Five Boston-area residents share $150,000 in awards at 24th Annual Boston Neighborhood Fellows event

2014 Boston Neighborhood Fellows
Monday, April 28, 2014

The Philanthropic Initiative and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh awarded five deserving Boston citizens with cash grants in recognition of their outstanding community service at this year’s Boston Neighborhood Fellows award ceremony. The Boston Neighborhood Fellows program is generously funded by an anonymous donor and implemented by The Philanthropic Initiative.

Neighborhood Fellows are ordinary citizens engaged in extraordinary efforts to transform lives, improve their community and make Boston a better place to work and live. Each award recipient receives a three-year, $30,000 unrestricted grant paid in annual $10,000 installments.

The Philanthropic Initiative helped the anonymous donor design the Boston Neighborhood Fellows program 24 years ago as a way to directly impact individuals and the neighborhoods they love. 

Fellows are nominated by an anonymous group of spotters who represent the diversity found in the City of Boston, and are selected for their vision, creativity, leadership, and commitment to the people and the communities with whom they work. To date, 143 outstanding individuals have been recognized as Boston Neighborhood Fellows, with $3,500,000 awarded as grants.

“For this anonymous donor, it’s not about writing a check. It’s about reaching the right people in the right moment for the biggest philanthropic impact – the chance to truly move humanity forward by supporting the dedicated and passionate change agents in our city’s neighborhoods,” said Jamie Jaffee, managing partner, The Philanthropic Initiative.  

The Philanthropic Initiative’s selection committee recognized the following individuals as 2014 Boston Neighborhood Fellows:

Maria Alamo, Roberto Clemente 21 League, Jamaica Plain

Maria Alamo is the force behind countless community projects in Jamaica Plain and the Dudley Street neighborhood of Roxbury. She transformed a garbage dump used by drug dealers into a beautiful community garden, created a neighborhood crime watch committee and a playground, and organized two town commons in the Dudley area. She has supported battered women, the elderly and in-house child care providers, coached first time entrepreneurs, and is a volunteer for youth baseball, Children’s Hospital, and many other places.

Geoffrey Bynoe, Boys and Girls Club, Boston

As the athletic director of the Yawkey Club of the Boys and Girls Club Boston, Geoffrey Bynoe goes above and beyond his job to provide a safe haven for the youth who attend his programs. The founder of three different youth sports leagues that focus both on play and academics, he has dramatically increased the opportunity for the city’s young people to engage in a wide range of sports. 

Geoffrey comes by his commitment to service naturally; his mother Edna Bynoe, was also a Boston Neighborhood Fellow, marking the first mother-son pair to receive the award.

Kendra Lara, The City School & Beantown Society, Jamaica Plain

Only in her early twenties, Kendra Lara is described as “already one of Boston’s most inspiring and effective leaders.” Kendra works for the Boston Public Health Commission, helping to lead its racial justice work. Prior to that, she served for three years as a Street Safe Street Worker, relentlessly reaching out to and forming relationships with the city’s most dangerous gang members. Kendra’s activism predates that work starting at age 13 when she helped found the Beantown Society youth group in Jamaica Plain.

Julie Leven, Shelter Music, Boston

Three years ago, Julie Leven went to the Pine Street Inn and said she wanted to try performing classical music in the shelter. That early experiment has now grown into Shelter Music, an enterprise that regularly brings professional musicians of the highest caliber to four area shelters. A shelter guest described Shelter Music as “water for my soul.” Julie is the impresario who makes it all happen, bringing the musicians together and liaising with the shelters.

Erika Rodriguez, Beantown Society, Jamaica Plain

The co-founder of the Curley Project, a violence prevention program at a Jamaica Plain middle school, Erika Rodriguez has worked to bring healing and love to vulnerable young people since she was fifteen years old. In 2008, as part of the Beantown Society, Erika and her peers organized an attempt to curb gang recruitment at the Curley Middle School. Their efforts were rebuffed by administrators until one day when a student was shot and killed on school grounds. Recognizing its error, the administration allowed Erika and her peers to mobilize and take all the seventh and eighth graders to a local art center for a day of respite, starting an annual tradition that her nominator describes as “changing the culture of the school.”