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Disaster response tops ticket at Groundwork Lawrence fundraiser

by Zoe Matthews, Eagle Tribune

One needs look no further than the centerpiece arrangements at Groundwork Lawrence's annual fundraiser to know what the organization is all about: fresh kale, tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies adorned the tables at Groundwork's Glow Gala Thursday night, as the environmentally focused nonprofit celebrated 19 years in the city, and looked to its partners and donors for help continuing their work.

The gala was themed "Transforming Tomorrow," and as executive director Heather McMann recounted the organization's successful changes in the city over the past year, she also noted one major transformative event — the gas disaster in September — that has disrupted the lives of thousands.

"The last couple months has been an unbelievably crazy, scary, and empowering time," McMann said.

On Sept. 13, thousands of families and businesses across Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were displaced from their homes when over-pressurized gas lines sparked a series of fires and explosions. 

Groundwork Lawrence canceled its plans that weekend for a cleanup of the Spicket River, and deployed its resources immediately to give aid to those affected and help coordinate shelters.

At the gala, Mayor Daniel Rivera announced that more than half of the affected residents have had their gas service restored. He bestowed certificates to the organization, for the work it has done in the wake of the disaster, and more broadly in the city.

In addition to its ongoing efforts to bring Lawrencians back to a state of normalcy, Groundwork Lawrence was involved in turning the Buckley Garage into a work of public art, building new playgrounds at Bourgoin and Gagnon parks, and planting more than 500 trees across the city as part of its Green Streets Initiative.


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