HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge Offered Keynote Address
(BOSTON, MA) – On Friday, November 18, 2022, 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.”
East Boston resident Felix Bezeredy was among the 16 ABCD Community Heroes nominated from across the region by ABCD neighborhood centers and programs for their selfless contribution of time, energy, expertise and compassion.
A pastor, Felix distributes information and health kits, such as COVID PPE, to churches and other Community Action Agencies. He learned about ABCD over 20 years ago while identifying resources for Hispanic residents in need. He later became a client of the ABCD East Boston APAC where he met then-director, John White, who motivated him to continue serving. Felix assisted John with clients and after a period of time, could help in his absence. He even covered the front desk. According to Felix, “John not only looked at me as a client or volunteer, but as a friend.”
Felix recalls helping ABCD clients who were being displaced find new homes. He said, “The reward of having these seniors and disabled residents find a new home kept me going.”
He spends his free time studying the bible and if his health allows, bicycle riding and walking. While honored to be selected as a community hero, Felix said, “I don’t do this looking for glory! My purpose in life is to live a meaningful life. . . [Volunteering] gives you great happiness and you can sleep better.”
A Woman of the People
Secretary Marcia L. Fudge’s career was 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 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, Fudge 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, 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, as well as that of the Community Heroes – able to withstand heat and pressure and shine brilliantly thereafter. John J. Drew, who retired on June 30, 2022, after a storied 51- year career with the antipoverty agency, 13 as president and CEO was inducted into the ABCD Hall of Fame. 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, received the Lifetime Health Equity 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.
About ABCD: A nonprofit human services community action organization, ABCD provides under-served residents of Boston and the Mystic Valley area, with the tools, support and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, the organization serves more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For 60 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in every neighborhood and community served, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more information, please visit bostonabcd.org.