An Executive Director Reflects on the Cummings Family…and Her Own Family

As Bridges Together board member Michele Fisher and I pulled up to TradeCenter 128 in Woburn, we were warmly greeted: “Are you here for the $100K for 100 reception?”

“YES!” we exclaimed.

The greeter graciously gave us directions and pointed us to the next step. One by one, people guided us, welcomed us and showed us where to get our nametags, a drink at the open bar and photos at two stations – a “fun” one and the formal one with a trustee member.

We met so many amazing and grateful people, including those from the other 99 organizations who also received a $100K grant this year. There was a camaraderie between us because we knew we were doing important work and that we were blessed to have been chosen for this financial award. Passed hors d’oeuvres and desserts flowed as we all mingled.

BT Board Member Michele Fisher, a Cummings Foundation Trustee, and BT Executive Director Andrea J. Fonte Weaver

We met staff and board members from both Cummings Foundation and Cummings Properties. Each person was so kind and warm. There was palpable joy in the room and a sense that each person and each organization was a gift to this world. We heard that staff members – from carpenters to accountants – collaborated with trustees to make decisions about the awards. We learned that the grant for Bridges Together was actually an “early decision” award made by the Cummings Foundation staff and members of the Cummings family. What an honor! It makes sense though, because the Cummings family is a living example of intergenerational connectedness and cultural continuity, carrying on the spirit of their ancestors. The reception was so generous – in terms of kindness, drinks, food and publicity opportunities to help the organizations. I was reminded of Bridges Together’s core values and the like-mindedness between organizations.

The sign that Andrea and Michele held up at the celebration

Michele and I were able to meet Bill and Joyce Cummings and personally thank them. As I listened to their words – especially Joyce’s speech – and as I watched Bill carefully reading every sign we grantees had brought and raised, I felt their love for us, their gratitude for us. As our names were called, we shouted out different (inadequate) words of thanks and held up our signs – and they would pause and thank us for being in the trenches and making the world a better place. Their strong leadership and authenticity, combined with humility and servants’ hearts, were evident.

After reading an article about Bill and Joyce Cummings in the Boston Globe and then meeting them in person, I could sense their individualism and unity as a couple and the many miles they have traveled, the wisdom they have gained, the sacrifices they’ve made, the abundance they have reaped and the seeds they have sown to improve the lives of so many people in so many different ways.

And throughout the evening, I thought of my parents, Ven and Laura, who also built a company where each employee and their families were valued. I was reminded of the many parties we hosted for our “work family,” where kindness and generosity and joy overflowed. I recognized the similarities in these two couples in their values and in their very beings. And I was reminded of all that I learned growing up through the amazing example of my parents, including the skills that have helped me be a founder and executive director of a tax-exempt charitable organization, worthy of a grant from the Cummings Foundation. But, along with my Mediterranean skin, dark eyes and big smile, somewhere in the DNA that my parents gave me is “intergenerational.” The core values of Bridges Together were fostered in my own home growing up. Like Bill and Joyce Cummings, my parents have helped fuel the development of Bridges Together in so many ways, from sharing wisdom and encouragement, to volunteering and making donations, to supporting my husband and our four sons as I travel across the country empowering others to be change agents to unite older people and youth.

While this post has been percolating in my heart and mind for a week, I finally have a moment to pause and reflect and type. The tears flow as my heart bubbles over with gratitude and awe. It’s been a quite a journey over the past five years of Bridges Together’s incorporation, 25 years of the Bridges program and 47 years of life in a multigenerational, tight-knit Italian family.

Thank you Bill and Joyce – and Cummings Properties that “powers charities.”

Thank you Mama and Papa. I love you always!

 

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