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Family's Gift Creates the Between the Cracks Fund

March 31, 2014

Lois Melvoin represents the second generation of her family to provide meaningful community service on the North Shore. When Lois joined the staff of the North Shore Senior Center in 1985, she was following the example set by her mother, Rose Grauer Caspary, a North Shore Senior Center member and dedicated community volunteer.

Having studied at Mount Holyoke and Northwestern University, Lois originally planned on becoming a teacher. When she and her husband, Hugo, relocated to Cambridge in 1950, she enrolled at Boston University. However, a “new arrival” intervened. Three children and 34 years later, Lois earned her undergraduate degree from Northeastern Illinois University. She had also discovered that her true passion was social work. After doing her field work at the newly established House of Welcome, Lois was hired as part of the North Shore Senior Center’s Community Care Program and counseling staff. Lois had an innately cheerful manner and an immense respect for her clients. Her thoughtful awareness of the sensitivity required to determine qualification for financial aid enabled her to become an effective case manager.

Occasionally, Lois found that clients had special, one-time needs that required immediate action. While the dollar amount was often relatively small, the funds would provide significant benefit to the affected individual. In many cases, the clients were low-income and had to choose between paying for certain basic necessities, such as food or medications, simply because they could not afford both. Lois believed there had to be a solution to prevent critical needs from simply slipping “between the cracks.”

With goal in mind and design in hand, Lois and her supportive spouse made a modest deposit in 1993 to create what was, until now, the anonymous “Between the Cracks” Fund. The plan was simple: When a potential need was identified, staff submitted an informal written request to department heads for approval of the expense. As the Fund was consumed, an annual supplement was provided.

On her 80th birthday in 2010, Lois’s family persuaded her to drop the anonymity of this program in order to honor and acknowledge her generous spirit. To back their words with meaningful action, all Lois’s children and grandchildren joined together to make a major contribution of their own.

Two generations of community service have turned into four—with more coming, due to the arrival of two great-grandchildren. We are confident that they will become the fifth generation of this warm-hearted family to do their part to help others whose needs have slipped “between the cracks.”