It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Betty Beland on Tuesday November 15, 2011. Betty’s dedication to the support of the nonprofit community in the Greater Lawrence area was of profound and invaluable importance. Among her legacy of extraordinary accomplishments is her leading role in the establishment of the Essex County Community Foundation.
"A wonderful woman and inspiring philanthropist"
Betty, a long time administrator of The Stevens Foundations, was a passionate promoter of the importance of providing broad levels of assistance beyond financial support to grass-roots, nonprofit organizations in and around Lawrence. At the same time, she recognized that there had to be a way of retaining some of the philanthropic dollars that were then flowing into Boston, and refocusing them to support local nonprofits.
The founders of Broadhow, the precursor of ECCF, first met Betty through her active support of and engagement with the Essex Art Center in Lawrence. She encouraged them to establish Broadhow in 1998, to provide low cost or free consulting and training to nonprofits. Betty worked closely with Broadhow and helped plan its reorganization to become the Essex County Community Foundation, of which she was a founding board member. Through her active promotion, The Stevens Foundations made substantial and critically important grants to underwrite ECCF’s early operating costs.
It was Betty who started the Greater Lawrence Summer Fund in 1990 and drove it to become a major funding source for Greater Lawrence nonprofits. In 2001, she asked ECCF to take over the Summer Fund which is now one of ECCF’s most successful donor collaboratives providing summer enrichment activities for over 15,000 youth in the region.
Betty was also one of the founders of the Greater Lawrence Community Foundation which began in 1993. As its scope expanded, it was soon renamed the Merrimack Valley Community Foundation and in 2004 it merged with ECCF. Its legacy is now the Merrimack Valley General Fund which makes grants each year to nonprofit programs in the area. Betty’s purpose in all of these efforts was always to bring donors together to do big things they could not do as well separately.
Betty Beland was a unique, warm and caring person. She was a much loved “den mother” of the Greater Lawrence nonprofit community and an inspiration to all she worked with. With all she did and all the difference she made to so many, it seems as if she received special recognition by passing away on National Philanthropy Day. We have all benefited from her example and many contributions to the community and will miss her more than words can tell.
-Remarks from David Tory, Founder of the Essex County Community Foundation
"My 'Irish Godmother'"
Betty Beland was my self proclaimed "Irish Godmother". Betty took me under her wing and taught me to see her Lawrence, the potential, the need and the unique qualities of the people engaged in the non-profit sector. She provided great guidance in the founding and growth of Groundwork Lawrence, she introduced me to funders in both the private foundation sector as well as the business community. She included me at the table when we began the Lawrence Community Foundation even though I was a kid, she sat next to me at meetings and made me laugh with her gossip and running commentary - always with the twinkle in her eye. She taught me that you can lead with your heart and vision to change the world. What a difference a person can make.
- Remarks from Marianne Paley Nadel, Founding ED of Groundwork Lawrence and ECCF Merrimack Valley General Fund committee member