Editor’s note: SOURCE requested a Q&A with South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) CEO Jim Cuddy as he retired after 37 years. On June 21 SOURCE editor Susan Petroni emailed Cuddy 13 questions.
1. First what is SMOC, for thsoe who don’t know, and why is SMOC needed in MetroWest? Framingham?
2. How has SMOC services changed since you began?
3. Tell me one story about how SMOC changes lives.
4. What do you think is the biggest accomplishment during your tenure?
5. What didn’t you accomplish that you wanted to?
6. For some, SMOC is a negative in the City of Framingham. How can that perception be changed?
7. The homeless population has exploded over the last 5 years in downtown Framingham Several business owners have complained over the last couple of years. What can be done to not only help the individuals but to help the business community? What role can SMOC play? Is a Pine Street-inn type facility needed downtown?
8. Speaking of Housing. Framingham lacks affordable housing, and the new apartments towers in downtown are not really affordable. What role can SMOC play to bring affordable housing to the area?
9. How did SMOC make the community better during the pandemic?
10. What do you see as the 3 great issues in the SMOC area? How can SMOC work to solve them?
11. Tell me 3 programs you have launched as director and how they make the community better.
12. You have been a huge fan of community art. There are the murals and statues by the new SMOC HQ, but what is with those dragons all over the city?
13. Finally, what do you think your legacy with SMOC will be?
On June 24, Cuddy provided the news outlet with a video where he answered questions, asked by someone from SMOC. Some were the SOURCE questions and some were other questions.
SOURCE intern Molly Bronner transcribed the Q&A from the video. The transcription is below.
SOURCE: What is SMOC? For those who don’t know? And why is SMOC needed in MetroWest Framingham?
Jim Cuddy: Everybody knows SMOC. No, I’m just kidding. So SMOC is an acronym. It stands for the South Middlesex Opportunity Council. And SMOC is what they call the designated anti-poverty agency for South Middlesex. It was established out of the war on poverty in the 1960s, which really created federal enabling legislation for local communities to set up programs that would address the root causes and symptoms of poverty, and a SMOC got established in 1965 as the anti-poverty agency for Framingham and eight other communities in the MetroWest region. And over the years, over the past 50 years, we’ve also become a regional mental health provider, a regional Community Development Corporation, and a regional social service provider. So the SMOC that you see today, while it has its roots and origins in the anti-poverty, government response to anti-poverty, has evolved over the years in an attempt to meet the needs of disadvantaged and disabled people in the South Middlesex region.
And over the years, we’ve taken on a broader geographical mandate, especially with providing housing for disadvantaged and disabled families and individuals, and a broader role outside of the original nine communities in the provision of social services. So as the second part of the question about why is this needed, you know, the issue with why it is needed hasn’t really changed over the past 60 years, when the beginnings of the War on Poverty started. It started because there were fundamental inequalities in this country that really led to a significant part of the population being left out of the so-called American dream, whether it was because of lack of opportunity, color of skin, educational advancement, culture, or religion, or disability, there was a lot of people that had been left out of this, left out of the, the mainstream of America and the government back then really felt that the government had a responsibility to try to address those issues. And those things, those conditions and the symptoms and the root causes, they still exist today 60 years later. So that’s why we’re here. And we’re going to be here until there’s equality and justice throughout each and every community in this country.
SOURCE: How has SMOC services changed since it began?
Jim Cuddy: Well, so I’ve been here for 30, nearly 37 years. So that means I really started when the agency was probably 20 years…had been in existence for 20 years, had been founded by a local group of folks. These efforts were well documented in a book that Holly Hollingsworth wrote about SMOC and its culture of care.
So the original formation of SMOC was around the head start program, which was really a federal program that went hand in hand with the economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and was tied into a head start program, which was, again, a new government funded program that actually began as a Ford Foundation grant pilot program in certain communities. Boston, which was one of the communities that really started back in 1962.
So the original program for SMOC was head start. And that’s where the agency center was
based. In addition to that, the agency started to try to address the issues that disadvantaged
people were facing. By hiring, I think what you would consider to be community organizers or
community advocates back in the mid 60s. When they started, they received a federal grant.
And with that federal grant, they were able to pay for some administration, and also pay for
some community organizers. Margaret Davitt, who was a 50 year employee of the agency,
before her retirement, actually worked for the agency for 50 years, starting in 1967, and retiring
in 2017, actually started as a community advocate. And so it was fascinating to listen to her talk
about how the agency had grown and evolved over the years. When I came to the agency at the beginning of 1985, we still had that community approach. And we had done things like working with membership groups around energy. So our organizers had become energy advocates. And later on those energy advocates had become…losing track of words here…but that really morphed into an organization called the People’s Energy Resource Cooperative, and then moved into what they now call the Conservation Services Group, which is a national effort to address energy inequality and energy conservation. Very exciting. So SMOC was part of that.
And that’s when I came in.
At age 20, they had started this cooperative that grew into something that became entirely separate, and really became a force for the good across the country. The other thing that was going on at that time was the membership cooperative for low income women.
And as we looked at that, when I started in 1985, we decided that we wanted to focus on housing inequality issues. So we opened up a resource center. And we talked, we worked
with the Women’s Alliance, and that morphed into the resource centers that we opened in 1986 in Framingham, and right after that in Marlboro. So the social service program at the time, in addition to head start, was that we had started a daycare, a daycare program, in 1972. When energy became a real national issue with the oil shortages in the early 70s, the government started doing things like fuel assistance, and providing fuel assistance and then addressing some energy conservation issues. So they were also a part of SMOC. So those were the really fundamental programs with SMOC: fuel assistance, weatherization, head start, daycare, and our elderly nutrition. We had become an elderly nutrition provider. And we continued to do that until about 15 years ago, when we transferred that program to the local area agency on the aging bypass and so we no longer do that. But that was one of the programs.
And so gradually over the course of time, over the last 35 years, we’ve become a mental health provider. We became a community development provider, meaning we did both housing, workforce training, and small business assistance. And then we became a rental housing provider; we became the local administering authority on a regional program on a regional basis for the section eight program. And then really began our housing efforts, which are now statewide, focusing on helping communities redevelop distressed properties, and really beginning a whole housing push around affordable housing for families. And then a special mission, which we carry out through the state, which is providing housing opportunities for people who have been homeless, for people who have slept rough, for people who have gone through shelter, for people who are coming out of correctional facilities, for people who are coming out of rehabilitation facilities for substance abuse issues. So as the agency’s grown, the agency began to work in other areas of the state and the agency developed its mission over the years. It’s been like, a lot of…we’ve always attempted to meet needs, we’ve always attempted to address issues. We’ve always attempted to work with communities to address these issues.
