"Discipleship with a Tool Belt"
The Initial VisionThe Boston Project Ministries (TBPM) was originally formed in 1995 by a group of Gordon College students to mobilize teenage volunteers in faith-based service throughout Boston. The Summer Missions Program (SMP) was the first form of this vision (our first group in 1996 pictured here), and is still part of our ministry today.
From the very beginning, The Boston Project has sought to maintain a big-picture, or “Kingdom” focus. We learned from pastors and community leaders about what God was already doing in Boston, and joined our emerging ministry with efforts of local churches and community groups. We continue to value creative partnerships based on Kingdom-centered goals, because we believe that together, we can accomplish greater work than any of us could do alone.
We want to recognize the original founders of The Boston Project Ministries: Cami Foerster, Stefan Foerster, Elizabeth Wilson, Michael Coffey, Mark Pitman, Paul Malkemes, Glenna Malkemes. Our first advisor was Mark Cannister.
An Early Shift
Moving into the NeighborhoodJust a year after our founding, two of the founders, Paul and Glenna Malkemes, decided to simplify their lives by moving to what is now the center of the The Boston Project service area: the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle (TNT) neighborhood of Dorchester. Their apartment initially became the The Boston Project headquarters, and the move signaled a shift in the approach The Boston Project took toward serving the community.
The Boston Project continues to place a strong value on being rooted in the community in which we serve. Our staff choose to live, work, worship, and play in our neighborhood – this is our home! In the early years, we did this instinctively, but have come to put language around this value – you can read more about it in our approach to Community Development.
Listening to the Community
The Birth of New MinistriesOnce rooted in the neighborhood, The Boston Project began to practice Christian community development principles at an instinctive, grassroots level, guided by the tangible needs of neighbors. Our value of listening and responding to perceived needs of our community led to the birth of many new ministries, and we soon became recognized as a valuable resource offering direct services and concrete resources to residents.
Some of our first neighborhood ministries included:
Vacant Lots. One of the first concerns neighbors were eager to address were the vacant lots where dumping and other illegal activities occurred. The Boston Project worked alongside neighborhood leaders cleaning the lots (pictured here), which started our passion for Greenspace Development.
Homework Center. When two kids showed up at the door asking for help with math, we invited them in. The next day, they brought two friends. And then two more. Our Homework Center was born, which continues to provide academic assistance and a safe and caring community for our kids.
Emergency assistance. Families came to our door needing food for dinner, furniture to set up an apartment when coming out of homelessness, or help moving after being evicted. Several of our early ministries met immediate needs, and we are still responsive as good neighbors.
Home repair. Many of our early volunteer efforts focused on mobilizing people to help elderly neighbors maintain their homes and yards.
New Home, New Ministries
A Season of GrowthBuilding on these emerging ministries and community engagement, The Boston Project experienced a season of growth and development.
In 2003, we purchased a two-family home on the our street, which became our Neighborhood Ministry House. This house set the stage for the increase we saw in the coming years, providing a common space to use for community meetings, program space, plus an expanded office and housing for staff.
From 2003 to 2009, The Boston Project added several new ministries and developed existing ones. In 2004, the TNT Neighbors United group began by bringing residents together around green space issues, and became a thriving neighborhood group still meeting today. In 2006, we hired our first full-time staff to work with our Youth & Family Ministries. In 2008, a pivotal conversation with adults and teens initiated our youth employment and leadership development work, resulting in over 148 local youth employed to date.
Seeing the fruit of ministry
Towards ShalomThe Boston Project’s commitment to building and nurturing a strong community characterized by God’s shalom takes time. In the last few years, we continue to see amazing results of our long-term commitment to this neighborhood. We celebrate these recent happenings, and look forward to what is next!
The Boston Project’s focus has expanded from facilitating community service projects to engaging residents as leaders that define the vision and action plan for the TNT neighborhood. Today, we have team that supports the work of TNT Neighbors United including a full-time staff team, 20+ seasonal jobs, and 650+ volunteers annually.
Together, we have celebrated a number of successes, including recognition as a top citywide crime watch group (2007); Hidden Heroes of Codman Square (2008); and Mayor’s Rookie Garden of the Year (2013). Today, we are engaged in the process to become one of the first urban neighborhoods nationally that is LEED-ND certified as part of Boston’s new Eco-Innovation District.