Living Innovations: Empowering Those with Disabilities

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | June 3, 2019 | 2 Minute Read

With two parents who were devoted to community service, Neal Ouellett—founder and CEO of Living Innovations—grew up in a household where the importance of serving others was always encouraged. He became a Big Brother in his youth and always gravitated toward helping people, particularly those who are differently abled.

“Given the right support and opportunity, people with disabilities have as much to offer as any citizen,” Ouellett said. This way of thinking was the impetus for him to start Living Innovations in 1996 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Its mission of supporting people with disabilities to have a good life at home and within the community has been a staple of the organization for the last 23 years.

“Doing good in the community means helping everybody have an opportunity to take part in the community—to contribute, to have fun, to have a good home,” he said. “That’s what doing good is and that’s what we’re all about.”

Since its founding, the organization has branched out to Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island with 14 offices.

“I could see there was a need to help people with disabilities [to really be a part] of the community, rather than just talk about the community,” said Ouellett. Seeing this need and opportunity to get more differently abled people involved in the communities they live in, Ouellett set about building an organization that fully integrates those living with disabilities with jobs, support services, and happy and healthy social lives.

Services provided by Living Innovations range from case management and shared living to job support. One of the organization’s core values is dedicated to strengthening communities. “Where others see a disability, we see potential,” he said.

Eastern Bank has proudly partnered with Living Innovations and helped the organization fulfill its mission. The partnership has remained strong over the years, especially when it comes to supporting others. When a particular state said that it wouldn’t be able to compensate the organization for the services it was providing in a timely fashion, Eastern Bank stepped in.

“We know you, we have you covered,” Ouellett recalled what his Eastern Bank relationship manager had said to him. From providing loans to lining up mortgages, Eastern Bank has proudly bolstered the partnership and Ouellett is deeply committed to the relationship.

“They’ve met our needs. They’ve been responsive. They’re fun to work with. It’s a winning formula for both parties.”

Learn more about Living Innovations and how this New Hampshire-based organization has joined Eastern Bank to do good.

Making an Impact in the Lynn Community with April’s Pub & Restaurant

By Ranelle Porter,

By Satta Sarmah Hightower | March 18, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

April’s Pub & Restaurant has been serving diverse dishes from fried green plantains and steak mofongo to corned beef hash and chicken marsala to the Lynn community since 1999. The restaurant, which has been a staple in this North Shore town, reflects the owners’ Dominican roots and their whole-hearted embrace of their adopted community. After emigrating from the Dominican Republic in 1989, brothers Roger and Julio Garcia worked together in Salem before eventually pursuing their own ventures in the restaurant world. They then decided to reunite and open their own restaurant in Lynn.

“Working with my brother has been a dream all my life, and it was my father’s dream,” Roger says.

Creating a Presence in the Lynn Community

Launching the restaurant in Lynn was a no-brainer for the brothers. They’ve lived in the community for nearly 30 years and recently, they’ve seen a resurgence in the area, with new development along the city’s waterfront and business corridor. “Lynn is a very unique city, and if you really notice lately, a lot of people are actually moving into Lynn. We have people from all over the place coming. It’s very diverse,” Julio says.

Thanks to a small business loan from Eastern Bank, the brothers were able to open their restaurant in a building downtown. “They opened up the door for us to be able to purchase the building and the whole process was very simple and easy,” Roger says. “[They] even checked on us to see how we were doing after we purchased the building. It makes you feel good, and it makes you feel that there is someone out there that actually cares.”

Fostering a Sense of Community

The brothers worked 17 hours a day, every day to get their business off the ground the first year. The restaurant is the embodiment of the Garcia brothers’ hard work as well as their love for their community and family. Named after Julio’s daughter, April, who has special needs, April’s Pub & Restaurant is meant to bring an essence of heart and joy to the community of Lynn—the same heart and joy that April brings to the family every day.

“She’s such a blessing and I believe that she brings us good luck. The thought of the restaurant is to bring people together,” Roger says. “We always try to keep the name up, and we want to make sure people recognize what [the restaurant is] all about.”

But that isn’t the only thing that makes April’s Pub unique. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—you can get buttermilk pancakes all day long or stop by around dinner for chicken broccoli alfredo. The brothers say that customers jokingly call the restaurant “the embassy” because it’s such a community gathering place. Roger says that its roots in the community is what has helped the brothers forge such a strong relationship with Eastern Bank. The bank’s Join Us For Good initiative, in particular, shows its willingness to help underserved groups and advocate for social justice causes.

“When you see a company like Eastern Bank doing that, it encourages us to do more for the community,” he says. “That’s what we all should do to be a better community.”

Visit April’s Pub & Restaurant in Lynn for a diverse taste of food and community members.