Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program

Gándara Center Aventura! summer camp scholarship program
to send Springfield youth to camp

Springfield, Mass.­—In celebration of the Gándara Center’s 40th anniversary this year, together with State Representatives Jose Tosado (D-Springfield) and Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield) the local non-profit has partnered with the Springfield Department of Parks and Recreation to offer 100 Springfield youth the opportunity to participate in one summer camp session for free.

The Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program will provide youth (ages 5-18) with the chance to participate in safe, healthy, fun, and educational camp activities. Summer vacation is often the most difficult time for parents to find affordable opportunities for their children when school is out of session. Providing children with the summer camp experience gets them outside, socializing with peers, giving them a chance to make friendships that last a lifetime. It also provides them an opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities that help them gain valuable skills and breed self-confidence.

To be considered for the scholarship program, parents or guardians must complete a short application form and submit to the Gándara Center no later than Monday, May 1. Applications can be picked up at the Springfield Libraries, Springfield Technical Community College Library, Springfield Family Resource Center, Parent and Community Engagement Center (PACE), Bethania Market, and Medina’s Supermarket or can download a copy of the application HERE. Scholarship winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 3. Scholarship applicants will be asked to select their session preference, but due to space limitations, may not be awarded their first choice.

“As we celebrate our 40th year of service, it was incredibly important for us to give back to the community we call home,” said Henry Julio East-Trou, Gándara Center executive director. “Summer can be a very difficult time for parents to find affordable childcare and opportunities to get kids outside and active. Being able to provide this opportunity was the inspiration behind the Aventura! summer camp this program. We couldn’t think of a better way to kick off our 40th year.”

The Gándara Center set a goal to send as many Springfield youth as possible to one session of summer camp. In order to make this dream a reality, camp sponsors and donors stepped up to the plate to help offset the cost. The Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program would not be possible without the generous support from the Springfield community. The Gándara Center, together with Hispanic Resources, Inc., provided the initial scholarship investment of $10,000.

This is the first time the Gándara Center and the Springfield Department of Parks and Recreation have partnered and the first time a summer camp scholarship opportunity of this magnitude has been made available to Springfield youth.

“We are very proud of the Summer Programs planned for this summer season,” said Patrick Sullivan, director of the Springfield Department of Parks and Recreation. “We are very grateful to the Gándara Center for thinking of us on their 40th anniversary and look forward to collaborating on future projects.”

A kick-off celebration of the Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program will be held for community partners and donors on Friday, April 28 at 12 p.m. at the Forest Park Carriage House. Program sponsors will be officially recognized at this event.

“The city of Springfield is proud to be partnering with the Gándara Center,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “The city looks forward to working together to ensure anyone interested in attending Camp Star Angelina, Summer Enrichment Programs, and On the Wilder Side will be provided this opportunity with the camp scholarships offered by Gándara.”

By |April 25th, 2017|News|Comments Off on Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship Program

Cornerstone residential recovery program assists women with successful sober living

Ware, Mass.—The Gándara Center’s new Cornerstone residential recovery program, designed to assist women ages 18 to 25 with overcoming substance abuse issues, is slated to open in the former home of the St. Mary’s convent next month.

This 15-bed, highly structured voluntary program will be open to women who already have completed a detox program and are ready to take the next step in their recovery process. Offering a wide range of tools to help individuals be successful, the program will offer 24-hour supervision and on-site classes and groups facilitated by counselors and recovery specialists every day.

heather murphy, cornerstone program director

Cornerstone Program Director Heather Murphy, LICSW

“There was a need to build the bridge between detox and going back to the community where these individuals live in order to increase their chances of successful sober living,” said Cornerstone Program Director Heather Murphy, LICSW. “So many times we see individuals come out of detox and are sent right back into the same situations they came from with no coping skills; no tool box to help them be successful. That’s exactly what this program aims to do–give them a chance to move forward and lead a healthy, productive life.”

Murphy said the goal for a program like Cornerstone is to help decrease the number of overdoses and create stable environments for those coming out of detox.

