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North Shore teens dig in to help homeless at Lynn shelter

Sarah Cohen of Middleton, Morgan Brodsky of Danvers, and Lucy and Aiden New of Marblehead create a hopscotch game for kids at a family shelter in Lynn. Photo courtesy of North Shore Teen Initiative

JUNE 15, 2017 – LYNN — More than 85 teenagers from across the North Shore joined forces on a recent Sunday to paint, plant, build, and cook at the Lynn Shelter Association.

“It feels good to help homeless families right here on the North Shore because they don’t live too far from us and we are fortunate enough to be able to afford a home and other necessities, like food, but many of these people cannot,” said Mason Quintero, 17, of Marblehead. Quintero helped organize landscaping at the Lynn Shelter Association campus.

The annual day of service, called J-Serve, was organized by Jewish Teen Initiative (formerly North Shore Teen Initiative), a Marblehead-based nonprofit. In addition to the teens, more than 25 adults also helped.

“This was our most incredible J-Serve yet,” said JTI director Adam Smith. “Our volunteers were excited and motivated and they did a huge amount of work.”

The teens built raised beds for vegetable gardens and filled them in partnership with The Food Project. They also constructed and installed shelving; built picnic tables; landscaped the parking lot perimeter with more than 50 plants and trees; painted storage crates; and created hopscotch boards.

Samantha Wheeler, director of development for the Lynn Shelter Association, said the teens’ work will make a difference.

“They’re giving families an area where they can feel safe, appreciated … where they can sit outside and enjoy themselves,” Wheeler said.

“It’s about community building, breaking down barriers between the homeless and people who might not always spend time in downtown Lynn.”

JTI has a strong relationship with the Lynn Shelter Association, sending teen volunteers to read to and play with homeless children each week.

“I’ve always been fortunate enough to have had a roof over my head and food to eat, so offering my time and help is the least I can do to help those in need,” said Ariella Nardizzi, who lives in Nahant and attends Swampscott High School.

She helped organize and paint two hopscotch boards, clean up trash in the parking lot, and landscape flower beds.

“Everyone was happy, excited, inspired, and ready to work hard to complete their projects,” said Gayle Rubin of Swampscott. “Additionally, this year we fed more than 100 shelter residents and homeless individuals and families walking by. These individuals were in awe that teens were out working to make their space better.”

After hours of digging and planting, Quintero was exhausted and had blisters on his hands. But he’s not complaining.

“I’m already looking forward to next year,” he said.

Learn more at www.nsteen­initiative.org.

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