Meet Steve Joncas, a true friend to Lowell Community Health Center.
No surprise that he was among the first to check in at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.
Ask Steve Joncas to take a trip down Memory Lane, and he'll speak fondly of his childhood growing up in Lowell's Back Central neighborhood. He was raised by his mom and his grandparents who hailed from Portugal's Madeira Islands.
Steve will quickly tell you that the Health Center's mission and commitment to cultural competence is part of the heart and soul of this diverse community.
"It's about health, economic opportunity, and improving lives. Lowell CHC is part of the life blood of this city, just like the mills were for my family - and so many others - back in the day."
Steve's grandparents worked in the mills. He and his mom would drive over to pick them up at the end of their shift, then stop on the way home at Barry's Bakery for Portuguese sweet bread. "On special occasions, we'd get eclairs. My grandfather loved eclairs," he recalls with a wide grin.
After graduating from Lowell High, then Northeastern University, Steve witnessed, firsthand, the last gasp of Lowell's textile industry and the tough times that followed. Post-college, he began a career in politics and community development, including working for then U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas and Representative Marty Meehan, and leading the Lowell Plan.
In 2000, he founded Joncas Associates, a real estate development and consulting firm, on the cusp of the effort to redevelop the City's crumbling mills. A chance meeting with the former Health Center CEO, Dorcas Grigg-Saito, at an auto repair shop on Appleton Street can only be described as fate.
"Before I knew it, we were walking over to Jackson Street to see what it would take to turn a former mill into a health center," Steve recalls.
"The thought of building something that would again create jobs and make health care accessible for so many people, meant a lot."
You likely know how that story unfolded, with construction of our 165,000 Health Center. You might not know just how important Steve was to the process, navigating complex applications for tax credits and financing, always quietly going above and beyond to make the impossible, possible.
Thank you, Steve, for continuing to help us open doors for those who need it most, including the many immigrants who continue to make Lowell home.
"The Health Center is so important to our community and our economy. Lowell CHC removes barriers to getting help - and we need that now more than ever before."
If you are interested in helping to make sure the Health Center is here to remove barriers now, and far into the future, consider a gift to our
COVID-19 Response Fund.
All donations will go directly towards overcoming financial challenges related to the crisis.