CWS Gala Highlights 145 Years of Impact

Community Work Services’ annual Gala was special in so many ways. The Gala marked the 145th anniversary of this venerable organization that was founded in 1877 as the Cooperative Society of Visitors Among the Poor of Boston. With a mission to provide services to those in need by addressing the roots of poverty through employment, education, and housing improvements, CWS is part of the fabric of the Greater Boston community.  

The inspiring and energized event, held at the Boston Hyatt Regency and attended by over 200 people, honored CWS’ history, heritage and legacy, as well as some of Boston’s most valiant champions whose contributions are what keep Boston strong!  

Our 145th Anniversary Gala was such a success in so many ways,” said CWS Executive Director Craig Stenning. “We filled the room with friends and supporters, shared a wonderful meal and exceeded our revenue targets. Our presenters and Honorees told the story of CWS in a very powerful way—a story of hope and excellence, and of 145 years of helping individuals with barriers to economic wellbeing live lives full of possibility, opportunity, security, and hope.”      

One of many highlights was when Erika Tarantal, Emmy Award Winning Journalist, WCVB Channel 5, and the evening’s MC, introduced Mass. Governor Charlie Barker, who offered kind words and thanks for CWS’ service to the community.  Lauren Baker, 1st Lady of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was presented with a Public Service Award for her tireless work on behalf of the state’s nonprofit agencies. Also present in the room were a host of state representatives and city councilors.  

Christine McMahon, President and CEO of The Fedcap Group, offered inspiring words about the persistence of CWS and honored its beloved outgoing Board Chair Paul Davis. “It is remarkable that throughout the momentous events of the past 145 years, CWS stayed strong, rising to the task of meeting the ever-changing needs of the city of Boston. This does not happen but for steady, savvy leadership at the top level—and for nearly 20 years that leadership resided with Paul Davis.  I know from personal experience as a CEO, how much lighter the load is when you know you have a real partner in the work.  I am certain both Serena and Craig sincerely appreciated Paul’s guidance and insight.

CWS was founded by Annie Fields, a revered figure in Boston’s history. At the Gala, Paul Davis presented the Annie Fields Founder’s Award to Serena Powell, who served as CEO of CWS from 2004 to 2017, and is now Executive Director of Fedcap Maine.  ‘Annie Fields led with courage and strength, and those words fit Serena to a t,” Paul said. “Serena implemented new programs, imposed fiscal discipline, and put in place modern structure and governance. She initiated growth that allowed us to serve more participants with better results. Thank you Serena for your many years of service and for the impact you made on so many lives. ”  

 In accepting the award, Serena said–“Today, we talk about inclusion, diversity, equity, social justice and accessibility, but these are not new conceptsThe women who founded CWS knew that our society would be better if everyone, not just some, are supported to succeed.”   

Other highlights from the evening included a successful paddle raise fundraiser to help returning citizens, as well as a program to provide job coaching and placement services for Ukrainian refugees who are coming to Boston in search of a new and safe life.   It also included  presenting the Helen Keller Leadership Award to State Senator William Brownsberger, who played a key role in both the criminal justice reforms of 2018 and the police reforms of 2020.      And presenting the 2022 Participant Award  to Joshua Fatal, a returning citizen.  Joshua inspired the gathering with his powerful story about the journey that brought him to CWS—and to success and sustainable employment.  

CWS helped me get a job at a Boston Hotel,” Joshua said. “It changed my life.  The training at CWS helped me get into this role and provided me with a foundation for the future. They gave me all the tools I need to succeed, and I am so grateful.”