2021 Community Advocacy Awards: Saluting Our Community Warriors
Our annual Community Advocacy Awards celebrate local community leaders who give mightily to address vital needs throughout the communities Eastern serves. In 2021, many organizations stepped up in extraordinary ways to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors, and we’re proud to recognize several that have been at the forefront of addressing inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.
2021 Community Advocacy Awards: COVID-19 Warriors
Co-Founders Dr. Alister Martin, Emergency Medicine Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, and Jon Santiago, Emergency Medicine Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and State Representative from the 9th Suffolk District
“Making it easy for our most vulnerable to get vaccinated.”
GOTVax moved the COVID-19 vaccination effort beyond mass vaccination sites and into neighborhoods. It mobilized a coalition of organizers, municipalities, housing authorities, health professionals, local health clinics and vaccine suppliers to ensure a more equitable vaccine rollout through pop-up vaccine clinics in vulnerable communities, including Brockton, Chelsea, Lowell, Dorchester, Mattapan and Roslindale. Door-to-door canvassing, phone banking and relational organizing drive GOTVax’s campaign-style approach. It vaccinated more than 8,000 people, with over 80% representing communities of color.
Kim McElholm, Interim President & CEO
“Creating an inclusive community for people of all abilities.”
Cape Abilities is dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities on Cape Cod and partnered with Whole Health Pharmacy to provide equitable vaccine access in a community-based setting on Cape Cod. Using volunteer support from the community, the Cape Cod Medical Reserve, Relief Home Health, and staff from Whole Health Pharmacy and Cape Abilities, the organizations ran a joint clinic from a Cape Abilities facility and served hundreds of eligible residents. This vaccine clinic demonstrated how collaborations among local organizations strengthen nonprofit and services infrastructure. These connections were especially relevant in providing community-based vaccine access during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis – the risks of which have disproportionately affected Cape Cod due to an average population age that is higher than other regions in Massachusetts.
Merrimack Valley Food Bank
Amy Pessia, Executive Director
“Providing adequate nutrition and freedom from hunger.”
One of four food banks in Massachusetts serving food pantries, shelters and meal programs that in turn, serve individuals and families, Merrimack Valley Food Bank throughout the pandemic never stopped its services and immediately adjusted its distribution model. It delivered food to COVID-19 positive residents unable to leave home due to quarantining and isolation requirements, and continued to operate seasonal food distribution programs, deepening its community partnerships in the process. In 2021, it stepped up again and nourished 40% more people with nearly 5 million pounds of food and 3.8 million meals.
Myriam Michel, Executive Director
"High-quality, nutritious food is a human right. It's a leveler, a connector and essential to building healthy communities."
COVID-19 severely impacted Waltham’s most vulnerable residents. Unemployment sky-rocketed and thousands of families struggled to put food on the table. Healthy Waltham scaled up rapidly to meet the overwhelming demand for its services, going from serving 400 families at its monthly food pantry to serving 1,000 families almost weekly and offering delivery services to vulnerable seniors. In 2021, it distributed more than 1.3 million pounds of food to over 35,000 families, and became a trusted and relied upon partner for vulnerable families and service organizations in Waltham and beyond.
Gather New Hampshire
Deb Anthony, Executive Director
“Ending local hunger through collaboration and leadership.”
For 200 years, Gather has served Seacoast residents facing hunger. Through distribution programs and its Pantry Market, Gather provides nutritious food options, while offering nutrition education and recipes for healthy living. When COVID-19 struck, Gather innovated its programming to meet its community needs, serving over three times as many meals per week with more than 50% fewer volunteers. Gather introduced initiatives such as mobile markets to deliver food to different towns and an online ordering system for people who were uncomfortable using the agency’s food pantry. At the same time, efforts significantly increased to create healthy meals with food that otherwise would have gone to waste. One thousand meals per week are now produced from rescued food and provided to families in need through the Pantry Market and mobile programming.
Essex County Community Foundation
Beth Francis, President and CEO
“Our role as a community foundation is to bring people together to solve the challenges that no single individual or organization could solve alone.”
Essex County Community Foundation created a multifaceted response to the pandemic including the launch of the Essex
Old Colony YMCA
Vincent J. Marturano, President & CEO
“Enriching the quality of life for everyone in our communities.”
A bedrock of support in the South Shore, Old Colony Y and its seven branches mobilized food, housing, child care, and health support to families, first responders, essential personnel and vulnerable populations during the pandemic. It distributed nearly 5,000 meals per week, and housed 60 families experiencing homelessness. Its team provided emergency child care for hundreds of children, collaborated with schools to develop remote learning centers, and continued social service programs for vulnerable children and families. It also offered vaccine clinics, enabled telehealth and continued its Mental Health Clinic services.
Supporting Businesses of Color
Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
Segun Idowu, President and CEO
“Advancing the economic well-being of Black businesses, organizations and residents.”
The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) exists to advocate for the support of Black businesses in Massachusetts, and the wealth and employment they create. Efforts during the pandemic have successfully: advocated for direct resources to Black businesses to ensure their survival and stability; lobbied the Commonwealth to increase spending with Black businesses and equitably distribute grants to minority firms; and developed a blueprint for dismantling systemic racism in Massachusetts. Along with other Coalition for an Equitable Economy partners, BECMA advanced a small business ecosystem centered around racial equity, collaboration, shared leadership and equitable access to capital, business networks, education, technical support and other resources for Black, Latinx, immigrant and low income small business owners in Massachusetts.
Supporting Businesses of Color
Small Business Strong
An initiative led by Yvonne Garcia in addition to her role as Chief of Staff to the Chairman and CEO of State Street Corporation where she is also Global Head of Communications
“Helping women and businesses of color navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Small Business Strong helps Massachusetts small businesses in urgent need of resources from the devastating impact of the pandemic, and especially those most affected: women and businesses of color. Free resources are provided to businesses, including: access to functional specialists and business advisers for personalized advice; an online database for information on financing, accessing public grants, digital business transformation and more; and on-demand COVID-19 Rapid Antigen tests.