affordable housing in lowell
affordable housing in lowell

CTI Community Needs Assessment underscores need for affordable housing in Greater Lowell

LOWELL — In at least three Greater Lowell communities, more than half of renters are what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers rent-burdened, meaning they spend 30% or more of their household income on rent.

By ALANA MELANSON | amelanson@lowellsun.com | Lowell Sun PUBLISHED: June 21, 2021 at 5:42 p.m. | UPDATED: June 21, 2021 at 5:43 p.m.

View full article with graphs on the Lowell Sun CTI Community Needs Assessment underscores need for affordable housing in Greater Lowell

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In Lowell, it’s 55% of renters, in Tewksbury 53% and in Dracut 51%. Chelmsford and Billerica aren’t that far behind, at 45% and 43%, respectively.

The median gross rent for a two-bedroom apartment is highest in Westford at $1,940 and lowest in Tyngsboro at $1,115, but good luck finding an available apartment in a town with an effective 0% rental vacancy rate.

Since 2010, the rental vacancy rate across the region has dropped significantly, even with modest increases in total rental housing stock in communities like Billerica, Lowell and Westford, showing the demand far has outpaced the growth.

Even in Lowell — which has the greatest ratio of rentals at 58% of total housing units — the vacancy rate is only 5%. Every other Greater Lowell community is well below the state average of 38% of housing units occupied by renters, with most ranging about half that amount or less, creating a rental scarcity across the region.

These were among the findings of Community Teamwork Inc.’s 2021 Community Needs Assessment, underscoring the region’s need for more affordable housing.

“People need it, and the community does not have enough of it,” said CTI Director of Planning and Quality Improvement Ann Sirois.

CTI conducts a community needs assessment every three years as part of its strategic planning process.

“We do a whole host of things, but a big piece of it is really sitting down and trying to gather data directly from the community to try to find out what it is that everyone around here says that they need and what they think their neighbors need,” Sirois said.

She said CTI received nearly 1,500 responses directly from community members, interviewed 19 key informants from 17 organizations, conducted 18 focus groups with 133 different people and used publicly available data from a number of state and federal agencies.

The data collection began in fall 2019 and was wrapping up in early spring 2020 just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Sirois said. With so much changing over the course of 2020 due to the pandemic — including a huge jump in the unemployment rate from 3.5% to 20% — as well as the national conversation on racism, these factors necessitated additional analysis of the impact of both on poverty that was also included in the report, she said.

Sirois said it wasn’t a surprise that there is a housing crisis in Massachusetts and the region, and talking to community members helped to determine what they need in order to get appropriate housing: better-paying jobs, education and training to obtain and sustain those jobs, affordable child care, medical and behavioral health care and transportation.

With so many people in the area dedicating large shares of their incomes to housing costs, it means many were at risk of a minor emergency jeopardizing their ability to pay their rent, and homelessness as a result — even before the pandemic, she said.

“Then, of course, we saw COVID hit, which was an extremely huge emergency,” Sirois said.

The lack of affordable housing has been an issue across the state. Several weeks ago Gov. Charlie Baker signed “An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents” to ensure long-term support for the Baker administration’s efforts to increase the production of affordable housing, diversify the state’s housing portfolio, modernize public housing, preserve the affordability of existing housing and invest in new, innovative solutions to address Massachusetts’ rising demand for housing.

The region’s aging housing stock and quality is also problematic, especially for families with young children, Sirois said. All units built before 1979 must be deleaded to house children age 6 and below and many owners don’t take on the costly process, often preventing families from renting available units. This problem is most prevalent in Lowell, one of the region’s more affordable communities, where 82% of units were built before 1980.

“In virtually every area, Lowell has the most significant needs,” Sirois said.

CTI Director of Development and Marketing Kathleen Plath said it’s particularly difficult to create affordable housing in Lowell because it’s not advantageous for developers unless the project is of a significant size, like 40 units. She said more attention needs to be given to assisting smaller developers and multifamily building owners to improve the quality of the overall housing stock.

CEO Karen Frederick said CTI often hears of many young people who graduate from UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College and can’t afford to live in the region because the cost of rent is so high.

