Community Action News

MAY 2023



Happy Community Action Month! WCAC was thrilled to celebrate our 2nd Annual Resiliency Awards last week honoring a wonderful slate of individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond in supporting the agency’s mission to break the cycle of poverty one neighbor at a time. Below you can read about each of our honorees and the great impact their efforts have made and continue to make on our collective community.

Special thanks to our corporate and community Resiliency Awards sponsors: National Grid, UMass Memorial Health, Webster Five, Mutual of America, Bowditch Attorneys, Polar Beverages, UMass Chan Medical School, UniBank, Western Mass Economic Development Council, WBDC, Mass General Brigham Health Plan, Friendly House, Cornerstone Bank and the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts.

I encourage you to follow our social media channels throughout the month to learn more about the impact of community action, see profiles of members of our team, and get a glimpse at what community action is all about! Together we can all #BeCommunityAction



Named for Sargent Shriver, noted American diplomat, politician and activist, he was the primary architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, leading to the establishment of the Community Action network. This award is given to an individual or organization making remarkable contributions to improving the lives of those in need, having demonstrated a collaborative spirit and tireless efforts to impact policy and affect substantive change.

WCAC's 2023 Sargent Shriver Trailblazer Award was given to Friendly House. Friendly House has emerged as a leader and centerpiece of assistance for providing services to Worcester residents. Inner city families turn to Friendly House for a variety of assistance including shelter, emergency help, food, medical care, after school and summer programs, day care, senior programs and counseling. Friendly House helps people help themselves by providing information, resources and direct support. Friendly House helps people to help themselves, generate self-reliance and increase their quality of life. Friendly House provides opportunities for individuals to realize his/her potential for a full life through self-direction and growth.


Award is given to an individual or organization in recognition of efforts to advance equitable energy policies and practices.

Charles Harak of the National Consumer Law Center, Elliott Jacobson of Action Inc., Jerrold Oppenheim of Democracy & Regulation, and John Wells of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) were named as WCAC's 2023 Energy Equity Champions, representative of one of the true strengths of community action – partnership and collaboration.

LEAN, the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network, is the statewide network of local Community Action Agencies who provide energy efficiency and other energy services at no cost to income eligible clients. LEAN brings together over 40 years of experience and funding from all different sources to identify, scope, project manage, inspect and pay for energy efficiency installations in residential housing.


LEAN continues to be a network in the truest sense of the word. Our Energy Equity Champions are trailblazers in successfully advocating for Energy Efficiency policy and funding for many years, achieving some of the most progressive benefits in the nation. They worked to ensure that households who are identified as low income receive discounts on their utility bills and protection from service termination during the winter, when there is a medical necessity, when the occupant is elderly or when an infant is in the household is part of this work. 

In a “climate” where a critical focus is on energy efficiency, mitigating both high bills and carbon emissions, LEAN leads in ensuring that generous utility funding for weatherization, heating upgrades, including Air Source Heat Pumps is available to our must vulnerable residents through the capable community action network, who have lasting and trusted relationships with the program participants and in providing the systems through which the work product is delivered.  


Award is named for Worcester Police Officer Ignacio “Iggy” Garcia, a 17-year veteran of the Worcester Police Department known for his positive impact on city neighborhoods and youth. The award is given to an individual or organization having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to WCAC’s youth development programs; supporting and nurturing a dynamic environment to foster positive educational and employment opportunities for area youth.


Angel Guzman, Laurie Ross and Jennifer Safford were named as WCAC's 2023 Iggy Strong Award honorees. The trio were close friends and colleagues of Iggy, and are widely respected as true partners and confidants for local youth.

From supporting WCAC’s Job & Education programs – the Safe Secure Youth Initiative and Shannon program both of which engage vulnerable youth who have faced significant trauma in their lives, to leading data collection efforts for these programs in order to better inform the work we do, the impact these individuals have made is remarkable. Through the Youth Worker Training Institute, they have taken on training youth workers throughout our community to better respond to the needs of the City’s young people. Supporting team building, improved communication and youth engagement have been critical steps in supporting our area youth.


Award is given to an individual or organization having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to WCAC’s early education and care programs; supporting and nurturing a dynamic environment to foster life-long learning.

The struggle to fill positions throughout the early education and care industry have been well documented. Across the Commonwealth countless classrooms remain closed young children and their families unserved when programs are unable to hire sufficient staff. Enter Project Flourish. Modeled after apprenticeships in traditional trades, Project Flourish supports the advancement of early career professionals through a combination of classroom instruction, mentoring, professional networking, and upon graduation – professional certifications.

Project Flourish graduates receive an EOLWD Apprenticeship Certificate and become eligible for Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care Teacher licensure. Additionally, they earn required professional development hours towards Lead Teacher licensure as well as the nationally recognized Child Development Association certification.

