Future Massage Therapists Send A Holiday Gift To At-Risk Youths

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WESTFIELD – The students and faculty of Therapeutic Massage and Training Center (TMTC) of Westfield recently helped ease the tension of at-risk youth re-entering the community by making a significant donation to Project Hope Chest of Community Access Unlimited (CAU).

Project Hope Chest enables youth members of CAU transitioning into the community from supervised living to live more independently from day-one by starting them off with a package of household items basic to home life. CAU members receiving Project Hope Chest support first transition from the Division of Youth and Family Services system into CAU, then through supervised living stages and finally then into the community.  The Hope Chests are filled with donations from individuals and businesses.

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Students and faculty of Therapeutic Massage and Training Center donated throughout November and December to build their own hope chest that consisted of home goods; blankets; clothes and interview suits; food; first-aid materials; and entertainment.  Donations filled a massage therapy table.

“Hope Chest donations help these young people transition into the community,” said Joanne Oppelt, development director at CAU.  “Sometimes they come to us with their belongings in a plastic bag.  This gives them a leg up on their transition into an apartment and into the community where they will live, work and socialize.  These donations help make them feel at home before they head out into the world.”

Arlene Reardon, owner and executive director of TMTC, started her students’ donation drive as a way to connect them to the community.

“Massage therapists touch individuals every day,” Reardon said.  “We ease pain, bring relief and rejuvenate people, making them stronger.  This donation is completely in line with our mission.  We’re simply touching these young people in a different way.”

Dejane Burwell, 18, is one youth moving threw the transition process.  She has been at CAU for just a few months but already looks forward to benefiting from Project Hope Chest.

“It gives you hope, knowing that people care,” she said.

Joanne Oppelt (center left), development director at Community Access Unlimited (CAU), and Dejane Burwell (center right), a CAU member, accept a Program Hope Chest donation from the students and faculty of Therapeutic Massage and Training Center in Westfield from student Dhalia Bascombe (left) and owner and executive director Arlene Reardon.


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