HEADLINES

Creativity Connects Milford: Meet Jennifer Paradis, Executive Director of the Beth-El Center

Creativity Connects Milford

What fuels a vibrant, connected, and creative community? What makes people feel good about living in Milford?

When locals share the creativity that they uncover in the nooks and crannies of their community it brings about connectivity and makes us all feel good. Believe it or not, you discover creativity every day as you walk, shop, work, and play in Milford. 

Creativity Connects us.

Meet Jennifer Paradis, Executive Director of the Beth-El Center in Milford, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides support services and advocacy to those experiencing homelessness and hunger within the Greater Milford community. 

How does creativity connect you to Milford?      

Milford has an energy in it that can be felt walking downtown and throughout our various shorelines and villages. There is a brightness to our storefronts, vibrancy to events and a kindness that I believe can only be found in our “Small City with a Big Heart”. For many, including myself, it is more than just the City I work within, it’s a community you chose to be a part of and that is because nothing feels impossible here, it’s simply a matter of time and creativity!

Is there a person or organization using creativity to provoke change in Milford?

We are fortunate enough to live and work in a community in which creativity can be found everywhere but I certainly think of Milford Arts Council when identifying one organization in Milford achieving change through creativity. Beth-El Center has been fortunate enough to work with the Milford Arts Council on several projects through the years and we look forward to more collaboration to come. The most powerful part of their work is that it brings people together through our commonalities and the best example that I can think of is the Street Piano Project. 

In the summer of 2019, an outdoor piano was placed on the Milford Green for anyone to play and all to listen. One of our talented young men who was experiencing homelessness at the time and living in our emergency shelter immediately connected to the instrument and began to play ragtime piano many afternoons. The community came to know him and value him for his gift and his identity became that of a young man full of potential, rather than perceived for the rough start he had. The MAC’s advocacy of his expression and the universal access to arts and culture for all allowed this to happen. We are so thankful for that.

Any place in town where you go for inspiration and creativity?

Beth-El Center is located in downtown Milford and so the downtown area offers great inspiration! Whenever we walk around the block, we see our Milford Fire Department, Milford Public Library, various restaurants and shops with sculptures and street art built into the landscape- and of course, our Milford Arts Council, serving as visionaries for creativity brought to life!

Is there an organization in town that makes you feel good?

In my role as the Director of the Beth-El Center, I have the unique privilege to see the care and compassion of Milford rise to meet our everyday challenges as a community. The Center was developed through the efforts of Milford and Greater Milford faith communities, who saw our fellow citizens in need of emergency food and shelter services and responded with the creativity of Collective Impact, a model we use pretty instinctually today but was new to small organizations in the 1980’s. The most effective part of this model was that it responded to the needs of those experiencing homelessness and hunger in our community by allowing the skills and resources of each participating organization to add value to the collective mission. Additionally, it was a true “by the people, for the people'' effort. Leaders were not helping unknown individuals and families, they were helping those they sat next to in church, on the bus, in classrooms and beyond. The community that exists within the Beth-El Center, comprised of guests, staff, volunteers and donors is one of respect, dignity and commitment to meet the food needs of our community and to make homelessness rare, brief and non-reoccuring in our community.

Finish this sentence: When I think of creativity in town I think of …

When I think of creativity in a town, I think of collaborative solutions to systematic and emergency needs that bring every person, civic group, faith partner, and municipal leader within our community, together. We are all interconnected, influencing one another more than we realize, daily. Our local artists are inspired and impacted by their own experiences, some are moved by the product of the artisans work and act through volunteerism, others are influenced by the work of the volunteer and donate to enhance the work… and with this our connectivity is sustained. When I think about how a community creatively overcomes homelessness and hunger, I think of the taskforce we established in Milford to take on the issue. The Homeless and Unsheltered Multi-Agency Network (H.U.M.A.N.) is a collaborative of many providers and city leaders who are critically focused on ending and preventing homelessness. We have ventured together on Outreach and Engagement efforts, hosted educational panels at the Milford Public Library, analyzed data to strategize solutions and together have housed our most vulnerable, unsheltered individuals. With this, there has never been a “one size fits all” model. It takes a creative village to end homelessness.

Creativity Connects Milford is made possible by LIFEWTR.

If you have local creativity to share and would like to be featured in this series, feel free to email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HamletHub or LIFEWTR. 

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