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Chesterbrook Community Foundation

Creating a safe space for kids to learn and grow.

By providing free after-school programs, Chesterbrook Community Foundation is strengthening its local community and empowering youth to reach their full potential. Stop & Shop has supported this organization through its Community Bag Program.

Tell us about Chesterbrook Community Foundation.

The mission of Chesterbrook Community Foundation is to empower children, teens, and families who live in the Chesterbrook Gardens family housing. Our center is located in Waltham, and here, we provide after-school and evening programs that focus on mentoring, academic support, and community enrichment.

We have been providing after-school services for about 25 years. It all began when June Conway received the 1999 Massachusetts Crime Watch Officer of the Year Award. She forged a partnership between the Waltham Police Department, Waltham Housing Authority, and Bentley University to develop and sustain the programming.

The Waltham Housing Authority manages the property that we use, and they developed and outfitted our community center. Our wonderful director, Maureen Kuper, oversees the organization, establishes community partnerships, and oversees volunteers. Bentley University has recruited, trained, and organized our student volunteers since inception. Through these partnerships, the children of Chesterbrook Gardens have enjoyed free after-school and evening programming in their own community.

In 2008, a group of stakeholders gathered together to establish Chesterbrook Community Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to enriching children’s lives in Chesterbrook Gardens. This organization oversees the program and provides the funding.

What services do you provide to the community?

For 13 weeks in the fall and 13 weeks in the spring, we offer after-school programming Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Chesterbrook Learning Center. The program provides educational enrichment, mentorship, and one-on-one homework assistance to K-12 students and has several different functions to meet the needs of students in various age groups.

We have a well-stocked library of books and laptops, a lounge, and tons of games and activities. The center also has a kitchenette to make afternoon snacks. Here, the kids can participate in cooking lessons and learn to craft creative recipes.

Separately, we also have teen programming. We call this Teen Tuesdays, which is a night dedicated to giving teens a healthy outlet. The teen programming focuses on college readiness, life skills, and supporting one another through life’s challenges.

What sets Chesterbrook Community Foundation apart from other nonprofits?

The Chesterbrook Learning Center is within the actual community where the residents live. The kids can come off of the school bus and go directly to the center. They don’t have to go somewhere where then they are interacting with different people who they are not familiar with. It establishes an immediate sense of culture and strength in their own community. The families feel comfortable and safe knowing their kids are with their own neighbors. When the kids are finished, they can easily and safely walk right home.

The families feel comfortable and safe knowing their kids are with their own neighbors.

In addition, we offer all of our services for free. This means that the single parent, who may be working two jobs just to make ends meet, doesn’t have to worry about a registration fee to get their kids into an after-school program.

There’s such a sense of love present at our center. It is the safety and comfort that comes from people being in their own community. It really creates a strong culture and reinforces the vibrancy that we see in this community each and every day.

Please tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.

Our director noticed we had a lapse of time where we didn’t offer programming. Some of the kids had graduated from our services, which at the time was typically around 7th grade.

Since we didn’t have teen programming yet, these kids would just continue to come back to simply hang out around the center. They would ask the director, “Can we open up some boxes for you? Can we help you set an activity up?”

Even though they technically weren’t registered anymore, they loved the organization so much. Particularly, they loved the community aspect and getting to be around the mentors and director. As a board and a community, we soon decided there was a need among this age group.

Thanks to the creativity of the director and the mentors, we relaunched the teen programming so that these teens could come back in a more structured format. The kids were really excited to be back and participate.

The greatest thing I’ve noticed is that the kids just don’t want to leave. Even when it’s time to go home, they still want to hang around. This alone shows the impact we’re making in meeting not only academic needs, but also the social and emotional needs for the whole child.

The greatest thing I’ve noticed is that the kids just don’t want to leave.

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

The outside of our center has needed renovation for a really long time. We needed to fence in the area and make the center more functional and safer for the kids. We were recently awarded a grant to make that renovation possible. This was really great for the community because it helps us provide our services in a more efficient and effective way. The kids love the new space.

This is a more recent accomplishment, but over all these years, we’re most proud that we are there for the members of this incredible Chesterbrook community. For the single parent or the two parents who are working really hard to provide for their kids, we are able to provide this after-school center within their own community for free. This enables the parents to work extended hours or go to school while knowing their kids are in a safe place.

The kids will still get their homework done and will be supervised. They will also receive mentorship. All of those elements really create a sense of comfort and peace for the parents.

We have been able to do this for over 25 years through the support of our partners, including Bentley University, the Waltham Police Department, and Waltham Housing Authority.

What do you want people to know about Chesterbrook Community Foundation?

We are at a point where we would love to include more community volunteers. If children are your passion or if mentorship is something that you see yourself doing, we could use your help! We serve a wide range of ages, from kindergarten through high school. We’d love to grow our volunteer community.

Additionally, if you have the resources and want to be a part of the work Chesterbrook does, we would love for you to contribute monthly in whatever way you have room for. A little bit goes a long way. Everything we receive helps families in your own community and enables us to provide completely free educational enrichment and academic support for kids. You can visit our website to learn more about us, donate securely, or sign up for volunteer opportunities here:

Everything we receive helps families in your own community and enables us to provide completely free educational enrichment and academic support for kids.

How will you use the funds you’ve received from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program?

We are so grateful that we were selected to participate in this program. We will use the funds to continue the programming we currently have and expand our teen programming.

Interview with Melissa Wolcott, Development Director

Published July 10, 2024.