“By producing these types of services, we hope that when the clients leave our program, they have all the skills necessary for them to remain in recovery,” said Murphy.

Cornerstone participants will have access to General Education Development (GED) prep classes; learn budgeting; basic math; writing; life skills; health and nutrition; learn interviewing and independent living skills; problem-solving; participate in non-denominational bible study; as well as yoga and art therapy programs.

Last year, the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services reported 150 referrals from Ware alone; noting a significant need in the community for substantial treatment programs. When the Massachusetts Department of Public Health approached the Gándara Center to fulfill the need for a program like Cornerstone, the former St. Mary’s convent fit the needs of the program perfectly.

“The building really suits this type of program since it was set-up as the convent for the church and was already a residential setting,” said Murphy. “The building was designed with second-floor bedrooms and first-floor shared living space; so residents will sleep on the second floor and participate in group activities, meals, and family visits on the first floor. It’s a really nice set-up to allow all these things to happen.”

Participation in the program is completely voluntary and clients are expected to stay between 3-to-6 months to complete the program.

Sara (whose last name has been withheld to protect the client’s privacy), was a participant in another Gándara program, Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services (TSS)—a short-term residential recovery support program similar to Cornerstone. Sara struggled with addiction for nearly 20 years. After going through the detox process and attempting to maintain recovery on her own, she felt her best chance at success was to seek additional support. Recovery coaches, people with lived experience who build a partnership with individuals in recovery, act as allies and mentors and help program participants to develop a recovery plan and work through their goals—something  Sara found as a key to helping with her recovery.

“If I can’t get ahold of anyone else in the world, I can get ahold of her,” said Sara of her recovery coach. “She knows what I’m going through. She knows what it’s like, not because she read it in a textbook. She knows what it’s like to be me. There’s no judgement.”

Sara has now successfully completed the TSS program and is participating in Gándara’s Residential Services for Women program, helping her to continue her journey toward independent living.

Cornerstone’s host agency, The Gándara Center, based in West Springfield, has been providing culturally sensitive behavioral health, substance abuse, prevention and educational services to the region since 1977. The agency was founded to advocate and provide for equal services in the Hispanic community. Today, the Gándara Center serves a diverse multicultural clientele in more than 40 locations across Massachusetts and its family-centered and community-based approach reaches more than 13,000 children, families, and adults every year through residential, mental health, substance abuse, and preventative services.

Those interested in learning more about the Cornerstone program are encouraged to contact Heather Murphy at (413) 237-5296.


By |February 23rd, 2017|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Cornerstone residential recovery program assists women with successful sober living

Gándara Center thanks area legislators for funding support of Hope for Holyoke program

Holyoke, Mass.—Area legislators gathered at the Gándara Center’s Hope for Holyoke program on Jan. 9 to participate in a Legislative Breakfast hosted by the agency and State Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, as a thank you for their continued support of the program.

Earlier this year, the proposed state budget set before Gov. Charlie Baker significantly reduced the Substance Abuse Trust Fund, jeopardizing programing funding and putting it at a risk of closing.

“Our staff did a lot of advocacy work and outreach to legislators to restore the full funding,” said Lisa Brecher, director of communications and development for the Gándara Center. “If that didn’t happen, our Hope for Holyoke program truly would have been at risk.”

Hope for Holyoke is the only peer-based recovery program of its kind in Hampden County and there is no cost associated with participating; no insurance required. The program accepts all paths to recovery; offers therapy and group sessions; social events and job preparedness; and advocacy and recovery coaching. The recovery center opened two years ago to provide a continuum of care individuals to maintain their recovery.

“The legislative breakfast is our way of saying thank you to our legislators for helping to fight for funding and show them how the dollars they fought for are hard at work,” said Brecher.

Hope for Holyoke is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Bureau of Substance Abuse. Of the 10 state-funded programs, the Gándara Center is the host agency for three, Hope for Holyoke being one of them.

“The members were really scared they would lose this program,” said Hope for Holyoke Program Director Debra Flynn-Gonzalez. “Many of them said, ‘If I don’t have this program, I don’t know where I would be; it would definitely put me at risk.’”

