Making Opportunity Count empowers local community through additional resources
There are a few handfuls of designated community action agencies that truly stand out among the rest. Making Opportunity Count (MOC), located in Fitchburg, Ma., has thrived through their community outreach, providing systems, programs, and collaboration for low-income individuals and families to build pathways out of poverty.
According to their website, their mission is to empower families to achieve economic security by eliminating barriers and creating opportunities. Nicole Michaud, Vice President of Advancement, said it best when asked about MOC’s clients:
“We’re here for people facing serious crisis like potential homelessness, and we’re here for people who find themselves needing a little extra support, especially since the pandemic when unemployment soared and we could help through our emergency assistance program to pay utilities or rent,” she stated. “If we aren’t able to assist clients ourselves, we will find other resources and be that connector for the local community. We do everything we can to help people avoid crises moving forward.”
Making Opportunity Count serves the 30 cities and towns that span the North Central Massachusetts region. Most recently, MOC has grown programming to include behavioral health and a youth innovation center located in Fitchburg.
The Counseling Center at MOC launched from staff recognizing that there was a need to support mental health in the local area, as well as an additional and important need to create another opportunity out of poverty. Their website states that all services are designed to meet clients’ individualized treatment needs through consultation, collaboration and coordination of care that respects their strengths and differences. Additionally, the center is committed to inclusive care and serves people of all ages, backgrounds, and types of needs.
The Counseling Center offers a variety of languages to bring mental health care access to non-English speakers, and has prioritized diversifying the Center’s staff through a variety of strategies including an intern program. Through grant funding, the Counseling Center provides paid practicum opportunities for students of color attending Fitchburg State University and other colleges in the area. The initiative removes barriers to care, keeps clients engaged, and fosters a relationship between patients and therapists while providing financial support to their interns.
Currently, The Counseling Center is serving over 200 clients since becoming officially licensed in July 2021 and has nine therapists on staff.
Making Opportunity Count also continues to further develop their Youth Innovation Center, located in the Cleghorn neighborhood in Fitchburg, MA.
The Youth Innovation Center looks to provide resources to enable youth in the area to explore and research anything that they might be interested in pursuing for their future. It was designed by the center’s Youth Founders, a core group of young individuals who guided MOC in what they wanted the space to look like, feel like, and what should be included and focus on.
“[The Youth Innovation Center] aims to be a space for them to have the resources to explore what interests them,” said Michaud.
The Center’s space includes a multimedia room for podcasting, music editing, vlogging, and other digital arts, partnered with the Fitchburg Access TV station; a makerspace with a dry studio for artwork and creativity, in coordination with the Fitchburg Art Museum; and an open floor plan for performances or wellness activities.
Additionally, the Center looks to include a mentorship component to assist youth in exploring their interests and hearing from real-life experiences in the local community. “It’s flexible and fluid; we built the space to be able to accommodate future generations of youth,” she said.
The Center is looking to open in July 2022, after final construction is complete.
Several opportunities that MOC brings to the community could not have been possible without the assistance of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce.
“We appreciate the diverse program offerings and networking opportunities from the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce,” said Colby O’Brien, Senior Director of Advancement at MOC. “We love getting to know the different community drivers in the area and fostering relationships, such as AIS, who is providing the furniture for the Youth Innovation Center, and the local businesses and financial institutions who support us.
“What sets MOC apart from other agencies is our holistic approach to services that are driven by compassion – and that is what is needed in the community,” O’Brien said. “We get to see the impact we have on the community – from kids in Head Start or WIC to elders receiving Meals on Wheels. It’s great to see how quickly our staff respond with resources in such a caring and compassionate way and the positive impact the agency has in our community.”
You can learn more or donate about the Making Opportunity Count’s Youth Innovation Center on their website, www.mocinc.org. If you are interested in becoming a patient or learning more about The Counseling Center at MOC, please visit www.counselingatmoc.org, or follow MOC on Facebook @makingopportunitycount and Instagram @ making_opportunity_count.