AROUND THE VALLEY
Lawrence Partnership Holds Annual Meeting
This week, the Lawrence Partnership annual meeting celebrated the resilience of the Lawrence community. Guest speakers and community stakeholders discussed the challenges and opportunities to build a post-pandemic economic system that focuses on growth, justice and equity.
The Partnership welcomed Rawi Abdelal, Harvard School of Business’s Herbert F. Johnson Professor of International Management, who offered a global look at the economic disparities facing the nation and strategies to counter those trends on a local level.
Abdelal suggested priorities to making economic opportunity more equitable for all Americans should include decoupling parent income from a child’s future opportunity to earn, emphasizing lifelong, skills-based training, and supporting small businesses.
“Confronted by a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities like ours and an ongoing struggle for racial and social justice requires smart, collaborative solutions that extend across every level of our community, ” said Derek Mitchell, Lawrence Partnership’s executive director. “As evidenced by the people we are honoring this week and the network of committed partners, we’re in a position to advance a recovery that is robust, inclusive, more resilient, and offers more shared prosperity when we work together toward the common good. That’s the road ahead of us this year and we’re excited by the opportunity for real change.”
The Partnership honored Dan Rivera, former mayor of Lawrence and current CEO of MassDevelopment, and presented the David Tibbetts Award to Julia Isabel Perez Silverio, founder of Silverio Insurance Agency and longtime community leader and former city councilor.
David Tibbetts Award
The Lawrence Partnership presented the annual David Tibbetts Award to a leader who successfully promoted and implemented innovative economic development strategies.
This year’s award went to Julia Silverio, who committed herself to improve the city of Lawrence through her dedication to the immigrant population. After moving to Lawrence in 1973, she began providing services to the immigrant community from her home. In 1984 she opened her office, Julia’s Consulting Agency, which is now Silverio Insurance Agency and concentrates in the service of property and casualty insurance. She has served in various positions to contribute to the advancement of the citizens in Lawrence and surrounding areas.
Rising Star Awards
The Partnership also honored emerging leaders that have a significant impact. This years Rising Stars were:
Joanna de Pena, author and founder of Top Notch Scholars, Inc.
Top Notch Scholars is a nonprofit dedicated to leadership development, providing workshops and motivational speaking engagements for high school students. With a particular focus on leadership topics, confidence-building and interviewing skills, networking techniques, and career advancement. De Pena has reached more than 16,000 students and young professionals through Top Notch Scholars. She is heavily involved in her community by volunteering with local nonprofits, food pantries and city clean-ups.
Eddie Rosa, Groundwork Lawrence’s Community Engagement Director
Rosa discovered his passion for community development while working as Latino Outreach Coordinator for The Center and working on the Greening the Gateway Cities program. He has served on the Lawrence Conservation Commission and the Resilient Lands Initiative and is a member of the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority. Throughout the pandemic, Rosa has been working diligently to help meet the community’s immediate needs, including helping families in need of food. Rosa is chair of the Community Outreach and Education group and works on a significant project aimed at redesigning the city of Lawrence recreational parks.
Jorge Velez, Founder of Pentagon Studios & Locay
Velez is an entrepreneur and community leader who launched his first formal business in 2016, Aurea Vestes, an urban clothing line with an e-commerce platform. He launched Pentagon Studios to provide digital marketing solutions to companies and organizations. He provided hands-on workshops that helped small businesses with social media management, online presence, and digital marketing. He has been honored by the commonwealth for his work helping small businesses. He continues to support small businesses with his latest venture, Locay, a platform that facilitates COVID-safe food purchasing for restaurants and customers.
The meeting can be viewed here.
Massachusetts to Enter Phase 3, Step 2 of Reopening On Monday, March 1
Massachusetts will move forward into Phase 3, Step 2 of its reopening plan on Monday, March 1. This will re-open indoor performance venues such as concert halls, theaters, and other indoor performance spaces — who will operate at 50% capacity with a 500-person max — and indoor recreational activities with greater potential for contact such as laser tag, roller skating, trampolines and obstacle courses — who will also operate at 50% capacity.
Also effective March 1: restaurants will no longer be subject to a percent seated capacity limit and their capacity is limited only by the requirement of 6 feet between tables. Musical performances are allowed in restaurants (with appropriate distancing). The 90-minute time limit on tables, and the limit of no more than 6 people per table remain in place. Food courts remain closed. For more information on Phase 3, Step 2 of the Massachusetts re-opening plan, visit here.
Baker-Polito Administration Announces $4.7 Million for Vaccine Equity in Hardest-Hit Communities
The Baker-Polito administration announced a new $4.7 million initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity in the 20 communities most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The administration also announced 11 high-efficiency regional vaccination collaboratives involving local health officials and other regional partners.
This week, 50,000 new vaccination appointments were added mass vaccination locations across the state. This includes the mass vaccination locations at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, Springfield, Danvers, Dartmouth and Natick. Retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens also plan to administer over 20,000 doses next week as well. Residents can visit here to find and schedule their appointments. Appointment availability is very limited due to the constrained supply of vaccine doses that the Commonwealth is receiving from the federal government.
The $4.7 million effort to support its vaccine equity initiative announced last week, which focuses on reducing barriers to vaccination in the 20 hardest-hit communities in the Commonwealth. The administration will work with Archipelago Strategies Group (ASG) and Health Care for All (HCFA) to best leverage these funds.
The initiative will support and coordinate with local leaders and community- and faith-based organizations to strengthen existing efforts in these cities and towns. These efforts will specifically focus on communities of color, homebound seniors, disabled individuals and other hard-to-reach populations. In the Merrimack Valley, these communities include Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell and Methuen. This work will be coordinated with targeted opportunities for increased vaccine access through existing and new locations, including pop-up sites and mobile clinics.
