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Max Parish '16 was inspired to advocacy by Waltham Group service

Parish had his eyes opened to the struggles of homeless people, and now serves on the board of directors for the Community Day Center of Waltham

Photo/Brett Banhazl

Max Parish '16 began volunteering with the Waltham Group’s Hunger and Homelessness program because he wanted to get involved with community gardening. It ended up opening his eyes to the stories of people experiencing homelessness and fostered a commitment to bring more attention and help to their struggles.

Parish stumbled upon the Waltham Group's recruitment night in the Shapiro Campus Center after a dinner with a professor at the Stein during his first year on campus. He was interested in gardening and asked whether any of the programs had a community gardening component to them. At the time, the only Waltham Group program with that kind of opportunity was the Hunger and Homelessness program's partnership with the Community Day Center of Waltham, so Parish signed up.

The center, located at 16 Felton St. in Waltham, offers services to people experiencing homelessness to help them find stability. Necessities like internet and phone access, health and legal consultation, housing referrals, and sometimes simply someone to talk to. As Parish began to have conversations with visitors to the center, it didn't take long for gardening to take a back seat. 

"It was startling to see that anybody could be homeless,” he said. “These are people from all walks of life who have fallen on hard times. They are trying to get back on their feet and they just need a little bit of help."

Parish served as a coordinator for the Hunger and Homelessness program from 2013 to 2016, volunteering at the day center and organizing initiatives like “Food for Thought.” This initiative collects unused meal plan guest meals and exchanges them with Brandeis Dining Services provider Sodexo for food that is used in weekly meals for the guests of the day center. He also helped organize “Halloween for the Hungry,” a food drive for the Bristol Lodge Soup Kitchen in Waltham and the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Volunteering also exposed Parish to problems beyond the scope of the day center, and prompted him to work with the City of Waltham to address issues related to affordable housing and emergency shelter services.  Along with the direct service work, he helped give people who are housing and food insecure a platform to share their stories by co-organizing “Out in the Cold,” a photo exhibit displayed in the Shapiro Campus Center in 2015 as part of ‘Deis Impact. The exhibit featured photos taken by people experiencing homelessness, illustrating the places they slept and lived.

He has continued his work since graduating from Brandeis in May - he currently serves as a member of the Board for the Community Day Center of Waltham.

"What I really loved about the Waltham Group was showing other people how fruitful and important volunteer work is; that’s something that will last with me," he said. “I hope the Waltham Group will continue to build on its programs and expand its ties in the community for years to come.”

Founded in 1966, the Waltham Group is a volunteer community service organization that coordinates participation in outreach programs for students at Brandeis. Each year, more than 1250 students volunteer more than 40,000 hours through the Waltham Group’s network of student-led volunteer programs that partner with nonprofit and government organizations in the city of Waltham and beyond. The Waltham Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a family carnival, gala and more on the weekend of Oct. 8 and 9.

Categories: Alumni, Student Life

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