April 30, 2014
Jeanette Merren, longtime Dorchester resident, received the prestigious Public Citizen of the Year Award at the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter’s Symposium in April 2014. The award is given annually to a non-social worker who has made outstanding contributions to his or her community and its residents.
Ms. Merren’s contributions include spearheading the establishment of Greenwood Memorial United Methodist Church’s Shalom Tutoring and Summer Enrichment Program, an afterschool program that serves very low-income children with academic challenges who live in Dorchester.
After creating the Program on behalf of the church’s outreach team, Ms. Merren raised funds for scholarships and staff. After several years of operation, the Program closed for a year when funds were inadequate to cover expenses. Now, Merren serves as the program’s unpaid director while searching for additional funding and recruiting volunteers and staff. She notes how important the financial and volunteer support from Greenwood’s sister church, Sudbury United Methodist Church, has been.
Merren spends roughly 30 hours a week at the program while working full-time nights at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Through the years, her community service involved volunteering at her five children’s schools and serving on the Citywide Parents Council.
Originally from Honduras, Merren sponsored all eight of her siblings and their families in coming to the U.S., found them housing and employment. In her mid-fifties, while continuing to work full-time and volunteering at the Shalom Program, she earned a masters degree in non-profit Management at Cambridge College. She also serves on the New England Conference Metro-Boston Hope District Superintendent Committee.
In recommending Merren for the award, Claire Kashuck, former executive director of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries where Merren served on the board of directors said: “Jeanette has always operated with absolute integrity and professionalism.”
When Merren was asked why she spends so much of her time and energy improving life for others, she said, “If I can help a child make a difference in this community, all the work is worth it. I follow my passion and give what I can, that’s how you make a difference.”
Photo by Adam L. Linn