Westborough Connects continues mission of harnessing community’s strengths
By Catherine Twing, Contributing Writer
Westborough – According to the Oxford Dictionary, “resilience” is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.”
Westborough Connects, a grassroots nonprofit organization, is in the business of building resilience.
Under the guidance of “Spark Kindness,” an organization in Natick, Westborough Connects was founded in 2017 by residents who wanted to strengthen their community.
Executive Director Kelley Petralia was among the founding members. She explains their goal was to help Westborough become more resilient.
“How do we build that resiliency muscle so people can have the tools they need in their tool box to persevere?” she said. “As a parent, as a community member, I wanted something that could be really at the grassroots level, fit Westborough and what their needs are to make a more connected and kind community.”
Growth…in spite of pandemic
In early 2020, they were growing rapidly. In January they hired their first staff members, Petralia as Executive Director, and Heena Suratwala as Chief Inclusion Officer. Then in February they received 501(c)3 designation.
They hosted their first Connect Over Coffee event at Red Barn Coffee where about 30 people stopped by to learn about Westborough Connects, meet neighbors and share ideas.
Then the pandemic hit.
As their resiliency was put to the test, Westborough Connects did what they do best – make connections. When there was a need for face shields for front line workers, they connected Westborough Rotary Club with other groups and resources to make over 1,400 face shields.
In order to stay connected with the community they held a few virtual events, as well as small, in-person gatherings, observing all local and state safety guidelines.
“We harness the strengths in our community. We believe that our work is impactful when we collaborate, addressing the needs of the community as a whole,” Suratwala said. “The whole concept of having a neighborhood is even more important now.”
Support from other organizations and plans for a celebration
Recently the organization has received grants to help them continue to serve the people of Westborough. The Action for Racial Equity Grant from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation funded an internal leadership training and the Bowtie Leadership and Development Inc. also provided a scholarship for the program.
They’ve also received a 2021 community grant from Reliant Foundation to support operational and programmatic costs for next year.
On Monday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. they will co-host the 3rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration in collaboration with Westborough Interfaith Association, Westborough Public Schools and Central Massachusetts Connections in Faith. This year the event will be virtual and will feature activist Jamele Adams.
“We also plan to continue connecting our community and building neighborhoods through our Connect Over Coffee initiative,” Petralia said. They will also grow their Turquoise Table project, which is a similar initiative to bring neighbors together in an informal environment.
Further into 2021 they are planning their 3rd annual kindness week, to begin Sunday, March 21.
For more information about Westborough Connects click here.