By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Region – The banquet room at the Civic Kitchen & Drink in Westborough was packed May 16 as clients, friends, and supporters of Thrive Support & Advocacy attended a special reception hosted by the nonprofit group’s Board of Directors.
The event, billed as a “friendraiser,” was a way, the board’s president Kathy Powers said, to introduce the Marlborough-based group to those who may not know of its mission.
Thrive, formerly known as Greater Marlboro Programs, Inc., empowers youth and adults with developmental disabilities, and their families, to help them lead rich, active and self-directed lives.
One of those participants – a great example of a young woman “thriving” – is Clara Anderson, an effervescent 24-year-old from Northborough who was one of the speakers at the event.
In a clear, confident voice, Anderson charmed the audience as she relayed her story.
“I have an intellectual disability which means that my brain works a little differently from other people’s brains,” she said.
That does not stop her one bit from leading an active, rewarding life; indeed, Anderson has a schedule that puts most people to shame.
During the week she works at the YMCA in Westborough doing maintenance and office work, and volunteers there as well in the Child Watch program. She also volunteers with Justice Resource Institute (JRI) in Westborough doing things such as Meals on Wheels, Turn Back Farm Time Farm, The Blessing Barn and the Full Circle Arts store.
Anderson also takes care of her adored beagle, “Greta,” for whom “I do almost everything for,” she said. And she now has the confidence to call to check on her prescriptions and appointments as well.
“I love doing Thrive,” Anderson noted. “Thrive has done so many things for me, including providing me with an opportunity to make new friends, an opportunity to attend social events in my community, an opportunity to participate in Special Olympics, and an opportunity to become a better self-advocate.”
Beth Donahue, 28, is another young woman “thriving” due to the program. An athletic young woman who helps teach “boot camps” with her mom, Gina, she has enjoyed the chance to not only try new things, but also to make many wonderful friends.
“Even though they sometimes think I am too tough in boot camp!” she laughed.
Thrive has helped her develop skills and confidence allowing her to comfortably talk to small groups as well as large conferences, such as one in front of 2,000 people with Tim Shriver, the chair of Special Olympics. And soon she will be moving into her own apartment.
Gina noted that Thrive has created a great community that has allowed her daughter and other clients to learn new skills and make and support friends.
“Thrive really gives them a vehicle to be heard,” she said. “And isn’t that what we all want – the ability to be heard?”
Kathy Powers, the president of the Board of Directors, said she and the other board members hoped others would be inspired to join them as Thrive continue its mission to empower youth and adults.
“There are so many ways to help,” she said. “You can be a friend, a volunteer, or on a committee. You can work on a one-time event or as much as you want. We also have people who use their business expertise to help us.”
Also announced at the event was some very good news – the nonprofit recently was named as the recipient of a $250,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation, to be dispersed over the next 10 years.
The Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the three largest private foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn.
For more information on Thrive, visit www.icanthrive.org.