SMOC interviewer: I think that mental health is such an important part of people’s development and well being. Is that something that was a newer addition to SMOC’s core of services? Or is that something that SMOC does that’s different from other agencies, bringing that mental health component into helping?
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, so a couple of different ways to respond to that question. SMOC is one of the few anti-poverty agencies, which were originally called Community Action programs, that has
licensed mental health and substance abuse facilities. And the way that came about was that in
the late 1980s, there was a local agency called Trinity Mental Health. And at that time, they were considered partnership clinics with the state. And Trinity on a local level began to have
financial difficulties. And so we started talking with them. In around 1990 they joined SMOC, and Trinity Mental Health became part of SMOC. At the time they joined SMOC, they were located in residential buildings on Union Avenue. And over the years, what we did was we converted those office spaces back into residential buildings on Union Avenue, and moved the program to office space in the community, both here and in Marlborough. And over the years, when we began to develop the Dennison complex, first a building on Howard Street, and later the building on Bishop Street, we created an office space for them with the attempt to really integrate behavioral health programs with our other social services. And it’s been really important to be able to do that. I agree with you that many of the agencies, many of the people who walk in the front door of the agency, you know, are sometimes struggling with issues that can be labeled behavioral health issues, whether it’s struggling with mental health issues, having long standing and chronic and sometimes acute mental health issues. Certainly, what was known in the time as drug abuse or alcohol abuse issues, and now is talked about in the present as behavioral health issues, they really impact a lot of things that go on in the community, from our children who live in our shelters, to the children of our headstart to the adults who live in, you know, in the various programs that we have. So it’s really an important aspect. It provides another resource under one door. It’s that whole concept really that was known as an anti-poverty model called model cities approach that really started with the war on poverty in the 60s. And what they tried to do with model cities is really co-locate different programs, government programs or not programs, or nonprofits under one roof, because to eliminate barrier riches around transportation, you know, accessing services, all different ways, you know, you’re looking to help people sustain themselves in the community, sustain their families, get to know their community, you know, lead productive lives. And so, model cities was really one of the first attempts back in the 60s, to say, “Let’s put these services under one roof. Let’s make these services more accessible, it’ll be more helpful to people”. So that’s what we’ve really done. If you look at SMOC in the last 25 years, you’ll see an organization that really tries to locate co-locate programs, to make barriers much more permeable, to really reduce barriers to help staff work together, to help people coming in for services, accessing different services, without having to go to point A and point B and point C, in the belief that folks can work together with a staff that works together to try to really address issues and receive services in a really proactive way to really achieve self sufficiency. So it’s an old approach, but it’s one that SMOC has really driven over the past three decades to really have these services co-located, be respectful to folks who are receiving services, and have people try to meet them where they’re actually at, and then if somebody is coming in and needs help with WIC nutrition for the children, but is having trouble paying the rent, you know, the the WIC nutritionist, and the housing search person will know each other, you know, or the housing voucher person will know each other. If a woman is in a dangerous situation and comes and talks to the WIC nutritionist, she’ll know the person from our domestic violence program that voices on violence. So this is really an attempt to really help people in a coordinated fashion, because we believe that that level of coordination makes help much more efficient, but also the opportunity to be successful is enhanced.
SMOC Interviewer: Absolutely. And speaking about, you know, these people who come in for services, are there any stories of maybe people whose lives have been changed by coming into SMOC and receiving these services?
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, well, I think that’s the beauty of the agency and the sustainability of the agency. When you work out of an open setting, you know, like we have over on Bishop Street, where pre-pandemic times people will peek at the building, and the environment is designed for people to flow in and out to be able to connect in many different ways. And all under one roof. And for folks who live in housing in the area to be able to access services that protect their housing, and really, for them to really avail themselves of a wealth of resources. So, you know, it’s difficult to pick out one antidote, but I can tell you that walking through the environment, again, prepaying diamond, you know, you watch people who come into the John Brock Center for ESL, because they’re first generation and trying to figure out their culture, and figure out a way to communicate better and the culture. And you know, and then you see another person who is coming in for a job fair. And you say, “Well, how do we help this person? You know, get a job.” And of course, then you see folks who are really the most challenging and frail in the community, folks who have been sleeping rough, have been sleeping in shelters. You know, how do you help them navigate back to their own apartment, their own room? And how can they be successful? So, I mean, I think that’s one of the driving motivations for me, and I think a lot of other of our staff, to really watch that happen, to really watch people grab a hold of what you’re offering, and use it really to get to a different point in their life. You know, that’s really exciting. And also when that happens, you can also, you know, there is the opportunity that people come and work for us. At any one time, probably at least 20 to 25% of the agency staff was at one time receiving services from the agency, you know. It started way back 50 years ago, when Margaret Davitt would get to know a head start parent, and then hire that parent to become an assistant teacher. And that teacher would, then that assistant teacher would then go get a credential and be a head start teacher.
So, you know, that’s the lesson we learned so long ago. And we’ve applied that continually into
the present. So if you look at our staffing, you look at folks who have practice, who are doing
counseling work, who are working in our shelters, and our residential programs and our
maintenance, you know, who all of these different roles at one time they receive services for the agency. When I ran into somebody whose last day…when I was there, yesterday, I ran into
somebody whose last day was actually yesterday. She was moving out, she had gotten…she
was taking a job closer to home in Waltham. And I knew this person, because she had been the
assistant director of one of our programs. But I also remember her when she started, because
when she started as a counselor in the same program, she became a manager. And she started
right after she found a place to live after living with her family in a shelter. So she just came over to say thank you. But you know, I said no, no, you, I need to thank you, because you provided such help over the years, you know. You learned how to, you learn certain things, and then you’re able to pass them on. And that really is generally a lot of times what happened. So, you know, we’re providing specific services to people to help them navigate, whether it’s a rental assistance, whether it’s a WIC voucher, whether it’s a bed, and a place to live, whether it’s a, I don’t know, we do so many different things, you know, whether it’s helping the child, whether it’s connecting a child who’s struggling in our head start program with behavioral health, so we watch all of these things. And, you know, you look for the times really where you see the impact of what we’ve been able to do. You see it and you see it, and people will make connections and use those connections.
SMOC Interviewer: I think it…totally, and I think it strengthens the community, so much to sort of, have that progression of how you like, maybe start in a vulnerable position, and then find yourself in a position where you’re helping the same people where you want to work, once found yourself. Yeah, it’s amazing.
