ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Members of the Celebrate Literacy Day planning committee, from left, Maria Narvaez, Debra Lee Surface, Diana Moreno, Paula Murphy-Roux, Wendy Joseph, Saritin Rizzuto and Patrick Cogan in front.
BY THOR JOURGENSEN
LYNN — With help from five local financial institutions, The Haven Project on Munroe Street uses education to help steer homeless youth to stability.
Eastern Bank, St. Jean’s Credit Union and Metro Credit Union have supported Lynn-based literacy improvement efforts for four years, initially by helping Operation Bootstrap.
Money provided by the credit unions and Eastern helped Bootstrap expand adult education programs. In 2014, the financial institutions focused on helping Haven Project, with Equitable Bank and River Works Credit Union joining them.
“We saw a need. The vision was to create resources related to education,” said Metro Credit’s Saritin Rizzuto.
Financial institution representatives involved in helping Haven and other local educational organizations include Eastern Bank’s Paula Murphy-Roux, St. Jean’s representative Debra Lee Surface and River Works branch manager Maria Narvaez.
Haven drop-in center director Emily Urbina said the banks and credit unions helped Haven buy computers to provide GED diploma classes and educational help to 150 homeless youth assisted annually by Haven.
Founded in 2011, the nonprofit organization helps young people 17 to 24-years-old. Executive Director Gini Mazman said many of the youth left abusive family situations, while others are immigrants who parted ways with sponsors who initially helped them when they arrived in the United States.
The teenagers and young adults temporarily stay with in-laws, friends or people they meet. Urbina said “couch surfing” living arrangements keep homeless youth from holding jobs or maintaining school schedules.
“They have zero stability,” Urbina said.
Mazman said Haven helps the youth bring more stability into their lives by steering them to education, job and housing opportunities. Homeless teens and young adults climb the stairs to Haven’s 57 Munroe St. offices and work one-on-one with tutors.
The banks and credit unions also helped Haven pay for English as a Second Language programs. Metro Credit branch manager Diana Moreno said assistance provided by Lynn financial institutions underscores the importance of education in young lives.
“Living and working in Lynn, I have a passion for making the community better,” she said.