LEO Inc. Receives $225,000 Grant from Cummings Foundation

24 May 2023 – LEO Inc, the nonprofit community action agency for Greater Lynn, is one of 150 local nonprofits that will share in $30 million through Cummings Foundation’s major annual grants program. LEO was selected from a total of 630 applicants during a competitive review process.

The agency will receive $225,000 to support a robust Social-Emotional Behavior Program at its Head Start preschools in Lynn. LEO was established in 1965 as the nonprofit community action agency for Lynn and five surrounding towns. Dedicated to helping families and individuals meet and rise above the challenges of poverty, LEO partners on average with 3,000 households annually. In 2022, LEO positively impacted more than 9,000 individuals through its Early Childhood Education program, Home Energy Assistance program, and other community-based opportunities.

“We are thrilled to be one of the newest Cummings Foundation grantees in Lynn, sharing the honor with some of our closest sister agencies,” says Birgitta S. Damon, CEO of LEO. “As the largest provider of early education and care in the city, LEO is committed to providing effective, individualized, trauma-informed care for our children and their families. We know with certainty that the pandemic damaged the fragile social-emotional and behavioral health of the children in our care. With this grant, the Cummings Foundation acknowledges the importance of addressing these behavioral health issues in meaningful ways before they overwhelm families and schools.”

LEO will use the Cummings Foundation grant to deepen the services of its Social-Emotional Behavior department. Specialists spend time daily in LEO’s preschool classrooms, working one-on-one with children to develop skills that help them self-regulate and succeed in school; they extend their work by training parents and caregivers to reinforce the skills at home, and to recognize the triggers that disrupt behavior. LEO intends to add qualified social-emotional behavior specialists who are fluent in Spanish and to establish office space and private meeting rooms so that the team can operate as a unit out of the agency’s renovated preschool campus on Broad Street, which will be completed in 2024.

The Cummings $30 Million Grant Program primarily supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the areas where it owns commercial property. Its buildings are all managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. This Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 11 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation. “The way the local nonprofit sector perseveres, steps up, and pivots to meet the shifting needs of the community is most impressive,” said Cummings Foundation executive director Joyce Vyriotes. “We are incredibly grateful for these tireless efforts to support people in the community and to increase equity and access to opportunities.” The majority of the grant decisions were made by about 90 volunteers. They worked across a variety of committees to review and discuss the proposals and then, together, determine which requests would be funded. Among these community volunteers were business and nonprofit leaders, mayors, college presidents, and experts in areas such as finance and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). “It would not be possible for the Foundation to hire the diversity and depth of expertise and insights that our volunteers bring to the process,” said Vyriotes. “We so appreciate the substantial time and thought they dedicated toward ensuring that our democratized version of philanthropy results in equitable outcomes that will really move the needle on important issues in local communities.” LEO’s Damon echoes those sentiments. “The volunteer reviewers assume an enormous responsibility during each funding cycle. We are so grateful that they made the commitment to investigate and understand the nuances of both early childhood education and trauma-informed care.”

The Foundation and volunteers first identified 150 organizations to receive three-year grants of up to $225,000 each. The winners included first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that had previously received Cummings grants. Twenty-five of this latter group of repeat recipients were then selected by a volunteer panel to have their grants elevated to 10-year awards ranging from $300,000 to $1 million each. This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including housing and food insecurity, workforce development, immigrant services, social justice, education, and mental health services. The nonprofits are spread across 46 different cities and towns. Cummings Foundation has now awarded $480 million to greater Boston nonprofits. The complete list of this year’s 150 grant winners, plus nearly 1,500 previous recipients, is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

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