Jim Cuddy: Time, time may be linear, but our human experience is circular. And, you know, you get to a certain place in your life where you may need help, you reach out, somebody reaches out to you, you’re given help, and then you complete a cycle where you grow. And then you’re in a position where you’re able to give back, you know, to the next person, you know, there’s lots of different clinical ways or from social, you know, from looking at things from an academic sense about that, you know about that effect or how that works. But it’s best to look at and watch it in person, it’s best to be able to feel it. You know, the good thing about having an open setting like at Bishop Street and in Worcester in Springfield, is that you really see what’s happening, you can emotionally feel the connections between the staff or helping and the people who come in for help. And then you can see some of the folks who had come into the building, looking for help, greeting, you know, after a period of time goes by, greeting somebody new coming in, who and that person who once received help, is now in the position of being a helper. Yeah, that’s a circular aspect of life. You know, it’s really nice to see.
SOURCE: What do you think is one of your biggest accomplishments during your time at SMOC?
Jim Cuddy: I mean, other than surviving for 37 years, I think the biggest accomplishment is that, you know, I was able to…I was able to…what am I trying to say here? I was able to take the lessons I learned before I came to SMOC. I was 37 years old when I came to SMOC. I had a lot of varied experiences. I think I was able to take the lessons that I learned from a lot of those experiences and apply them here at SMOC. And you know, I feel good about that. I feel good about, about what the agency does, how the agency represents itself in the community, how the agency connects with people, how it connects with somebody who just needs us for a voucher, or just needs us for nutrition, a counseling session, for someone who all of a sudden finds himself out of work and tries to figure out how to sustain themselves until they get an extra, you know, you know, I feel good about what how the agency presents itself in the community. And of course, I also feel good about the fact that SMOC is known for really working with folks who other people in the community find so challenging. People who have suffered so greatly from either being poor, and for struggling with sometimes behavioral health issues. You know, I feel so good about how we’ve been able to connect with those folks to provide housing for those folks to provide support for folks who are struggling, and help them sustain themselves in the community.
Nobody, none of us want to see a person. None of us want to see a person who’s struggling.
You know, because we know how painful it is for themselves, we don’t want, you know, we don’t want to, we want to figure out ways where they can live cooperatively and sustain themselves in the community. And when they don’t, we need to be there and help them pick themselves up again. I mean, if there’s one thing that the organization truly believes in, across the breath of the organization, is really that base belief that everybody deserves respect, and when a person falls, or fails, or, or does something challenging, we know that there’s somebody who needs to be there to help that person pick themselves up again, to give them another chance to continually search for renewal for continually search for, lack of a better word, redemption, you know, because everybody, nobody wants to go through life miserable, unhappy, addicted, so angry are so hard that they take it out on others. I’ve never met somebody who relishes living life in a community that way. So, you know, that’s really what the mission is. That’s really one of our core beliefs. You know, that the only way you get to that place, that the only way you keep offering people a hand, is through respect, and in a real underlying belief that given the proper tools and the proper supports that people can lead productive and sustaining life in the community. It always feels good to watch that on a macro level, with all the people that we have and what they’re working toward, always good to look at that on a micro level to actually see that. It’s important for somebody like me to be able to watch that, if I’m in charge of these resources, if I’m in charge of deciding how these resources will be provided to people and, you know, I have a staff looking up at me to do that. I have a staff member looking me in the eye to do that. I am responsible to a group of community citizens for how I do that. So for me, you know, it’s always great to be able to see that actually happening in front of me, and on so many different levels. It’s, it’s something to rejoice over.
SMOC Interviewer: Absolutely, yeah, it’s a great accomplishment to create a culture of believing the best in people and optimism and for sure,
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, you have to, you have to approach it with compassion, you have to approach the building of a culture with compassion, you have to, you have to approach it with, really, a respectful approach, with an open hand, an open door, never underestimating the challenges or never discounting the difficulty sometimes, but I think the only way that you really get to the place where you want to be both, you know, with what you believe yourself, and what you’re trying to communicate to others, especially others who need help, you know, if you, that’s the way to approach the job, you know, that’s the way to approach…it’s in a trance. And when you do it that way, the job, it transcends, it transcends and the job becomes part of the mission, you know. And then in this line of work, what we choose to do, and how we choose to spend philanthropic and government resources, you know, I think it’s important to approach things that way, what, you know, compassion, respect for others, trying to figure out and navigate through difficult things in communities, and be that being there as a safety net, to help people regain their footing. And, and that really is, you know, what we’re really aiming for is for the job to really become part of a larger mission, you know, of what you represent, and what you mean in the community.
SOURCE: Was there anything that you maybe wanted to accomplish but weren’t able to?
Jim Cuddy: In the time I’ve been here, what’s been sort of the most frustrating thing?
SMOC Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. Is there? Has there been anything that’s eluded you, in your time here?
Jim Cuddy: Well, I guess that, you know, in, in the framework or things, you know, I guess I would point to a couple of things. One of them is more, you know, could we have done a better job at explaining what we’re doing to certain communities, with some of the most challenging people who live in the community. And, you know, SMOC is not without its controversy. SMOC has a complete understanding of the laws that protect people’s rights. And we were not, we’re not reticent in believing that if somebody’s rights are being violated, then we need to be an advocate and we need to be an organizer. And, you know, but it’s always done. I think, if you look at the history of SMOC, at least, in what I can speak to, the history that I can speak to, you know, it’s not done with, it’s not done with lightness, it’s done really with a heavy heart, you know. We would far prefer to see a situation where we can use all the resources in the community. And, you know,so that there’s 100% buy into people’s mission. But, you know, you know, could we have done a better job trying to get to that 100%? I think so. But, you know, you can’t back off if you can achieve unanimity. And we know from what we’ve been living in, you know, not just with the pandemic, but with the divisiveness that is reflective in the culture around us that, you know, we have, we have an utmost responsibility to protect people’s rights, to be the voice of the voiceless, to try to connect people with resources, to try to organize resources for people who don’t have many, to try to deliver those resources responsibly. And sometimes that makes taking stands or taking actions that sometimes some folks or some communities struggle with, you know, could we have done a better job? I think so. But that doesn’t mean that we should ever back off, especially when we feel that there’s a resource that people need access to. So I think that, in general, since this interview is going to be used by a local paper, a specific issue at this moment in time, about what I feel like I haven’t succeeded in, is we have not been able, in MetroWest, to link healthcare resources to disadvantaged people, specifically unaccompanied single adults. And this is really, at the heart of what we feel so uncomfortable about locally. 25 years ago, when the local nonprofit hospital decided to sell itself to a for-profit chain of hospitals, we worked with that for-profit chain to try to create a situation where healthcare would be more
accessible to folks who relied on our services: disadvantaged and disabled people, heads of
households, unaccompanied single adults. We work with, we work with that, when that when
that when we were only partially successful, we began advocating for more health resources,
different kinds of health resources, specifically a health center, a federally funded health center,
that would come into this community, and really address some of the health care needs, the
health care disparities, you know. What we talked about now, what they talk about now is our
racial disparities and health care. But 20 years ago, and 25 years ago, we used different terms:
access, accessibility, the shutting out of services for people who are disadvantaged, the
requirements that emergency rooms were used by disadvantaged people, you know, a lot has
happened over 25 years. But those same disparities, whether they’re racially or culturally based,
or simply economically based, still exist. So 20 years ago, we began a process of getting a
house sector in this community. That happened. Yet what we hoped would happen with this
local community health center, that receives federal funds to, to really change the lives on a
healthcare basis of folks who are disadvantaged and disabled, it hasn’t had the effect we’ve
wanted. We have not been able to extend our public health and health care practices for
specifically unaccompanied single adults, people in our shelters, people in our residential
system and people in our housing. I think if I had to identify one disappointment in terms of it’s really, it’s really creating that arc, that integration, that integrative model with people who are poor, people who have substance abuse issues. It just hasn’t happened. And that’s, frankly, a big disappointment in this community. I hope that my successor will be able to be successful
where I have not been.
