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The Associated Charities of Cambridge.

William Taggard Piper.
The Associated Charities of Cambridge owes its beginning to Dr. Charles E. Vaughan, who, being an overseer of the poor, and also interested in other benevolent work, saw the need and the opportunity for an organization which should investigate applications for relief, record the results of such investigation, furnish the information thus obtained to those who were engaged in relief work, and should also endeavor to improve the condition of the unfortunate through the suggestions and advice of volunteer visitors.

To carry out all these objects is the aim of the Associated Charities, and to form such a society Dr. Vaughan arranged for a meeting in the spring of 1881. At a meeting held later a committee was formed of which Mr. J. B. Warner was chairman; Dr. Ephraim Emerton, secretary; Mr. Henry N. Tilton, treasurer; and the members came from all parts of Cambridge. A somewhat more formal organization was made in December of that year. Miss S. A. Pear was appointed registrar to record and furnish to those interested the facts learned through investigation, and an office was provided by the city in the Central Square building in Cambridgeport.

As a necessary complement to the registration, the work of visiting those in distress was begun in the spring of 1882, and, to enable the visitors to compare their experience and to get the advantage of mutual advice, a conference was formed in Old Cambridge in April, another in Cambridgeport in May, and one in North Cambridge in May, 1884. These have met regularly twice each month since their organization (except during the summer), and have done some remarkably good work. A similar conference was formed in East Cambridge in the spring of 1894, so that the whole city is now included in the system of friendly visiting, so far as the comparatively small number of visitors will permit. [260]

The society was incorporated January 16, 1883, and the late Dr. A. P. Peabody was chosen president. He was succeeded by Mr. J. B. Warner in October, 1884, and by Rev. E. H. Hall in 1891; after Mr. Hall's resignation, Rev. Dr. Edward Abbott was elected president, and now holds the office. Mr. William Taggard Piper succeeded Dr. Emerton as secretary in March, 1882, and he was followed in 1889 by Mr. Arthur E. Jones, the present secretary.

Dr. Vaughan performed invaluable service as director until his departure for California, in 1895; and Mr. John Graham Brooks has made his special knowledge in the field of organized charity and social questions of great advantage in the enlargement of the work now being effected.

In March, 1883, Mr. J. Watson Harris was appointed paid agent of the society with especial reference to the needs of the Cambridgeport conference; after more than twelve years of faithful service in this capacity, he resigned in November, 1895. Miss Pear's conscientious and valuable labors continued until her resignation was accepted in February, 1895. In the following month Mr. Francis S. Child was installed as general secretary, in charge of the central office, where he has worked with the utmost devotion for the past year, resigning at its close. Miss Mary L. Birtwell, who has been registrar for the last six months, succeeds him. Last July the central office was removed to 671 Massachusetts Avenue.

In order to furnish employment to many men who were out of work through no fault of their own, a wood-yard was established on Broadway, corner of Brewery Street, and was carried on under the supervision of a committee of three directors during the winter of 1893-94. Since those who were citizens could be employed by the city, men who had not been naturalized were almost the only ones who worked here. The employment provided enabled them to earn something for themselves and their families, and prevented their receiving alms. This enterprise was conducted in cooperation with the Citizens' Relief Committee and the Overseers of the Poor, and though, as was expected, it did not succeed financially, it accomplished its purpose industrially. It was decided to provide, during the winter of 1895-96, a work test in order to discriminate among those who said that they were looking for work, and an opportunity for unskilled labor was furnished at the City Sewer Yard. [261] About one half of those sent to the yard have done the stint marked out, and have received in payment a substantial meal.

In order that persons who ask for food and lodging in the evening might be referred to some place where they could be cared for if in real need, the central office has been open during the winter from eight to nine P. M.

The Associated Charities will reach its highest efficiency only when all benevolent individuals and organizations cooperate fully with it, by reporting regularly all applications for relief, all that is known about the condition and history of the applicants, and the relief given or the decision reached in each case. Then can the Associated Charities of Cambridge fulfill the promise that every applicant for assistance of any kind, whose case is referred to it, will, if his need be genuine, receive relief from a single individual or society in the form and amount best suited to his circumstances and requirements; that there will be no duplication of relief; and that impostors will be prevented from living on misplaced charity. It must not be forgotten that the Associated Charities itself does not give alms, except in the most urgent distress, but aims to discriminate among the applicants, and to see that relief is furnished to those in real need so far as the resources of the societies and individuals working in harmony with it will allow.

From the first the cooperation requested has been given by the Overseers of the Poor, and to a smaller extent by some of the churches and benevolent organizations. The more extensive and complete this is, the more satisfactory will be the work that the Associated Charities can accomplish; and under the skillful, trained direction of the general secretary, it is confidently expected that the cooperation, which has been steadily growing the past year, will continue to increase.

Up to March, 1895, the expenses averaged a little over $1100 a year, principally for the salaries of the registrar and paid agent. Since then the increase in the amount of work and the employment of more experienced officials has increased the expenditure for salaries, while the cost of rent, printing, and postage is much larger, so that it is estimated that from $3000 to $4000 annually will be required to carry on the work satisfactorily.

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