Community Servings is a non-profit organization that supports the livelihood of individuals with HIV/AIDS, life-threatening illnesses and those who are disabled by providing them with free, nutritious and culturally appropriate meals delivered directly to their homes. Rosario Dominguez, Director of Programs of Community Servings shares some numbers that we share with as food for thought. In the last 3 years they have served over 1200 homes: 95% of their clients live below the poverty level, nearly half (46%) of who gets aid are children or families and 73% come from communities of color. The greatest challenge this organization deals with is keeping up with the demand for their services. Learn more about how Community Servings runs so successfully on volunteers, donations and of course the hope they inspire in their client base as we feature them in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.
Director of Programs
BA in Political Science with a teaching certificate (1990)
Masters in Public Administration
John F. Kennedy School of Government (2003)
Director of Programs
Manager of Early Childhood Services
Dorchester Youth Collaborative
Director of Operations, 1997
The Right Start
Assistant Manager, 1996
East Boston Social Centers
In addition: Middleschool teacher, Outward Bound instructor, Counseled convicted drunk drivers and substance abusers, and Taught English as a second language.
About the non-profit
Community Servings is dedicated to providing free home-delivered meals throughout eastern Massachusetts to people homebound with HIV/AIDS and other acute life-threatening illnesses, who are unable to shop or cook for themselves. We provide our clients, their dependent families, and caregivers appealing, nutritious meals, reaching out to those in greatest need. Our goals are to help our clients maintain their health and dignity, provide nutritionally and culturally appropriate meals, preserve the integrity of their family, and send the message that someone cares.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I oversee the following: volunteer department, client services, outreach, nutrition and program evaluation. Every day is different. One day I may be welcoming a new group of volunteers, attending a community meeting and preparing a report for the board and staff. Another day I may be helping a Spanish speaking client access our services, developing a marketing strategy with my outreach person and reviewing a client survey with the registered dietitian.
Most notable milestones
In the last 3 years, we have expanded our geographic service area and the illnesses we serve. We now serve over 1200 individuals per year, from 16 towns and cities in Eastern Massachusetts. I am very proud to have played a key leadership role in making it happen.
What’s the niche?
Community Servings is Greater Boston’s only free home delivered meals program for the critically ill and their families. We serve over 22 special diets in addition to our regular and children’s menu. We have a diabetic diet, a renal diet and even a no yellow dye #5 and #10 diet. Finally, we provide nutritional counseling and education to our clients and the community at large.
If you had a wish list for your organization, what would one of those items on the list be?
As we expand to additional communities, we want to ensure consistency and equality of service from community to community. As a result, finding the right combination of funding to cover all illnesses in addition to meals for caregivers and dependents as we expand to new cities and towns is our greatest wishes.
What are the main challenges found in your organization?
The biggest challenge we face is addressing the growing demand for our services.
As we grow, finding qualified people for new positions has been a challenge. We recently received funding to hire an additional Client Services Coordinator who works with clients directly in ensuring that their needs are being met. The ideal candidate will be bilingual speaking Spanish and English. Over 20% of our clients speak Spanish as their primary language. We also are always looking for new volunteers to help prep and package our meals.
What is one observation you have had since working at Community Servings?
Community Servings is run like a for-profit with a heart. There are systems in place that can rival any small business in regards to best practice. This is all while we continue to be there for the community both in terms of service and employment.
Community Servings is the most diverse environment I have ever worked in. We cross ethnic, racial, socio-economic, educational, sexual orientation and ability lines. Everyone has an amazing story.
What’s in store for the future?
This fall we will officially move in to our new building in Jamaica Plain. This new facility will contain a kitchen 21/2 times larger than our current one and a training room with a demonstration kitchen for nutritional workshops. In this new facility we will be able to double our capacity for meals, nutrition education and hosting volunteers. We also are looking into providing nutritious, delicious meals for schools and programs at a fee and finally, implementing a food service training program.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Always be open to learning from young and old. Also, greet change and uncertainty face-on. It is never too late to go back to school and sometimes even take the same course over again. What you were not ready to learn the first time, you may be ready to learn the second time. That is why I tend to enroll in supervision courses or seminars at least once every three years.
Guiding principle in life
“If a man can reach the latter days of his life with his soul intact , he has mastered life.” Gordon Parks
I do not want to get old and wonder “what if?” or “did I have an impact on the world?”
Yardstick of success
How I feel at the end of the day.
Goal yet to be achieved
I don’t know yet. I truly believe that we need to always be aware of when to move on; when our skills and expertise are no longer needed. I will probably be there in 2 or 3 years. Meanwhile, I search.
Currently, I am thinking of going into teaching at the college level. I also would love to hike the entire Appalachian trail when I am 62 years old. Who knows? There are so many possibilities.
Best practical advice
Pick your fights wisely. If you fight against every injustice then you will burn out. Focus on a few things at a time and you will make a greater impact.
Supportive words from a family member or friend
“It always works out in the end.”
I have been very fortunate in that the majority of my supervisors have been very supportive and given me the freedom to learn, grow, and be creative. They have encouraged me to be a leader. Still, I have always wanted as a mentor a woman of color who is a leader at work and balances that with being a mother and daughter.
What motivated you to get started?
My parents. They were believers of liberation theology and truly believe in helping others. Though my father was imprisoned and tortured during the coup in Chile, he never gave up on his ideals and continued to work towards ensuring equality and empowering others.
Like best about what you do?
At the end of the day I go home fulfilled. So many people volunteer with us because they do not find fulfillment in their day job. At the end of the day, I get to go home and enjoy my family, knowing that I made a difference.
Like least about what you do?
I am reminded everyday that there is poverty, loneliness, hunger and that good people with horrible diseases die and leave loved ones.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer.
What was your first job?
At the age of 14 I was hired to work as an assistant to the family programs for the Summer Program for International Officials and Public Administrators at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. I remember attending talks done by the students and thinking to myself that I wanted to be one of them. I ended up being one 20 years later.
Biggest pastimes outside of work
I love reading and doing puzzles. Currently, I am addicted to Soduko. I also go to all of my son’s soccer and baseball games.
Person most interested in meeting
Nelson Mandela. I want to know why he is not bitter and what makes him keep going.
Leader in business most interested in meeting
Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates. How do/did they keep themselves grounded and focused on giving as much as acquiring when most of their peers just focus on acquiring?
Three interesting facts about yourself
1. Political Refugee from Chile.
2. My mom charged me a penny for every English word I spoke at home as I was growing up.
3. I did a four day winter solo.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
1. My family
2. My work
3. I am still searching out my third passion.
On the Beach by Nevil Shute.
It was written in the late 50s and it is about the eventual annihilation of the world through nuclear war. It follows the story of individuals in Australia living out their final days before the radioactivity reaches them. I read it for the first time in high school and was struck by the choices that characters made or had to make as they faced death. It is ironic that it is my favorite book because now I actually stay away from books and movies that make me cry.
Encouraging and supporting individuals towards careers or volunteering in the non-profit sector.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Individuals and groups are always welcome. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. We serve the client who is ill, their caregiver and their children and we serve all critical illnesses. We are always looking out for additional funding particularly as we expand to new cities and towns.