Polar plunge to aid Lynn nonprofit

This article was published 9 year(s) and 9 month(s) ago.

LYNN – The Haven Project helps provide a safety net for young adults living on their own, but there will be no such net for Program Director Gini Mazman when she takes part in a Polar Bear Plunge Wednesday, to raise funds for her nonprofit.”I will be plunging,” Mazman said from The Haven Project’s offices on Munroe Street. “Rich (Colucci, Ward 4 councilor) agreed to do it, so I will, too.”Each year the Swampscott Yacht Club holds a Polar Bear Plunge and money raised is given to a different nonprofit. Mazman said this year her organization is a lucky recipient; the other is the Swampscott Public Library.”We’re raising money for building a cafe,” she said. “We’ll have some of the young adults work here so it will be job training, and it’s a social enterprise and will help fund The Haven Project.”The Haven Project marked its first birthday Nov. 28. Mazman, who launched the program, calls it a drop-in center but it is really a lifeline to kids on the street. The small but welcoming space on the second floor of 65 Munroe St. offers kids a hot meal, snacks, basic clothing and toiletries, help in finding jobs, housing or shelters, education options, food stamps, and medical and counseling referrals. It also offers Internet access and, more importantly, access to someone who will listen to the problems of kids ages 16-22 who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on their own, on the streets or in shelters. Often that person is Mazman or, more recently, her assistant director, Sarah Rutherford.”I was just able to hire her,” Mazman said, smiling broadly.Her background is in business and marketing, but about 12 years ago, Mazman felt a call to do something greater with her life and began working for social service agencies. She discovered not only that she loves working with young adults in transition but that those particular kids needed help.At age 18, teens are transitioned out of the foster care system but often with little or no safety net.Ebbony Davis said she was lucky. The 18-year-old Lynn Classical High School senior lives on her own after aging out of the foster care system, but she maintains her grades, works and even won an internship at the Berklee College of Music, which she hopes to attend one day.Davis said she had a strong relationship with her caseworker, which worked in her favor, but she understands that many kids coming out of the foster care system or who are labeled “unaccompanied minors” are not so fortunate.”The Haven Project is helpful to me because it has computer access, and I’m able to come and get a meal when I don’t have one, and they’ve helped me find services like food stamps,” she said.Mazman said the center is open four nights a week from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., but she takes calls at all hours from kids who need help. The center is largely supported by the East Coast International Church, which gives the organization space, pays its utility bills and gives Mazman access to its large food pantry, which allows her to send young adults in need home with enough groceries to get them through a rough patch, if need be. She provides hot meals each night courtesy of people in the community who volunteer to cook. Mazman said she likes offering a meal because it gives her and the teens a chance to have that kind of dinner table chat that they otherwise miss out on.Many of the kids she sees are couch surfers, teens staying with different friends or relatives. Some are newly arrived immigrants who come in with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”Our goal is have them get or finish their education, get a job and rent a room by themselves,” she said. “Truthfully, if they can work 20 hours a week, they can rent a room in Lynn. They may not have much for anything else, but they’ll have a roof over their head.”Opening the cafe would go a long way toward job training, confidence boosting and helping to support The Haven Project, Mazman said.”We only need about $20,000, and doing this plunge, I think we can ge

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