Press Release: Emergency Mobilization and 2020 Grants


CONTACT: Eric Esteves, 617-406-6036,


The Lenny Zakim Fund announces emergency grant mobilization and 2020 grant recipients


BOSTON – As communities throughout Massachusetts reel from the challenges of Covid-19, those who experience discrimination and financial insecurity in the “best of times” are now more vulnerable than ever.  In response, The Lenny Zakim Fund (LZF) fast-tracked its annual grantmaking process and delivered $576,000 in grants to 56 community nonprofit organizations (listed below) who work at bridging inequities throughout the Commonwealth. The funds were sent out the same day the Boston schools were first closed due to the pandemic. Now LZF is working toward substantially increasing its pool of emergency funds in order to respond to the crucial needs that undoubtedly lie ahead for these grassroots organizations during this crucial moment in history.

LZF Executive Director Eric Esteves acknowledges the increased challenges:  “The global pandemic and our new normal has laid bare the structural inequities that exist in our society. As we consider our 25-year legacy as an organization focused on social, racial, and economic justice, we must continue to listen to those closest to the problems and support them as they implement solutions.  LZF aids those who demonstrate the will and potential to make a difference – but may lack the necessary resources. These resources have suddenly become more urgent than ever before.”

For 25 years, The Lenny Zakim Fund has been committed to identifying, listening to, and supporting grassroots community organizations operating “below the radar screen” of many large charitable and government funding sources. Grant recipients include community-based organizations providing services in diverse ways within a variety of very vulnerable populations. This year, more than half of the organizations receiving LZF grants are led by people of color.

Leah Okimoto, Executive Director of Aaron’s Presents, an LZF grant recipient who works with middle and high school students in the Merrimack Valley, recognizes the increased need her organization faces: “I’m so grateful for LZF’s tremendous investment and show of support for the work that we’re doing, especially with youth in Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn in particular, and for what we need to do as an organization to get through this crisis and strengthen the organization for the future.”

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Fund has more than doubled its pool of emergency grants to $56,000 thus far, with the goal of raising at least $100,000 more in order to increase its ability to support grassroots community organizations in the coming weeks and months.

According to Esteves, the Fund has identified both current and former grant recipients who are worried about the programs they have had to suspend or cancel, funds lost, balancing critical staffing decisions, and the vulnerable individuals/families they serve who are now even more isolated and at-risk.

“We do not know how long this uncertainty will last,” says Esteves, “but what I do know is that small, grassroots organizations are even more important now than ever to the communities they serve.”

About The Lenny Zakim Fund

Established in 1995 by the late civil rights leader Lenny Zakim, the Lenny Zakim Fund continues to reflect his work and ideals by providing financial support, education, technical assistance and networking opportunities to small, community-based organizations and individuals who are passionate about social, racial, and economic justice and determined to become vehicles of critical change.

In LZF’s first year of grant making, twelve recipients received a combined total of $52,200 in funding.  Since that time, LZF has awarded over 1300 grants and nearly $9 million to organizations focused on improving educational opportunities for children, youth and immigrants; fostering positive youth development and preventing violence; promoting social and economic justice and human and civil rights; and serving people facing medical challenges and/or physical or cognitive disabilities.

The Lenny Zakim Fund knows grassroots leadership is integral to ensuring that programs are successful, culturally relevant, effective, and meet the needs of affected people. Social justice at The Lenny Zakim Fund is about more than just grantmaking – it’s about coming together in partnership to support leaders and the grassroots in their work against systemic oppression and their fight for equity.


2020 Grant Recipients:

Child and Youth Development & Education


Access to Food, Housing and Economic Security



Organizing and Support for Immigrants & Refugees


Violence Prevention, Criminal Justice Reform & Family Outreach


Civil and Human Rights Advocacy and Support


Health Promotion and Accessibility for All


LGBTQIA Community Support & Organizing

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