Gloucester residents seeking child care, an affordable apartment, or a ride to the doctor’s office have a convenient new place to look for those and other services regardless of what language they speak.
The Sawyer Free Library recently teamed with Wellspring House to create a free community website, gloucesterconnection.org, offering comprehensive, up-to-date information on the broad array of education, housing, transportation, and other social services available to Gloucester residents through public agencies and nonprofits.
“This is intended as a one-stop platform where you can begin to learn about and access all the resources in the community,” said Melissa Dimond, executive director of Wellspring, a nonprofit that operates a family shelter and adult education programs in Gloucester.
While a resource for all residents, the website, launched April 1, is aimed at newcomers, particularly immigrants with limited English proficiency. The site employs a Google Translate program that allows users to view the content in 104 languages, from English, Spanish, and Portuguese to Italian, Arabic, and even Luxembourgish and Zulu.
To date, more than 50 organizations are listing their information on gloucesterconnection.org. Participating groups can post regular updates of their services and events, all of which are instantly translated into the various languages.
Site users can search for services under six different categories, ranging from job training to health and wellness. There is also a calendar of events with postings by the various organizations.
Jenny Benedict, director of the Sawyer Free Library, said the initiative fits well with the library’s historical mission “to serve the informational needs of the community, and particularly to provide free access to knowledge and ideas.
“Public libraries are increasingly becoming hubs for community connection and having this website supports the people in our community to make those connections and develop a sense of belonging in the city,” she added.
To build gloucesterconnection.org, the library hired Social Capital, a Woburn-based nonprofit that in the last decade created 13 similar community and neighborhood portals in the area. None of those other sites uses the full suite of languages available through Google Translate.
Historically a haven for immigrants, Gloucester in recent years has seen sizable numbers of new arrivals from Central America, Brazil, and the Middle East, according to Dimond. She said the translation feature ensures the website can serve those immigrants and future ones that might come from different regions.
In comments relayed by the agency, two Wellspring clients said they welcome the website as a tool to search for information they need.
“Anyone with questions from basic needs to transportation can get all of their answers,” said Brenda Allerdt, who moved to Gloucester in 2019 and is enrolled in a college readiness program. “It’s an excellent resource.”
“I found so much helpful information on the website, things I wasn’t even looking for but so good to know,” said Roxanna, who is taking an English speakers of other languages class.
“I really liked it being translated into Spanish, too. It made it so much easier and quicker for me,” added Roxanna, who asked that her last name not be used.
The idea for the website came from a series of multilingual focus groups the library and Wellspring jointly conducted two years ago to assess how community members — particularly newcomers — were accessing services.
“We learned from folks that they liked being in Gloucester, but really didn’t know where to begin,” Diamond said.
Drawing from annual state grant money, the library funded the $8,500 cost of hiring Social Capital to build the site and is covering the $1,500 annual cost of having it maintained. Library and Wellspring staff enlisted the participating organizations and are administering the site.
“It’s really important that folks are comfortable in the city and have access to the resources they need,” Diamond said. “This website will help make sure that happens.”
John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.