SMOC Inerviewer: It’s definitely not for lack of trying on.
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, we listen, we keep trying, we’ve, you know, we’d like to see specifically a new project with new Healthcare for the Homeless project. We’ve talked to many different people. Unfortunately, as of this moment, the local community health center has proven to be completely uninterested in engaging in a dialogue with us. And that’s a big disappointment, despite all of our efforts. And, and it’s not just me popping off or, you know, you know, or just simply being an advocate. I’m speaking for a lot of people in the community, a lot of people tied into SMOC who are utterly frustrated with the local community health center for not being a partner with us.
SOURCE: For some, SMOC is a negative in the City of Framingham. How can that perception be changed?
Jim Cuddy: Well, that’s a question that the reporter decided to ask and, you know, and on some levels it’s not even worth responding to, because it just simply is a reflection of people who try to divide this culture and divide this community. So let me answer it this way, you know, we cooperate with the city of Framingham on many, many different levels. Even during the time when we filed a federal lawsuit against the city, which was at a town, we still worked cooperatively with the city. And I can point out many examples: working with the police during this period, which extended between 2005 and 2010. Even in the worst times in our strained relationship with the city, SMOC always sought ways to enhance a community to make the community stronger, were effective, and we did it by partner, even in the worst of times. So, you know, there are people who have a negative impression of SMOC. There are people who feel that way, there are people who don’t believe in what SMOC does, for whatever particular reason. And again, you know, when I, when I think back on how we’ve tried to deal with it, it’s not much different than generally how we try to work with everybody. We try to handle it respectfully. When we were, when we were citing Sage house, back in 2005, which was one of the things that led to us filing a lawsuit, we met with the neighbors, we attempted to explain, we did everything we possibly could, in a respectful way to help people understand that we weren’t into destroying, in quotes a community, we were in to building a community, to addressing needs, to helping to helping community residents who are struggling get to a different place in their lives. You know, it’s tough, it’s a tough issue, it’s a tough issue for some folks, you know, much has been written about it over the years, you know, you see the same things going on across the country. You know, I think our responsibility is to partner with as many folks as we can, to do that, with respect, to try to help folks understand how our mission works, what’s inherent in our mission. And that, you know, that’s the only way we can change perceptions. You know, we’re responsive to politicians, we work closely with the business community, and we work closely with the religious community, we work closely with the educational community. And because unless we do that, then we’re not going to be able to offer the best possible, and the most resources to folks who come to us for help. Our goals aren’t much, our goals are really not different. You know, sometimes they’re different in the way that people want us to react. But our goals are having people leading self-sufficient community lives, to be productive members of the community. That’s a goal that I think all groups share, you know, and so we try to focus on that. We try to say, look, you may disagree with us, but this is what we’re doing. And we will be respectful, will be responsible and respectful. And so that’s, but I think that unless SMOC, with its governance body and its management, you know, simply accepts that there were community institutions or individuals who really struggled, as I mentioned, and respond to it in a negative way. You know, that’s just one of the parts of our mission. We’re really responsible for providing access and resources, representing, advocating on behalf of people who have been, who have been excluded from a lot of the culture, whether it’s by their own choice, by their race, by their ethnicity, by the fact that they’re newcomers. That’s our mission.
Our mission is to really help people become more of a part of the community, to feel good about living in a community, to be able to sustain themselves within a community. You know, sometimes people have struggled with that or struggle with the way we do it. But it’s part of our mission. And we need to explain that mission and never stop explaining that mission, even in the face of opposition.
SOURCE: The homeless population has exploded over the last 5 years in downtown Framingham Several business owners have complained over the last couple of years. What can be done to not only help the individuals but to help the business community? What role can SMOC play? Is a Pine Street-inn type facility needed downtown?