“We want to make sure there’s housing for everybody — for people starting off their careers, for seniors,” she said. “Affordable housing for seniors is critical as baby boomers continue to age into retirement, and for families, where there’s already been a critical shortage.”

While the assessment covers many diverse needs, Sirois and Frederick said one of the areas they were surprised to see consistently pop up in conversations was the need for more after-school and summer programming for older children — and this was before the child-care crisis that resulted from pandemic-related shutdowns, Plath said.

As communities start to look at how to best use their federal American Rescue Plan funding, the Community Needs Assessment can offer ideas of where to direct that money and address those needs, Plath said. She said CTI will engage with its partner organizations, municipal governments and school districts to share the results and encourage investment in the areas of highest need.

Frederick said CTI hopes people and institutions will take a look at the information in the assessment and that it will be “well used.”

“I have always believed in the power of the collective work, and if we work on things together, we’ll make progress,” she said.

One such organization that has already put CTI’s Community Needs Assessment findings into action is the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

President and CEO Jay Linnehan said he used the previous assessment to help direct philanthropy within the foundation, and he will do the same with the new set of information as well, including a funders’ meeting focused on combatting youth food insecurity this week.

He said the pandemic in particular really brought to light how many people in the area are living “close to the edge” and their critical needs that must be met.

“The thing that a community foundation is all about is being boots-on-the-ground philanthropy in the community that you serve, and so it’s really important from my perspective to understand the needs of the community, and that needs assessment does that,” Linnehan said. housing

 

CTI Community Needs Assessment underscores need for affordable housing in Greater Lowell

CTI Cummings Grant Pic
CTI Cummings Grant Pic

Community Teamwork awarded $100,000 Cummings Grant

Lowell Nonprofit receives 3 years of funding from Cummings Foundation

Lowell, May 27, 2021 – Community Teamwork is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program. The Lowell-based organization was chosen from a total of 590 applicants, during a competitive review process.

As a Community Action Agency, a Regional Housing Agency, and a Community Development Corporation, CTI helps nearly more than 54,000 individuals from 64 cities and towns in northeastern Massachusetts gain greater economic independence.

“We are beyond thrilled to receive this grant from the Cummings foundation. These funds will enable our YouthBuild organization to continue to train at-risk youth in the culinary arts and prepare them for future careers in the local hospitality industry, which is experiencing a serious labor shortage. We could not carry out our mission without the generosity of people like Joyce and Bill Cummings.”, stated Karen Frederick, Chief Executive Officer.

Community Teamwork will use the funding from the Cummings Foundation, to support its Culinary Arts Vocational Tract for at-risk youth interested in entering the hospitality industry. After a recent successful capital campaign, Community Teamwork was able to install a new state of the art commercial kitchen at its Youth Opportunity Center at 167 Dutton Street. Using the new funding Community Teamwork will be able to expand and solidify its catering program, with the goal of creating a YouthBuild Lowell Social Enterprise Catering Business, which will build on the solid customer base YouthBuild has created over the past couple of years. In addition, the creation of a YouthBuild Lowell Catering Business will offer additional work experience for its participants, provide financial education, and increased technical and soft skills to help increase their ability to be thrive and work in the private sector, once ready.

The Cummings $25Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties.

Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. This Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“We aim to help meet the needs of people in all segments of our local community,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s Executive Director. “It is the incredible organizations we fund, however, that do the actual daily work to empower our neighbors, educate our children, fight for equity, and so much more.”

With the help of about 80 volunteers, the Foundation first identified 140 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners were first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that had previously received Cummings Foundation grants.

“We have adopted a democratic approach to philanthropy, which empowers and impressive roster of dedicated volunteers to decide more than half of all our grant winners each year,” said Swets. “We benefit from their diverse backgrounds and perspectives; they benefit from a meaningful and fulfilling experience; and the nonprofits often benefit from increased exposure and new advocates.”

This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including social justice, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 43 different cities and towns. The following Lowell-based organizations received $100,000 grants from the Cummings Foundation: Community Teamwork, Inc., Merrimack Valley Food Bank, and Middlesex Community College Foundation. Mill City Grows is the only Lowell-based organization to receive a 10-year grant.

