Tufts Community Appeal Enables Faculty and Staff to Support ‘Whatever Means the Most’

Donations will benefit local nonprofits, Tufts financial aid, and programs across all campuses—and 2-for-1 matching grant will extend community impact

The foods that distinguish our individual cultures and traditions bring comfort in a special way, and the kitchen at the emergency shelter of the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) does much more than offer utilitarian space for survivors of domestic violence. Thanks to a grant from the Tufts Community Appeal (TCA), the ATASK kitchen offers a pantry stocked with an array of spices, varied rices, and other staples familiar to its clients, mostly adult Asian immigrants and refugees and their children.

“The Tufts Community Grant (TCG) enables us to tailor our pantry to the dishes that our clients are accustomed to. For example, the spices of South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia are each very different, and we can’t get them from typical food banks,” says Cristina Ayala, co-executive director of ATASK, which operates New England’s only multi-lingual emergency shelter and advocacy, education, and outreach services for Asian domestic violence survivors.

“When someone first arrives, they often don’t speak English, they’re overwhelmed and sometimes even a little scared,” said Ayala. “Then they walk into our kitchen and see people cooking and eating and sharing their traditional foods. Someone says, ‘Try a dumpling, I just made them,’ and with that simple gesture, they feel much more at ease.”

Callout figure indicating the number (35) of local organizations supported by the Community Appeal

ATASK is one of 35 non-profits that were able to provide important services in Tufts’ host communities because of grants from last year’s Community Appeal. Community grants and student financial aid—an ever-increasing need across the university—are again areas of focus for this year’s appeal, which launches November 14, according to Executive Director of Government and Community Relations Rocco DiRico, but the campaign welcomes gifts to any Tufts program or initiative. Last year, the campaign supported 172 individual Tufts programs and initiatives, and many donors designate multiple areas for giving.

That’s the case for Telecommunications Program Manager Deb Mascara, J91, EG14, who’s served eight years on the all-volunteer board of faculty and staff who champion the appeal across Tufts.

“Having lived in Somerville and Medford, I know that the small non-profits receiving our grants help many, many vulnerable and underserved residents in Tufts’ host communities,” Mascara said. In addition to the community grants program, she also gives to financial aid as a way to “pay forward” the tuition remission that enabled her to earn a master’s in engineering management while working at Tufts. “Whatever means the most to you, you can support it through the TCA,” she said.

For Mascara, the campaign is a way for colleagues on all campuses to come together around core values of community and engagement. “It’s not so much about total dollars as about how many of us participate. If enough people give even the cost of a cup of coffee, it can make a huge impact,” she said.

Matching Grant Extends Local Reach

The impact of donations to the TCG program will be even bigger this year because Cummings Foundation is offering an exceptional match: for every dollar donated by Tufts faculty and staff, Cummings Foundation will give two dollars, up to $200,000. Last year, a generous gift from the foundation doubled the $31,000 raised for community grants to $62,000. Tufts trustee emeritus Bill Cummings, A58, H06, M97P, and his wife, Joyce, H17, J97P, M97P, started the foundation in 1986, and it is now one of the largest private foundations in New England.

Graph showing a 396 percent increase in dollars raised by the TCA

“Earlier this year, we had an opportunity to talk with past grant recipients and learn about their efforts to serve their communities,” said Bill Cummings. “Their hands-on work is truly making a difference and reflects the spirit of engagement that is central to Cummings Foundation and to Tufts. We are pleased to be offering even greater match support this year, and we hope employees across Tufts University will join this year’s Community Appeal in ways that are most meaningful to them.”

Mike Arkin, operations director at Somerville’s Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD), which empowers those aged 6 to 26 to reach their full potential through mentoring and other developmental programs, said that the organization is very fortunate to have Tufts students and employees as volunteers as well as a community grant to support captioning and personal care attendant services for participants. 

Social isolation and exclusion, always challenging for young people with disabilities, were a particular problem during the pandemic, said Arkin. This summer, PYD was able to reinstate in-person programming, including its theater showcase in which youth from the mentoring program present self-produced music, dance, and theatrical sketches. Personal care attendants and captioning are vital to ensuring full access and participation for such events.

“When in-person activities resumed, we all experienced a long overdue sense of joy,” Arkin recalled, “and Tufts’ support helped make that joy possible.”

How to Give

Gifts to the Tufts Community appeal can be made from November 14 through December 31. To support Tufts Community Grants, financial aid for undergraduate, graduate or professional students, or any other area at Tufts, donate online, mail a check with a pledge form received in the mail or online, or use Employee Self Service to make a payroll deduction. Three participants will be randomly selected and Tufts will make a $250 donation to a local nonprofit of their choice. Questions? Email communityrelations@tufts.edu.

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