Appetite for Giving

The Tufts Community Appeal, which runs through the end of December, is a way for faculty and staff to contribute to many worthy causes

A Tufts student volunteers at a YMCA pop-up food pantry.

Near Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus are many parents who don’t know how they’re going to feed their children breakfast or dinner tomorrow. In Medford, one in nine households do not have consistent access to food. More than half the students in the city’s public schools qualify for the free- or reduced price-lunch program, and for some, that lunch may be the only meal they can count on.

In September, Tufts students volunteered at a pop-up food pantry behind Medford City Hall and run by the Malden YMCA. Photo: Courtesy of the Malden YMCAIn September, Tufts students volunteered at a pop-up food pantry behind Medford City Hall and run by the Malden YMCA. Photo: Courtesy of the Malden YMCA
The Malden YMCA, which now runs the Medford Youth Center, is working to provide food to these families. It helps feed more than 12,000 children a year in Medford and neighboring communities by distributing food at venues such as parks or community centers. More than 240 residents of the Medford Housing Authority receive assistance from the Y’s Grocery Program, and students and their families use the on-site food pantries at Medford High School and one of the city elementary schools sponsored in part by the Y.

Earlier this year, the Y added another resource for those facing food insecurity, Pop Up Food Markets. To supply the September pop-up staged at Medford City Hall, which offered fresh food and household goods to 115 families, the Y turned to a long-standing partner: the community fund seeded by the annual Tufts Community Appeal (TCA).

“We are so grateful for our longtime partnership with Tufts University students, faculty, organizations, and clubs,” said Debbie Amaral, CEO of the Malden YMCA. “Tufts grants have been supporting our programs and new projects for years.”

Now known as the Tufts Community Grants (TCG) program—many university employees may recognize it by its former name, the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund—this arm of the TCA has been providing grants to nonprofits in Tufts’ host communities of Medford, Somerville, Boston, and Grafton since 1995. Beyond the Malden YMCA’s pop-up food pantry, the fund has also aided a food pantry in Chinatown, bought musical instruments for a Head Start program in Grafton, and bolstered the Somerville Library’s resources for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship so far this year.

The TCA is underway now to raise money for projects in 2020. In addition to the many local endeavors funded by the community grants, the TCA also supports financial aid at all of the university’s schools. Or, contributions to any charity or nonprofit can be made via a TCA donation.

 “The Tufts Community Appeal is a great way to support students at Tufts, local nonprofit organizations, and programs at the university,” said Rocco DiRico, director of government and community relations for Tufts. “Our students, faculty, and staff do incredible work on campus and in the community.  The TCA provides them with the resources to do even more.  Together, we can have a huge impact in our host communities.”

All the agencies who receive TCG money must also have Tufts students, faculty, or staff among their volunteers. In the case of the Malden Y, for example, Tufts students unloaded and distributed six thousand pounds of food—some 229 bags—at the pop-up pantry in September. “It really does take hands,” said Lindsay Smythe, the Y’s director of fund development. “Six thousand pounds of food is a lot to move around. The Tufts students were leading the charge on how best to distribute the food in an efficient way, and with dignity.”

The name of the community grant program was changed this year to better reflect exactly what it does, said DiRico—provide grants of $250 to $2,000 for work to benefit those who live in the communities Tufts touches every day. More than 135 organizations have received funding from the program since it started; in 2019, thirty-six programs and projects received grants.

Mary Jeka, senior vice president for the University Relations division, is boosting awareness and participation in the community grant program by sponsoring a fundraising challenge for this year’s TCA. Jeka will donate $3,000 to TCG if 150 Tufts employees direct some or all of their TCA gifts to the grants. “The organizations that partner with Tufts make remarkable contributions in our host communities,” Jeka said. “Their work is the essence of civic life that we try to instill across our Tufts community. My hope is that this challenge will highlight their important work and that others will join me in supporting these organizations.”

Eric Johnson, senior vice president for University Advancement, is sponsoring a similar challenge, offering $3,000 if 150 employees direct a gift to financial aid at any of Tufts’ schools during the appeal.

For Courtney Russo, a member of the TCA board, donating complements the mission of the School of Engineering’s Center for STEM Diversity, where she is a program administrator. “I work with first-generation, underrepresented students from low-income backgrounds,” she said. “These students are rock stars—they work so hard, but they need resources. I give to TCA to give opportunities to students so they can be just as competitive as the student next to them. Everyone at Tufts needs to help each other.”

This year, staff and faculty can support the Tufts Community Appeal in three ways:

Any Area at Tufts: Help deserving students attend Tufts based on their academic ability and not their ability to pay by contributing financial aid or give to any area of Tufts that is meaningful to you. To give: print the pledge form [PDF], which also includes a payroll deduction option, or make an online gift

Tufts Community Grants: Support host communities and the important work that is done by Tufts volunteers with community organizations in Medford, Somerville, Grafton, and the Boston neighborhoods of Chinatown, the Fenway, and Mission Hill. To give: print the pledge form [PDF], which also includes a payroll deduction option, or make an online gift.

The Charity of Your Choice: Donate to any nonprofit charitable 501(c)(3) organization. To give: print the pledge form [PDF], and include your check. Your donation will be mailed directly by Tufts Government and Community Relations.    

Making a gift qualifies people for the Tufts Community Appeal raffle, with monthly drawings for gift cards to the Tufts bookstore.

For more information, go to the Tufts Community Appeal website or email

Helene Ragovin can be reached at

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