New Co-Director Heather Wood Joins MCSM Leadership Team

The Board of Directors of Montague Catholic Social Ministries would like to share our excitement about our new Co-Director for Internal Relations (Operations Manager) Heather Wood. Heather lives in Shelburne Falls and is a graduate of Greenfield Community College and Mount Holyoke College, where she graduated with honors. She will join Susan Mareneck in leadership and oversight of the Ministries, starting in September 2015. Her background embraces study in Psychology, Early Childhood Education, Marketing, Sustainable Agriculture and three children.

From Heather Wood -

After graduating from Mount Holyoke College, I sought work at MCSM, as I knew it to be a safe place where I could put into action all that my life and all that my more recent education has taught me. Across my life span, I have been driven by human interaction, fairness and equality with less focus on cultivating a large bank account which only serves me and mine. The Ministries have always felt like a home which has helped to remind me and keep me focused on the truly important things going on in the world around me and why I choose to lend my time for the betterment of the community as a whole.”

The leadership team at MCSM also includes Cindy Skelly, Coordinator of MCSM’s Home-Visiting Program, who has been Acting Program Manager, and Christine Diani, MCSM’s Women’s Center Coordinator and Data/Communications Manager. Heather will focus on organizational management including staff, finance and programs. Susan will continue to work on organizational development and partnerships, program development and communications with Heather, Cindy, Christine and the rest of the extraordinary MCSM staff.

The model of shared leadership was adapted by the Ministries in 2012 as a strategy for building the capacity of MCSM’s administration to meet increasing need in the community and demands on non-profit organizations including data collection and impact evaluation requirements by funders, while remaining independent. The “Shared Leadership” model (now known as the “Organizational Development Team”) was evaluated in 2013 by graduate students in the Non-Profit Program Management course at UMass Amherst’s Center for Public Policy and Administration. It mirrors the leadership arrangement of the founders, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, which, recognizing the need for structure and accountability also honors the abilities of various members of the team in the belief that the sum of several perspectives often results in a practical and wise course of action.

Montague Catholic Social Ministries (MCSM) has served the families of Montague and Franklin County, Massachusetts since 1994 with free playgroups for children (one Spanish Language Playgroup); a Women’s Center with Open Hours, wellness and job-readiness programs and weekly Respite for Young Mothers; Family Support Home Visiting to strengthen family literacy and provide basic needs support; a bi-monthly peer-driven Parent to Parent (P2P) support group; as well as a Father’s Group (Nurturing Father’s Program). Weekly Open Hours allow families to access Emergency Basic Needs resources such as clothing, food, utility assistance, housing and referrals. Parent Education offerings include - for the past four years, in partnership with many other community providers - a 15-week, evidence-based Family Nurturing Program. Since 2012 two levels of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in partnership with the Center for New Americans, which includes Early Literacy Education & Care for children of adult students, have been offered through the Town of Montague’s Community Development Block Grant. When young mothers with children have access to learn English, children come to school with greater vocabularies, ready to learn.

Founded 21 years ago by local clergy in response to a crisis of violence in the community, MCSM’s mission, to listen and respond to the requests of our neighbors builds on the strengths they have to meet their own needs. Walking with people whose economic, educational or cultural status presents a challenge to their stability and security, together we discern their best strategy to work towards healthy, interdependent, contributing lives. Staff, volunteers and peers develop responses together to prevent conflict, build skills for work and education, nurture relationships for better parenting, healing from trauma, empowerment, advocacy and civic engagement. Strong partnership and trust in the community enables the Ministries to provide over 6,000 services yearly to nearly 1,000 neighbors. Meeting with and listening to the community regularly is our commitment.

Many open doors to walk through - for families seeking respite from the daily stresses of poverty, a crisis of family violence or the loss of a job - lead to a nexus of services woven together in friendship. The intimate scale of wrap-around support cultivates an environment in which each person matters. As the ever-shifting demands of society play themselves out in Franklin County, helping the newly arrived, the most vulnerable, those in unforeseen crisis to stay the course to recovery and to productive lives, focuses us all on the unavoidable, ecological truth - it is in the act of caring for each other that we all survive.

(For additional information please contact, Montague Catholic Social Ministries, 43 Third Street, PO Box 792, Turners Falls, MA 01376, 413-863-4804, Susan Mareneck, x1001, or Heather Wood, x1007, Visit MCSM on the web at <>.)

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