Juneteenth Community Advocacy Awards Honor Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond and Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond

By Ranelle Porter,

By Nicholas Conley | July 19, 2019 | 4 Minute Read

In the 1980s, as Boston’s lower-income communities suffered, two Harvard and Tufts-trained doctors wanted to make a difference. When Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond, M.D. and her husband, Dr. Ray Hammond, started the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in their living room, it began a movement that turned them into community activists, helped the disadvantaged find hope, and has personally impacted the lives of thousands.

In honor of Juneteenth 2019, the holiday celebrating the end of U.S. slavery, Eastern Bank recognized these two inspiring individuals with Community Advocacy Awards in honor of their positive impact on Boston’s underprivileged communities.

Who They Are and What They Stand For

As doctors, both Ray and Gloria have worked to heal the sick. However, the work they’ve done through their church giving hope and guidance to underprivileged youth, as well as initiatives like the Bethel Institute for Social Justice, have made them pillars of the Boston community. Together, they use their resources to provide social services, education, and guidance to thousands of high-risk youth and families within the Boston area. At the Community Advocacy awards, Eastern Bank CEO Bob Rivers described them as a “power duo,” and it’s easy to see why.

Dr. Gloria White-Hammond’s devotion to helping others has not only impacted Boston but the world. From 2001 to 2003, Dr. White-Hammond went to South Sudan, where, following the civil war, she helped free more than 10,000 enslaved people through an underground railroad. Back home in Boston, she realized that “high-risk” adolescents are also “high-potential” and simply need a strong support system. That’s why, in 1994, she founded Do the Write Thing, an initiative that’s served more than 200 economically disadvantaged girls in the Boston area. Since then, she has also co-founded such life-changing initiatives as My Sister’s Keeper, the end-of-life care ministry Planning Ahead, and Shatter the Silence, a faith-based organization of congregations that brings attention to sexual victimization in African-American communities.

As a community activist, Pastor Ray Hammond has also dedicated his life to helping high-risk youth in the Boston area and has been behind decades’ worth of initiatives, memberships, and papers. He is the chairman and co-founder of the Ten Point Coalition, a group of Christian clergy and lay leaders that is dedicated to raising awareness about the issues affecting underprivileged youth and teens. He is also the executive director of Generation Excel, a program which provides educational services, emotional support, and resources to allow youth from economically-disadvantaged communities to thrive, grow, and pursue academic achievements. In addition, he is an Executive Committee Member of the Black Ministerial Alliance and a member of the Strategy Team for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.

Community Advocacy at its Best

When Ray and Gloria first began their work, this future “power duo” could never have imagined how far their reach would extend—they simply saw that the youth in their area needed support and they worked to provide it. In 1998, Newsweek referred to their movement as “The Boston Miracle,” and for 30 years, they have shined a light on the difficulties faced by Boston’s disadvantaged communities. Today, they continue to strive to help these children achieve their full potential by fighting the numerous cultural, racial, and economic barriers that society puts before them. They say their mission isn’t to “save” people but to give them a helping hand, which allows these youth to achieve what they’re truly capable of.

Every year, Eastern Bank’s Community Advocacy Awards spotlight local leaders who have positively affected the Boston area. As CEO Bob Rivers explained, “Our advocacy work is also informed and guided by that of our growing network of community partners and friends, including so many of you who have joined us.” In 2019, there could be no better recipient of the award than these two Boston heroes. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders and by investing in the youth, Ray Hammond and Gloria White-Hammond are paving the way for a better future.

Together, Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond and Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond founded the Bethel A.M.E. Church, and their decades of service toward social justice initiatives is why they were recognized with this award. Learn more about their Bethel Institute for Social Justice today.

Local Female Leaders Are Honored for Their Work with Community Advocacy Awards

By Ranelle Porter,

By Nicholas Conley | December 28, 2018 | 5 Minute Read

As the oldest and largest mutual bank in the United States, Eastern Bank defines themselves by their genuine dedication to social justice within the New England community. They’ve stood up for the rights of immigrants, communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other underrepresented populations. During the annual Community Advocacy Awards ceremonies, Eastern Bank will honor local leaders who have given their time and dedication to addressing the needs of the community.

All of the 2018 award recipients are women—a nod to this year’s targeted grant theme of advancing women—who have overcome steep challenges in their efforts to advocate for the well-being of others. Throughout the months of October and November, each of these women will be recognized for their accomplishments.

November 27th: Sue Chandler, DOVE Inc.

