For years, the Dianne DeVanna Center has been a staple of the Braintree and South Shore community. The organization was founded as a living memorial to an 11 year-old-resident of Braintree who was horribly abused and brutally murdered by her stepmother and her father in 1978. Dianne DeVanna was buried in a simple unmarked grave.
The citizens of Braintree and the larger South Shore community responded by establishing a memorial committee to raise money to purchase a headstone to give her the dignity in death that she did not receive in life. When a headstone
was donated outright, the committee decided to use the money that had been contributed to create a lasting memorial to Dianne and The Dianne DeVanna Center was born. Their mission - to raise awareness of the issue of child abuse and to provide services that would support and strengthen healthy families.
Since its founding, with ongoing assistance from the Town of Braintree and through contracts with the Department of Children and Families, the Dianne DeVanna Center has positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and families by providing a variety of family support and transportation services.
Last year, after determining that the small size of their agency made long term viability a difficult prospect, Janet LaBerge, President of the Dianne DeVanna Center Board of Directors, contacted Ken Tarabelli, CEO of Quincy-based human service organization Bay State Community Services, Inc. (BSCS). They spoke about the opportunities for synergy and possibility of the Dianne DeVanna Center becoming a program of BSCS.
“When Janet approached me, I immediately considered her request to be a win-win situation,” Tarabelli said. “We have always been impressed by the staff and work of the DeVanna Center and the strong support the program receives from the community. We are fortunate to be in a position to help this valuable community resource maintain its identity and fulfill its mission.”
Bay State Community Services is no stranger to mergers. In fact, the agency is a merger success story in and of itself. Five smaller organizations, including Survival, Inc. and the South Shore Council on Alcoholism, came together in 1991 to form the agency and it has been a leader in providing child and
family services in the Greater South Shore area ever since. Two years ago, BSCS brought in the struggling Beal Street adolescent residential treatment program in Hingham and successfully reorganized it. Today, it is a thriving program which successfully serves adolescents with behavioral health issues.
“This merger will not only protect a vital community resource but will increase the effectiveness and accessibility of both agencies,” said Tarabelli. “We know that there are always inherent and unforeseen risks involved in any merger. They take time and a lot of give and take. I believe our experience and open
corporate culture coupled with the integrity of the DeVanna Center bodes very well for the success of this partnership.”
The missions, services, and programmatic culture of the Dianne DeVanna Center and BSCS are very compatible. Both agencies recognize the primary importance of family, community, and a strength-based approach for delivering social services. BSCS is the area’s most comprehensive provider of child and
family services and the activities of the DeVanna Center fit seamlessly into their continuum of care.
The transition has already begun. With it, the Dianne DeVanna Center has and will maintain its name, mission, and all programs currently offered. Clients can expect the same ‘hands on’ assistance the organization has come to be known for – parenting support groups, mentor programs, direct parent aide support, public forums & educational events, and transportation assistance to daycare, therapy, supervised parental visits, and other necessary appointments. Additionally, the DeVanna Center will continue to accept donations such as diapers, toiletries, and gently used clothing for their community closet.
“The DeVanna Center’s community relationships will remain crucial to the program’s ongoing success,” said Janet LaBerge, former President of the Dianne DeVanna Center Board of Directors. “The Town of Braintree has been our biggest supporter over the years and we are dedicated to providing excellent
services to its residents and those of the Greater South Shore. We’re excited because this merger will allow us to offer so much more to them.”
But the clients and community aren’t the only ones to benefit from this marriage. As of July, the Bay State Community Services Board of Directors has unanimously approved five new members who formally served on the Dianne DeVanna Center Board of Directors, thus strengthening the organizations
from the top down. These new members bring a wide array of expertise and experience to the board. They are Kristen Ford-Hernandez, Janet LaBerge, Joseph Matterazzo, Lisa Morrissey, and Joseph Yotts.
“We can never make sense of what happened to that little girl, but we must never forget,” Tarabelli said. “Bay State Community Services is proud to join with the good people of Braintree and the entire South Shore community to protect and strengthen the Dianen DeVanna Center’s mission of helping vulnerable children by promoting healthy families.”
The merger of the DeVanna Center into BSCS became official as of June 29th, 2012.
For more information, go to www.BayStateCS.org or contact Megan Ward, Director of Development, at (617) 471-8400 ext.181.
–Bay State Community Services