A Massachusetts Woman’s Legacy Helps to Support Health Leads

Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1849, as Anna Clapp, Anna C. Frothingham married Reverend Paul Revere Frothingham in 1892. They resided in New Bedford until 1900, when her husband was invited to serve as the pastor of the historic Arlington Street Church in Boston. While her husband was busy with his new role, which included assisting the poor of Boston, Anna was active in a number of organizations that were launched and run by women. She was a member of the Women’s Municipal League, a group of wealthy women who prided themselves on inviting women of all incomes to join them as equal members. She also volunteered for the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, which had been founded in 1877 to respond to the exploitation and miserable labor conditions experienced by many of Boston’s women. When Anna died, in 1939 at the age of 90, she left a major bequest to the Permanent Fund for Boston.  Today, one of the programs her legacy supports is helping to keep Boston area families healthy.

Health Leads

One day, Ingrid Trench had a doctor’s appointment at The Dimock Center, which provides families in Boston’s inner-city neighborhoods with health care and much more. In fact, the Dimock is considered to be a national model for delivering comprehensive health and human services in an urban community. During her appointment, Ingrid mentioned to her doctor that she recently had lost her job in retail. “Like so many Americans, I found myself out of a job for the first time in my life and I realized that I needed help,” she says. “I needed to tap into community resources to get my kids and myself through this.”

Unexpectedly, her doctor turned out to be an immediate link to those community resources. “My doctor said, ‘We have some students here who can help with that. Let me connect you with them.’” The “students” Ingrid’s doctor was referring her to were with Health Leads, which was founded in Boston by Rebecca Onie and Dr. Barry Zuckerman, the legendary head of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. As a pre-law sophomore at Harvard, Rebecca had been volunteering in pediatrics and saw a direct link between “health” and many of the other problems families had.

Now a national organization, Health Leads is part of a larger movement that is offering a new vision for health care in America. Its programming focuses on promoting health by connecting people to the resources they need to survive and even thrive. Through Health Leads, doctors can “prescribe” food, housing or other critical resources, just as they would medication. Patients take their prescriptions to the organization’s college volunteers, who connect them to those resources.

“The first student I worked with was named Shira,” says Ingrid, “and she helped me with a little bit of everything—connections to nutritious food, child care, summer camps for my kids. She filled that gap between me and the resources my family needed. I’m a proactive person, so between the two of us, there was never a down moment. She was patient and wonderful, and called every Friday to see if I needed anything! It was a difficult period in my life and Health Leads made it a lot easier for me.”

Ingrid was so impressed with Health Leads that she is inspired to switch careers to the human services. “To keep myself busy, I started mentoring kids through Goodwill’s ‘Good Guides’ program and I took a human services class,” she explains. “I found I really loved it. Now, my goal is to get a degree from UMass Boston and prepare to serve my community.” Today, Ingrid still uses Health Leads’ referral services, but she is taking charge of her own life. “I’m embracing my future and moving forward,” she says.