Doves are the international symbol of peace, and DOVE Inc. of Massachusetts stands for “Domestic Violence Ended,” an organization dedicated to assisting adults, teens, and children who have been victims of domestic violence, through services such as crisis intervention, hotlines, emergency shelters, and legal advocacy. With two decades of experience in nonprofit management, Sue Chandler has been instrumental in many of the organization’s initiatives. In addition to her work with DOVE, Chandler is also recognized for her service on the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence, her time on the Board of Directors for Emerge—which was the first batterer intervention program in the United States—and her prior work as director of the Community Advocacy Program for CCHERS, Inc. of Boston, a partnership of health center-based domestic violence programs in the Boston area. Learn more about why Sue Chandler is this year’s Community Advocacy Award honoree.

November 28th: Gina Scaramella, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center

Since 2003, Gina Scaramella has been making a difference through her work as the executive director of BARCC, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. As a nonprofit leader, Scaramella has promoted her cause to end sexual violence through media outlets like the Huffington Post and the New York Times, provided guidance to both the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and worked with the National TeleNursing Center to pair sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) with underprivileged and lower-income community health centers. Read more about why Gina Scaramella is honored with Eastern Bank’s Community Advocacy Award.

Eastern Bank Community Advocacy Award celebrating Gina Scaramella at the Charles Hotel.

November 15th: Deb Ansourlian, Girls Inc. of Lynn

Girls Incorporated is an organization with chapters all over the country, each one working tirelessly to ensure that the next generation grows up “Strong, Smart, and Bold.” Since 2011, the Lynn chapter of Girls, Inc. has been led by executive director Deb Ansourlian, providing a safe place for 1,500 girls, aged 5–18, to help them become the leaders of tomorrow. Even before joining Girls, Inc., Ansourlian was a champion for the underprivileged. Previously, she directed the Hattie B. Cooper Community Center, providing family community services to the Roxbury area, and worked for the United Cerebral Palsy nonprofit organization. Learn more about why Deb Ansourlian is this year’s Community Advocacy Award honoree.

Eastern Bank Community Advocacy Award celebrating Deb Ansourlian at the Salem Country Club.

November 6th: Andi Genser, WE CAN

Andi Genser has worn many hats throughout her career, but all of them have been dedicated to helping the New England community, particularly when it comes to children. After working as the Executive Director of Massachusetts’ largest and oldest Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, she helped to establish numerous childcare organizations over the years, including a national Institute for Leadership and Career Initiatives, an early childhood training program at Wheelock College, and the youth initiative BE SAFE, based at the AIDS Action Committee. Since relocating to Cape Cod, she has served as the executive director of WE CAN—Women’s Empowerment through Cape Area Networking—an organization which offers local women education, networking, and support. Read more about why Andi Genser is honored with Eastern Bank’s Community Advocacy Award.

Eastern Bank Community Advocacy Award Celebrating Andi Genser at the Hyannisport Club.

October 31st, Cathy Duffy Cullity Receives the New Hampshire Community Advocacy Award

In 1996, the New Hampshire chapter of Girls Inc.—a nonprofit organization that empowers young women—was only located in one city, had a budget of less than $400,000, and served only 45 girls a day. But that year Cathy Duffy Cullity took matters into her own hands and turned the NH Girls Inc. into a $1.8 billion powerhouse that delivers programs to 50 schools across New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont—the largest geographic region of any affiliate in the country. Today, she has cultivated her corner of Girls Inc. into an organization that provides school lunch catering, outreach programs, and free evening meals to any families or children in need, every night of the year. Learn more about why Cathy Duffy Cullity is this year’s Community Advocacy Award honoree.

Eastern Bank Community Advocacy Award Celebrating Cathy Duffy Cullity at the Manchester County Club.

October 23rd, the Merrimack Valley Community Advocacy Award Goes to Congresswoman Niki Tsongas

From 1973 to 2007, Massachusetts went without a female serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. The election of Niki Tsongas, a former social worker and lawyer who has spent her life fighting for social justice, changed all of that. In addition to her active involvement with the Massachusetts community through local events, she sits on the Committee on Natural Resources, takes part in the Congressional Arts Caucus, and advocates for victims of sexual assault in the military on the House Armed Services Committee. Read more about why Niki Tsongas is honored with Eastern Bank’s Community Advocacy Award.

Eastern Bank Community Advocacy Award Celebrating Congresswoman Tsongas at Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

October 1st, Phyllis Barajas is honored during Hispanic Heritage Month

From September 15th to October 15th, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and one of the most prominent Latinx leaders in the New England area is Phyllis Barajas. As the founder and CEO of Conexión, an organization that promotes the identification, development, and promotion of new Latinx and Hispanic leaders, Barajas’ work has built a stronger, more diverse future. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, her long career includes distinguished appointments by former President Bill Clinton, Harvard University, and Boston University.

Eastern Bank Community Advocacy Award Celebrating Phyllis Barajas at the Museum of Science.

