The Braintree-based Dianne DeVanna Center has merged with Quincy-based Bay State Community Services in a move intended to improve family and support services throughout the South Shore.
The two companies announced their merger, which occurred on June 29, in late August, and executives hope the partnership will help strengthen each organization.
According to a release, DeVanna Center President Janet LaBerge initially contacted Bay State after determining that the agency’s small size would make long-term sustainability difficult.
“When Janet approached me, I immediately considered her request to be a win-win situation,” said Ken Tarabelli, CEO of Bay State, in a release. “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.”
The DeVanna Center was established in the late '70s in memory of Dianne DeVanna, an 11-year-old Braintree resident who was abused and murdered by her stepmother and father in 1978.
The community at large responded by raising money to purchase the girl a headstone. But when the headstone was donated outright, the memorial committee decided to use the money to create a lasting memorial to the child.
Since then, with the help of the Town of Braintree and the Department of Children and Families, the DeVanna Center has helped raise awareness of child abuse and help provide services to support families.
While the center will keep its name, as the organization comes under the umbrella of Bay State, Tarabelli is hopeful that the mission the center initially set out to do will be preserved.
“This merger will not only protect a vital community resource but will increase the effectiveness and accessibility of both agencies,” Tarabelli said. “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 main goal is to keep the DeVanna Center intact, Tarabelli said.
"Right now we want to make sure that that program keeps doing what has been doing for years," he said in a phone interview. "It’s a valuable program…and that legacy of that little girl cannot be forgotten, so we wanted to preserve and protect that program."
According to a release, Bay State itself is no stranger to mergers. In 1991, five smaller organizations – including Survival, Inc. and the South Shore Council on Alcoholism, came together to form the agency.
Two years ago, the agency brought on board the struggling Beal Street adolescent residential treatment program in Hingham. Since then, the program has been reorganized and is serving adolescents with behavioral issues in the South Shore.
Similar to past mergers, this partnership is a perfect melding of agencies that focus on much of the same thing – family, community, and a strength-based approach for delivering social services.
"In the future, we can probably grow that program, tie it into all our services, so the future looks bright for them, but the most important thing for us is to maintain the heritage of that program, which fits in very well with us, because that’s what we do," Tarabelli said.
While the transition has already begun, DeVanna Center clients can expect much to stay the same, including parenting support groups, mentor programs, transportation assistance, public forums, and education events. The organization will also continue to accept donations for the community closet.
The organization will also remain in its present location.
“The DeVanna Center’s community relationships will remain crucial to the program’s ongoing success,” said LaBerge “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.”
A bigger transition will be in the board, as five new members who formerly serviced on the DeVanna Center Board of Directors have since joined on to the Bay State Community Services Board.
Their experience will only help both organizations going forward, Tarabelli said.
Most importantly, however, Dianne DeVanna’s name and story will stay at the forefront of the community’s conscienceness.
“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.”
For more information, visit www.BayStateCS.org.