United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

January 25, 2013

A Good Start

Each month, Fred Robbins, 76 years old, homeless and afflicted with a recurring heart condition, draws from his checking and savings account at the Bank of America branch in 460 West Broadway in South Boston. He receives a small Social Security payment every month, a sum that falls short of basic needs expenses. So he sleeps in the airport.

Valerie Ferry, the Banking Center Manager at the Bank of America West Broadway branch, watched all this and her heart broke.

“I don’t know how much more of this situation he can take,” she wrote in a letter to her supervisor. “If there is anything that we can do for him, I would love to help. I am afraid for him.”

Moved by Ferry’s concern for Robbins’ well-being, the supervisor connected her to United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Soon, Diane Franz, Senior Director of Community Impact, was plugged in, marshalling the agency’s resources on behalf of Fred Robbins.

“We were able to do what United Way does best,” Franz said. “We connected the dots. We brought our expertise and influences to bear to find a way we could change this man’s life.”

Valerie accompanied Fred to a meeting with HomeStart, a United Way partner agency that works to transition families and individuals from homelessness to permanent housing, and helped him fill out an application. Work has begun in earnest to prepare a new apartment for him.

By accessing United Way’s Gifts-in-Kind donation program, Franz and her colleagues were able to secure all manner of household items.

“It’s a start,” Franz says.

Everything important needs a start. In the case of Fred Robbins, a man who whose odyssey will take him from nights on an airport bench to a fully-furnished apartment of his own,  his life was changed forever because of the initial compassion of a bank manager from Southie.