Helping St. Mary’s Center break poverty’s grip
Four-year-old Kammico Ellison ran to the front door. He's too young to remember that St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Boston, Massachusetts was once home. But for his mom, the staff at St. Mary's Center is still family.
"It's amazing to be back," said Kammica Ellison. "I feel like St. Mary's set me up to be out on my own." Ellison landed at St. Mary's Center when she was pregnant with Kammico. Doctors had put her on bedrest. With no insurance, she was unable to work and support herself.
St. Mary's really was the only one support that I really had for these past couple of years. I do feel safe here.
Ellison is one of the thousands of women who have come through St. Mary's Center, a leader in supporting and empowering women and families fighting homelessness in the Boston area. Each year, St. Mary's Center supports more than 600 children and families through emergency shelter, job and employment training, and educational, clinical, and preventive services.
Amazon will match all donations made to the organization up to $1 million. This is Amazon's third match of its kind, expanding its support of nonprofits that provide critical emergency services to women, children, and families.
"More than 1,000 Amazonians call Boston home, and we are so impressed and moved by the incredible, positive transformations going on at St. Mary's Center," said Jay Carney, Amazon Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs.
St. Mary's Center plans to use the donations for a new community resource center. "There are a lot of areas where we can intervene before [people become] homeless and that's what we hope to do with this community resource center," said Deirdre Houtmeyers, St. Mary's Center CEO.
Solinette Villodas was living on the streets alone at age 13. "I didn't really have my mom and my father. They had their own stuff to worry about," she recalled. "I was basically taking care of myself." But when Villodas became pregnant at 15, being homeless was not an option.
"It changed me a lot," said Villodas, now a mother of two. "I want my kids to have guidance and look up to me. St. Mary's really was the only one support that I really had for these past couple of years. I do feel safe here. I feel like me and my kids are fine."
For now, St. Mary's Center is home for Solinette Villados and her children. She hopes to one day become a social worker. Kammica Ellison and her son moved into permanent housing two years ago. She works at Italian Home for Children, and is pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
Supporting innovative nonprofits
Our support of St. Mary's Center is part of our larger effort to support innovative nonprofits that help women, children, and families in need. Earlier this year, we announced that we will open a homeless shelter inside one of our new Seattle headquarters office buildings in 2020. The 47,000 square-foot shelter will be run by Mary's Place, a nonprofit that helps women and families who are experiencing homelessness. We have provided temporary shelter space for Mary's Place since 2016.
Over the past few months, we have also announced matching donations up to $1 million to both Mary's Place and a Washington, D.C.-based organization called Friendship Place. Friendship Place provides emergency shelter for women and families, and then provides services to help those in need find stable employment and permanent homes.
In an effort to lift more people out of homelessness and poverty, we have donated more than 25,000 square feet of retail space within our Seattle headquarters to a local Seattle nonprofit FareStart, so they could open five new eateries and double the number of students they can train. In addition to donated space, we provided a $1 million match to donations and restaurant revenues to support additional programming and support services over the next three years.