Project DEEP students lend a shoveling hand

For 11-year-old Donovan LaMonica, shoveling driveways for his elderly neighbors started out as a community service requirement, in exchange for being tutored at Project D.E.E.P. in Dorchester. Usually, students are assigned a house to visit, but LaMonica has been participating for a few years -- so now, after every snowstorm, his dad gives him a ride to the home of 96-year-old Milly, where he clears the snow from the walkway.

After shoveling, “I feel good and I feel like I’ve really helped someone,” he said.

LaMonica said he often shovels two or three times a week. When people try to offer him money for his help, he always refuses, claiming if they were a member of his family he would want them to do the same.

For the past 15 years, Project D.E.E.P., which stands for the Dorchester Educational Enrichment Program, has offered homework help for elementary schoolers once a week from November to April. Around 150 local kids in the tutoring program have committed their ten hours of community service to shoveling out their elderly neighbors. Partnered with the Mayor’s Commission of Elderly Affairs, the helpers often build relationships with their neighbors, so that after seasons of shoveling they visit them on their own volition.

“Year after year instead of being asked, they just go and do it,” said Executive Director Beth Connell. “It’s not just a requirement, it’s more rewarding for them.”

Twins Shannon and Daniel Kerin have been shoveling driveways for two years, starting when they were nine years old. Both said despite being tiring, helping out makes them happy.

“Sometimes I want to help people shovel so they don’t have to do it,” Shannon said.

The program doesn’t just benefit the elderly, either:  Many of the tutors at the center are often young people who once were in the program themselves.

“They know the importance of community service,” Connell said.