The complete list of 140 grant winners, plus more than 800 previous recipients, is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $300 million to greater Boston nonprofits.

About Community Teamwork

Community Teamwork is a catalyst for social change. Our driving mission is to help people help themselves with child care, family supports, nutrition, fuel assistance, housing, skills training, employment, financial education, and individual asset and small business development. As a Community Action Agency, a Regional Housing Agency, and a Community Development Corporation, Community Teamwork helps nearly 54,000 individuals from 71 cities and towns in northeastern Massachusetts gain greater economic independence.

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the three largest private foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn, and Veterinary School at Tufts, LLC in North Grafton. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

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For Immediate Release

May 27, 2021

Media Contact:

Alison Harding Cummings Foundation 781-932-7093

aeh@cummings.com

Media Contact:

Julia Ripa

978-654-5628

jripa@commteam.org

 

Rep. Lori Trahan touts child tax credit cash heading to parents from American Rescue Plan
Rep. Lori Trahan touts child tax credit cash heading to parents from American Rescue Plan

Rep. Lori Trahan touts child tax credit cash heading to parents from American Rescue Plan

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, bottom, leads a Facebook Live discussion about enhanced child tax credits that were passed as part of the American Rescue Act. Speaking with Trahan are Chris Santos-Gordon, director of the Center for Financial Self Sufficiency at Community Teamwork, Inc., top left, and Sarah Bartley, senior director for community impact at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley. Screen capture from Facebook Live

By ROBERT MILLS | rmills@lowellsun.com | Lowell Sun

May 14, 2021 at 6:51 a.m.

LOWELL – Parents across the Merrimack Valley and nation can expect to get a second round of help to ease the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic — in the form of monthly cash payments from July to December or a lump sum payment next year — thanks to enhanced child tax credits contained in the America Rescue Act.

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Westford, said the existing child tax credit of $2,000 per child was expanded by the American Rescue Act to instead be $3,000 per child and $3,600 for each child under 6 in 2021.

“This is a lifeline for a lot of people, especially those in poverty who stand to get an average of $4,300 per family,” Trahan said.

Trahan led a Facebook Live discussion of the tax credit with Sarah Bartley, senior director for community impact at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley, and Chris Santos-Gordon, director of The Center for Financial Self Sufficiency at Community Teamwork, Inc.

Santos-Gordon said parents will be able to get the tax credits even before they file their 2021 taxes, with monthly cash payments being available for part of the annual credit from July to December.

The monthly payments will be up to $250 for each child under 6, and up to $300 for each child under 18.

Exactly how much each family gets via those monthly payments should be calculated by a tax preparer, Santos-Gordon said.

“You really won’t have to do anything. If you file your taxes already, it’s going to happen for you,” Santos-Gordon said. “I would just suggest you try to get into the IRS portal so you can make a decision whether you want the monthly payments started in July or whether you want is as just one lump payment.”

Families who elect do so can also just claim the full tax credit as part of their 2021 return and refund.

Bartley said families qualify for the full enhanced tax credits if their income is below $75,000 per year for single filers, $112,000 for head of household filers, and $150,000 for those who are married and file jointly. Some who make more than that will still qualify for reduced credits.

“Families are going to see more cash in their pockets,” Bartley said. She said the enhanced credits will increase the average family’s refund by about $2,000 over other years. “This is a really important lifeline for so many households, especially families struggling with lost hours during the pandemic.”

With tax day — delayed by the pandemic — arriving on May 17, Bartley pointed out that anyone can file their taxes for free online via www.MyFreeTaxes.com, which was created by the United Way and IRS.

Bartley said her own family used the website this year, and that while it wasn’t as intuitive as some online tax websites that cost money, she said help was available by phone, and that qualifying families can get free help from a tax preparer as well.

“It screened for things we were eligible for and helped us maximize our return,” Bartley said.

The enhanced tax credits were passed as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act, signed in March by President Joe Biden in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extra tax credits are in addition to direct payments to taxpayers that were already distributed as part of the same law.

For more information on the tax credits, visit: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021.

