City Hall Plaza was abuzz Thursday night as nearly 500 people came out to hear Gov. Charlie Baker headline the 50th anniversary celebration of the Worcester Business Development Corporation and the Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Mayor Joseph M. Petty and City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. also spoke at the event.
Gov. Baker spoke about his many connections to Worcester, which date back to his days of playing college basketball at Harvard University. He said he spent a lot of time in Worcester, because he had more fun with his College of the Holy Cross basketball team friends then he did at Harvard.
“And by the way, they had a better basketball team,” the governor said.
To the two celebrating organizations, Gov. Baker said, “I think it’s terrific that you guys have 50 years together.”
“I’m 58 – 50 years is a long time,” he said.
The two nonprofit organizations celebrating their golden anniversaries this year were founded in 1965 by then city manager Francis J. McGrath. The development corporation supports the economic developments efforts in the city, while the action council provides education, employment and energy services to the city’s poor.
“It’s kind of fitting to come back to City Hall where he [Mr. McGrath] managed for so long,” said Ellen Ganley, director of development for the WCAC.
“In some ways people might look at the two agencies and wonder what they have in common, but at the heart of it, their missions are both about improving the community,” Ms. Ganley said.
Each organization also presented awards on Thursday night. The WCAC honored National Grid and law firm Mirick O’Connell for supporting its fuel assistance program, which provided discounts on heating bills to 300 low-income households this winter.
The WBDC presented an award to Rep. Jim McGovern.
“He could get it every single year, honestly,” said Julie Holstrom, senior project manager at the WBDC. “He does a lot for the city.”
Most recently, the WBDC bought the former Telegram & Gazette building on Franklin St. downtown and developed it into classrooms for 2,000 Quinsigamond Community College students and a business incubator space.
Though there was celebration of many recent and distant past accomplishments of the two organizations, much of the focus of the night was on the future of Worcester.
“Two words come to mind: reflection on the last 50 years, and then renewal … for the next 50 years,” said Craig L. Blais, president of the WBDC. “I think that’s what the founders envisioned back in 1965.”