Flynn-Gonzalez said the legislative breakfast was a great way to not only thank the legislators for their help in securing the funding to continue the program, but for them to see the continued importance of keeping the program’s doors open to the community.

“Our members have noted the importance of having a peer recovery support system like they receive here,” said Flynn-Gonzalez. “Many of them have gone through detox and aftercare is really important in ensuring their long term recovery and sobriety.”

In addition to Rep. Vega, area legislators in attendance included Sen. James T. Welch, D-West Springfield; a representative fromSen. Eric P. Lesser’s office, D-Longmeadow; Rep. Jose Tosado, D-Springfield; Rep. John Velis, Westfield; and a representative from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse’s office.

“Gándara’s programs connect directly with our citizens most in need,” said Vega. “The work done by the Gándara staff is life changing, and sometimes life-saving, for the people they serve. I am thankful for the work they are doing on the front lines of our community.”

Since Hope for Holyoke opened its doors in January 2015, over 300 individuals have sought support through the program, which is open seven days per week. Carlos Mercado, a graduate of Gándara’s Addiction Recovery Program and an active member at the Hope for Holyoke Recovery Support Center, is currently working on his Certified Alcohol/Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC) and Recovery Coach certifications.

“I still struggle every day,” said Mercado. “But this center is the positive network I need and surround myself with to keep going.”


The Gándara Center’s mission is to promote the well-being of diverse populations through innovative, culturally sensitive behavioral health, substance abuse, prevention and educational services. Founded in 1977 to advocate and provide for equal services in the Hispanic community, the Gándara Center has been providing the Valley’s most vulnerable populations with sensitive and appropriate care for 40 years. Today, the Gándara Center serves a diverse multicultural clientele in more than 40 locations across Massachusetts. Our family-centered and community-based approach reaches more than 13,000 children, families, and adults every year through residential, mental health, substance abuse, and preventative services.

By |January 17th, 2017|News|Comments Off on Gándara Center thanks area legislators for funding support of Hope for Holyoke program

Holyoke Recovery Day

Our Hope For Holyoke Recovery Support is putting on an event in honor of National Recovery Month. This event helps promote the belief that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover from mental and/or substance use disorders. Come out and join us in honoring National Recovery Month!

By |September 2nd, 2016|Events, News|Comments Off on Holyoke Recovery Day

Prevention Needs Assessment Survey Results

The Stop Access Drug Free Communities Coalition is pleased to present the results of the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNAS) that was conducted with 8th, 10th and 12th grade students in Springfield Public Schools in April 2016. The coalition took the lead in planning the survey administration, with support from individual coalition community members and from community agencies, including Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Partners for Healthier Communities, the Springfield Department of Health & Human Services, Tapestry Health, New North Citizens Council, MLK Jr Family Services, and the Springfield Police Department (South End & Forest Park C3 Units).

We offer the data with the following clarification. Student data is most useful when looked at in terms of trends seen over time. Springfield is in the early stages of establishing this type of trend data. Student survey results can be affected by a variety of factors, including student truthfulness, student confidence in survey confidentiality and the number and representativeness of students who are in school on the day that the survey is administered. Bach-Harrison, who developed the survey and produced city-wide and individual school reports from the data, used standardized protocols to delete survey responses that appeared to be untruthful. These protocols are described in the introduction to the survey report. Please feel free to contact us with any questions about the survey administration or validity measures.

The Stop Access Coalition is excited to be working with the Springfield Public Schools and other community partners to establish trend data with increasing validity over time. We look forward to exploring trends that emerge in the years ahead which should assist us in program planning and evaluation to support Springfield youth. The PNAS data show that there is a lot of work that we as a coalition and community can do to support Springfield youth in staying drug free and becoming healthy, successful adults. These data offer important insights into future directions for our work.

For more information, please contact Stop Access Drug Free Communities Coalition Coordinator, Sharon Hall-Smith at shall-smith@gandaracenter.org or at 413-733-9024.

By |August 16th, 2016|News|Comments Off on Prevention Needs Assessment Survey Results