 

COVID Business Relief Program
COVID Business Relief Program

Baker-Polito Administration Celebrates COVID-19 Business Relief Program, Awards Final Round of Grants

Final round results in nearly $4.8 million in grant awards to 108 additional businesses; More than $687 million in direct cash payments delivered to 15,112 of state’s hardest hit businesses

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
​May 6​, 2021

CONTACT
Sarah Finlaw
sarah.finlaw@state.ma.us

LOWELL – Today, Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, legislators and key partners celebrated the success of the Baker-Polito Administration’s COIVD-19 business relief program administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC). Gathering in person at the family- and minority-owned Panela Restaurant in Lowell, a program grantee, the Administration announced the end of the program, which has provided over $687.2 million in direct cash grants to 15,112 businesses across the Commonwealth. Among the awardees included in the final round were 108 additional businesses that received a total of approximately $4.8 million in COVID relief grants.

First launched in October 2020 as part of the Administration’s Partnerships for Recovery initiative to stabilize and grow the Massachusetts economy, this program became the biggest state-sponsored business relief program in the nation after being infused with an additional $668 million in December. Established to provide direct financial support for businesses, the Administration has tapped numerous partners to ensure specific economic sectors and priority demographics known to be the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic applied to the program and were prioritized for aid.

Over the duration of the program, 43 percent of MGCC grants were awarded to minority-owned businesses, and 46 percent of grants went to women-owned businesses. Businesses owned by veterans, individuals with disabilities, or that identify as LGBTQ, as well as those operating in Gateway Cities and not previously awarded aid, also received substantial grant support. Additionally, one-third of the total program funding (about $224 million) has benefited the hard-hit restaurant and bar industry, with personal services like hair and nail salons ($91 million), and independent retailers ($62 million) rounding out the top sectors.

​“Thanks to the work of Mass. Growth Capital, more than $680 million in direct financial assistance has been deployed to over 15,000 businesses across Massachusetts, many of which are located in the communities that have had the greatest need during this pandemic,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Recognizing that our small business community employed close to half the Commonwealth’s workforce prior to the pandemic, this program has been instrumental in helping to keep these enterprises going while supporting a substantial percentage of our workforce as we approach what we hope are the final months of this public health crisis.”

“This program, which was designed to provide vital support to small businesses in need, is one component of our larger strategy to help the Commonwealth’s economic recovery from this unprecedented public health emergency,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “I want to applaud MGCC for their success with this program and thank their partners for helping to spread the word, which allowed us to provide direct support to those businesses that have been hit the hardest, including minority- and woman-owned businesses, restaurants and downtown retailers.”

The 15th and final round of awards totaled approximately $4.8 million in grants to 108 additional businesses. Among the final round of recipients, grants were awarded to 25 minority-owned, and 26 women-owned businesses; 24 recipients were located in Gateway Cities, and 28 businesses had not received any prior aid.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Larry Andrews and his team at MGCC for going above and beyond in their efforts to ensure that this important aid went to businesses located in Gateway Cities, met a demographic priority such as being minority- or women-owned, or were operating in sectors among the hardest hit during this pandemic,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “In addition, I’d like to thank MGCC’s partner organizations, which include Amplify Latinx and locally the Entrepreneurship Center @CTI with us today, who truly made this program successful because of their extensive outreach to the communities that are traditionally underrepresented.”

To increase applications from underrepresented groups and achieve equitable access to funding, MGCC worked with a statewide network of local non-profits, small business technical assistance providers, and other organizations that support minority enterprises to reach businesses and entrepreneurs that would match the program’s priorities. These partners include the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), Amplify Latinx, the Business Equity Initiative, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), LISC, LEAF, the African Community Economic Development of New England (ACEDONE), and the statewide Coalition for an Equitable Economy.

“The success of this program was a direct result of the leadership of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary Kennealy; and the team at MGCC, who rose to the occasion to stand up a new program and deliver an unprecedented amount of relief to small businesses across Massachusetts that have been impacted by the pandemic,” said MGCC President and CEO Larry Andrews. “Also critical to this program’s success was the extensive network of partner organizations, including Amplify Latinx, for their work to reach out to businesses that serve communities of color, groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, or who are traditionally at a disadvantage, and provided the necessary technical assistance through the application process.”

