Emely Barreto says the greatest inspiration in her life is her mother who was a “single mother without money or skills, and with an uncertain future” when she came to the United States. She brought Emely and her sister from Puerto Rico when Emely was six. “We were without a home or money, and we had to live in a shelter,” Emely recalls. But despite many hardships, her mother grew to be “a strong, loving and wise woman who still manages to smile,” she said. Emely was inspired to make a silent promise to herself and to her mother, that she would get an education and be the best that she can be, and whenever she feels like giving up, to think about her mother and how she never gave up. No wonder that Emely herself is so inspiring! Marta Moura, a colleague at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC), said she is “an inspiration and a role model who illustrates selfless dedication to nursing care and compassion to others.” Marta notes that Emely always has a smile on her face, too.
As her career has advanced over the past 15 years, Emely has worked in several positions at GLFHC, and according to Marta, “Emely is the ‘go to’ person wherever she has worked.” Emely is currently Clinical Nurse Manager at the GLFHC’s largest site. She has been recognized by GLFHC more than once as an exemplary employee, receiving the Distinguished Service Award and recognition as the “Employee Who Has Gone the Extra Mile.” Emely was the first ever Medical Assistant Clinical Educator at GLFHC, and in 2010, she was named to the advisory board of the Merrimack Valley Area Heath Education Center. She has also received an Outstanding Massachusetts Community Health Center Employee award. Marta points out that Emely has achieved all of this while coping with a chronic illness. Not only that, but she is mother to five sons, and is working toward an MBA from Cambridge College in Healthcare Management while working full-time. Emely and her husband Leoandy Guzman live in Methuen and are parents to five sons, aged 22, 17, 10, 3 and 1. Emely is clearly keeping that special promise to herself and her mother!
Kathy Brough and Anita Saville are known as the founding mothers of Budget Buddies, a Chelmsford-based non-profit created in 2010 to empower low-income women through education about personal finance and money management. “Kathy is a role model . . . someone who sees a problem and then takes action,” said Budget Buddies board member Susan Graves. She calls Kathy “passionate and compassionate, with an amazing work ethic, always striving to improve the lives of others.” Kathy was born in Worcester, the youngest of six children. Her path has led her to live and work in New York City, Connecticut, Canada, and England. While she has managed operations and finance for several small businesses, Kathy has always maintained a busy “volunteer career,” too. She has surely done her part to change the world as a grassroots organizer and volunteer; a campaigner for causes and candidates at the local, state and national levels; and a public servant herself as a Chelmsford Town Meeting representative for 27 years. Kathy has volunteered at Lowell Transitional Living Center since 1993, helping people with mental or physical disabilities to apply for disability benefits. She finds it to be “very gratifying,” adding that she receives back much more than she gives. Kathy served on the Center’s board from 2006 through 2015.
Kathy’s knowledge of non-profits, business, and volunteerism, fueled by her indomitable spirit for community and public service, proved to be a perfect complement to Anita Saville’s savvy in finance. Before launching Budget Buddies in 2010, they spent a year doing research. They asked executive directors and caseworkers about clients’ needs to determine what a program on managing money and personal finances should look like. In only five years, Budget Buddies has expanded from a pilot program to an award-winning model program. Its model uses a series of workshops and one-on-one coaching. It not only helps women to develop skills that are critical to self-sufficiency, but has been a catalyst for friendships, enriching the lives of buddies and coaches alike. Budget Buddies’ awards include: the 2011 Greeley Award of Excellence for program evaluation from the Jericho Road Project; a Splash! Award in 2013 from U. Mass Lowell’s Center for Women and Work; and an Unsung Heroines Award, presented in 2014 by the Mass. Commission on the Status of Women.
Growing up in Lawrence, Maria Consoli was surrounded by extended family, one in which “just being a family was the most important thing,” she says. Her grandparents lived in the same house, and aunts, uncles and cousins were a few blocks away. “We ate together, played together, laughed together and cried together. We shared every happy occasion as well as every sad one,” Maria recalls. Her parents were both immigrants who came to the United States as teens with their own parents. They instilled in Maria that family members need to help and rely on each other, and give back by helping the less fortunate. In turn, Maria and her husband Tony instilled love of family and community spirit in their sons, Matthew, Christopher and Michael. Maria calls them “my biggest joys in life,” along with grandchildren Sophia and Sebastien. Maria’s love of children doesn’t end with her grandchildren, though. She volunteers to read to kindergarteners at the Lahey School in Lawrence. “Their warm smiles are all I need to make me feel better about the world,” she said.
Maria’s career began during her college years, when she worked as a part-time bank teller. Earning several sales and service awards along the way, Maria was frequently promoted until she became branch manager at Boston Federal Savings Bank in Lexington. In 2009, she joined the Andover Branch of The Savings Bank. Bruce Donovan, who was branch manager there at the time, recalls Maria asking right away about the bank’s community involvement.” Not only is Maria the top salesperson at The Savings Bank for the past five years, but she is the only one of nine branch managers to earn the title Assistant Vice President. She represents The Savings Bank at Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce networking events at least twice a month. Still, she makes time to give back to her community in so many ways: as treasurer of the Greater Lawrence Kiwanis Club, board member of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, volunteer with Merrimack Valley Elder Services, and as a new member of the Greater Lawrence Italian Women’s Club where she will help raise scholarship funds. Bruce says he nominated Maria because of her dependability, positive attitude, great sense of humor, outgoing personality and the fact that she is “extremely confident and knowledgeable.”
