WORCESTER- The Regional Environmental Council (REC), a Worcester-based environmental and social justice organization, celebrated the 45th anniversary of its founding with a fundraising gala at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden on Thursday.

Environmental Council Celebrates 45 Years of Community Service 1

Papee Paye, 18, South High/Photo: Madison Friend

Congressman Jim McGovern, in an address delivered to the attendees, praised the REC’s decades of work and emphasized the organization’s importance to the community.

“The 70s have come to be known as the decade of the environment, so it makes perfect sense the REC was founded during that momentous decade,” said McGovern. “The REC has walked the walk for 45 years, and we need the REC now more than ever before.”

Since its incorporation on May 5, 1972, the REC has committed itself to improving access to healthy, local food options. The REC addresses issues of food insecurity at both the government and community level, by advocating for improved public policy and developing programming to benefit youth and at-risk populations in the city.

“We’re trying to do good things for the community, give back to our communities, and work with communities collaboratively,” said Pat Barnosky, REC’s Farmers Market Manager.

Dr. Margot Barnet and Laura Mcnaughton, former members of the REC’s Board of Directors, were presented with the organization’s Urban Habitat Awards. The awards recognize individuals that have done meaningful community work or made notable contributions to the REC.

Proceeds from the gala, which featured live music and a silent auction, will benefit REC food justice programs like Urban Garden Resources of Worcester (UGROW), Youth Growing Organics in Worcester (YouthGROW), the Worcester Regional Food Hub, and community farmers markets.

Environmental Council Celebrates 45 Years of Community Service 2

YouthGROW employees David Peal, 17, Holy Name & Yeimi Ayala, 15, UPCS/Photo: Madison Friend

Participants in YouthGROW, an employment program for low-income urban teens, volunteered their time at the event. They reflected on what motivates them to do nonprofit work for the community.

“I feel connected because I’m giving back to the community,” said David Peal, 17, a YouthGROW junior staff member. “That’s why I love the program.”

Papee Paye, an 18-year old South High Community School senior, moved to Worcester from Fargo, North Dakota specifically to work for the REC.

“I moved here from North Dakota two days ago,” said Paye. “Over the summer, I had a job at YouthGROW and I really liked that job. When I got involved in the program, I thought, ‘Worcester MA is the place I think I should be because of the program, how they help kids.’ I was interested in that. I started school on Monday.”

Barnofsky says that kind of commitment is characteristic of all of the REC’s employees and volunteers.

“To do this type of community work, you have to be really invested. It’s grassroots, so it’s tough sometimes,” said Barnofsky. “Everybody [at the REC] is really driven.”

For more information about the REC, visit https://www.recworcester.org.

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