: Staff : Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program (BNF)
Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program (BNF)
On Monday, April 8, 2013 TPI and Mayor Thomas M. Menino presented five Bostonians with the Boston Neighborhood Fellows Award in recognition of the power of the individual to make a difference. The five individuals were given an unrestricted cash award of $30,000 for their contributions to their communities. These Fellows were selected for their vision, creativity, leadership and commitment to their fellow human beings.
The Fellows are “unsung” heroes who have received little to no recognition for their services and go way beyond their job descriptions, inspiring others and reminding us all that hope and possibility exist. TPI’s selection committee, working with a network of an anonymous group of spotters who represent the diversity found in the City of Boston, chose the following people as the 2013 Boston Neighborhood Fellows:
Alex Clarke, SPERO, spends his Saturdays at SPERO, the same youth program he attended as a teen, helping young men find a better path in life. His dedication and commitment to the program make him an exceptional volunteer and role model, always encouraging young men to aim high and supporting them through college and beyond.
Toni Elka, Future Chefs, has transferred her love of cooking and the restaurant business to countless young people, helping them pursue careers in the culinary arts. She runs Future Chefs with the artistry and flair of a great cook, always looking at ways to improve the organization and enhance its services.
Alfredo Liriano, Roberto Clemente 21 Sports Program, uses his experience as a father and his love of baseball to connect with young people. The result is a home run: the Roberto Clemente 21 Sports Program teaches young people sports skills and life lessons that help them build community and thrive.
Reginald Talbert, Inner City Weightlifting, a former gang member and victim of violence, Reginald Talbert works with relentless kindness to connect with young men who are likely to be drawn to gangs. As general manager of Inner City Weightlifting’s gym, he uses his set of keys to open doors for disconnected youth, inspiring them and opening their eyes to a different way of living.
Agnes Wong, Boston Chinese Family Support Organization, is an extraordinary teacher and advocate for children with special needs. She has worked tirelessly to establish the Boston Chinese Family Support Organization to help families understand and secure the services their children need. Her compassion and energy are an inspiration to all she serves.
Watch a video of the ceremony
TPI designed the Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program for an anonymous donor as one strategy to achieve the donor's goal of recognizing individuals of unusual creativity, vision, and initiative who are quietly making the community a better place. Each year, six individuals nominated by "spotters," are chosen to receive $30,000 "no strings attached" awards.
Through this initiative, the donor achieves the dual goals of recognizing the power of "unsung heroes" to make a difference while reminding others that hope and possibility exist, even in difficult times.
About The Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program
BNF is an awards program that provides recognition and direct financial support to individuals of creativity, vision and leadership who work in community service in Greater Boston. The Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program celebrates the builders of the community; the social entrepreneurs who often go unrecognized, but who make a vital contribution to our quality of life.
The individuals chosen as Boston Neighborhood Fellows work for government, community organizations, or are outstanding volunteers. Diverse in race, class, occupation, and age, their one common characteristic is that they fulfill a conception of leadership articulated by John Gardner: they will be people who have become less "a servant to what is," and more "a shaper of what might be."
Nominations to the Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program are made by a group of "spotters", individuals representing diverse parts of the Boston community. They serve for a two-year period. During that time the spotters agree to identify individuals who, by virtue of their leadership and service in Boston neighborhoods, qualify for this award. The spotters serve on a voluntary basis.
There is a tendency in all award programs for the selection to gravitate towards individuals who are more visible and less likely to need the recognition and support the program offers. Using "spotters" and keeping them focused on the goal of identifying "unsung heroes" helps TPI mitigate against this tendency.
Nominees must be engaged in some form of community service. They may work for a government agency or a community organization, or they can be doing volunteer work. Some of the Boston Neighborhood Fellows may be hard working community activists engaged in improving Boston neighborhoods. Others may be the dedicated cop on the beat, the inspiring teacher or youth worker, or people with special talents who enhance community life.
They represent the best practitioners of their form of community service, those who perform their jobs with creativity and initiative, contributing to the community in ways that go beyond the scope of their specific job description.
Their working lives represent extraordinary stories of courage, struggle, and commitment. They are self-starters who are likely to make good use of flexible resources. The Boston Neighborhood Fellowships are not awarded to individuals who hold public office.
A small selection committee reviews the nominations and makes the final selection. TPI's staff conducts a complete review and reference check for each finalist.
Selecting a group of fellows that represents the diversity of Boston is prime consideration.
Each Boston Neighborhood Fellow receives a grant of $10,000 each year for a period of 3 years.
The funds are absolutely unrestricted. The recipients may use them to stabilize their personal finances, to take time off for special projects or a sabbatical. Some might choose to go back to school or obtain some skills training. Others might choose to use the funds as social venture capital to seed new projects. Recipients will not be required to continue in their present work.
No reports will be required of recipients on their activities. Other than appearing at an initial presentation, they will not be required to work together or to attend meetings. Fellows are invited to share their experiences and discuss their work over the course of the year, but participation is not mandatory.
Spreading the Word
One goal of the BNF Program is to be a highly visible mechanism for public recognition of excellence in community service. Press coverage of the awards presentation is encouraged.
The Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program provides an opportunity to identify and support the best practice of community service in neighborhoods of Boston.
This program has been replicated in Florida by the Palm Beach Community Foundation, and a similar effort is now in the planning stages in Baltimore.