On Thursday November 9th, CWS celebrated its 140th anniversary at the Omni Parker House Rooftop Ballroom in Boston. The spirited event honored an organization that has stayed relevant for 140 years through continuous innovation, and meeting the needs of the individuals and families that it serves.
“For 140 years, CWS has been a beacon of hope and light for thousands of individuals where hope might not have existed,” said CWS board chair Paul Davis. Link should go here.
In a testament to the longevity of the agency and the continuity of its leadership, Paul thanked seven former board chairs for their service; Robert Fawls, Joy Camp, Oliver Spalding, Joe DiLorenzo, Robert Hurwitz, Howard Wayne, and Alan Walis.
A highlight of the evening was an appearance by Collette Divitto, a young woman with Down Syndrome. Collette loves to bake, and while she struggled to find a job, she offered cookies to each of her interviewers. Ten days after a Boston TV station aired a story about her, she had over 9.5 million views on Facebook, received over 65,000 letters from around the world, and had orders for over 50,000 cookies. She has since been featured on CBS Nightly News and Good Morning America.
CWS and Collette have formed a partnership, in which CWS provides kitchen space for baking. As her business expands, Collette plans to hire other people with disabilities.
Two other remarkable consumers spoke about how CWS impacted their lives. Sebastian Newman, a 17-year-old high school student who has Down Syndrome, was unsure what he wanted to do after graduation. After meetings with Jim Brett sparked an interest in politics, he began an internship with Cambridge City Councilman Marc McGovern. Joao De Toledo, a 17-year-old with physical and developmental disabilities, is also considering a career in politics – an interest he identified after joining the CWS Pathways program. Joao is passionate about immigration reform, health care and affordable housing, and is currently interning with Somerville Alderman Matt McLaughlin.
Jim Brett, the evening’s honoree and recipient of CWS’ inaugural Lifetime Achievement and Advocacy Award for Individuals with Disabilities, spoke movingly about his brother Jack, who was born with disabilities and was not expected to live long. Jim, his parents and five siblings cared for Jack, who lived a productive and happy life into adulthood.
“We all have a responsibility to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities,” Jim said. “They have a right to participate fully in work, in life, and in the fabric of our community.”
After his speech, Jim graciously thanked the sponsors of the event: Georgiana Goddard Eaton Memorial Fund; Marble Harbor Investment Counsel, LLC; HYM Investments Group; Fidelity Charitable Fund; Bank of America Foundation, and United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley.
In closing, CWS Executive Director Craig Stenning reflected on the agency’s storied history, while looking to a bright future. “The CWS story of 140 years is truly inspiring and I come to work every day understanding the challenge that I have been given to continue this story. As I watch our participants work so hard to improve their lives, it motivates me to work that much harder to continue to make CWS the finest agency in this region.”