SMOC interviewer: And the next question is, well, the way it’s worded seems to imply that, sort of like you were saying, that many business owners are in opposition to SMOC, because of maybe their perception that SMOC is, you know…that, you know, people…
Jim Cuddy: Bringing problems into the community. If SMOC wasn’t here, we wouldn’t have these problems … As if I would have that much power, as if the agency would have that much power. We don’t have that much power. I know that part of that question was really based on a recent article in the local paper where one of the prominent landlords in the community went after homeless people and all the problems they brought homeless folks, home, people, substance abuse, and mental health, all the problems that bring into downtown. And I know it got translated into, “There’s been an explosion in homelessness in the downtown”, and you know, all of that stuff. So I know this landlord. And I know that he’s, you know, that what he was saying other people have said, in the 35 years that I’ve been here, and in the various communities that we do things with homeless people, and provide services to homeless people. So, you know, it’s a sentiment I’m very familiar with. So let me try to address it specifically in MetroWest. And then maybe I could make some comments about how SMOC approaches this on a statewide basis, because we operate shelters and Lowell, and Springfield, and Worcester and Marlborough. And so we see, we see, we see these patterns across the state. So specifically the property owner, who, who I know, I’ve known him over the years, he’s a very talented, hard working property owner. You know, he…but I don’t think…and I, because I think he’s such a good property owner and a good businessman, I don’t see how…I don’t think he was intending to, to denigrate his business, or to denigrate a business opportunity if he wants to sell and move on to another community. So, you know, that’s not the way…I know the man. He would not…he would not be trying to sell out to somebody else his holdings by saying that it’s a horrible place, and I’m having a horrible time. It’s not exactly what you do as a good businessman. And I’ve never known him to do that. So were some of his comments intemperate? Yeah. Were some of his comments made in the heat of the moment? Probably. Every conversation I’ve had with the gentleman has been respectful and polite and problem solving. So I would say that, I would say that, you know, specific, specifically about this particular situation. And I’ll also say one other thing, too, is that this particular question is wrong. This particular question, in this particular posturing around the explosion of homelessness is absolutely wrong. The fact is that there are fewer homeless people right now than there have been for the last 20 years. And without going into mind numbing details about homeless counts, and censuses in shelters and in censuses of people who are sleeping rough, I can say, unequivocally, there are fewer homeless people in the city of Framingham right now than there have been in probably three decades. But that doesn’t mean that our responsibilities end, you know, that just because there’s fewer people. In fact, our efforts at getting folks houses, connecting people with resources, you know, those, those, those are constant. You know, we attempt to provide support services, we attempt to navigate, help
people navigate systems, whether it’s to get help, or to navigate staying out of trouble. You
know, that’s really the mission. And so our efforts are doubled. And now we’re coming out of the pandemic, where people who, you know, in any urban situation, whether it’s…there’s
homelessness in all urban situations. Where any urban situation is, you’re coming out of people
have been confined to small rooms in dense and densely populated urban areas, whether it’s a
single mom with three children living in a public housing project, whether it’s an individual living by himself in his own room, you’re coming, we’re coming out of a situation where, which has been devastating for folks, you know, this disease has been devastating for folks. And it’s
created a whole artificial situation where people feel very tense, very pressured. How do we get
through this? You know, and we’ve faced this in other communities. We work together with the
community, we work together, we ensure that our buildings are harmonious, that folks, that if
there’s an issue, we attempt to intervene. Yeah, that’s what we’ve always done. That’s what we’ll
continue, that’s what we’ll continue to do. We’re not unaware of all the problems of the
pandemic, that the pandemic has intensified. We’re well aware that some folks who have made
very poor life decisions in the end, and in the middle of their life’s journey, that are falling apart, that they can exhibit challenging behaviors. We’re there to help, we’re there to provide a safety net. You know, you can’t, as I told a former chief of police about more than a decade and a half ago, when there was other tensions around homelessness in this community: “Chief, you’re not going to be able to arrest yourself out of homelessness.” And, you know, he basically told me a couple of years later, yeah, I was glad you told me that, you know, and because it started a partnership, again, it started a partnership where we tried to work where we did work together, where we have a fantastic relationship with the Framingham to police department. We’ve had it for decades. And we understand that we have different visions, we have different perspectives, we approach problems differently. Our missions are different, but we have a respect for each other. And we know that the best way to help everyone in their community, the people who are being affected by negative behaviors, and the people who are engaging in negative behaviors, is that our partnership with the police is essential to getting us to a different place. So you know, I think I understand this individual’s frustration. He’s a businessman, and he’s a good one. But I do think he’s wrong on this. And, you know, he knows the doors are always open and we’ll continue to talk. So I think there’s, I think there’s multiple answers to that. I think that, you know, at first glance, SMOC is an anti-poverty agency and the business community might be seen as parallel tracks that never talk, or communicate. But that’s actually not true, both from my own personal experience, and from the agency’s mission. So from personal experience, I was recruited to join the Chamber of Commerce in the MetroWest within the first five years of my tenure, and served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce for 10 years. And then after I stopped serving our Chief Operating Officer at the time, Charles Garnier, replaced me on the board. So we’ve always been an active participant and the community’s businesses, you know, and so we don’t see ourselves as you know, fighting a battle with them or, you know, at the same time, we have to acknowledge different perspectives. So, the second thing is, SMOC is a business, you know. Our revenues are projected to be in excess of $115 million. Well, much of that money is directed to direct assistance, like rental assistance, etc. And much of it is directed to personnel, because we have more than 800 people who work for the organization, we also engage small businesses, you know, a lot of the things we do, we’re, we’re purchasing from business at local businesses, we’re involved in the community, you know, we’re a business just like they are, our mission is not for profit, our mission is not for profit, our mission is, you know, one of helping, providing charity, but we’re still part of commerce, you know, we’re, we’re purchasing stuff, whether it’s at a local business, or, you know, I’m not being too articulate here. But so there’s that piece, the next piece is that no one benefits from a community that’s not thriving. And, you know, we’re part of the fabric of the community. And we want this community to thrive. So it’s not just that we’re…it’s not just that we’re trying to cooperate with the police to keep trouble down. We’re trying to figure out active ways of making the community stronger, whether it’s by holding job fairs, by buying locally, there’s many different things. And about four years ago, we decided to, you know, become even more active by creating a local loan fund, that, you know, we as a community development corporation, could help people, could help small businesses, succeed and thrive. So we have the loan fund, we capitalize that with monies from banks, we also create a technical assistance component where we could where we could help local businesses who needed things to do like marketing and bookkeeping. You know, we offer seminars, we help people buy houses. You know, we want first time homebuyer classes with a variety of different professionals who work in the community. With WIC vouchers, we’re trying to help people make healthy choices with food, and when they buy food in the community, from local vendors, you know, to make good choices. So we’re the conduit for those things also.
And, you know, when you take a look at it, you know, we want the same things that the business is doing, it’s a misnomer to think of startup businesses or small businesses or community based businesses, you know, as having tons of resources. They’re very fragile. You know, we recognize that. And, you know, you know, I think we really try to be as respectful to the business community as we are to are the folks who come in for services, you know, we have to achieve consistency with how you approach people, no matter whether they’re a politician, clerk, customer service representative, somebody who needs a roof over their head. You know, you have to approach them the same way. And I think that’s what we try to do.
SOURCE: Framingham lacks affordable housing, and the new apartments towers in downtown are not really affordable. What role can SMOC play to bring affordable housing to the area?
