Annual Action Hero Award Recipients, from left: WCAC Director of Develpopment, Ellen Ganley; Biodun Akande; UMass’ Monica Lowell; WCAC Head Starts’s Evelyn Velez and Kathy Dow ; Charlton Oil’s Don Baker ; WCAC; WCAC Executive DirectorJill Dagilis


WCAC hosted its 11th Annual Action Hero Celebration on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main Street, Worcester. Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito was a special guest, along with keynote speaker Noah Berger, President of the Mass Budget & Policy Center. This year’s honorees included UMass Memorial Health Care, Charlton Oil, Biodun Akande and the agency’s own Head Start program.

The 2017 awardees:

UMass Memorial Health Care –  UMass Memorial Health Care has partnered with WCAC by generously supporting workforce development efforts for young people through their Building Brighter Futures program. Not only do they provide a positive work experience for local youth, they also provide the 20% local match required for state funding. Over the past decade as a result of their contribution, this has led to more than 3,500 youth placed in jobs and a remarkable $5.2 million dollars in state money leveraged. Monica Lowell, VP of Community Relations accepted the award on the University’s behalf.

Charlton Oil – During the winter of 2015-16, Charlton Oil delivered nearly $400,000 worth of fuel to 579 low income clients. Additionally they completed 318 service calls and replaced 88 inefficient or non-functioning heating systems. Beyond that work, Charlton Oil made many referrals to WCAC when they recognized fuel clients who were struggling and were likely eligible for our fuel assistance and weatherization programs. Don Baker accepted the award recognizaing their incredible efforts on behalf of the agency’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and weatherization clients.

Biodun Akande – “Mr. B” is affectionately known by the hundreds of individuals and families he has helped as the site coordinator for WCAC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). A native of Nigeria, he holds multiple degrees from Bentley College, South Bank University and the University of North London. Quick with a smile, he is passionate about helping others and is nearly single-handedly responsible for WCAC’s vibrant VITA volunteer base. Mr. B helps ensure that the experience is both a positive one for clients and also meaningful for volunteers . He has overseen thousands volunteer hours, generating over $3 million dollars in returns for nearly 2,000 households. His two sons were on hand to witness him accept the award recognizing his diligence on behalf of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

WCAC’s Head Start – WCAC’s own Head Start program which is celebrating a remarkable 25 years of service in the Southbridge-Webster area. More than 4,000 children have participated in the program which provides, in a safe, nurturing environment, developmentally appropriate curricula, health and nutrition services, breakfast, lunch and snacks, special education opportunities, and family services. The award was presented to the center’s to dynamo co-directors, Evelyn Velez and Kathy Dow who together have a combined 43 years of service to WCAC’s Head Start.

“We were thrilled to welcome Lieutenant Governor Polito to our event, and appreciated Noah Berger’s timely remarks relative to poverty and opportunity here in Massachusetts,” said WCAC Executive Director Jill Dagilis. “These are certainly challenging and uncertain times but we believe it is more important than ever to celebrate the heroes who support our efforts to help so many people reach economic self-sufficiency. This year’s Action Hero honorees are no exception.”