A century of helping others - Community Services Inc. Celebrates 100 Years!


This may be the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park, the founding of the Girl Scouts and the sinking of the Titanic, but locally, one small charity is also marking its centennial birthday.

Community Service Inc. is hosting an open house at the public library on May 5 to celebrate its 100th birthday with donors, supporters and the public.

In 1912, a small group of Newburyporters gathered at the home of John McNally on High Street to discuss a pressing issue in the city — an increasing need to help the city's poor. Their goal was simple — they were going to feed and house the less fortunate.

They bought shoes and clothing for the needy, and more. Written reports offer accounts of the group, then known as the Associated Charities, helping with rent, caring for the sick and even tracking down a man who had abandoned his family to force him to send money back home to them.

That small, informal group has undergone several incarnations over the last century, but that fundamental mission hasn't wavered.

Known today as Community Service Inc., the social service agency runs a food pantry and clothing bank, which are open each weekday in the organization's headquarters in the Masonic Temple on Green Street in Newburyport.

But that's just one of the ways they quietly help those in need in Newburyport, Newbury and West Newbury. During the holidays, Community Service Inc. organizes the Red Stocking program and distributes presents to children who meet income eligibility requirements, and the organization funds a scholarship to send a group of children to camp for two weeks each summer.

Through it all, the charity — which is run by its all-volunteer board of directors and office workers Betty Leary and Martha Arias — stays true to its mission without drawing much attention or seeking accolades from others.

"People don't know there's a charity on Green Street," board of directors President Lorraine Leary said.

As the economy sputters and struggles to rebound, the agency is seeing more clients come in for assistance, food and clothing. The program also has household items, such as sheets, towels and blankets and toiletries.

A large part of their services is to provide referral services and emergency assistance, said Betty Leary, one of the organization's two paid employees.

As the privately funded charity doesn't receive federal or state aid, they are able to provide help in smaller ways as well, said Lorraine Leary. The agency can pay for a bus ticket or help with an electric bill or prescription co-pay, she added.

Still, because they do not receive that additional funding, the group relies heavily on donations from the community. Each year, the Immaculate Conception School holds food drives to help stock the pantry shelves. Churches and civic groups, families and businesses all take part in the Red Stocking program and helps Community Service, Inc. distribute their holiday gifts each year. Last year, 47 children received a bag of presents through the program.

"We get donations from churches, banks and lots of others," Lorraine Leary said.


What: Community Service Inc. Open House

When: Saturday, May 5, 2 to 4 p.m.

Where: Newburyport Public Library, 94 State St., Newburyport

More: The social service agency and food pantry is celebrating their 100th year