Men of letters – Santiago and Coard will be honored at ABCD Community Awards Dinner

Geronimo Santiago, a fixture around the East Boston APAC office will be among those honored at the 35th Annual Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Community Awards Dinner on Friday, October 30 at the Marriot Boston Copley Place in Boston.

Both APAC’s Geronimo Santiago and ABCD President Bob Coard will be celebrated for their efforts as two individuals who have worked tirelessly to address the plight of Boston’s underprivileged communities through voluntary leadership and service here and beyond.

In years past volunteers, residents and community leaders dedicated to helping the undeserved and underprivileged at the East Boston APAC office like Officer Daniel Simons, Dolores Aguirre, East Boston High School Headmaster Mike Rubin and Joseph Amodeo Jr. have been honored.

Geronimo Santiago

East Boston APAC Director Amy Lima describes Geronimo Santiago as a true community activist, working to improve the quality of life for all of us in East Boston.

“He has become a valuable asset to our neighborhood and we are so honored to call him one of our own,” said Lima.

As a volunteer at East Boston APAC, former member of its board and a Head Start Parent, Santiago has become a recognizable figure in Eastie’s social activism circles as well as a friend to hundreds of working families.

As a member of APAC’s Board of Directors for several years, Santiago, a single dad of two little girls has helped Lima and APAC bridge the gap between the agencies important programs and Head Start Parents.

“Geronimo (Santiago) has been here since I started 13 years ago,” said Lima. “He has always found the time and energy to help APAC and as a single dad is fully aware of some of the struggles parents go through to feed, cloth and raise children.”

As a Head Start parent, Santiago can be found here in Eastie talking about the importance of a high quality early education in the healthy development of children to other parents.

“In a program often lacking in strong male participation, Geronimo has distinguished himself as a role model of parental involvement,” said Lima. “He served on the East Boston Parent Policy Council and was a frequent volunteer in the classroom.”

More importantly he has made Lima’s job a little easier getting the word out to parents about APAC programs like fuel assistance, the earned income tax credit program and food stamps.

“He has been crucial in making other parents in the Head Start program feel welcome and comfortable enough to begin to explore other help APAC and ABCD offers,” said Lima. “He has found numerous ways to link Head Start parents and other residents to key services and programs offered by APAC and other community based organizations throughout the city.”

ABCD President/CEO Bob Coard

When you think of APAC or the ABCD there are a handful of names that come to mind. These men and woman, like former East Boston APAC Director John White, become heroes among the working class and low income residents here struggling to find a voice that can be heard. In many ways these APAC and ABCD legends have become the voice for thousands of families struggling to food on their table, heat in their homes and clothes on their children.

ABCD President and CEO Bob Coard is one of these legends.

Coard, who will retire on November 1st, will he honored at the awards dinner in recognition of his more than 40 years of leadership, service and dedication to Boston’s underprivileged communities. ABCD will pay special tribute to Coard who began his tenure as ABCD’s president in 1968.

Under his leadership ABCD grew astronomically because Coard did not have the final word but nurtured a culture within ABCD that allowed for the best and brightest ideas to flow freely. They were not always his own but as he said many times in many places, his job was not to delegate work but simply to allow for an environment where people can reach their true potential.

This was the education Coard bestowed upon employees and families of APAC and ABCD. In return they educated him with their thoughts and ideas of how to furthered ABCD’s mission in neighborhoods like East Boston.

Coard started two high schools in Boston for a risk youth at ABCD, in collaboration with the Boston Public Schools. The William J. Ostiguy High School serving youth with substance and alcohol abuse issues has received national recognition. It was school’s like Ostiguy that Coard believed could help dig individuals and families out from poverty. For Coard education was answer to all life’s riddles. If one could rise up and educate their mind–have a true thirst for knowledge–Coard believed they could accomplish anything.

It was his philosophy about education as a tool to combat poverty that made Coard as a legendary leader of the antipoverty movement and a highly respected policy-maker at home in the board rooms, government offices and political enclaves of Boston and the nation.

In 1981 he founded the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) in Washington, D.C. to provide nationwide leadership and impact legislation affecting America’s poor and the 1,000 community action programs that represent them. He also created the Community Action Program Legal Services Inc. or CAPLAW, a national program providing legal support to community action programs and their low-income constituents. Coard and ABCD also established Greater Boston Legal Services and under his leadership, ABCD was at the forefront of the Community Health Center movement.

Then, in 1993 Coard scored another major achievement with the establishment of Urban College of Boston – the widely recognized, fully accredited college for poor people that was chartered as an independent college.

Under his leadership, ABCD has grown into a renowned human services/community action agency with a current budget of $150 million and 1,000-plus employees serving more than 100,000 persons in need annually.

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