Community Advocate, Catherine D’Amato, Stands up for LGBTQ Rights

By Kisha Tapangan,

By Satta Sarmah Hightower | June 28, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

For more than 30 years, Catherine D’Amato has been an unwavering advocate within the LGBTQ community.

D’Amato’s advocacy work was forged from her own personal experiences. When she was in her late teens, D’Amato came out to her parents, but unfortunately, she wasn’t met with acceptance. However, that experience eventually put D’Amato on a path that has helped her make a difference in the lives of countless others in the Greater Boston Area.

“Life gives you certain kinds of opportunities. By coming out and having to leave my family, I had to go to work and I had to leave college and I had to do some things that I may not have planned,” she says. “So the combination of being on my own and suddenly out when I hadn’t planned on it, put a lot of these pieces together for me because if you’re oppressed in any way, shape, or form, you can identify that oppression perhaps in other communities.”

Over the years, D’Amato has seen rights advance for the LGBTQ community, but she admits there’s still a lot of work left to do to safeguard these rights. This is why, even decades later, D’Amato works tirelessly every day—remaining steadfast in her mission to ensure that equality isn’t just some elusive ideal, but a living, breathing reality for all Americans.

Making a Difference in Boston

D’Amato’s work with the LGBTQ community began in San Francisco in the 1970s. During that time, the environment was more hostile to people who were openly gay. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California’s history, was assassinated. People were killed and beaten, and hate crimes didn’t exist as a legislative agenda in the same way they do today, according to D’Amato.

“Things have changed, but oppression is oppression and there might be varying degrees of it,” she says. “Wanting to make sure that our community is safe and free to be who they are is a very important piece.”

In San Francisco, D’Amato was the founding incorporator of the world’s first LGBTQ foundation—the Horizon’s Foundation. When she moved to Massachusetts, she continued her work helping to advance LGBTQ causes.

D’Amato became involved with the Human Rights Campaign in Boston, serving on the New England regional board and the national Board of Governors. Today, along with her work in the LGBTQ community, D’Amato has led the Greater Boston Food Bank—one of the top food banks in the United States—since 1995. Just last year, the Greater Boston Food Bank distributed 60.7 million pound of food to those in need. D’Amato is currently one of the longest tenured food bank CEOs in the nation. She also serves as the co-founder and co-chair of the Equality Fund at the Boston Foundation.

The Equality Fund, which currently has nearly $8 million in commitments, will be used to address issues and causes that directly impact members of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s just a very good thing for our community, because in 20 years who knows what the needs will be, but the good news is there’ll be a fund there to help,” D’Amato says.

Leaving a Legacy

However, it’s clear that the LGBTQ community still has several needs and challenges today. Recent research on Massachusetts’ LGBTQ community indicates how much progress the state—and country as a whole—still needs to make to ensure the safety and acceptance of this community.

The study found that although more young Massachusetts residents identify as LGBTQ now than in previous years, they still face higher rates of depression, suicide, and discrimination. LGBTQ youth are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ youth to say that they’ve experienced symptoms of depression, while 50 percent also say they’ve considered suicide. Though Massachusetts was the first state in the country to pass marriage equality and the state provides many resources, support services, and has advanced public policy issues related to LGBTQ causes, D’Amato says there’s still room to grow. There’s a need for the community to remain vigilant on issues like safety, bullying, employment, and achieving equal rights in other areas—especially in light of the current political climate.

She adds that it’s vital for members of the LGBTQ community to work collaboratively and to fight together to make progress. “The important part for me, whether it’s pride month or not, is that we are stronger when we stand together as a community,” she says.

But D’Amato also says that its critical for the community to have allies. As D’Amato’s own experience has taught her, change can happen—it just takes time.

“For the folks that are on the other side of acceptance and inclusion, the advice I would give is to listen, learn, and then hopefully love, because these are human beings,” she says of the LGBTQ community. “My own experience, from being completely rejected from my family to not seeing them for multiple years or engaging with them to having your mother say, ‘Well, you’re my child and I love you and I want you to be happy.’ That’s huge for any person, whatever their story is. So the important part is to not be judgmental and to be educated and to understand.”

And that understanding will eventually lead to more acceptance and equality in our society, D’Amato hopes. It’ll just require a collective, unwavering effort—even in the face of ongoing challenges.

“I don’t think as a young, gay person in the 1970s in San Francisco that I could have seen some of the achievements that have occurred, both in our community and in the rights and privileges of being an American, so that is awesome,” she says. “Now, protecting those rights is where we are now—not losing ground, but maintaining the ground that has been gained. And when that is threatened, we’re all threatened. So the collective work is probably one of the most important things that people can continue to do. We’re stronger together than we are alone and that’s true for our own community. We must stand with each other.”

Read stories about other community leaders’ commitment to doing good and become a part of Eastern Bank’s Join Us for Good campaign.