Community Action’s John Cuneo Retires After 37 Years; Grew Agency to $15M Nonprofit Fighting Poverty

John Cuneo during an appearance over 97.9 WHAV. (WHAV News file photograph.)

John L. Cuneo, who has grown Haverhill-based Community Action to a $15 million nonprofit corporation since joining the agency in 1983, retired Friday as president and chief executive officer.

Cuneo first went to work for the anti-poverty agency 37 years ago as director of community organizing and became the agency’s first, deputy executive director the same year. He was named executive director in 1996 following the death of Gerald Goldman who served as executive director from 1983 to 1995. The executive director’s title was later changed to president and CEO.

“I am most proud of bringing neighborhoods and communities together to tackle the tough problems facing our low-income residents. This is what the Community Action mission is all about”, said Cuneo.

He explained he enjoyed working with many diverse people throughout the community to address serious, local  issues, including helping establish Emmaus as the city’s first homeless shelter; start the agency’s Drop-in Center for street homeless; organize TIGHT, a tenants group that fought condominium conversions and steep rental increases during the 1990s; find a new home for the Head Start program at the Fox School; purchase the Assembly of God Church in Newburyport to create Head Start classrooms for Seacoast area preschoolers; organize surplus food distribution; start the area’s first substance abuse prevention program; improve Haverhill’s Mount Washington neighborhood in concert with others; found MakeIT Haverhill; and start the Goldman Scholarship.

Outside of the agency, Cuneo organized the annual duck race regatta for the Rotary Club of Haverhill, leading it for seven years and raising more than $250,000 for local nonprofits.

Community Action’s programs include Head Start, Early Head Start, Family Day Care, Heating Assistance, WIC, Community Services, Education and Training, First-Time Homebuyer classes, the Mount Washington Alliance and Family and Community Connection.

Long time CAI Board of Directors Chairperson Lucinda Nolet said “John is the working force for the underserved in Greater Haverhill and surrounding cities and towns constantly seeking new ways to resolve the issues of poverty. I along with the board of directors will miss John’s leadership and his vast knowledge of the many systems that are CAI.”

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