“She always arrived with a smile,” said Maggie Martin about Susan Deangelis, who helped Maggie’s family through a very difficult time. For 16 years, Susan has worked in one of the most compassionate of all occupations, as a hospice aide. While others are in awe of the work she does with the dying, Susan is humble, down-to-earth, even positive about it. When asked how she copes with it, she says, “For me it is not about dying. It’s about living and making the most of it. When you think about it, every day that you live, you are one day closer to death. But if you focus on that, you aren’t really living! You have to make the most of what you have. Whether it is helping someone to look their best, to build confidence in starting their own business, or to make the most of someone’s last days.” When Maggie’s husband was released from the hospital and ready for hospice care at home, Maggie said, “It was a new world” for herself and her daughters. Susan taught them how to care for their husband and father, and helped them to understand what he was going through. Susan “never missed a day, even during some nasty New England weather,” said Maggie. With obvious gratitude, Maggie says her family could not have gotten through that time without Susan. Her gratitude and admiration are obviously deep and sincere when Maggie calls Susan a “true professional“ and “the ultimate volunteer.”
In addition to working for Commonwealth Nursing Services in Lowell, Susan is an Independent Mary Kay Senior Consultant. Over eight years with Mary Kay, she has mentored several women to set up their own Mary Kay businesses. Susan is a volunteer educator at the Lowell Folk Festival recycling education center, recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a national model for recycling at outdoor special events. Susan serves on the board of St. Paul’s Soup Kitchen in Lowell, which serves meals five nights a week to needy people. At least once a month, and often more, Susan helps to prepare meals, serve and clean up, too. Susan, who has three daughters and a son, coached Lowell youth soccer for nine years, in the girls under-12 and under-15 divisions.
Lee Evangelista’s “passion, generosity, and hard work” make her a perfect Tribute to Women honoree, says her cousin Andrea McCann. Andrea should know—she is Lee’s cousin and close friend. “Lee’s positive energy and willingness to succeed is second to none,” she says. Lee and her sister were raised in Lawrence by their mother and their grandparents. After graduating from St. Mary’s High School, Lee worked three jobs to finance her education at U. Mass. Lowell, where she met her husband Tom. She excelled in her first career in the hospitality industry, becoming the youngest Director of Sales at any hotel within the Marriott Corporation by age 30. Lee says she “adored” the hospitality industry, but when Tom wanted to open a company, she began a second career as his business partner. After 30 years, “through love, devotion, hard work and perseverance,” E.J. Paving is a multi-million dollar company with over 60 employees, Lee said. She has had yet another career for 20 years as part-time instructor and personal trainer at Cedardale Heath & Fitness in Haverhill. “I simply enjoy helping people become healthier,” she says. Despite all her professional achievements, Lee believes “my biggest accomplishment is raising my two wonderful children, Ashley and Tommy.”
E.J. Paving’s success has freed Lee’s time in recent years. She uses her time and talents to make a difference in others’ lives. “My cousin lives her life every day by helping others,” says Andrea. Lee organizes Project Bethlehem to fulfill the Christmas wishes of three or four homeless families at Lazarus House. In 2014, Lee participated in the “ALS ice bucket challenge,” raising money to combat the deadly disease. With Tom and their daughter, Lee raised $5,000 in the Best Buddies Challenge, a 100-mile bike ride for the non-profit that aids people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since her mother is a breast cancer survivor, Lee’s is passionate about the Jimmy Fund, which supports Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s research. Riding bikes in the Pan Mass Challenge, Lee, Tom and an employee have raised $150,000—but her goal is $500,000. No doubt, Lee will do it! Andrea says, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of her way to make life beautiful for others. Lee is beautiful on the inside and the outside.”
When she was only nine, Rose Faro left devastated post-WWII Italy, arriving with her mother at the Port of Brooklyn on Christmas Day. With nowhere to go, they were allowed to stay onboard overnight. Her grandmother, an earlier immigrant, traveled from Lawrence to meet them, and the next day Rose entered Lawrence and her new life. Rose’s mother found work as a seamstress. They both learned English. Rose graduated from St. Mary’s High School. Thanks to her own hard work and a full scholarship, she became the first person in her family to graduate from college, with a chemistry degree from Emmanuel College in Boston. After teaching for three years, she married Joseph Faro, himself an immigrant from Sicily. Within a few years, they had three children. Joe owned a beauty salon at the time, but chemical allergies prompted him to open a different business. Rose worked alongside Joe, “doing what needed to be done,” she said in her characteristic humble manner. The small bakery they started in the early ‘80s is now a group of thriving businesses. Joseph’s Trattoria Bakery & Café in Haverhill is famous for its baked goods and desserts, well- loved by locals. Joseph’s Pasta Company and MultiGrains Bread products are in demand by fine restaurants and markets nationwide. Their companies now employ over 500 people. Rose accomplished all of this while raising three children, and while surviving breast cancer twice. When she was active in the Susan G. Komen walk for breast cancer research, Rose solicited support from the New England Patriots, and considers the football signed by Tom Brady as one of her treasures!
