Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc

GLCAC to Honor Francis, Lavoie Schuster for Leadership in Aftermath of Gas Explosions

Friday, Apr 5, 2019

The Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc., is pleased to announce the 2019 recipients of the annual Heroes in Action Awards will be Beth Francis and Carol Lavoie Schuster of the Essex County Community Foundation. Under the dynamic leadership of Francis, the President and CEO, and Lavoie Schuster, the Vice President for Grants and Services, the Foundation responded to the gas explosions by launching the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund and galvanizing community support to provide aid and comfort.

“It was through Beth’s and Carol’s fearless and tireless leadership that so many organizations, volunteers and the entire community came together to provide months of support and care for those impacted by the gas disaster,” said Evelyn Friedman, Executive Director of the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc.

The awards will be presented at GLCAC’s Annual Heroes in Action Gala, Friday, April 26, at 5:30 p.m., at DiBurro’s Function Facility in Haverhill. The Heroes in Action Gala is the premier annual fundraiser for GLCAC and all funds raised go to support its work to help individuals and families rise out of poverty and achieve economic self-sufficiency. The gala will feature a reception, silent and live auctions, dinner, music and the award presentation.

On September 13th, 2018, a natural gas disaster brought chaos to the Merrimack Valley. Explosions, fires, and the loss of a young life led to mandatory evacuations and extended utility outages. Tens of thousands were forced to leave their homes, many for long periods of time.

In the aftermath, the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund granted over $12 million to affected residents of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.  In addition to starting the fund, Francis and Lavoie Schuster gathered leaders of more than 20 local community organizations and set in motion three relief centers for affected residents to obtain immediate financial assistance, connect with case managers and access services and resources to help them recover.

GLCAC worked closely with ECCF to process more than 17,000 checks to affected residents and co-lead the staffing and management of the relief centers in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Francis was appointed President and CEO of Essex County Community Foundation in May 2018, after nearly two years of serving as the Foundation’s vice president for development. Lavoie Schuster leads all of ECCF's grantmaking, fund establishment and oversight, nonprofit leadership as well as donor services departments.

For more information about the gala and to purchase tickets, visit  For organizations interested in being a corporate sponsor, contact Jennifer Carter at 978-620-4708 or

GLCAC is a multi-faceted social services agency that assisted 32,648 individuals in 2018 through a range of programs including early childhood education, fuel assistance, WIC nutrition assistance, immigration services, lead poisoning prevention, child abuse prevention, English-language lessons, and consumer protection.

The mission of Essex County Community Foundation is to strengthen the communities of Essex County. The Foundation does this by promoting philanthropy and managing charitable assets, making grants and engaging in strategic community leadership. Since 1998, ECCF and its family of more than 200 charitable funds have granted more than $80 million to nonprofits, schools and students in Essex County and beyond. Its ultimate goal is to have 34 thriving cities and towns in Essex County and to improve the quality of life for the region’s 750,000 residents.

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