Cuddy: Well, I think SMOC’s housing issue really started in 1986, when rents all of a sudden
skyrocketed in 1986 and the community went through a housing crisis with an artificial boom
where there were condo conversions, and rent escalations, and a number of landlords are pricing rents right above section eight guidelines. So we have over the years played the role of
advocate. We over the years have proved the role of bringing in more resources, many become
a regional entity for the section eight program, and of course, housing development. You know, we purchased the failed housing project on Waverly in the area near our buildings, we’ve
managed it responsibly, but stewards for close to 30 years since we bought it years ago, we bought in bulk 10 single family to 10, duplex duplex buildings and sold them the first time homebuyers. We can continue to run first time homebuyer classes to try to get as many homeowners as possible qualified to be able to buy a house. What’s happening in Framingham, and has happened in Framingham, right now, is a little distressed. Because it’s not so much that so many units have been created downtown over the past few years. But the ability to access those units, by people even in moderate income, meaning people making 35, 40 thousand, 45 thousand, $50 thousand a year, they’re going to struggle to pay the rental structures. And that doesn’t feel good. I mean, it’s nice that all these buildings, all these, all this development has happened. But unfortunately, some other things have not happened, which I think would have mitigated this issue. First of all, there’s no linkages. So if you look at a city like Boston, or New York or other, other areas where developers need to create linkages, there’s many different ways to do linkages, whether it’s reserving apartments for people at different incomes, whether it’s providing payments so that units can be created elsewhere. There’s absolutely no linkages. So all these things, all these, all these buildings, wind up right across the street from our headquarters, you know, not located, they’re not accessible to people who are working in the service industry. And there’s been no…the community decided not to do a lot of linkages. That’s really distressing. They’ve just had a vote on the Community Preservation Act. But we…Framingham, Framingham, you know, was interested in bringing, bringing new, attractive units to downtown. They were figuring that because it’s special, there’s a specific technical language for linking our transportation, public transportation to housing, you know, they’re interested in doing all that. And developers saw the opportunity to make profit. But we have not been involved in those conversations. Partly it was, you know, that was decisions that were not made. I wish that people had reached out to us and said, “Can you be involved in this? Can you help us think through this?” You know, and it’s, maybe it’s a failure on my part, and our part that I didn’t, I didn’t push for, for SMOC to be involved. But the results, frankly, have been disappointing. And not disappointing, because, you know, SMOC didn’t win out on this or something. Disappointing because I don’t see how small businesses can hire retail staff that can afford to live here. You know, I don’t….our employees can’t afford, for the most part, cannot afford to live in the new apartment. The rental structures have all risen. And I don’t see how a whole community benefits by kind of a unilateral policy. I hope that my predecessor, since we’re doing this as an exit…I hope that my predecessor will be invited to participate in the formulation of public policy around affordable housing. In the formulation of public policy around affordable housing, I know my predecessor will be involved in making sure we continue to create housing for people, whether it’s single adults or families, hat we’ll continue our housing mission, you know, to end homelessness, to create respectful housing, to be involved with your community to see to make that happen. And you know what, I hope that Susan Gentili is a bit more successful than I’ve been at being part of that community dialogue. We have a good relationship with this community. We have a good relationship with the Mayor, with the City Council, with the elected officials and many elements of the community. But that doesn’t…that did not translate into a seat at the table, as the city thought through its housing policy, and brought in developers and we’ve created an awful lot of new units that we, SMOC, and the people that we work with, cannot access.
SMOC Interviewer: Yeah, absolutely. And how has it been for you personally, sort of getting into real estate and forming a Housing Corporation at SMOC and sort of, yeah, having that as something that’s that you’ve taken on?
Jim Cuddy: Well, now it’s…we’re now…the first bill that…we formed the Housing Corporation in 1986. We bought our first properties in 1986. Our first property was really a building to create a family shelter in, and it was an illegal, unlicensed, distressed lodging house. And for much of the early years of the housing corporation’s activities in Framingham, we purchased and rehabilitated and restored distressed houses, and provided more opportunities for people to live off, who are either in exploitative situations or had lost their housing entirely. And that’s been a large part of our mission, here in Framingham and in the surrounding communities. In the early 1990s, we went into Northbridge, which had been devastated by the economic upheaval in the banking industry in the early 90s, and purchased 15 distressed properties, and over a period of three years, that were all vacant, and over a period of three years in the Rockdale neighborhood, we revitalize them with the help of community. I can point to at least 15 buildings in Framingham, we did on an individual level, where the buildings were in horrible shape, were distressed, and we came up with strategies to acquire them, restore them, and create safe and decent and affordable housing. So in terms of a mission that’s been going on for 35 years, I think it’s been, we’ve been successful in the BMI imagination, I didn’t know where it was going to go. You know, for certain populations, like unaccompanied single adults who have been homeless, we’ve expanded that mission across the Commonwealth from 128 out word. Locally in Framingham, I think we have been, you know, fortunate to be able to preserve housing, rehabilitate housing, and use housing respectfully to meet our mission. And when the time came, we didn’t need to use certain properties anymore. We’ve sold at least a half a dozen properties in Framingham back to small landlords, who have continued admission, but are now paying taxes. So you know, that all feels good. Could we…could we have done more? Yeah. But what I will say in terms of reflection, is that this role of developer, creator, there’s a…by the way, to stop for a minute, there’s some echo coming across on the recording. Can you hear it? Because I hear it? When you look at it, you might see…you might hear the echo. But anyway. But anyway, you know, so yeah, so the final thought I would have on this issue is that the housing mission complements the social service mission, and really creates an organization of fully realized social service organizations. So, I’m excited that we decided to, I was excited to do this 35 years ago, and I’m as excited today, 35 years later, that this has been a core element of our mission.
SMOC Interviewer: That’s great. Yeah. And, um, you know, housing is such a reflection of the respect that you give someone through providing them a place to live, where they actually want to live and reflects their needs and wants. And, I mean, this is a little off topic, but in Nevada right now, or in Reno right now, there’s this sort of thing called the Cares campus. And basically, it’s just totally soulless, like housing…you know, just like a dormitory, I think it has bunk beds, and, you know, shared bathrooms, and it’s, it’s just…no one wants to live there. And it’s just, it’s like, so tone deaf, you know, to think that you can just create this thing, and then people will, you know, then if you create some, like a place, then you know, people will, will want to live there, but it doesn’t cater at all towards their needs or wants, or even, you know, it doesn’t even make sense for them. So, I think it’s great how SMOC is creating housing for people where they’re living, where their needs are, and, you know, that reflects their, their individual, their individual needs.
Jim Cuddy: You know, what you just talked about, what happened up there, yeah. A lot of people in the country…the government has, has been tone deaf, you know, when you think of how they get wide support in these gigantic developments and made poor choices and crowded people together. What do they expect? It’s not a respectful way. It’s not a thoughtful, respectful way. So we try to do it in a thoughtful and respectful manner. We’ve had lots of partners, the banking industry has been a great partner, the state in terms of those resources have been a great partner. And that’s contributed a lot to our ability to create safe, decent and respectful housing.