Joseph Bevilacqua, head of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, greatly admires Rose and the tremendous contributions the Faro family has made to Haverhill and Lawrence, not the least of which are providing so many jobs and restoring abandoned properties to productive use. The site of MultiGrains Bakery is an old mill in Lawrence that was in the worst possible condition until Rose and Joe resurrected it. “Rose has demonstrated to her family and the community that you can have successful businesses, employ hundreds of people, provide a quality product, and be supportive of your community, all while raising your own family,” he said. Rose and her family are involved in “countless charities” including the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, Lazarus House, Susan G. Komen, Central Catholic High School, the Salem (N.H.) Boys and Girls Club, the Lawrence and Nashua food banks, and many more.
Born and raised in Lowell, Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick spent most of her career there, too, and has contributed enormously to the quality of life in her home city. After graduating from Emmanuel College, she earned a Master’s degree in Political Science at Boston College. Her interest in politics, government and public service lead her to the State House, where she worked for eight years in the Offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. After her second child was born, Mary Ellen made a career change, moving to the banking industry and to workplaces closer to home. Her first banking position was at the Lawrence-based Shawmut Arlington Trust, followed by a position at First Bank of Chelmsford. Then in 1988, Mary Ellen was instrumental in founding Enterprise Bank in Lowell, a full-service commercial bank known for its dedication to the communities it serves, something that Mary Ellen decidedly influenced. When she retired in December, 2014, Mary Ellen left an impressive 25-year legacy that includes the bank’s Non-Profit Collaborative, a series of seminars serving the needs of non-profits professionals across the Merrimack Valley.
Allison Burns, her long-time colleague at Enterprise Bank, says “Mary Ellen Fitzpatrick worked tirelessly to promote economic growth and a rich quality of life for all residents of the Merrimack Valley.” Allison described Mary Ellen as “driven, compassionate, inspirational and respected.” In her role as senior bank officer and generous volunteer of her time and talents, Mary Ellen has served as Vice Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, helping to bring additions and improvements to the U. Mass Lowell campus; a member of the board of Corporators of Lowell General Hospital; board member of Associated Industries of Massachusetts; and board member of the House of Hope in Lowell, and Girls Inc. of Lowell. Mary Ellen is also co-founder of the Lowell Sun’s Salute to Women. Allison Burns says, “For many years it was Mary Ellen who nominated others” for the Tribute to Women, adding, “It is so fitting that we take the time to recognize her now for the vast contributions she has made.”
This quote from poet Carl Sandburg expresses Barbara Grondine’s philosophy: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent.” Clearly, Barbara is “spending her coin” by educating, nurturing and guiding others toward developing their best possible selves. “I’ve spent most of my life fighting for better education for our children and to make sure that those in need are heard, respected, and helped,” she says. Now a grandmother, Barbara’s hope is “to pass on to my five grandchildren the importance of taking care of each other and those in need.” Barbara grew up in Lawrence, graduated from Lowell State College (now U. Mass Lowell) earned a Master’s in Counseling/Psychology from Salem State University and a Master’s in Administration from Lesley College. During her 27-year tenure as a School Psychologist for North Andover Public Schools, she and husband Tom raised four children who Barbara proudly calls “amazing.” She says her activism and community service dates from the 1970s when she first encountered the Methuen League of Women Voters. “I’ll never forget how empowering it was to meet women taking charge of important community roles . . . ,” she said. Still, she could not have contributed so much if it weren’t for her family. “I was always able to try my hardest in life because of the support that my husband Tom and my children have always given me,” Barbara said.
In addition to professional and family responsibilities, Barbara has contributed enormous time and energy to the education of Methuen students: 20 years on the Methuen High School Scholarship Committee; service on the Methuen High School Building Committee that brought renovations and improvements to the school; 24 years on the Methuen School Committee, immediately followed by election to the Greater Lawrence Technical School District Committee, where she current serves. Barbara has also lent knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to the College Club of Greater Lawrence and to the Methuen YMCA. For 20 years, Barbara was active with the Merrimack Valley Trauma Intervention Program (TIP). For 40 years, she has volunteered for The Psychological Center in Lawrence, which helps people experiencing mental health, substance or alcohol abuse, or homelessness to overcome the stressors they face, and to develop positive coping responses. Barbara is currently president of the Center’s board.
