As seen in the Greater Lynn Senior Services newsletter…
Natasha Soolkin (center), Executive Director of the New American Association of Massachusetts (NAAM); seen above with Lesley Hansard (left), Program Coordinator of the Afghan Women’s Workshop; and a program participant (right) at the October 15 Dinner of Welcome.
“This is my most heartfelt thanks to you and the entire Phoenix Food Hub for your exceptional hospitality. It was truly a wonderful gathering, and we couldn’t have asked for a better setting to bring people together. The place has the charm, warmth and welcoming atmosphere, and we are very grateful for your hospitality.”
—Natasha Soolkin, Executive Director, New American Association of Massachusetts (NAAM)
Phoenix Food Hub is a collaboration of the Lynn Food Policy Council (formerly, the Lynn Food Security Task Force), a group of close to 20 organizations all dedicated to fighting the root causes of health disparities and hunger in the City of Lynn. The program offers a wide range of services—everything from a food pantry (funded and operated by Catholic Charities) to nutrition education and counseling to healthy cooking classes in the program’s state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, developed through a generous grant from Mass General Brigham.
“The teaching kitchen is one of the unique aspects of the program and very central to its mission,” says Marilyn Long, Director of Community Programs at GLSS, which spearheaded Phoenix Food Hub and oversees its operations from the agency’s office building in downtown Lynn. “One way we fulfill our mission is to invite like-minded organizations to use the space for events, cooking programs, and more.”
On Sunday, October 15, members of the Afghan Women’s Workshop—a program of the New American Association of Massachusetts (NAAM)—gathered in the teaching kitchen for a full day of cooking and preparation to make an elaborate and delicious traditional Afghan meal to show their gratitude to staff and volunteers. The dinner was sponsored by a grant from the Archewell Foundation.
Food being prepared and served in the Phoenix Food Hub Teaching Kitchen
According to The Daily Item of Lynn, when the U.S. military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, approximately 76,000 Afghan refugees were evacuated to the United States. Some individuals and families were settled in the North Shore area, leading to the creation of the New American Association’s Afghan Women’s Workshop.
“The initial idea was just to create a safe space for these women to come together to talk, to exchange ideas, to meet,” says Natasha Soolkin, NAAM’s Executive
Director, in an interview with The Daily Item of Lynn. “That’s when program coordinators noticed that many of the women shared a common talent—sewing and embroidery. The program shifted gears to teach the women entrepreneurial skills—quality control, marketing, and financial literacy—through sewing and selling their own textile products—allowing them to gain a sense of independence many had not experienced before.
On Sundays, dozens of Afghan women, including approximately 11 of whom are living in Lynn, gather on the third floor of the Clocktower Business Center on the Lynnway to sew and embroider intricate textiles and articles of clothing. Down the hall, NAAM staff and volunteers watch the women’s children in a daycare room equipped wall-to-wall with cribs, toys, and books.
Each item the women create is lovingly handmade using recycled and/or
donated materials. One hundred percent of each purchase goes directly to the maker. The program also offers alteration and custom sewing—services that can be hard to find these days.
The group is in need of donations of high-quality sewing supplies, fabrics, threads, etc., and a few fully operating sewing machines.