MGCC will soon be announcing two new funding opportunities focused on small businesses. A program called Biz-M-Power will assist low-income and moderate-income entrepreneurs acquire or improve their brick-and-mortar location, purchase new equipment, and other capital needs. Businesses will crowdfund through local residents, neighborhoods, community members, and other stakeholders and become eligible for matching grants. Another new program will help small businesses access tools and services to develop their digital capabilities, including social media, website development, and team collaboration.

These awards have been part of a steady deployment of grants and capital funding to support economic recovery throughout Massachusetts and are a key part of the Administration’s larger strategy to assist small businesses and support an equitable economic recovery across the Commonwealth.

“It is essential to recognize the significance of culturally and linguistically responsive outreach to minority and underrepresented groups, which was a major contributor to the program’s success,” said Amplify Latinx Executive Director Rosario Ubiera-Minaya. “These partner organizations are all well positioned and trusted by minority communities to effectively and quickly respond to the challenges faced by these businesses. The collaborative approach centered on the partner organizations has helped ensure that the collective work going forward is as intentional and impactful as possible. Keeping direction will position minority-owned businesses for stability and growth.”

In addition to this business relief program, recovery efforts consist of MGCC Small Business Technical Assistance grants and matching grants for Community Development Financial Institutions and Community Development Corporations; the Regional Pilot Project Grant Program, which is a $5 million initiative designed to activate vacant storefronts, support regional supply chain resiliency, and create small business support networks; the $1.6 million Travel and Tourism Recovery Grant Pilot Program to promote recovery in the tourism industry; the ongoing My Local MA marketing initiative to encourage residents to support their local economies by shopping at Massachusetts businesses and attractions; and a $9.5 million effort underway to help 125 communities pursue locally-driven, actionable strategies to support downtown and commercial districts through the Local Rapid Recovery Planning program.

 

  

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barbara warren scaled
barbara warren scaled

CTI Announces New Division Director for Housing and Homeless Services

Lowell» Community Teamwork is pleased to announce that Barbara Warren has been promoted to the position of Division Director of Housing and Homeless Services.

Warren has been with Community Teamwork since 2011, serving first as rehousing and stabilization manager and most recently as deputy division director of Residential Programs.

In her new role as the division director of Housing and Homeless Services, Warren’s administrative focus will be on the variety of housing programming and supportive services that Community Teamwork provides across 72 cities and towns within Massachusetts. These programs vary from homelessness prevention and homeless shelters to administering subsidized housing to more than 3,600 tenants as well as youth services and Community Teamwork’s vocational leadership program, YouthBuild of Lowell.

Barbara Warren  COURTESY CTI

“I am very excited to take on this new role and continue this incredibly important work,” Warren said. “The need for a community response to addressing homelessness and affordable housing is central to the work that we do at Community Teamwork. This past year has really highlighted the need for all of us to come together and find real solutions to these very real problems.”

Warren joined Community Teamwork after graduating from UMass Lowell’s Community Psychology Graduate program. Over the past 10 years working for Community Teamwork, she has managed rehousing programming for homeless families as well as the Emergency Assistance Family Shelter.

More recently, she has led the agency’s efforts to address individual homelessness in Lowell.

Warren serves on the board of directors for Homes for Families, an advocacy organization for families in shelters.

Lowell Sun 5/2/21

mechanics hall dutton street view
mechanics hall dutton street view

Area’s Role in Fighting Slavery Praised

Mechanic’s Hall played a part in the Underground Railroad
Lowell Sun, 4/27/21, By Stefan Geller, sgeller@lowellsun.com
LOWELL>>Over 170 years ago, an escaped slave from Virginia named Nathaniel Booth opened a barbershop on the first floor of Mechanic’s Hall on Dutton Street, which became a hub for abolitionist activity. There, he and another fugitive slave, Edwin Moore, planned fundraising fairs, arranged visiting anti- slavery lectures and aided fellow freedom-seekers.
On Friday, it became one of 16 new sites officially recognized by the National Park Service for its role in the Underground Railroad.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Karen Frederick, CEO of Community Teamwork, the organization that now owns the building and uses it for youth services. “This history is so important for people to know about here in the city of Lowell.”

