A Refuge for Those At Risk

“We work in Oakland. Many of us live in Oakland. We really feel a responsibility to help our neighbors and our community,” explains Robin Patfield, office manager, when describing the company’s volunteer commitment to St. Mary’s Center in Oakland. Located just a mile or two from Mathematica’s office, St. Mary’s provides a range of services to low-income families, with a special emphasis on serving the needs of preschoolers and seniors. The center is a peaceful sanctuary in an embattled urban landscape.  Oakland volunteer and child

“St. Mary’s goes beyond just providing services. It truly empowers the individuals it serves, and we are honored to be involved with the organization,” says Maddy Young, research assistant, who also guides the office’s volunteer efforts.

Mathematica volunteers have helped in a number of creative ways, pitching in to assist with programs for preschoolers and seniors. Last year, staff took part in a memorable dinner for the center’s homeless seniors, who receive help from St. Mary’s as they transition to long-term housing. “We bought food, prepared and served a huge meal to the seniors and staff. It was just a great party,” says Robin.

This year, the office has focused its efforts at the preschool site. “The kids used to have a dilapidated wall as their backdrop, and we wanted to change that,” says Maddy. In July, a group of Oakland staff spent a Saturday afternoon scraping down the old paint on the playground. A local artist then painted a beautiful design that the kids have been enjoying during their recess time. St. Mary's mural

For Robin and Maddy, volunteer work at St. Mary’s lends a personal touch to research that Mathematica conducts. “When you talk to the homeless seniors, meet the kids in the preschool program, you see the faces, the people, who are behind many of the programs we’re trying to help assess and evaluate,” says Robin.

In recent years, Oakland staff have also provided support for the First Place for Youth program. The program offers services and supports, such as housing, employment, and post-secondary education, to help kids aging out of the foster care system go on to lead productive lives.

Describing her office mates as “energetic, compassionate people,” Maddy Young concurs. “We want to be out there helping. It would be irresponsible to ignore what is happening right in our backyard.”

Intersections: Where Research Meets Real Life

Learn more about Mathematica’s HealthFamily Support, Early Childhood, and Nutrition research.