Lawrence native Kimberley Guerin attended St. Mary’s High School and began her career as a teller at Arlington Trust Company in Andover. Receiving several promotions over 26 years with the bank, she ultimately became a Business Development Officer for Sovereign Bank, the “descendent” bank of Arlington Trust after a series of bank mergers. Along the way, Kim developed her sincere passion for connecting people and helping small business owners in the Merrimack Valley with their financial needs. As a small business specialist, Kim helped hundreds of people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. She accomplished this while raising three children, now ages 22, 20 and 14. Kim accepted the offer to be branch manager for Eastern Bank in Andover in 2013, and Eastern Bank is so glad that she did. “Kimberley Guerin is a remarkable businesswoman!” said Ruth Bitchell, Regional Senior Vice President for Eastern Bank. Ruth credits Kim for quickly assessing the needs of a 3-year-old branch that was not performing well, for creating an effective business plan and executing it successfully. “In a new market, with limited staff, it takes a special person with tremendous stamina, energy and a great sense of humor . . . Kim has all of these attributes,” says Ruth. Kim is passionate about providing the best service to her customers, developing a service-oriented staff, and supporting her community, Ruth said. For example, when a customer with a long history in the home health care industry was turned down for a loan to buy a franchise with a home health care company, Kim made it her mission to find alternative funding for her. She didn’t give up until she succeeded, and it changed the woman’s life. Kim says that this is what attracts her to banking, the opportunity to really help to change people’s lives.
Kim’s long-time involvement with the Andover community aligns with Eastern Bank’s philanthropic commitment to nonprofits and local businesses. Kim proudly points out that Eastern Bank is “number one SBS lender in Massachusetts for seven consecutive years.” Kim serves on the board of the Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program, which provides safe and affordable opportunities for youth and adults to boat on the Merrimack River. She is a member of the Andover Business Community Association, and represents Eastern Bank at the North Andover chapter of BNI, an international business networking organization.
At Kerin Hamidiani’s first interview for a teaching position, at the University of Vermont Department of Dental Hygiene, the department chair told her, “You will never get rich teaching.” Kerin says she is glad this didn’t discourage her. “I have found in my 40+ years of working with students, I have become rich in many ways that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.” The Vermont native earned her Associates Degree in Dental Hygiene, followed by a B.S. and then a Master’s in Education, all at University of Vermont. She has been teaching at NECC since 1984, where she has trained more than 600 dental hygienists. Mary Farrell, Dean of the Division of Health Professions at NECC, says Kerin is highly respected in the education and the dental community. The Massachusetts Dental Society recognized Kerin as the Dental Auxiliary Teacher of the Year in 2013. She is also recipient of an Excellence in Teaching award from NISOD, a national organization of community and technical college professionals. During her career at NECC, she and her husband Hamid have raised two daughters. Kerin says with pride that they have “both earned college degrees and have gone on to be successful helping women.” She adds, “I know that what I have shared with them will continue to come back to her in many wonderful ways.”
Kerin’s enthusiasm for her work has never diminished. She says she enjoys a new “crop” of students every year, whose “fresh faces have kept me enthusiastic and motivated to continue in this role for 31 years.” Visiting dentists’ offices is the favorite part of her job since it is not only a chance to observe and guide her students during their internships, but also a chance to see former students who are “successfully and happily working in their jobs.” Kerin has generously given of her skills in the community. For example, she has taken the lead in implementing dental sealant clinics for underserved students in the Haverhill School System since 2008. She also provided dental screenings and fluoride treatments to participants in the 2011 New Hampshire Special Olympics, in order to contribute to the statistical analysis of the oral health in this special group.
Jacqueline Harris and her family moved to Massachusetts from Nebraska when she was a girl. But she has planted deep roots in Lawrence that have grown and spread to touch the lives of many people over the past 35 years. Jacqueline is known as a pioneer in bringing health and social services to Lawrence through the organization she heads, Supportive Care, Inc. In 1983, she co-founded Supportive Care with her mother, Jurlene McCarter, who was not only an advocate for victims of domestic violence but a survivor of it herself. “She believed in helping women and children caught in the cycle of domestic violence, as well as in providing quality home health care and community-based services to elders and families,” Jacqueline said. There is a legacy of women in the caring professions in Jacqueline’s family. Her grandmother was a psychiatric nurse in Nebraska who pioneered home-based programs for psychiatric patients, and one of her daughters is a Registered Nurse, now pursuing a degree as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. A committed life-long learner, Jacqueline earned a B.S. in Psychology from Merrimack College in 1985. Since then, she also earned a Master’s in Human Services from New Hampshire College, and an M.S. in Psychology from California Coast University, followed by a Ph.D. in Psychology from the same university. She is the first in her family to earn a doctorate.
Delania McCarter-Marmolejos, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Supportive Care, says Jacqueline “always has a smile on her face, and meets everyone with open arms.” Delania describes her as “compassionate, sincere, dedicated, a hard worker and an activist.” She says that Jacqueline always encourages the staff at Supportive Care, sharing her belief with them that anything is possible. Jacqueline has served on a long list of boards of directors and committees, at the state level and in Lawrence, including Jane Doe, Inc., the statewide advocacy group for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the Northeast Regional Coalition of Battered Women Service Providers, and the Advisory Committee of the Mass. Department of Social Services “Working With Families Right from the Start.” Jacqueline is also a holistic health advocate and “green” activist. “I was green before anyone knew what it meant,” she says. With her husband Irvin, she co-hosts a radio program devoted to “healthy home, healthy bodies, healthy animals and healthy garden.” She is currently writing her first book, The Road to Healing.
