cup, our theme this year was “For the Love of the Game,” with our values curriculum and large group activities integrated more into the game of soccer than ever before. It was a blast - kids learned values like teamwork, perspective, perseverance, and sportsmanship, competed each night against other teams in scrimmages and special camp-wide awards, AND watched their coaches compete against other coaches in dribbling, shooting, and juggling contests! We had our inaugural class of Crew, 15 teen Soccer Nights alumni who returned to learn to lead at Soccer Nights, and we couldn’t be more proud of their contribution throughout the week. And parents had a blast during the week, with activities like the ever-popular Mom’s Game, henna and a tea party, and the annual Coaches vs. Parents match. Throughout Russell Field, people of every age were engaged in soccer, community-building, and all around fun. We could go on forever about all the great things that happened during the week of Soccer Nights, but we’d let you see and hear from the folks who were there! Check out the back for photos and stories from the week!
Stephanie Acker Housman has been with VCO before it was even called VCO. She started as an intern during the summer of 2006 and over the past eight years, she played a critical role in helping our church transform our ideas of being a good neighbor into reality. Stephanie’s main community development strategy has been a relational one: to host and attend as many dinners and parties as possible. From Steph we learned, almost everything can be transformed into a party: Iftar dinners, recycling and trash parties, VCO volunteer dinners, and soccer parties (aka Soccer Nights).
This July, Stephanie will be moving on from being VCO’s Master Party Administrator to pursue a Masters in Public Administration. We’ll miss Stephanie’s organization, her cheerful attitude, and her deep and vast knowledge of this neighborhood and its residents. Thank you Stephanie for showing us how to be a great neighbor!
Soccer Nights is just around the corner ( June 23-27) and we think you, yes you, should be a part of it. But don’t let us convince you, let these awesome volunteers convince you that Soccer Nights is not something you want to miss out on.
#5: “It’s really rewarding to not only help others learn to play a game I love, but to also be part of a community.”
#4: “Someone should volunteer at Soccer Nights so that they are part of the best group of volunteers in Boston.” – Grant
#3: “What I didn’t expect was the impact it had on me. To see the faces of the children exude excitement and the fun they had was what I looked forward to everyday during that week.”
#2: “It’s where my husband and I met!” – Andrea
#1: see picture below
Sunday, May 11th made for a triumphant and community-filled culmination of 11 weeks of hard work by 14 of North Cambridge’s most impressive middle schoolers, the participants of VCO’s Soccer Nights Youth Corps. SNYC participants had three goals in planning Family Soccer Day: Bring at least 200 people, Have something for everyone regardless of age and interest, and Have fun! It was amazing to look around during the event and realize we had reached all of our goals: Family Soccer Day brought 207 attendees, with an additional 54 volunteers, everyone from toddlers to grandmothers seemed to be enjoying themselves, and an aroma of fun was thick around all of Russell Field.
The highlight of the day was definitely the dunk tank, which is bound to make reappearances in future VCO events now that it has sealed itself as a crowd favorite. SNYC participants had a place of honor as the “dunk tank victims,” and attendees lined up in droves to have a go at dunking their friends. Other highlights included fun Mother’s Day crafts, skill competitions, and of course, soccer scrimmages!
It was a beautiful day and so much fun to see so many families spending Mother’s Day together outside being active and celebrating the hard work of our Youth Corps kids!
Vineyard Community Offerings (VCO) is the arm of the Greater Boston Vineyard church that works to bring diverse groups of people together to make North Cambridge a great place to live
Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities (sign up here)
Youth Garden Club
Wednesdays from 5:15pm-6:45pm
May 28 - August 20
Fresh Pond Apartments, Garden Plots
The Youth Garden Club is for kids in grades 3-6 who want to try their hand at gardening. Volunteers are needed to help facilitate weekly curriculum and build relationships with club members. Garden experience is helpful but not required.
Thursdays from 5:45pm-8:00pm
May 29, June 5, 12, & 19
Fresh Pond Apartments
Cooking Nights is a 4-week workshop where kids grades 2-6 will develop their culinary expertise. Each week kids will make (and eat) a different recipe or two. Don't worry, you'll get to try some too. Volunteers are needed to help kids complete weekly cooking activities, come up with recipe ideas, and purchase supplies. 2 week minimum commitment required.
At VCO, we think the best way to be a good neighbor is to do what you love in a way that brings people together. Over April Break, a small group from the Greater Boston Vineyard did just that. Led by Dan Persson, this men’s small group is reminiscent of many of our church’s small groups, save for a few integral components: namely, meat and video games. At each small group meeting pounds of meat are consumed and hours video games are played. On Friday, April 25th, the group’s affection for gaming made the perfect match for the dozens of kids and residents in our neighborhood who had long been dreaming of an evening video game tournament at the Fresh Pond Apartments. Small group members, neighbors, and youth joined together for a Video Game Night and, four Xboxes, one Wii, five computers, and many cords later, a shared passion in video games created another unique on-road to neighborliness.
If you walk into the Community Room at the Fresh Pond Apartments on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, you’ll hear discussions ranging from discussing ancient Egypt to the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” Why? You’ve just walked into Homework Club, a VCO program that provides homework help to more than a dozen kids each week. Homework Club was started and run by VCO volunteers Joyce Abraham and Erin Garwood in 2011. Drew DePatie, a Homework Club volunteer of two years shared, “I still volunteer because I think I am making a difference just by showing up and showing that I care about the kids.” Thank you, Joyce, Erin, and our dozen volunteers who have made Homework Club possible for the past three years!