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Wellesley resident lends a helping hand

Posted by Nicholas Goss  May 16, 2011 09:29 AM

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Soon after she began volunteering for the Cambridge chapter of LIFT, a national antipoverty organization, four years ago, Wellesley resident Liz Powers noticed two unmet needs: transportation options for those who can’t afford to take the bus or subway, and free recreational activities.

She created both for the low-income individuals who work one-on-one with LIFT volunteers to find jobs, secure housing, obtain referrals for child-care and health-care services, and make ends meet through public benefits and tax credits.

Powers founded the LIFT-Boston Bike Project in the fall of 2009, after reading about a similar initiative that distributes refurbished bikes to homeless and low-income individuals in Chicago. Since that time, she has overseen the distribution of 15 donated bikes refurbished with volunteer labor, along with new helmets and locks purchased at a discount through grants.

To ease clients’ feelings of isolation and loneliness, Powers, who graduated from Harvard College last year, used her Pforzheimer Foundation Public Service Fellowship to establish free art classes, beading groups, and a sewing collective at two Cambridge-based social service organizations, the Women’s Center and On the Rise Inc., a day program for homeless women. The Cambridge Arts Council recently awarded her additional funding to purchase supplies for the programs for the next year.

On Saturday, artists from the Women’s Center and On the Rise will participate in a collaborative exhibition of their works from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, 138 Tremont St. in Boston. The show will also feature work from artists at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, St. Francis House, Pine Street Inn, and Common Art.

According to Powers, the clients and community members who participate in her art classes are tremendously supportive of one another as they face common challenges. But no one benefits more from the experience than she does, Powers said.

‘‘Volunteering is worth making time for,’’ said Powers, noting that beneficiaries of the LIFT-Boston Bike Project agree to provide 10 hours of community service in return. ‘‘If everyone takes time to volunteer, then it will be a better world. And everyone can volunteer.’’

For details, visit www.liftbikeproject.blogspot.com; Powers can be e-mailed at bostonartcollective@gmail.com.

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