ECCF Funds Methuen Public Art Project
By summer 2021, the Spicket River Falls in Methuen will be home to a dazzling display of vivid colors and hydro-powered lights designed by local artists bringing new life to this celebrated treasure, thanks to funding from the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF).
“Light the Falls” – headed by nonprofit Methuen Arts – is just one of six new collaborative public art and creative placemaking projects being funded by ECCF’s Creative County Initiative (CCI). Launched in 2018 through a partnership with the Barr Foundation, CCI is designed – through a variety of facets – to elevate arts, culture and the creative economy in Essex County.
State Lawmakers Call on Insurance Companies to Deliver on Protection Promises to Small Businesses
Working with local advocacy groups, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes filed legislation in both the Senate and the House last week that would provide a lifeline to small businesses struggling to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. Both HD 3170 and SD 1845 would require insurance companies to honor legitimate claims around business interruption insurance and do away with virus-exclusion clauses.
At a time when so many small businesses in Massachusetts have had their business operations interrupted in some way, insurers have been strictly denying all claims under business interruption coverage saying the current situation doesn’t fit the insuring agreement; that pandemics are not covered. However, one argument presented by policyholders, and amplified by nationwide hospitality industry advocacy group THIRST, is that it was not the pandemic that forced their closure – state orders did, triggering additional coverage under most policies called “civil authority action” which is covered by most business interruption insurance policies.
THIRST was founded in early 2020 to help owners in the hospitality industry lobby for protection they have paid for after there were widespread reports of insurance companies denying business interruption claims from small restaurants and bars across the country. DiZoglio’s and Fernandes’ offices worked with the THIRST’s Massachusetts Chapter to rework and bolster a similar bill that was introduced into last year’s legislative session.
“This essential piece of legislation is crucial for protecting our small businesses, who have faced one challenge after another throughout this pandemic,” DiZoglio said. “It is unacceptable that our local mom and pop shops pay insurance claims to protect against incidents of this nature while not being permitted to access much-needed funds. Insurance companies have done just fine during this emergency – and are sitting on significant money, set aside to pay out claims like these, that our small businesses desperately need. I am hopeful we will get this bill passed and on the Governor’s desk as soon as possible.”
GLCF awards record $152,500 in Community Grants to 30 Local Nonprofits
The Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) awarded $152,500 in competitive grants to 30 local nonprofits within a framework of children’s services, elder services, racial equity and inclusion, as well as water resources initiatives. The focus areas collectively work toward creating a better quality of life for Greater Lowell residents and supporting local nonprofits.
These grant awards are part of a competitive grant process in which nonprofit organizations apply for funds, and an independent committee reviews the proposals and selects awardees. The discretionary grants program is one of several competitive grant programs offered through the community foundation each year.
Included in this round of grants are Catie’s Closet of Dracut, which received a children’s services grant to assist supplying clothing and toiletries through their ‘stores’ for students in need; the Cambodian American Literary Arts Association in Lowell, who received a programming grant to address racial equity and inclusion; and OARS, Inc. in Concord who received a $5,000 grant to improve environmental and public health.
Local Author Releases Debut YA Novel
Lowell native Chris Boucher has released his first novel, “Pivot Move,” which dropped into retail February 1.
Inspired by his time as a basketball coach in area rec leagues, Boucher worked the idea into book form while a student in the master’s creative writing program at Southern New Hampshire University.
Boucher majored in English and minored in philosophy at UMass Lowell, which helps to explain his protagonist’s twin interests in hip-hop culture and Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher whose ideas inspired the Superman comic book hero.
“Pivot Move” is now available at Amazon in digital and print editions and will soon be available at Barnes and Noble and other brick-and-mortar bookstores. For more on Boucher’s work or workshops, visit here.
Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union Accepting College Scholarship Applications
Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union is now accepting applications for its Annual MoneyStrong College Scholarship and the Cooperative Credit Union Association’s 2021 Credit Union College Scholarship Program.
The Credit Union’s MoneyStrong College Scholarship will award $10,000 in scholarships to applicants currently enrolled in college, as well as incoming freshmen for the Fall 2021 semester. Student applicants or their guardians must be members of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union to be eligible.
The Cooperative Credit Union Association will be awarding six $1,500 scholarships across all chapters, with one scholarship awarded per chapter. Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union falls under the Massachusetts Chapter. Eligibility is limited to incoming college freshmen who will be enrolled in an undergraduate college degree program during the 2021-2022 academic year. More information including submission forms, instructions, required documentation, and application deadlines for each scholarship can be accessed here.
MOVERS & SHAKERS
MassDevelopment Agency President and CEO Dan Rivera Hires Economic Development Veteran Theresa Park
Theresa Park, current executive director of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, will join the agency as deputy director and senior executive vice president. Park will be second in command at MassDevelopment per the bylaws and will focus on program effectiveness and development. Park comes to MassDevelopment with 25 years of regional and municipal planning experience, including leading economic development in Lowell. Park received her master’s in urban and regional planning from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s in business administration from the UMass Amherst. She also attended the International Summer School in Oslo, Norway, while in graduate school and spent a semester abroad in Kenya as an undergraduate student. Park will join the agency on March 15.
Check out the latest episode of The 495 Podcast!
Chocolate fans unite! This week on The 495, we talked with yummy food expert and Northern Essex Community College chemistry professor Mike Cross about theobromines, Mayan history, and the time he went undercover as a student to better understand the challenges they face. Click here to listen.