City, Sun Santa Team Up to Help Fire Victims

Sun Santa, the City and Community Teamwork Aid Fire Victims

The Sun News 4/26/21 https://bit.ly/2QWMD86

Lowell City Councilor Sokhary Chau has announced the distribution of Sun Santa funds and Fire Victims funds to residents left homeless due to the Westford Street fire in February.

 

Seven families were devastated and became homeless because of the blaze.

“Along with Mayor John Leahy, we partnered with Community Teamwork Inc., of Lowell,” Chau said. “ The community raised over $ 13,000 to directly benefit those who lost everything.”

In addition, the Sun Santa Fund contributed separately to the victims to help them with their daily needs.

Special thanks for coordination and assistance should be mentioned for Community Teamwork by Kathleen Plath, Joann Howell and CEO Karen Frederick. Also, coordination by Terry McCarthy, director of the Sun Santa Fund, played as a vital part in providing relief for the fire victims.

“We are very grateful for the efforts of these individuals who work tirelessly for the Lowell community,” Chau said.

Pictured: City Councilor Sokhary Chau, left, and CTI CEO Karen
Frederick with two representatives of two of the families displaced by a fire on Westford street in February.

No alternative text description for this image

Needles aimed at hard to reach population Covid-19 Vaccines

Lowell General Hospital’s mass vaccination site at the Cross River Center isn’t normally open on Wednesdays, but this week it was for a good reason. The 1001 Pawtucket Blvd. site opened Wednesday morning to vaccinate about 1,000 members of the hardest- to- reach communities in the region, thanks to a partnership with the Greater Lowell Health Alliance. https://bit.ly/32hu54F

Bryanna Payne, a case manager at Community Teamwork Inc., joined clients in getting vaccinated Wednesday. She said it was a relief to get the vaccine and to see so many others getting vaccinated.

“ I think it’s amazing,” Payne, of Leominster, said of the effort. “ I think it’s super important for it to be accessible to all the populations of Lowell.”..

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The late commodore in the place he loved on the Merrimack River in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July
The late commodore in the place he loved on the Merrimack River in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July

Merrimack River Mariner “crosses the bar”

“Crossing the bar” is a common term in boating that refers to the death of a mariner

Armand ‘Butch’ Milot led Lowell Motor Boat Club

The late commodore in the place he loved, on the Merrimack River, in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July 10, 2018.

By SCOTT SHURTLEFF |

PUBLISHED: April 7, 2021 at 6:14 a.m. | UPDATED: April 7, 2021 at 6:15 a.m.

LOWELL – “Crossing the bar” is a common term in boating that refers to the death of a mariner.

Last month Armand “Butch” Milot “crossed the bar” at 71 years old, but his bright spirit continues to moor itself inside the Lowell Motor Boat Club.

Milot was the longest serving commodore in the 146-year-old club’s history, serving at its helm for 27 years, overseeing finances, maintaining the boathouse and recruiting members to the popular club whose ocean is a wonderful stretch of the Merrimack River upstream from the Pawtucket Dam all the way into Southern New Hampshire.

In his wake and at his wake, a community grieves but remains grateful to have known the man who touched so many lives.

“He was a great leader,” said long-time member John Marchand. “He was not afraid to get his hands dirty; grab a shovel in the winter or cut the grass. When other members see him doing maintenance, they would chip in. Everything is done in-house and Butch was the one to delegate. And no one questioned him; out of respect for the man not so much the title.”

The flag at the Lowell Motor Boat Club recently flew at half-mast to honor the passing of the club’s longtime leader, Armand “Butch” Milot. Milot’s friend, John Marchand, left, and the club’s new commodore, John Manning, admire the flagpole that Milot installed.

In October 2020, Armand “Butch” Milot with YouthBuild member Derek Monroig.

Armand (Butch) Milot receiving his well-deserved Retired Commodore’s Flag on 30 June 2020 after serving as Commodore of the Lowell Motor Boat Club for 27 years. Butch was the longest serving Commodore in the club’s 146 year history.

The late commodore in the place he loved, on the Merrimack River, in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July 10, 2018.

Also speaking reverently was incumbent commodore John Manning, of Westford, who replaced Milot a year ago.