Brenda Holter grew up in a military family, moving every 13 months, as her father’s career in the U.S. Marines demanded. Brenda believes that the experience of frequently making new friends and adapting to new neighborhoods and schools has made it easier to work as a team member in her nursing career. She has been part of the team at Holy Family Hospital for 25 years, where she started as a unit clerk on a very busy surgical floor. She then became a Certified Nursing Assistant, and was coaxed by the nurses with whom she worked to take courses at Northern Essex Community College and become a Registered Nurse herself. She took that advice, and with tremendous support from her husband and their three children, Brenda was able to work days, go to evening classes, and graduate with honors in 2002. Brenda attributes her success to her family’s support and to the “many excellent nurse role models” who motivated her to complete her nursing studies. After earning her R.N., she began to work on the same surgical floor where she had started as a clerk. But after a while, Brenda was drawn to working with cancer patients, mainly because of her own family history. Her father, father-in-law, and her mother were all diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Her mother survived breast cancer in her early fifties, inspiring Brenda to specialize in breast cancer work. She completed a vigorous Breast Health Navigator Program from Educare in 2008, and is now a Breast Health Navigator at Holy Family’s Breast Care Center, which Brenda calls “one of the most rewarding positions anyone could every wish for.”
Karen Kennedy, Director of Mission and Community Partnerships for Holy Family Hospital, calls Brenda “a solid anchor for her breast cancer patients.” Brenda says she hopes to continue to support, empower and work with women in early detection and breast cancer awareness. She believes in paying it forward, too, as she has served as a preceptor for nursing students in the Holy Family Hospital Breast Care Center. Brenda likes to teach them about the importance of early detection, breast self-exams, and new technologies such as 3D mammography which can find breast cancer sooner, when it’s smaller and more treatable. “We can make a difference!” she says.
Tamar Kotelchuck has contributed to the City of Lawrence generously for many years and in many ways; as a graduate student, as a professional, as a resident, and as a volunteer. A native New Yorker who earned her B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio, she moved to Lawrence in 2001 “because it felt like home.” Tamar was introduced to Lawrence while earning a Master in City Planning degree from MIT. As a grad student, she was working on an economic development project that allowed her to get to know Lawrence city leaders and residents, and that evolved into community organizing in the North Common neighborhood, she recalls. Since she grew up in New York City, “Lawrence felt small, quiet and familiar” to her, Tamar says. As an urban planner who loves cities, Tamar finds Lawrence to be “fascinating.” She says, “My tribe has grown and they love Lawrence, too.” Her husband Nathan Hendrie runs Tower Hill Films which specializes in documentary films about Lawrence, among other things. Their daughter Julia attends the Community Day Charter School. They especially enjoy volunteering as a family at Groundwork Lawrence’s annual Spigot River Cleanup.
Straight from MIT in 1999, Tamar went to work for Lawrence Community Works (LCW). Jessica Andors, current LCW Executive Director says Tamar made a huge contribution toward reviving the agency. She first served as Operations Director, “a job in which she literally created functioning, modern financial management and operational systems out of chaos and stagnation,” says Jessica. Tamar went on to lead the effort to develop LCW’s Our House Community Center. She managed an inter-generational, multi-ethnic committee through a 7-year process that included site acquisition, fundraising, and design and construction, resulting in the building that now houses all of LCW’s family asset-building and youth development programs. Jessica calls it “Tamar’s signature project.” Although Tamar now works for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in their regional and community outreach department, she keeps her ties strong with LCW, and has mentored several young people there. She has also been involved in the start-up of Esperanza Academy, and she volunteers with the Planning Board. Tamar is “fiercely intelligent, tenacious, kind and committed to public service. She has devoted her career to helping struggling communities to thrive,” says Jessica.
Heidemarie Kuc was raised by her mother in a small town in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains. Her mother, a German immigrant, is “a strong-willed independent” woman, Heidemarie says. When Heide was in the ninth grade, her mother told her she would be going to college since no one else in her family had. With inspiration from her ninth grade science teacher, support from her mother and a high school guidance counselor, and her own very hard work, Heidemarie ultimately earned a B.S. in Biology from Rogers Williams University, with a Chemistry minor. She taught science for a few years, wanting to inspire students as her own science teacher had inspired her. But it was when she took a different path, joining Pfizer in 2001 as a Technical Trainer, that she began to blossom. During 15 years at Pfizer’s Andover facility, Heidemarie has worked in a number of business units and departments, advancing to Manager of GMP Training. She met her husband at Pfizer, and they now have two children, 7-year-old Kyrsia and 6-year-old Jaxon. While working full-time and caring for her family, including her mother who is now disabled, Heidemarie earned an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University, attending classes in the evening. Heidemarie says she “cherishes” her husband for being so supportive while she pursued her MBA.
