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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students organize 5K for charity

Published: April 29, 2011
Section: News

The Brandeis-run Waltham Alliance to Create Housing, a community development corporation, (WATCH-CDC) is hosting a five-kilometer run around Loop Road this Saturday to raise funds for its housing advocacy clinic.

The 5k is designed to help support Waltham residents in need of emergency housing by providing them with grants in the hope that the money helps them escape further hardships.

“The reason why we started this fundraiser is because we opened up an emergency financial program for people in need,” Stephanie Johnson ’13, a WATCH-CDC intern, said. “After having to choose between two families struggling for housing because of our lack of funds, we were determined to fundraise. Everything is donation-based.”

According to Anne Schweitzer ’10, the community organizer at WATCH-CDC, the organization “was formed by a group of concerned Waltham citizens in 1988 in the wake of housing troubles at that time. It was part of a movement with other communities to form community development corporations, whose aim is to work with, not for, the community in addressing issues and achieving goals.”

In 2007, Brandeis Professor Laura Goldin and several Brandeis students formed the WATCH-CDC Housing Advocacy Clinic, located on Moody Street, which works to empower local residents against unjust landlords. Johnson explained that she began to volunteer at the clinic last year and, after enjoying her time immensely, she continued her volunteer work this year, recruiting several Martin Luther King Jr. Service Scholarship students in the process. Deeply impacted by her work with WATCH-CDC, Johnson explained her anticipated role as a supervisor at the clinic next year. She hopes someday to become a lawyer, working with advocacy and low-income families.

While there are only two Brandeis interns working for WATCH-CDC, there are many advocates, all of whom are Brandeis students. “An advocate is trained to help residents of Waltham and the greater Boston area,” Johnson said. “Advocates write letters to landlords, work to understand tenant-landlord problems and to find solutions to them.”

Schweitzer explained, “WATCH-CDC, like all CDCs, focuses solely on the community that it is in. We are and will always be a Waltham-based corporation.”

WATCH-CDC helps Waltham residents in a variety of ways. It works to provide affordable housing, holds an adult education class for immigrants of all nationalities, educates residents about their rights and responsibilities as tenants, educates first-time home buyers, and weatherizes homes to lower fuel costs.

“Some nights the clinic is so packed, we have to use every corner, every room to help people,” Johnson said. “I love the clinic, what it stands for and the fact that I can reach out to people and make a difference in their lives. It is a feeling of satisfaction you cannot get anywhere else.”

This Saturday’s 5k is WATCH-CDC’s first fundraiser held at Brandeis. The event is sponsored by donations from many Waltham organizations, and by Powerade and Pop Chips. Food and festivities will accompany the event on the Great Lawn.

“This is an amazing way for Brandeis to work cohesively to support its bond with the Waltham community,” Johnson said. “Please come out to support the event; it’s going to be a beautiful day!”