Celebrating the Life and Community Service of Velma Haith
Velma Haith believed and was passionate about community service and that passion became her life’s work. She began her career at Boston’s Department of Parks and Recreation and then joined the staff at the Joseph Lee School Community Center, now known as the Perkins Center. Starting out as a gym attendant, she eventually became the Program Supervisor. Even as a supervisor, you would often find her sweeping the lobby, cleaning the bathroom, picking up trash in front of the building and driving the van to bring kids home all over the city. She became a parent figure to the hundreds of youth that walked through the Lee School doors. Velma loved caring for and supporting young people. She established a youth council at the Center and help organized countless teen activities.
Along with her staff she provided employment, recreation and leadership opportunities for youth in the community. Velma employed a positive youth development model that embraced peer leadership, health education and skills development. Through the ABCD youth summer employment program, Velma was able to provide many young people with jobs opportunities, like staffing the Center’s summer camp.
She also coordinated trips to Florida, New York, Canada and other places.
The youth looked forward to these trips where they attended plays, visited museums, and enjoyed amusement parks. Often these trips were the first time some of the young people had ever left their neighborhoods.
Velma was an outstanding high school athlete and her love of playing sports evolved into coaching softball, volleyball, swimming and basketball. She was known for being overzealous on the sidelines. Often yelling her favorite saying “who loves you baby” after each made shot by one of her basketball players. She helped coach winning basketball teams in BNBL play, as well as in tournaments throughout the East Coast and Canada.
Velma always went above and beyond for the youth of Boston, often feeding and clothing children in need. She helped countless single parents, sometimes providing childcare on the weekends for those who had no other childcare options and needed to work. Velma had a way with young people. No matter their temperament or personal struggles, she was often the only one some would listen to. She truly earned the love and respect of all that came in contact with her.
We celebrate Velma today and will continue to keep her memory alive. She was truly a servant, much more than just the Community Center Supervisor for so many local youth and families over the years. Velma Haith was a mother, friend, aunt, coach, mentor, advisor, teacher, protector, disciplinarian, and peacemaker. Many of those young people in her care, are now responsible adults and civil servants working in the city of Boston and around the country. These folk learned from the model of commitment, integrity, discipline, compassion, hard work and service that Velma modeled during her tenure. We’ve all heard countless stories and seen outpouring of love for her daughters. This legacy is a tribute to who Velma was for youth and young adults growing up in the communities where she served.
Velma was stricken with early onset Alzheimer’s and was cared for at home by her daughters until she passed on October 14, 2017. In her passing, Velma was surrounded by love and support from her daughters and extended family. We invite you to share a fond memory of Velma or offer your words of condolence to her family. In advance, the family appreciates all the acts of kindness and respect rendered during this season. The exact timing of Velma’s home-going celebration has not yet been determined.
To be sure, Velma Haith did not become financially wealthy in all of her well-doing. Still, she lived a comfortable and fulfilled life. It was a life well-lived and she never minded any of the personal sacrifices made to support the young people of Dorchester. In a career that spanned over 40 years, money and titles were never the goal. Velma’s lifelong commitment was to the community and its well-being. Each of her “adopted” children was a touchstone in a truly outstanding career in public service.