SOURCE: How did SMOC make the community better during the pandemic?
Jim Cuddy: So we were a true partner to this community during the pandemic, and it started very early in the planning process. When we invited the then Public Health Commissioner, the DPH, director, a man by the name of Sam Wong, to begin to partner with him early on in this pandemic, before it even started, in late April, late February, we began to have weekly meetings with Sam. Those meetings grew to encompass the Health Foundation and advocates, our fellow agencies, the advocates in the hospital, and we’re just beginning to reshape those. But since the beginning, since sometime in February of 2020, till today, we’ve had regular ongoing meetings with the health department, the hospital advocates, and in the Metrowest Health Foundation, about how to keep the community safe: What are the best practices? So that’s one level.
The second level was, during the height of the pandemic, we partnered with the city where Anna Cross was working to head up the city’s efforts to address a pandemic. She wrote, she wrote an email to me that says, “Can SMOC be involved?” You know, basically we said, “What do you need?” “Well, we need help with food distribution.” “Well, do you need trucks? Do you need drop off sites? We’ll supply…what would …do you need help with delivery? We’ll supply all of that.” And our Chief of Staff Tanya Duca became an integral part of the city’s leadership team to mitigate the impact on families and the crisis. So that’s the second way. Really, a third way was to figure out how to keep our people and environment safe, recognizing that we all have our property holdings, our multifamily or folks who are lodging houses or group residences, how do we keep safe? So with the help of Sam we developed protocols and practices from installing hand sanitizers across the board, you know, how do you keep…how do you prevent transmissions? And we also went further, we had…we had..I’m losing the words. Our goal was… we thought we might need a backup plan. So we cooperated with the city, who, who reserved a bunch of rooms to decontaminate, or, I’m not using the right words,…
SMOC Interviewer: Depopulate?
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, depopulated. We worked with, we came up with a contingency plan, which would allow us to close part of our shelter down, we came up with triage plans, all of the aim of doing everything we possibly could to reduce transmission. We opened up a testing site so people could walk to it in cooperation with the city. When it came time to begin to vaccinate people, we had a vaccination clinic, you know, and then one of the biggest things we did was we were at the health department, the health director brought to us issues around how you help people stay home, who can’t, who can’t afford and won’t be paid if they don’t show up for work. And, you know, sometimes these folks are, don’t have the proper documentation, or sometimes they don’t have any resources at all. So we created what we call the redzone. Meaning the part that the the lowest income track, the income track, with where the income was the lowest as a percentage of medium, and we work collaboratively with the department of public health nurses: they would identify somebody, and we would make, we would make it happen, we would get resources to people who could stay home. And I think, if you look at the statistical data, although we’re still in the midst of this, you know, without the intensity, or if you look at the statistical data, we were very fortunate, we had to create deep, we had to depopulate several of our shelters and other areas of the state. Here we did not have to. We were able to really contain the transmission of COVID. And I think some of it was having to do…we had so many good community partners, and we had control over a number of different resources. But yeah, so we really went…I think we we saw ourselves as needing to be a partner at the forefront of the public health community response, a responsible partner, a responsible partner for the city’s government, making sure that people didn’t go hungry, or responsible with the part of the city’s government who was who who’s tasked with, you know, getting us through this, you know, whether it’s by testing, whether it’s by vaccination, whether it’s by accessing resources, and certainly all the collaboration that goes on. So I think under Tanya, and Susan’s leadership, they’ve done a remarkable job working with the city and its partners. They’ve done a remarkable job in Metrowest.
SOURCE: What do you see as the three greatest issues in the SMOC area? And how can SMOC work to solve them?
Jim Cuddy: So I think housing continues to be a large issue. I think that that’s one area. And we continue, you know, we welcome the opportunity to partner, to help shape policy. And we also will continue to look at creating additional affordable housing units.
I think the other is certainly…the other big issue is how to extend, how to extend health care to people who, who are struggling with different aspects of health, whether it’s making sure that you get flu shots to making sure you get your sugar check, you know, you know, to making sure that your blood, your blood pressure is under control, too. All of those kinds of things, I think. Earlier on this I talked about my disappointment with where we’re at with the health center. But that only means we need to continue to try to figure this one out, to try to push the envelope as hard as we possibly can to extend health care, public health benefits to all. I think that’s a big thing.
And then, you know, the third challenge, I guess, is that we have to be a welcoming beacon to folks. You know, we have to be a welcoming center. We have to help people, a cultural right, to become bigger, a bigger part of the country. You know, whether they’re a newcomer, whether they’re just down on their luck, you have a real responsibility to be welcoming and to be respectful. And to believe in equity, to believe in social justice, you know, to believe that there’s one vote, every person has a vote, to work on citizenship issues, to really work on all different levels, so that people can realize a full life in the community can lead a satisfying life. You know, part of that is how a newcomer comes in, we have that responsibility. And, you know, the newcomer may have just arrived from a new country that doesn’t share the line that, you know, where English is not the first language. But a newcomer is also somebody who has gone through periods of homelessness, who has gone through periods of, of real difficulty, you know, how do you get that person to be a productive member of the community? So I think that those are challenges that we face. And, you know, the part of SMOC that I think helps us reset challenges is that we do so many different things. But the task is really to do them, not in a silo, but from an integrative point of view. From that old model city neighborhood where boundaries are, you’re accessible. And boundaries are permeable, where you can, where you can create programs, and work together, when you get funded in a very different way. So I think that becomes a real challenge of SMOC, you know, and, frankly, how we come out of this pandemic, and the choices that the government makes, we have to be responsible stewards of resources, getting them into the right hands, so that people do not fall between the cracks.
SMOC Interviewer: Absolutely, yeah. And I feel like also, too, with the pandemic, sort of easing or easing up a bit, hopefully, returning to work is so important. Because, you know, just showing up every day and showing up for the community and being there, even if you know, people aren’t coming every single day just, yeah, having that as a place where people know that they can come to. I’ve heard people definitely say that that is such an important feature as well.
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, Mm hmm. Agreed.
SOURCE: Tell me 3 programs you have launched as director and how they make the community better.
