How this beloved, 90-year-old community center continues to be a haven for so many to this day
Isaac Remsen via Capital One
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Capital One

Yvonne Gittens, or Ms. G, as most everyone calls her, practically grew up at the Cambridge Community Center (CCC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She started going to their after-school program when she was in the second or third grade, and basically became a fixture of the place from that point on.

How she ended up there was no accident — her parents and their siblings went there as kids, as well.

"My joke is that I was conceived there," says Ms. G.

"When I was a kid, it was a safe place to be," she continues. "Everybody in the neighborhood went. It was inexpensive. I think we paid 50 cents a year for our membership."

The CCC was founded by a group of black pastors over 90 years ago because the other local community center was for whites-only at the time. In response to the blatant racial inequality and lack of opportunities for black community members, they created a haven for youth and adults alike from one of the few underserved communities in Cambridge; offering a variety of programs and services designed to help close the economic and generational gaps that still exist in the city. But perhaps most importantly, it's a place where people can feel at home and connected to a support system.

It's no surprise that families like Ms. G's keep sticking around, and that community members like her have woven the Center into the fabric of their lives. Once she was old enough, Ms. G got her first job at the Center checking kids into the program. Then she was a camp counselor teaching archery and swimming. When she became a parent, she sent her kids there, and now her kids send their kids. But over 30 years ago, she made an even bigger commitment to the Center — she became a board member.

Ms. G started off as a regular board member, but quickly moved to treasurer, and then onto secretary. Soon enough she was named the board president, overseeing all the Center's operations.


"I held all the offices," says Ms. G.

The most challenging position was when former executive director Janet "Ms. K" Kendrick suddenly passed away and Ms. G became the interim director. The CCC was in danger of closing, but Ms. G says the board members "rallied together to keep the center afloat" no matter what.

"Through all of its tough times, it never closed its doors," she says.

Isaac Remsen via Capital One

Aside from the steadfast commitment of its members, the Center has stayed alive all these years thanks to the incredible support from local organizations and businesses, like Harvard University, MIT, and Capital One.

Since 2016, Capital One has helped bolster the Center in a number of ways. Most recently, they helped renovate the Center's tech lab for the youth who use it every day. In partnership with Capital One, the new tech lab has also launched a digital literacy and digital banking program for seniors in January 2020 called Ready, Set, Bank.

"We worked in partnership with the Center to ensure that the new space would meet the current needs of the people who use it every day," says Aarón Almada, Community Affairs Manager at Capital One. "Our local Boston Café teams helped to assemble furniture and put the finishing touches on the lab before its grand unveiling to the community."

"They are there pretty much whenever we need them, and sometimes they're volunteering to be there for us when we haven't even thought to ask," says Darrin Korte, Executive Director of the CCC.

"Dom Orion and Deb Auslander are the best," says Ms. G. "As Capital One Ambassadors, they have done so many things for the Center. In addition to volunteering their time, teaching financial education workshops and forming long lasting relationships with our members, they also bring us coffee and pastries for the Ready, Set, Bank class each week."

The program will be run by Tech Goes Home, another Capital One nonprofit partner that aims to empower communities to use digital tools and overcome technological barriers. They provide the curriculum and support needed for the program, while CCC will provide the participants and host the program in the newly refreshed tech lab.

Ms. G is largely responsible for bringing the digital literacy program to the seniors in the community. As a senior herself, she often struggles with technology that's supposed to help make business and everyday life easier.

"I've got an iPad at home that I can't even find," she says. "I got so frustrated with it that I put it away."

Needless to say, she knows how valuable such a course will be to other senior citizens in the community. She thinks that it's important that they become more tech-savvy so that they can better protect their personal information on the internet — an area where personal information is most vulnerable.

"It gives the seniors an opportunity to gain knowledge in a small group setting with other seniors, says Ms. G. "The fact that they are learning from people in the banking industry gives them confidence that they are getting good solid, reliable information."

The program teaches people how to use banking apps, busts myths about privacy and security, and empowers community members to take control of their money by learning how to check balances, deposit checks, pay bills and send money from their phones.

Even though the program is provided by Capital One, there's no pressure to sign up with or switch over to the banking institution — the organization simply wants to help people become more knowledgeable and empowered when it comes to their finances.

Ultimately, all parties involved aim to enrich the lives of people in the community. In fact, that seems to be the guiding principle behind the CCC and Capital One. "When we find people to invest who truly believe in our work, truly special things can happen," says Korte.

"It's more than the financial support. It's the people that are real, everyday people," says Ms G.

Beyond that, the CCC's supporters are helping to perpetuate a place where so many people, young and senior alike, feel safe, valued and inspired to become their best selves.

In that way, it offers much more than enrichment. "The Center is home. It's family. It's connection. It's relationships," Korte continues. And as long as caring members like Ms. G and partners like Capital One are around, it will remain that way for local individuals and families who rely on it.

To learn more about the Capital One's Ready, Set, Bank program, visit www.readysetbank.org.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.