The East Boston Social Centers Host Committee is gearing up for its 100th anniversary gala on November 7 and held a special kickoff event last Tuesday night at the Cunard Tavern roof deck.
The Host Committee and its Honorary Chair, Robert Lewis Jr., are working to raise $500,000 for the EBSC ahead of the 100th anniversary gala.
“We’re excited to start spreading the word and building on our momentum,” said EBSC Executive Director Justin Pasquariello. “This fundraising and awareness building will help us to help more children, families, and individuals of all ages in East Boston and surrounding communities.”
In 1918 the East Boston Social Centers was founded during the Settlement House movement in the late 19th, and early 20th Centuries. The Settlement House movement was a reformist social movement that tried to bridge the gap between the upper and middle class and poor immigrants living in urban areas.
“The Social Centers were born during that era,” said Pasquariello. “The most famous Settlement House was founded in Chicago by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in the late 1880s. The idea was to bring upper, and middle-class social workers into urban areas to live while providing social service needs and public health to the poor living in the city.”
This year EBSC will celebrate 100 years in the community and Pasquariello said EBSC staff is planning to celebrate this milestone in style.
EBSC has hired a historian, Kyle Ingrid Johnson, who has been researching the Social Centers’ history and roots in the Settlement House movement but also collecting stories and testimonies from the community.
Pasquariello said the gala the will help to raise the profile of the EBSC and increase its ability to have a greater impact.
“Through this event, we will engage more opinion leaders, politicians–who already are so supportive of our work—philanthropists, and community members in the important mission and work of the Social Centers,” said Pasquariello. “That important work impacts nearly 600 people on a typical day through our work as a gathering space and our high-quality programs including vital early education, youth and teen programs, family engagement, and older adult programs. Our programs are in service of a vision of continuing to forge a joyful, connected community with thriving families. We are also actively working toward making East Boston a center for early childhood innovation.”
At last week’s Host Committee event, Pasquariello recognized members that have been instrumental in the planning and fundraising efforts.
“I want to recognize our outstanding event co-chairs: Diane J. Modica, Attorney and former Boston City Councilor—who has a personal and long running family connection to our work; Thomas N. O’Brien, founding partner, The HYM Investment Group, LLC, who was the first to join as a co-chair and has provided so much important momentum for this event; Robert E. Travaglini, President of the Massachusetts Senate from 2003-2007 and founder of Travaglini, Eisenberg, and Kiley, who has done so much for our community and this organization; and Debbi White, East Boston Camps Director; retired, Boston Public Schools—whose family has played a critical role in the work of the East Boston Social Centers for generations,” said Pasquariello. “I also want to recognize our emcee: Cheryl Fiandaca, chief investigative reporter with the i-Team on WBZ; Cheryl and her family have done so much for this community and beyond.”
Pasquariello then introduced the Host Committee’s Honorary Chair, Robert Lewis Jr..who is a former Eastie resident, East Boston High graduate and who knows first hand of the impacts the EBSC has on the lives of youth and families.
Growing up in the Maverick projects Lewis said he had a support network in Eastie, like Debbie White, Marty Pino, Thomas Tassinari and Johnny Forbes that all taught him that if he would dream big, good things would happen.
“I didn’t get to where I am in life by myself,” he said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child and that is true. I was just a kid growing up in the projects in Maverick, but I went on to do great things, travel the world, meet people like Nelson Mandela because of the people that were involved in the Social Centers and believed in me.”
In his adult life Lewis became a nationally recognized thought leader, public speaker and passionate advocate for urban youth. He has become well known as a bridge-builder and catalyst for collaboration between diverse business, civic and public sectors throughout the country. A 2015 Boston Magazine cover story listed Robert among the city’s 50 Most Powerful Leaders, calling him “a tireless advocate for inner-city kids.”
“All that success can be traced back to my time at the Social Centers, at East Boston Camps, growing up in Eastie,” he said. “Because there were people that saw something in me and made me believe in myself.”
In 2013 Lewis launched BASE, a program that leverages the power and passion of baseball to help student athletes find pathways to success both on and off the field. Since 2013, the BASE has had 138 student athletes matriculate to college and has provided $25 million in academic scholarships.
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The East Boston Social Centers 100th Anniversary Host Committee, from left, WBZ’s Gina Fiandaca, former City Councilor Diane Modica, former East Boston Camps Director Debbie White, Social Centers Board President Debra Cave, HYM’s Thomas O’Brien, Honorary Chair Robert Lewis Jr. and Social Centers Executive Director Justin Pasquariello.