By Dan Murphy
While Rosie’s Place dates back to 1974 and has the distinction of being the oldest women’s shelter in the U.S., Chestnut Street newcomer Deb Pasculano wants to educate her new Beacon Hill neighbors on how much more the South End-based nonprofit has to offer.
“One of my goals over the next few years is to get the word out that Rosie’s Place is so much more than a shelter and food kitchen,” said Pasculano, who, since September of 2016, has served as board chair of organization that serves 12,000 poor and homeless women each year. “We have so many great programs for helping women that the general public just doesn’t know about.”
On March 30, Pasculano hosted a party at her home, with the help of fellow Beacon Hill resident Leslie Adam, which drew around 55 women to learn about Rosie’s Place. Dubbed “Cocktails and Conversations,” the get-together wasn’t intended as a fundraiser, but rather included a discussion intended to raise awareness of the nonprofit led by guest speakers Sue Marsh, its executive director; City Councilor Michelle Wu; and Susan Wornick, the longtime WCVB-TV news reporter and anchor who traveled back to Boston from her current home in Florida just for the occasion.
With an annual operating budget of around $8 million, Rosie’s Place accepts no city, state or federal funding, but instead relies solely on support from individuals, foundations and corporations. Its accomplishments in fiscal ‘16 included serving over 100,000 nutritionally balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the facility’s dining room; operating a food pantry that allows 1,900 women per month to take home 20 to 40 pounds of food of their choosing to feed their families; offering assistance with housing, educational and employment opportunities, clothing, wellness care, transportation and emergency funds for eviction prevention and medications to 1,1100 women each month via its advocacy staff; and providing emergency shelter for 300 women until they can be placed in permanent homes.
Pasculano said Rosie’s Place also offers a free ESL class that currently serves 300 women, many of whom wouldn’t be able to qualify for similar educational programming elsewhere because they aren’t fluent in their native tongues.
“I feel that Rosie’s Place is very well run and does work that is critical to helping poor and homeless women, within a supportive environment, to address the challenging issues they face in all facets of their life,” she said.
Pasculano began volunteering at Rosie’s Place around 17 years ago when a neighbor asked her to make and deliver a casserole to the dining room each month. Her role with the nonprofit soon expanded as she found herself spearheading a monthly collection of goods, sitting in at the front desk, working in the food pantry and serving meals to the shelter’s guests with help from her children, among other duties.
Also, Pasculano co-chaired the capital campaign the Women’s Education Center nearly a decade ago, participated in a “Dollars and Cents” program to helps guests better manage their finances and, for 10 years, has chaired the spring “Safe and Sound” gala. She joined the nonprofit’s board in 2009, and has since served on the Development, Strategic Planning, Fundraising, Governance, Nominating, Executive, Personnel and Program Evaluation committees.
“Personally, I get more back than I give,” Pasculano said. “I was raised to care about others, and Rosie’s Place lets me use my time working to help others.”
Sue March, executive director of the nonprofit, said, “Deb has been an amazing volunteer who has helped in every aspect of the organization, but the best thing about Deb is her passion and enthusiasm for getting new people involved.”
Meanwhile, Pasculano is now making a standing offer to give her new neighbors a personal tour of Rosie’s Place.
“I would love to meet people in the area and introduce them to Rosie’s Place,” Pasculano said.
To learn more about Rosie’s Place, visit www.rosiesplace.org.