In the immediate aftermath of the gas fires and explosions that tore through the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover on Sept. 13, 2018, it was ‘trust,’ said Governor Charlie Baker, that made swift action of the collaborative effort to assist the thousands of residents and businesses affected by the tragedy.
On May 2, Essex County Community Foundation, at its 6th Annual Celebration of Giving, recognized that immense effort.
“At ECCF, we believe that our county is so much stronger when we stand together, and the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief effort is a great example of that strength,” said ECCF Board Chair Jon Payson. The Foundation also honored the donors of the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund with the Foundation’s George Peabody Award for outstanding philanthropy in Essex County.
The event was held at the DoubleTree in Danvers and attended by a record-breaking 575 guests, including some of those affected by the tragedy and many that played a critical role in the relief effort, including nonprofits, first responders, donors and business, community, state and local leaders.
Governor Baker accepted the award on behalf of the 6,887 donors that contributed $12.6 million to the Fund, and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and former North Andover Town Manger Andrew Maylor were also in attendance.
In his remarks, Baker spoke about how trust played a critical role in the success of the restoration and relief effort right from the very start.
“When we all ended up in the Command Center, the two Andrews and Dan were not strangers to me,” he said. “There was trust. It was just a given.”
That thread of trust was woven through every step of the relief effort, including those Baker chose to help coordinate it, like Rachel Madden, the COO of MassHousing, who Baker called the ‘center of gravity’ for her role in assisting the thousands of people fleeing Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria, and trust in Essex County Community Foundation, chosen by officials to house the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund and deliver the $12.6 million in resources to more than 10,000 people affected by the fires.
“ECCF had people’s trust. That was the word, over and over again, that came out of people’s mouths,” Baker said. “Everybody trusts the Essex County Community Foundation.”
Trust, Baker added, is the foundation upon which you create community and the circumstances under which everybody roots for each other to succeed.
Beth Francis, president and CEO of ECCF, talked about the Unity in Community – the theme of the Celebration – and how it was evident in the emergency response, through our state and local leaders, restoration workers, the business community and the local nonprofits, who Francis called the “subtle heroes who met the greatest needs on the ground.”
“ECCF is so incredibly grateful for these nonprofits, who beyond providing critical direct services, also made time to meet us at the table every day, for weeks and months, to plan and execute the delivery of the millions and millions of dollars.”
ECCF recognized many of those nonprofits, and others involved in the relief effort, by hanging life-sized portraits and quotes on the walls of the DoubleTree ballroom – with postcard-sized versions displayed on each table – and showing a powerful video that began with the very first 9-1-1 calls and ended with a message of hope.
“In the end, our communities, collectively, are stronger,” said Andrew Maylor during a taped interview for the video. “We could not have done what we had done if we didn’t do it together.”
(Watch the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Effort video by Lawrence-based Tower Hill Films HERE.)
That notion of Unity in Community was also echoed in ECCF’s 2019 Professional Advisor Award recipient, Dianne Brand of The Financial Advisors in Andover. In addition to being committed to the needs of her clients, Brand, a member of ECCF’s Professional Advisors Committee and Creative County Initiative Steering Committee, is also a Plummer Youth Promise foster parent, raises money for cancer research and donates to many causes she cares about.
“Giving back with time, energy and financial resources is a value that my mom has lived her whole life and instilled in my sisters and I at a very young age,” said Courtney Brand. “She’s always donated to charity and in her work at The Financial Advisors, she empowers her clients with the information and options to give back in a way that is unique to them.”
“I’m truly humbled because at the end of the day, I’m just following my passions,” said Dianne Brand in her remarks. “Thank you to ECCF for helping to advance the missions of all of Essex County’s wonderful nonprofits.”
“We look forward to hosting this event each year,” said Payson, opening the event. “Not only is it an opportunity for us to honor great people making a difference in the County, but it’s also a day for all of us to come together as one and celebrate philanthropy and the impact giving makes in the lives of the 750,000 people living in our region.”