Jim Cuddy: Well, SMOC carries a history of having programs become part of us so that they can survive and thrive, of creating new resources because we’ve seen need, and you know, having programs emerge from that. So certainly, there are examples throughout the organization where we’ve done that. It’s tough to, it’s tough to identify three specific programs I, I can say, certainly housing has been vital. The linkage of housing, to support services for a population that struggles, the, you know, it’s been extraordinarily important. We’ve been one of the pioneers of creating housing resources for homeless people, not only in Framingham, but across the state. We were one of the first pilot programs in the mid 2000s that really began to use services just coming available from the Medicaid system, in order to create a link to a housing system, so that’s been really good. And then, you know, there’s been special things that we’ve done, when the Voices Against Violence or the Women’s Protective Service Program were in danger of going out of business. Margaret came to me and said it was our moral responsibility to make sure these services didn’t go away. Today, Voices Against Violence is an integral part of SMOC. And I remember the original folks who came in to run the program, and they had a treat, they became part of SMOC. And today, domestic violence is at the heart of what SMOC does, so that feels really good. Creating different programs, including shelter and transitional services for women. Long ago we focused on how to best serve women who are either homeless or struggling with addiction issues. Today, if you go right downtown Framingham where you once saw a distressed building is Serenity House, you know, which is a recognized leader in helping women work through addiction issues, and become a productive member of the community. So having Serenity Houses apart of SMOC. The list goes on. The beauty of SMOC is that we do so many different things. And we’re always looking, always looking to enhance what we do, in a respectful way. Feel good about
SOURCE: So, you’ve been a huge fan of community art, there are the murals and statues by the new SMOC headquarters. But what is with all these dragons all over the city?
Jim Cuddy: No. Dragons speak to magic, and imagination and imagery, and there’s something about it that touches a soul. So the response to our dragons has been uniformly positive, and it’s nice to see kids fooling around and hanging out with dragons. And the issue with community artists, just from my perspective, another aspect of, you know, you know, we use a star as one of our symbols or the, you know, the sun is one of our symbols, and, you know, it, you know, in religion, you know, in religious imagery, certain faiths, have this, have these beliefs that it’s overlapping rays of sunshine, you know, that’s what religion is all about all the different religions, every one of them are simply all coming from one source. And they are overlapping rays, bands and rays of sunshine. So when you think of art, you know, you think of all the different artistic mediums. And you know, that’s the attempt here, the attempt is to add another beam of sunshine that reflects. It reflects respect, it speaks to possibility. It says we value, you know, we care enough about this environment. You know, this is one way of communicating that, you know, we want you to have a good experience here. We care about this building that you live in, we care about the service you’re coming in for, you know, how do you, you know, and this is one way that we can say that beyond words. Yeah, we spent a lot of time putting a mural up at behavioral health. You spend time putting it up, we put statues in places. If you go into our buildings and some of our residences, they’re filled with prints, you know, and some of the prints are different. Some of them are simply classic or traditional artists, you know, prints from French impressionists like Monet to Picasso and, uh, you know, some of them are social justice. Some of them are. But they all are intended to engage people, to have people think, you know, to realize that this is an important environment. And this is one of the ways we express that, you know, and we really, it shouldn’t be…I know, it’s an outlier on some levels. But, you know, I wish they’ll come a day when it’s not an outlier, whether it’s social service organizations that take the lead, whether it’s a whole community that takes the lead, but communities get enriched by art and residential, residents get enriched by art and office buildings get enriched by art, and this is the kind of art that you can look at, appreciate, connect with. And you also hope that people connect with the broader mission is, hey, we care. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t do this. You know, but we care and we care about you and we care about this environment that you live in, that you work in and that you come to ask for help in. You know, that’s cool. We’re all part of this. And we can all, and that’s a reflection of reducing distance and, and creating a message that hopefully resonates and reverberates with all cultures. You know, some of us are here to help, some of us are here because we need help, but there’s commonalities and universal themes and, you know, things to engage us all. That’s the attempt.
SMOC Interviewer: Definitely. Yeah. And I think it also shows like, a, you know, just a humor that I think a lot of people approach their work with here. You know, I think people deal with pretty, like hard and scary and upsetting things. And you know, at the end of the day, maybe you just need to come home and see a purple dragon, and smile a little bit to yourself. Like, yeah.
Jim Cuddy: Yeah, and somebody who’s coming here for a WIC voucher, or a child that’s coming in with a parent who’s scared. Yeah, that’s why we put the leopard out. We’re in the process of, of restoring back to…since we put that leopard out, I’ve seen countless children go over and climb on the thing. So you know, yeah, you really are attempting to find the commonalities in the human condition, and figure out a path where you can work together to help folks who need help with their path. Yeah, so it’s part of it. And it’s good to be able to do it.
SOURCE: What do you think your legacy with SMOC will be?
Jim Cuddy: Well, I think that’s for other people to think about or they can speak to it. I can tell that, I, you know, that’s, that’s other people’s issues. For me, what’s been important is that I’ve tried to take the things that I learned from my folks, I’ve tried to take the things that I learned from my mentors, I tried to listen to the things that people share with me, I’ve tried to hear what they’ve said and what they don’t say, and I’ve tried to handle all of those in a responsible manner. And I’ve tried to learn from mistakes, and I’ve tried to handle this in as humble a way as I can, while continuing to push the envelope. So I hope that my legacy is people thinking, “Oh, yeah. His parents will be proud of, of what he tried to do with his life,” right. That’s what I…that’s what I hope my life. When I think of my legacy, I want to be true to the people who have had such an impact on me. You know, so all I can say about it.
SMOC Interviewer: Well, that’s great. Yeah, it’s in everyone else’s hands, I guess. For others to judge
Jim Cuddy: I can only judge myself on whether I’ve been true to what I was taught and what I had to…what I learned, either easy ways or the hard ways.
SMOC Interviewer: So yeah, that was all the questions that were on this sheet of paper. We covered a lot. It was a lot. Um, but yeah, no, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, what are your plans? Like, after SMOC? Do you…have you thought about it at all?
Jim Cuddy: To be honest with you, I’m just trying to get through the next week. You know, I, yeah. When you’re the coach of a team, you play, you play until the bell rings or the buzzer goes off. Yeah, then you go out and play again, or you turn the team over to somebody else. And so I felt like I have had a real responsibility to work through as much as I can until the last day and until, I don’t know, I hate to keep using coaching and athletic analogies with any walk off the field, you hold your head high, and then you think about that. So you know, I’m old enough to not feel like I’ve got to do something different or to worry about it. I just, I want to leave the best possible way I can. And so that’s what’s guided me over the past several months.
Jim Cuddy in one of his favorite places — the zen garden at the entrance to SMOC’s headquarters, 7 Bishop Street (submitted photo)