Ironically, Heidemarie’s path has led her to encourage young students to appreciate science, after all. When Pfizer was looking for a coordinator for its “Bacteria Around You” program with the Andover and Lawrence Public Schools, Heide volunteered. For the past ten years Heide has been coordinating it, and according to Kristen Eagleston, Associate Director of Material Programs at Pfizer, “It is Heidemarie’s tremendous dedication and commitment to it that keeps the program going successfully,” Fifth graders meet with Pfizer employees before school, at 7:30 a.m., to engage in hands-on activities involving microscopes, touch plates, bacterial identification and building candy DNA models, Heidemarie explained. She said the program means so much to her since it shows the students role models who are working in science careers, and inspires them to believe they can be anything they want to be. Kristen says Heidemarie is a leader in other ways at Pfizer, too. She calls her “a natural and effective leader who . . . continually demonstrates a willingness to lead and to listen to get the most from her peers.” But most importantly, Kristen says, “she is simply loved!”
Born in Puerto Rico, Sheila Och and her mother moved to the Merrimack Valley in 1987. Sheila has always valued speaking a second language and having a good education, and “the immense value of someone showing you how to advocate for yourself,” she said. For Sheila, that was her mother–a single mom who juggled multiple jobs, studied English late at night, and helped Sheila with homework while still learning to read English herself. Sheila graduated from Haverhill High School, earned a B.S. from U. Mass Lowell, and an M.A. in Public Health from Boston University, plus numerous certifications, including one in Advanced Studies in Health Center Finance from Suffolk University. Sheila’s husband Henry, an Army National Guard Major, was deployed to Kosovo for 18 months and to Iraq for six. “Being a military wife made me stronger, more independent and thankful for the love and kindness of family and friends,” says Sheila, noting that their son was born while Henry was in Kosovo.
Even as a child, Shelia noticed social inequities. This awareness has informed her work at Lowell Community Health Center (CHC), which serves many immigrants and refugees with complex healthcare and social needs. “It doesn’t feel like work to help a person overcoming depression, to help a child with asthma, or to recognize staff for the impact they have on so many lives,” Sheila says. The values she learned from her mother were affirmed by her mentor, Dorcas Grigg-Saito, former CEO of Lowell CHC. Shelia said, “She affirmed my passion for helping those without a voice.” Shelia began at Lowell CHC as a case worker, providing outreach and education to HIV/AIDS patients. Later, she was instrumental in an initiative to reach Lowell’s Cambodian community. A medical interpreters training program Sheila created is now a national model. Today, as Lowell CHC’s Deputy Director, Sheila also chairs the Greater Lowell Health Alliance Mental Health Task Force, serves on its Cultural Competency Task Force, and also serves on the board of Healthcare for All of Massachusetts and the State Board of Certification of Community Health Workers. Susanne Beaton, a member of the board of Lowell CHC, says, “Sheila is known for her huge heart, warmth and humor, but she is also tough as nails, with an unwavering commitment to social justice and health equity.”
Tania Palumbo, partner at Gomez & Palumbo LLC in Lawrence, has practiced immigration law since 2009, but has thought about it most of her life. One of those rare people who know in childhood what she was meant to do, Tania wrote at age seven, “When I grow up, I want to be an immigration attorney.” What 7-year-old knows what an immigration attorney does? But Tania already knew because of her family’s history. Her parents emigrated from Italy. A maternal aunt with Down’s syndrome was not cleared to enter the United States because of her disability—at least not until it was too late. Her aunt died in Italy, never able to join her family in the United States. Tania’s parents, more than anyone, inspired her career choice. “I am very family-centered,” she says, adding that she has always loved different cultures and languages, and getting to know people from many cultures. “I truly believe in what I do,” she says.
A current case that means a lot to Tania is a fight to keep a family together. While the wife and children are U.S. citizens, the father has been struggling to become a citizen. After entering the country illegally as an 8-year-old, his father never made an effort to get him a green card. As a teen, he got addicted to drugs and broke the law. But after seven years of rehab, he has now been sober for many years. He is married, has children, and works in a job requiring a high degree of trustworthiness and good judgment. Still, he was picked up by immigration officials several years ago and has been fighting deportation ever since. His citizenship application was denied, and deportation seemed inevitable. Tania did extensive research, brought information before the Homeland Security Agency, and convinced them to re-open her client’s case. Although it is still pending, he and has family at least have hope now that he will not be deported. “It was worth the fight,” Tania said. She and her partner Zoila Gomez are proud of the pro bono work their office does on behalf of Special Immigrant Juveniles or SIJs, the designation for children and teens who enter the country alone, as unaccompanied minors. Tania also cares deeply about domestic violence, and serves on the board of Delamano, Inc., the Lawrence non-profit dedicated to domestic violence intervention.
Sheryl Rudis grew up in Methuen and maintains close ties to the community. She still lives there, with her partner Martin Cormier, and their one-year-old rescue puppy Jagger. Sheryl has a special place in her heart for the Methuen Council on Aging, as it was started by her mother. She says that after she earned an Associate’s Degree at Northern Essex Community College, she asked herself, ”Psychologist? Social worker? Teacher?” Not sure exactly which path to follow, she got her first job in an office of the Department of Transitional Assistance, working directly with clients. “I lasted three days! I cried every night over the sad predicaments of the clients. I knew it wasn’t for me,” she recalled. Then she was hired as a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, but that wasn’t a good fit either. But when Sheryl switched to a position as Business Manager—her career in no-profit finance was born! She says she loved the opportunity to contribute to an organization that helped people, but from behind the scenes. She also loved the opportunity to use her skills in accounting and finance.