“When Butch died (March 8, 2021) we not only lost an incredibly effective commodore, we lost our friend.” Manning proudly shows guests at the LMBC the changes, upgrades and additions that Butch made to the old building.

A sunroom that overlooks the river toward the spires of Lowell General Hospital is named in his honor. An upstairs deck hosts cookouts, a coffee spot on the front lawn hides in the shadow of an adjacent flagpole.

All of these are part of Milot’s legacy. His efforts as commodore include the construction and reconfiguration of docks and mooring points.

“He was the first to offer the Lowell Police Department free dock space at the club,” said Manning.

As the river has gained in popularity among recreational boaters and personal watercraft, that space has been key for local public safety personnel. River One is the Lowell Police Department vessel that still rests at the ready at LMBC. The Lowell Fire Department also has access to emergency launches.

“The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary holds annual ‘safe boating’ classes for the public. This is another way that Butch gave of himself,” Manning said.

The Lowell Motor Boat Club was founded in 1875 and incorporated in 1937. The current boathouse at 487 Pawtucket St. was constructed in 1937, after the Great Flood of 1936 destroyed the original building.

The club is entirely volunteer-based, meaning members enlist to help with upkeep such as mowing the lawn and pulling the pier from the water at the end of the season.

But his impact extends far beyond the single acre parcel along the southern bank of the Merrimack on Pawtucket Street.

At CTI’s YouthBuild, Milot was known as Armand.

“We didn’t know who ‘Butch’ was,” said Siobahn Sheehan, program manager of YouthBuild. “I didn’t even know he was the commodore of the club.”

He kept the many personal and professional roles separate from each other but treating each with fervor, enthusiasm and the focus to perform it successfully. His lifelong vocation as a contractor led him to YouthBuild, where he served as crew leader and teacher for more than three years.

“He was a staple here as construction supervisor,” said Sheehan. “He was great with the kids,” she said of his work with the group of at-risk youth under his tutelage. “He taught them carpentry and trained them how to get certified. Vocational school atmosphere, great role model beyond the trades, professionalism and accountability. There is a huge gap in the soul of our student body.”

Aside from the many homes that Milot and his students built, they also boast the construction of two horse barns at Andover’s Ironstone Farm, where DeeDee O’Brien formerly served as

executive director. “He supervised the whole project, the volunteers and the kids from YouthBuild. Everybody worked together,” she said.

 

Merrimack River mariner “crosses the bar” – Lowell Sun

Scott Shurtleff

 

Lowell women bolster citys businesses running from behind the scenes
Lowell women bolster citys businesses running from behind the scenes

Lowell Women Keep City’s Small Businesses Running from Behind the Scenes

Influential Women in Lowell 

Influential women in Lowell, by the Homage to Women statue on Market Street. From left, Franky Descoteaux, Christine McCall, Germaine Vigeant-Trudel, Danielle McFadden, Allison Lamey, and Soumita Acharya. JULIA MALAKIE/LOWELLSUN

By AMY SOKOLOW | asokolow@lowellsun.com |

March 21, 2021 at 10:39 a.m.

LOWELL — Although their work may be behind the scenes, Lowell’s business-minded women in leadership positions have arguably done more than many to keep the city’s small businesses afloat through the pandemic.

An informal group that began around the start of the pandemic to help Lowell’s business community has turned into a bridge-building experience between groups in Lowell, but also a tight-knit support system for these women, now known as the Lowell Business Recovery Task Force.

The group began when Christine McCall, just weeks into her new role as Lowell’s director of economic development, could see that the pandemic looming on the horizon could have detrimental effects on the city’s businesses. She quickly assembled a group of business leaders, many of whom are women, to discuss how best to support Lowell’s business community and how to disseminate information to them about how state regulations may affect their operations.

“It was Christine that kind of kicked us all off back in March, to really rein us in and say, ‘we’ve got to, you know, respond to the needs of the business community,’” said Allison Lamey, economic development director of the Lowell Plan and the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation. “Things were changing so quickly, and it was hard to get a handle on (the situation).”

