Special to The Record
Eastern Bank Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Boston-based Eastern Bank, is pleased to announce it has honored Gladys Vega, Executive Director of La Colaborativa, with the 2021 Social Justice Award. The award, now in its 33rd year, recognizes community leaders who have made an outstanding impact in addressing critical social justice issues.
A pioneering community organizer and advocate, Gladys works relentlessly and boldly to ensure the Latine community has a voice in determining how its needs and concerns are addressed. Gladys believes that empowering individuals leads to empowering communities, and that an empowered community can use social action to achieve its goals.
Gladys joined La Colaborativa in 1990, two years after its founding, as a Receptionist and since 2006, she has served as its Executive Director. With her leadership, La Colaborativa serves as a consistent, trusted and fearless partner to the Latine community in Greater Boston, with a focus on Gateway Cities and towns such as Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Malden. La Colaborativa partners with residents to drive policy and system changes that benefit Latine communities in such areas as food and housing security, economic advancement, cultural celebration and community leadership. It serves as a trusted resource to Massachusetts’ immigrant community, including newly-arrived immigrants, undocumented families, and low-income tenants and workers.
Gladys is the architect of nearly all of La Colaborativa’s programs, initiatives and community organizing campaigns:
Her leadership has resulted in expanded rights for immigrants, low-income families, tenants, workers, youth and people of color across Massachusetts.
When the COVID-19 pandemic created overlapping public health, unemployment, housing and hunger crises in Chelsea and surrounding areas, Gladys’ leadership positioned La Colaborativa at the forefront of state and local efforts to meet the tremendous needs of Latine residents across Massachusetts.
La Colaborativa’s model for community health distribution through local leadership, grassroots outreach and community participation led to communities in Massachusetts, which once had the highest COVID-19 transmission rates, transforming to have among the highest vaccination rates. La Colaborativa’s team went door-to-door and neighbor-to-neighbor, to reach individuals and families with information about resources available to them and the importance of getting vaccinated. In other areas of support, La Colaborativa created a pop-up food pantry – on the front porch of Gladys’ home – providing over 10,000 pounds of food to the community.
“Gladys has inspired us all through her grit, determination, resilience and leadership, especially as she was working at the epicenter of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts and New England,” said Nancy Huntington Stager, President and CEO of the Eastern Bank Foundation. “She is an extraordinary leader and community trailblazer who leads by example and continues to be a social justice champion. She empowers individuals to realize they can affect change and make the difference they seek, and achieves so much because of her deep and trusting connections to the people in the communities she serves. We are honored to present Gladys with the 2021 Social Justice Award.”
“During the pandemic, immigrant communities became hot spots for the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, revealing gross inequities in our safety net systems, and the team at La Colaborativa does all that we can to ensure families and individuals are not left behind or left alone,” said Gladys Vega, Executive Director of La Colaborativa. “We continue to help people get through this pandemic – to keep families and children fed and safely housed, and to provide the medical care and vaccines to protect them and the workers’ rights to sustain their livelihoods. We are especially honored to receive the 2021 Social Justice Award from the Eastern Bank Foundation because it understands all too well that relationships and trust in the community are always necessary to create justice, equality and opportunity and especially during a pandemic.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Eastern Bank Foundation has provided more than $15 million in local COVID-19 relief. This year’s Social Justice Award was presented during a virtual Celebration of Justice event attended by more than 500 community leaders.
About Eastern Bank Foundation
Created in 1994, the Eastern Bank Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Boston-based Eastern Bank. Through philanthropy, employee volunteerism, advocacy and collaborations with other businesses and community partners, Eastern Bank Foundation responds to community needs and supports sustainable solutions to our communities’ most vexing challenges across eastern Massachusetts, southern and coastal New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. To learn more, visit easternbank.com/foundation.