Project Flourish takes the early educator workforce challenge and transforms it into opportunity. Nurturing educators and strengthening their pathway to success is as important as the work they do within the classrooms they will ultimately preside. WCAC itself has benefited with ten Project Flourish participants thus far- six now working full time in classrooms and another four working as support staff. The 2023 WCAC’s Champion of Kids Awards was accepted by current WCAC Board member Leslie Baker and former WCAC Board member Joanne Gravell. 


Anne Kandilis of SpringfieldWorks and the Western Mass Economic Development Council was selected at an Action Hero for her tireless dedication to the establishment of a Cliff Effect Pilot – a statewide initiative which WCAC is excited to be a part of.

The “cliff effect” refers to a structural flaw in our public benefits system that inadvertently disincentivizes work. Eligibility for family supports like food, health care, housing and childcare assistance are based on income. The "cliff effect” happens when families’ income increases enough that they lose eligibility for these benefits, but not enough to yet afford housing, health care, childcare on their own. The result is that an increase in wages often leads to a decline in standard of living – working harder but getting poorer.

The Pilot which Anne has championed through multiple, multiple legislative sessions will help keep families whole as they take steps towards economic mobility. We applaud her efforts to explore and support explore several innovative ways to incentivize work and career advancement and for all making sure the pathways to opportunity are open and accessible to all!

Judi Kirk has been a cornerstone of youth development and employment in Worcester for over 20 years. As Director of Community Impact and Assessment at the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester, Judi supports youth by synthesizing the impact of programming and ensuring program success. In addition, Judi leads the YouthConnect program and convenes the Youth Connect Connectors monthly working group. She is an integral part of the Central MA Youth Jobs Coalition and has been a partner of WCAC’s Youth Works program for many years. Thousands of young people in Worcester have surely been impacted by Judi’s good work and dedication to the community. As she embarks on retirement, we wish Judi rest and relaxation knowing she has left her mark on Worcester’s many Youth Development and Employment initiatives. 

Stacy Hampson, Michelle Muller and Nardy Vega were critical players of the UMass Stop the Spread Team - serving as front line staff throughout the pandemic, which honestly should be sufficient cause to award them an Action Hero honor!


But beyond that incredible work in protecting our community’s public health, we celebrate these individuals this morning in recognition also of their commitment as a collaborative employment partner. Their efforts helped to establish a direct connection between WCAC’s Job and Education Center and the largest employer in Worcester. Through that collaboration, they hired JEC participants who were either underemployed or otherwise would not have been employed. They have continued to remain responsive and flexible to the employment needs of our participants – including flexible hours, and providing support and training. And, the UMass system has ultimately hired referred participants from the Job & Education Center demonstrating their true commitment as a pipeline for participants in WCAC’s workforce development programs.

Tim McMahon of Catholic Charities Worcester County and Tuyet Tran of the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts were honored as 2023 Action Heroes, representing the true spirit of resiliency and commitment to community, having proven time and again to be a safe space for those struggling, particularly new arrivals to our City.

In partnership with WCAC the two organizations have worked and continue to work one-on-one with families and individuals, helping to connect hundreds of vulnerable families otherwise ineligible for many pandemic relief supports, to basic needs including food, housing, childcare and employment opportunities.

WCAC is fortunate to have many partners in the public, private and non-profit sector to support our work. We are particularly fortunate to have partners who step up when our need is greatest as was the case this past winter. Anyone with a thermostat knows what a challenge managing record setting utility costs has recently.

Requests for support of our home heating assistance program were, no pun intended – through the roof. WCAC has received a record number of first time clients and returning clients are facing unprecedented arrearages due to the expiration of many pandemic supports. Quite simply we had exhausted our Emergency Fuel Fund – resources available to help us help those in near crisis – facing utility shutoffs, having already expended their federal allocation with months of winter heating to go. We put out a call for help and these organizations answered quickly and they answered generously… and as a result, countless households were supported and kept warm.

We gratefully acknowledge 2023 Action Hero honorees –

  • Worcester City Manager Eric Batista
  • Ed White on behalf of National Grid
  • Don Doyle on behalf of Webster Five
  • Nicole DiGregorio on behalf of Cornerstone Bank
  • Michael Welch on behalf of Unibank
  • and Tim Garvin on behalf of the United Way of Central Massachusetts.

Join us in celebrating Community Action Month with a donation

to WCAC's Resiliency Fund -

resources used to swiftly respond

to our community's most pressing needs.


  • DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR HOME HEATING ASSISTANCE IS FRIDAY, MAY 12TH. Office open weekdays 9am-4pm, call 508-754-1176 or email with any questions. Click HERE for more info

  • DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR YOUTHWORKS SUMMER JOBS IS JUNE 1ST. Summer cohort will run July 5th-August 18th, serving youth up to the age of 25! Click HERE for more info

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