The next stop on Sheryl’s career path was as Business Manager for Goodwill Industries, and then Director of Finance and Administration. Then, 15 years ago, she accepted a job at The Professional Center for Child Development, where she has remained ever since. Sheryl has not only become the first person to earn the position of Chief Financial Officer and Associate Director at the Center, but she has earned the sincere respect and admiration of her Executive Director Veryl Anderson, and her colleagues. Veryl says that Sheryl is honest, loyal, and hardworking, and maintains very high personal and professional standards. “Annual audits are, year after year, near perfect,” he said. “She consistently exceeds expectations,” he added. Sheryl has worked tirelessly to ensure that the organizations she has worked for are able to continue to follow their missions. “Even during years of dangerously low funding, Sheryl acts thoughtfully and carefully to help make decisions and set priorities that enable our agency to ride out the storm,” Veryl said.
Anita Saville grew up near Philadelphia, the oldest of four, enjoying what she calls “a great upbringing centered around family.” She graduated with a degree in History and Education from Penn State University and taught in a junior high school in Maryland. After getting a Master’s in Journalism and Political Science at University of Maryland, she was a journalist in the Washington, D.C. area, reporting for local newspapers, and also working for the Office of Bilingual Education at the U.S. Department of Education. During this time, Anita became an activist, advocating for women’s empowerment and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. “Everything seemed possible” at the time, Anita said. But the ERA failed to be ratified by enough states, and it “died” in 1980. Anita’s passion did not. She sought other avenues for women’s rights, and eventually started a chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Lowell. She was an editor for Fidelity Investments, but worked simultaneously for women’s rights, starting a news service called PurseStrings, devoted to socially responsible investing for women. “That was fun,” Anita says, but it still gnawed at her that women of means had opportunities to learn about money management while women with little or no income did not. Anita discussed this with Kathy Brough, a friend she knew from campaigning for Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. The pair planted the seeds of Budget Buddies! Anita and Kathy did serious research to determine how best to create a financial empowerment program for women with low incomes. In 2009, Budget Buddies was born. Anita is delighted with the results—and why not? Budget Buddies has grown, has won awards, and this year will be offered with Spanish language materials and Spanish-speaking presenters for the first time.
Julie Lemire, a Budget Buddies coaching coordinator and social worker at Lowell General Hospital, calls Anita “one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met.” Anita says Budget Buddies allows her to combine her love of teaching and her skill as a communicator with her belief that economic empowerment is a key building block in equal rights for women. Since launching Budget Buddies, Anita says she has received “incredible support from my wonderful wife and many wonderful friends.” Although she knows she cannot cure all the world’s ills, Anita says, “I can make a difference, one woman at a time.”
Quite early in life, Rose Stewart learned how to take care of herself. Not only that, but she has spent most of her life taking care of others. She was born in a coal-mining region in Pennsylvania, the eldest of nine children. At 17, she “ran away from home” because, sadly, her abusive father “terrorized” her mother and all the children, Rose said. While working at a restaurant in New Jersey, she met and married the love of her life, her late husband Stu. In 1968, they moved to Lowell, where Rose’s entrepreneurial talents bloomed. She opened a consignment shop and an ice cream shop that was so successful and so busy that after four years her health began to suffer. She then started “Fashions for Hair,” a business that she successfully operated for 25 years, selling it when she reached retirement age. However, Rose continues to work part-time as a hair stylist. Listening to her clients’ stories inspired Rose’s community service. She volunteers in many ways, some of them quite personal. She has given countless free haircuts to women who could not afford them, recognizing how a new hair style raises a woman’s self-esteem. When asked to take care of her clients’ departed loved ones, Rose offers hair and make-up services at no charge at local funeral homes. For 14 years, Rose has volunteered to serve hot meals at Janice’s Angels Community Table. She frequently volunteers at her church, “doing everything that is asked of me, from cleaning the church to collecting clothes and items” for those in need, says Rose. “I feel privileged to be able to drive elderly women to their medical appointments, to lunches where they enjoy socializing, and to help a blind friend by doing errands and reading to her,” she said.
Rose’s creativity is not limited to hair styling. She began painting in recent years, and her art is inspired by her love of nature. Rose is generous with her art work, donating paintings to fund raisers, and giving them to family and friends. Rose says she feels blessed to have good health, “so that I can help others.” Her friend Carol Bateson says of Rose, “She is kind, considerate, generous, hard-working—an artist, entrepreneur and hair stylist who gives of herself every day.”
Diane Lindsay Tower’s “generosity and civic mindedness are in her genes!” according to her friend Margot Lindau. Diane says that she feels blessed to have grown up in Andover with such a compassionate and community conscious family. Stafford Lindsay, her grandfather, was a Town of Andover Selectman. Her father, Dr. Richard Lindsay, opened Andover Animal Hospital in 1958 and was Andover’s animal inspector for over 50 years. Diane recalls growing up with cows, chickens, horses, and many cats. She helped her father by catching hundreds of muddy piglets when it was time for their vaccinations! She helped to deliver calves and foals. Her passion for caring for animals led her to obtain a certificate in Veterinary Practice Management after earning a B.S degree in microbiology at Michigan State University. Few women earned that certification at the time, but Diane was undaunted, knowing what she needed to do. She has been managing Andover Animal Hospital for 35 years.
