Charlestown Resident Nora Blake Lauded by ABCD at Community Heroes Celebration

On Friday, November 18, at the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, ABCD honored 16 Community Heroes – volunteers, partners, collaborators, and leaders who uplift underserved and under-represented people and families throughout Greater Boston, and advocate for social, racial, economic and reproductive justice. The Community Heroes Celebration (CHC) is the first ABCD awards gala since 2019, and featured keynote speaker, Marcia L. Fudge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and WCVB-TV’s Karen Holmes Ward as emcee.

ABCD’s President and CEO, Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq., said, “ABCD has blazed a trail in every aspect of anti-poverty and social justice work in the Greater Boston area.” She continued, “I am honored and humbled to laud all of our 2022 Community Heroes in-person after three years. COVID may have kept us apart for a while, but it made us more agile, more resilient and more creative. We don’t do this alone. Collaboration is at the core of our work.”

Charlestown resident Nora Blake was among the 16 Community Heroes nominated from across the region by ABCD neighborhood centers and programs for their selfless contribution of time, energy, expertise and compassion.

The oldest of six, Nora grew up in Buffalo, New York, a city with more than its share of economic struggles. She moved to Charlestown 20 years ago and as she raised her son Andrew and moved forward in her career with Sodexo, she became more and more involved in the community. 

She has served on several nonprofit boards, devoting herself to causes including food security and job training. The Kennedy Center, an ABCD affiliate, has been at the heart of her activities. About five years ago, Nora, a long-time Adopt-a-Family donor, started volunteering with the holiday toy drive. Skilled in logistics, she helped to expand the program’s reach from 100 to 300 families, meaning that each year, 900 children receive the toys, pajamas and books they want. 

“It’s very touching when a mom comes to pick up the toys. I was on the other side of that at one time; I just hug them,” she said, adding, “I give the Kennedy Center staff a ton of credit, especially during COVID. They do so much. They’re small but mighty!”

A Woman of the People

Secretary Marcia L. Fudge’s career was also forged in the fire of advocacy, equity and social justice, having worked to help low-income families, seniors and communities across the country throughout her career. She served as U.S. Representative for the 11th Congressional District of Ohio from 2008 to 2021. Secretary Fudge believes that U.S. housing issues are not solved through a one-size-fits-all approach, and advocates policies and programs that can adapt to meet a community’s unique housing challenges. Under her leadership, HUD is working to eradicate growing homelessness issue in our communities, to end discriminatory lending practices and to ensure that U.S. fair housing rules open the door for those who have been systematically locked out of home ownership, making the dream of homeownership a reality for more Americans.

In 1999, Secretary Marcia L. Fudge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was elected the first woman and the first African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio. During her two terms, she prioritized improving the City’s tax base and expanded opportunities for affordable housing. Her career in public service began in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office where she rose to the rank of director of budget and finance. Secretary Fudge earned a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and a Juris Doctor from Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. She is a Past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and a member of its Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter.

60th Anniversary, Diamond Jubilee

The CHC gala coincides with ABCD’s Diamond Jubilee! Sixty years ago, in 1962, ABCD was a startup in the fight against poverty in America, launched with a $1.9 million grant from the Ford Foundation. In

1964, when Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act, ABCD was designated as Boston’s official anti-poverty agency. ABCD built several senior housing developments with HUD 202 grants, has been a HUD certified counseling agency since 2009, and provides many other housing programs and services.

The diamond is symbolic of ABCD’s spirit and purpose since 1962, as well as that of the Community Heroes – able to withstand heat and pressure and shine brilliantly thereafter. The ABCD Hall of Fame will induct John J. Drew, who retired on June 30, 2022, after a storied 51- year career with the antipoverty agency, 13 as president and CEO. A national leader in the community action and nonprofit sector, Drew led the expansion of Head Start programs and launched several new youth programs, including WorkSMART, a school year paid work and learning experience for disadvantaged youth. Financially astute, Drew facilitated ABCD’s acquisition of significant real estate, as well as initiated renovation and technology updates for state-of-the-art facilities for Head Start, ABCD’s two alternative high schools and the Urban College of Boston.  

Dr. Gary Gross, who served as ABCD’s medical director for family planning for 41 years before retiring in March 2022, will be presented with the Lifetime Health Access Champion Award. A leader in essential and comprehensive family planning services, Dr. Gross helped form the Massachusetts Family Planning Consortium that outlined the initial grant application for Title X funding for Massachusetts, with ABCD as the grantee. He also partnered with Barbara Eck Menning, founder of RESOLVE, to establish the first-ever Title X funded program for early diagnosis and treatment of infertility within family planning sites, bringing traditionally out-of-reach care directly to the communities served by ABCD. 

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