Greater Worcester Community Foundation announced the winners of the 16th and 17th annual Renaissance Awards during the Foundation's annual meeting, which was held virtually. With the 2020 award not being presented due to the global pandemic, two awards were announced at this year's event. The Renaissance Award winners are Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, Inc., (2020 winner) and Ernie Floyd, founder of Unity Radio (2021 winner). At the meeting, the Foundation also released its 2020 financial results and elected new directors and corporators.
Anh Vu Sawyer (2020 winner) is a tremendous resource for Worcester's Asian American community. As Executive Director of Worcester's Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, Inc (SEACMA), Sawyer oversees the agency's mission to provide critical assistance to Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees, and to preserve the vibrancy of their cultural heritage here in Central Massachusetts. Established in 2001, SEACMA has developed a strong reputation among members of the cultural community and with the organization's partners in the community at large for being a trusted resource of first resort to help guide and aid the Asian population in Worcester. Since 2015, SEAMAC has also lent support to refugees from Iran, Iraq and Syria. During Sawyer's directorship, SEACMA received over 10 awards and recognitions for their work. With passion, strength and resilience, Sawyer has provided an opportunity for all Asian American immigrants to achieve their goals and dreams while preserving their heritage.
Ernie Floyd (2021 winner) has dedicated himself to addressing negative portrayals of Worcester's youth in the media by elevating the voices of young people in their communities. Throughout his career, Floyd created several platforms, including Pride Productions Inc., dedicated to empowering local youth about educating them about media and technology. In 1994, Youth Unity, a half-hour talk show was created, designed and produced by young people.
In 2013, Floyd launched the Worcester-based radio station Unity Radio (97.9 WUTY) which focuses on serving several educational purposes in addition to broadcasting local talk, music and sports. However, the impact of Floyd's vision for the younger generation of Worcester goes beyond radio. In 2014 and 2015, Floyd served as the Re-entry Director for Worcester's Straight Ahead Ministries on Main Street where he worked with young men and women to help them pursue their goals in education, employment, housing, health, and personal development. For Floyd, there is power to be found when youth are provided with the right platforms and tools to make their voices heard.
“If the recent pandemic has taught us anything it's that we at the Foundation have a responsibility to continue strengthening our community, and it begins by highlighting some of the exceptional people who are making a real difference,” said Carolyn Stempler, interim President & CEO of the Foundation. “We are proud to honor Ernie and Anh Vu as Renaissance Award recipients. From giving a voice to our younger generations, to providing the necessary resources our immigrant community needs to thrive, their work in Central Massachusetts has proven to be not only impactful, but also inspiring. Worcester is growing at an incredible speed. It's up to us and it's up to our community leaders to continue this growth equitably.”
The Renaissance Award is a cash prize of $5,000 which the Foundation awards annually as an expression of gratitude for the talented, dedicated people serving the community in nonprofit roles. The late John W. Lund, a GWCF founder, established the Renaissance Award through an endowed gift which continues to make this prize possible today. Recipients are chosen based on their record of dedicated commitment to the nonprofit sector, professional accomplishments, and talent in fostering collaborative relationships.
In addition to the Renaissance Award, the Foundation released its financial reporting for 2020 at the annual meeting: Assets consisting of permanent charitable endowments that are available for local grantmaking exceed $180 million; the foundation awarded $14.3 million in grants and scholarships; and received more than $11.9 million in contributions. A complete annual report can be found at www.greaterworcester.org.
Two new members were welcomed to the Foundation board of directors including Che Anderson. Anderson is currently the University of Massachusetts Medical School's assistant vice chancellor for city and community relations. Prior to his current role, he served as Worcester's deputy cultural officer where he brought a wide array of cultural and artistic programs to the residents of the city - most notably the international mural festival known as POW! WOW! Worcester. The festival brings artists from around the world and has curated more than 100 pieces of public art in the city since its inception in 2016. Anderson has volunteered with GWCF for several years on scholarship selection committees and recently served on the Creative Arts Committee which was the impetus for the city of Worcester's arts and culture plan. Anderson has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from College of the Holy Cross and is completing a Master of Public Administration in senior leadership from Clark University.
After receiving the 2020 Renaissance award, Sawyer was named to a four-year term as well. Current board member Kimberly Salmon was renewed for an additional four-year term.
The following individuals were elected as new Corporators for a five-year term:
- Ken Bates, Open Sky Community Services
- Leah Bradley, Central Mass Housing Alliance
- Lou Brady, Family Health Center
- Marybeth Campbell, Worcester Community Action Council Scott Casper, American Antiquarian Society
- David Connell, YMCA of Central MA
- Lucy Hale, Community Leader
- Jason Homer, Worcester Public Library
- Debora Jackson, WPI School of Business
- Steve Kerrigan, Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center Dennis Kerrigan, Hanover Insurance
- James Madigan, F.W. Madigan Company
- Warren Manigault, Rockland Trust
- Jose Perez, Rock of Salvation Pentecostal Church
- Anh Vu Sawyer, Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts Ronald B. Waddell, Jr., Legendary Legacies
- Jon Weaver, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives
- Stephanie A. Williams, City of Worcester