Diane is married to Paul S. Tower, M.D., a radiologist. They have two adult children, Carolyn and Doug.
In addition to the good work Diane does at the hospital, she generously shares herself with the community in many other ways. For example, with Diane leading the way, the hospital raised enough money for a quadriplegic Andover resident to get a service dog. Around the holidays, the hospital’s freezers are full of turkeys, which are donated to needy families. On Shadow Day, Esperanza Academy students are invited to observe the hospital staff of 11 doctors and 40 others, to learn about animal sciences.. The same invitation goes to students at “Essex Aggie” and area Girl Scout troops, too. Diane is very active in the Andover Boys and Girls Club, North Shore Women for H.O.P.E, and the Shadow Fund, a non-profit that helps to pay for veterinary care for those who cannot afford it. Diane says she lives by her family’s values, “the health of the community starts at its core: family, children and animals.” True to this belief, Diane says that Andover Animal Hospital treats any animal in need of medical care: from bearded dragons to bulldogs to birds to injured wildlife or strays that are brought to them—something she began to do as a young girl taking care of feral cats!
Erin Tsarkirellis describes her daughter, Aimee, as “selfless, intellectual, passionate, determined,” and as energetic as the Energizer Bunny®. Since childhood, “she was always been on the lookout for anyone who needed help or was less fortunate,” says Erin. Aimee has invested all of those qualities and more into her position as Director of Marketing at Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, the family business. After graduating in Business Administration from Merrimack College in 2008, Aimee created Cedar’s marketing department. She took on the challenge that led Cedar’s to grow into a strong national brand in just a few years. Aimee oversaw an overall re-branding in 2012. She also managed to earn a Master’s in Administration from Harvard University. An important part of Aimee’s marketing strategy—a “win-win” philosophy—is a heavy emphasis on social responsibility, philanthropy and corporate sponsorship and involvement with the community, in big ways and small. In recent years, Cedar’s has been a sponsor of the Pan Mass Challenge, the National Brain Tumor Society’s annual fundraising event, AIDS Walk Boston, and many more. Still, Aimee personally hands out snack packs at local road races. In addition to the time, effort and money she donates to organizations and causes in New England, she also supports refugee crisis organizations in Greece, currently on the Island of Lesvos, as well as Greek animal rescue organizations. She and her husband Sokratis have three rescue dogs themselves. In 2015, Aimee began to pay it forward at her alma mater, Merrimack College, where she is teaching business courses. “I love inspiring others to join me to make a difference, and some day this is what I will be doing full-time,” Aimee said.
Aimee credits her family as the inspiration and solid foundation beneath her success. “I always knew I had some pretty big shoes to fill,” she says, explaining that her grandmother came to Haverhill from a Greek island with her five children “for a chance at a better life an education,” but with no money and without knowing English. She worked at multiple jobs. As her children grew old enough, they did, too. Aimee’s father Steve opened his own business at age 20. Her mother’s family was hard-working, too, and she credits her mother for being “the rock for me and my three sisters.” Being a driven young businesswoman, independent and selfless, is just something in my blood, Aimee believes.
Since moving to the area in 1982 from Denver, Karen Van Welden-Herman has immersed herself in preserving the culture and history of Andover and Lawrence, two communities that she believes are interconnected. Karen majored in History at University of Colorado. She not only reads and cares about history, she pro-actively works to preserve it, and even to make it. The seeds of her passion for historical and cultural preservation were planted when she was a 10-year-old in Denver. Her father told her siblings to “take one last look” at Denver’s historic lower downtown, “because it’s all going away.” Soon after, the entire lower level of Denver was demolished, she said, adding, “I never forgot it.” Karen said even then, she was troubled by the fate of the people who were being displaced, and the loss of architecture and culture that was forever lost. One of the reasons she and husband Jack moved to Andover was the “richness of the architectural environment, cultural diversity and education opportunities throughout this region,” she said. Karen became chairperson of the Andover Historical Preservation Commission in 1988, and has worked in that volunteer position ever since. She also serves as secretary of the Lawrence History Center’s Board of Directors, is a member of Lawrence’s Essex Art Center Board of Directors, and President of the Memorial Hall Library Board of Trustees in Andover. She has chaired Andover’s Crafts in the Park event, and worked on many other town and community projects. In 2015, her many years of service and enormous contributions were recognized at Andover Town Meeting when Karen was awarded the Virginia Cole Community Service Award.
Karen is also an artist, with studio space in Lawrence. It was through some fellow artists that she began to learn about Lawrence’s history and heritage. After earning a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language at Boston University, Karen taught ESL at the International Institute in Lawrence, and the Asian School for Children, also in Lawrence. Jim Sutton, who serves with her on a board, says that Karen’s positive impact on the quality of life in Andover and Lawrence is not easy to summarize. Jim calls her “passionate about people and community life, persevering in working toward long-term goals, and always friendly and cheerful.”