Alumna Hadley Douglas, who served at the McKay School in East Boston from 1995-1996, reconnected to City Year Boston by coincidence: Hadley and her husband TJ own The Urban Grape, a wine shop that neighbors City Year’s office. Read on to learn about Hadley’s City Year and how it shaped the rest of her career.

“Looking back, I appreciate the value of serving others that my City Year instilled in me. I learned to have empathy and compassion for how someone else might be experiencing a situation.”

City Year Boston (CYB): What was a typical day during your corps year like?

Hadley Douglas (HD): I worked in Miss Thomas’ first grade classroom. My team was at school early in the morning until the end of the school day working with students. During the afternoons, we did service projects in the East Boston community. We cleaned and groomed parks and other outdoor spaces, helped elderly people clean their apartments, and painted housing projects.

CYB: What were your favorite aspects or key takeaways from service?

HD: At the time, working in the classroom was the most rewarding for me. I loved the teacher I worked with, she was very special to me, and I loved the students I worked with. We had a lot of kids who were really struggling, and I felt like I made a difference to them. 

Looking back, I appreciate the value of serving others that my City Year instilled in me. I learned to have empathy and compassion for how someone else might be experiencing a situation. It was a really hard year, but now I see what a formative experience it was for me. 

CYB: Tell me about your career path leading up to your current role at The Urban Grape. 

HD: I did City Year for credit instead of my senior year of college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Then I went straight into the workforce, and I began working in the corporate sector to coordinate companies’ charitable endeavors. My desire to help companies be good corporate citizens was shaped by the time I had at City Year. Marketing, public relations, and event planning all had a part in what I was doing, so when my husband TJ wanted to open The Urban Grape in 2010, he asked me to lead our communications strategy.

CYB: How have you applied your learnings from your corps year to your life after City Year?

HD: Because of the values my corps year developed in me, we built a business that’s different than the other local wine shops. We are very focused on our community and use our platform to help others get a foothold in their small business and support local non-profits.

We coordinated the Urban Community program for a year and a half, through which we selected a non-profit each month to promote their cause and give a percentage of sales to that organization. Now we are focusing on increasing opportunities for people to get into the wine industry. We want to reduce the barriers that women, people of color, and low-income communities face when trying to break into the industry.

CYB: Your book just came out! Tell me about it.

HD: TJ and I just launched our book, Drink Progressively, which is a wine education book based on the theory of how our store is set up. Rather than arranging them by variety, our wines are displayed by light to full body, which we call our Progressive Scale™. It is a very fun and user-friendly book to learn about wine and how to pair food with wine. It features recipes from Gabriel Frasca of Nantucket’s Straight Wharf restaurant, as well as some of my own recipes.

CYB: How do you support City Year today and why do you choose to stay involved?

HD: We supported City Year Boston through our Urban Community program at the store. The Urban Grape also sponsors the Women’s Leadership Network and will coordinate wine tastings for that group with a focus on women winemakers. This fall, I joined the Women’s Leadership Breakfast Committee to share City Year’s mission with my networks and show them how they can get involved.

My City Year was a challenging year of growth, and I needed time away from it to reflect on my experience. Now that I’ve had some distance, I can see how it is an important part of who I am today. I feel a lot of pride when I see those red jackets walk by – I’m so proud that I did City Year and grew from my experience. 

Hadley and her family.

If you’re a City Year Boston Alumnus and want to become more involved in CYB, please contact Erina Colombo at ecolombo1@cityyear.org.

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Contributed by Becca Canavan

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