At Budget Briefing, Town’s Social Worker Lauds Cradles to Crayons

April 17, 2024
From left to right, State Rep. Marjorie Decker, Cradles to Crayons CEO Lynn Margherio,
Bedford social worker Christopher Bang, and Cradles to Crayons Director of Operations
Marguerite Dowd. Courtesy photo

From left to right, State Rep. Marjorie Decker, Cradles to Crayons CEO Lynn Margherio,
Bedford social worker Christopher Bang, and Cradles to Crayons Director of Operations
Marguerite Dowd. Courtesy photo

“We are all one crisis away from entering financial hardship. These are moments when our social safety nets can make or break a difficult situation.”

Christopher Bang, community social worker with the town’s Youth and Family Services Department, testified at a State House budget briefing last week on increasing aid for the direct relief agency Cradles to Crayons.

A national organization with a regional facility in Newtonville, Cradles to Crayons addresses clothing insecurity and other essentials for kids.

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The Bedford Health and Human Services Department labels Cradles to Crayons as a partner, ordering diapers, baby wipes, coats, shoes, clothing, and books at no charge each month for distribution to Youth and Family Services clients.

State Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, who is the Legislature’s top advocate for the program, presided at the session. She is seeking a $400,000 line item in the fiscal 2025 state budget.

Bang told the hearing that although the town Health and Human Services Department “has dedicated staff and resources, at the end of the day our department is only as effective as the community partners we work with. Cradles to Crayons is one of those vital partners that gives us the ability to provide concrete support to children.”  

“Cradles to Crayons has built our capacity to respond to community members in crisis unlike any other resource,” he said. “After meeting with a family, we can send a child home with a winter coat, fresh diapers, or seasonal clothing as a first step towards stability while the parents work with us to figure out the rest.”

Bang’s testimony featured examples of how the agency was crucial to meeting needs. He cited a local family undermined by a motor vehicle accident and another that after a long wait, moved into affordable housing, “only to discover that their storage unit had an infestation of rodents that destroyed most of their clothing. In the moment of crisis, we had the capacity to ensure that the children had clothing, underwear, socks, pajamas, and coats.”

He also detailed the role of Cradles to Crayons that helped the town accommodate close to 90 migrant families in an emergency shelter. 

“A majority of the families in the shelter were new arrivals and had nothing but summer clothing, t-shirts, flip flops and were definitely not prepared for winter. Most had never seen snow before,” he said. “Cradles to Crayons not only allowed Bedford to quadruple our normal monthly order of diapers and baby wipes to meet the need, but also worked with the National Guard to make sure every child in the family shelter was provided winter coats, hats, gloves, and appropriate winter clothing.”

He also reported on the department’s diaper bank, initially funded by residents’ donations during the pandemic and now sustained by “our ongoing partnership with Cradles to Crayons” as part of the Bedford Food Bank. He added that “it’s Cradles to Crayons that ensures that we can guarantee a coat for every child in the community who needs it,” again supplementing residents’ support.

“Bedford can be considered a small community but the issues that arise there are a reflection of what many members of the commonwealth face,” Bang said. “Needs among the Bedford community range from food insecurity, mental health support, evictions, utility shutoffs, medical bills, domestic violence, substance use addiction, and child care resources.

“In my experience, most people don’t reach out for services until they feel as though they have no other choice,” he continued. “The Town of Bedford is actively trying to reduce stigma and encourage people, whenever possible, to reach out for services before a crisis forms.”     

Bang said attendees at the budget briefing included aides to Bedford State Rep. Ken Gordon. He said he also saw state Sen. Mike Barrett “before the event started.”

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