Over the past year, the group has been involved with several initiatives to support the city’s businesses, each bringing their own expertise and network with them. The group’s initiatives have included a video package, spearheaded by Soumita Acharya, director for community programs at Lowell Telecommunications, to promote local businesses around the holidays, a “Lowell Shopping Network” similar to HSN, a “Five Star Frenzy” to encourage patrons to leave positive reviews at their favorite local businesses, and a “Takeout Tuesdays” weekly event, to name a few.

The group’s members will have also given $900,000 in flexible grants for small businesses by the end of this fiscal year, excluding marketing programs the city has done, according to McCall, and have helped businesses with moratoriums on other payments. Franky Descoteaux, who runs the Entrepreneurship Center at Community Teamwork, added that her organization raised $850,000 to provide free consultants to Lowell-area businesses during the pandemic.

“We’ve been meeting quite regularly to talk about how we can support the business community through the closures that were felt of the pandemic, and you know, what we could do about it,” Lamey said. “A lot of the work has been behind the scenes and not getting some of the recognition it probably deserves.”

Recognition is not ultimately the goal, though. “We all know what the common goal is, and it’s to help, and that’s really all we care about,” said Danielle McFadden, president of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t care how it gets done, or who does it, or who or who gets credit. It’s just that we get it done. And that’s what I think is the power when you get a bunch of women together.”

McFadden added that many of these women face the added challenge of running their households during the pandemic. “You’re dealing with the challenges that you’ve always dealt with: the work-life balance, but now you have the kids at home, and worrying about everybody else’s mental health and everybody being happy, and a lot of times we put ourselves to the backburner,” she said.

These same challenges that affect the women in the group affect the women-owned businesses they serve, and likely do even more so. McCall said that the unemployment rate in Lowell is currently around 8%, higher than the state average, and that women have filed more unemployment claims than men overall, partially due to their outsize employment in the hard-hit hospitality industry and partially because of their childcare duties.

Kathleen Plath, co-owner of Cobblestones restaurant and others in the region, as well as director of marketing and communications and development at Community Teamwork, described the challenges she faced starting up her own business years ago, while also parenting three young children and earning her master’s degree. “How did I ever do that? But I think as women, we just put our heads down and get it done. You just do it. You’re not looking for credit, you’re not looking for any help,” she said.

Descoteaux added that the women the group serves often bear a heavier emotional burden when their businesses fail than men because of their childcare roles in the family and because now a majority of women take care of the finances in their businesses. She said that women may also have trouble accessing grants and loans because they are the predominant owners of sole proprietor-type businesses.

“It was very surprising to me as we were working with businesses… how many women felt that they had done something wrong, even though this is obviously a pandemic, many of the women still internalize their struggling business. And so we as women who are coaches and providing support, I know we carry that (burden),” she said.

Because many of these women also may not speak English as their first language, the group has teamed up to provide support and information in four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese and Khmer. The group agreed that businesses owned by women of color were among those hardest hit by the pandemic.

Germaine Vigeant-Trudel, assistant director of the Local Development Financial Corporation, added that even as the pandemic subsides, she’s worried that women may not return to the workforce in full force, which some are calling a “shecesssion.”

“A lot of these women, even if they could go back to work, really couldn’t go back to work now, because they have to help their children and childcare was too expensive for the type of jobs (these women have), so it just adds the layers on and on,” she said. Plath said she has seen this first-hand as she tries to ramp up employment at Cobblestones.

Even though the situation now may look bleak, the group is encouraged by their successes so far, and plan to continue meeting, brainstorming and helping well after the pandemic ends.

“Yes, we’ve had some business closures in the city, and I’m sure there will be more, but I actually think, through the efforts of this group, we’ve done a really good job of supporting businesses and that’s why so many of them are still in business today, McCall said. “That should be our biggest success.”

McFadden agreed. “What I’m most proud of are the businesses that are still here, how fierce they are. I mean, really, you could just crawl into bed and put the blanket over your head and say, ‘I’ll deal with this when this is over and figure things out.’ But just the fighting spirit that Lowell has I think is amazing,” she said.

And she attributes some of that success to this group of women. “I’ve been in this position for almost 10 years, I’ve never felt closer with a group of people professionally. And also like, look at what we’ve done. When we can get together, watch out world!”

Amy Sokolow