Lisbeth Valdez was welcomed formally Friday as MakeIT Haverhill’s first paid employee.
Thanks to state grant, Valdez is beginning work as the nonprofit’s program director. She was welcomed during a reception at the organization’s Washington Street building where a large, ceremonial state check was presented.
MakeIT Haverhill founder Keith Boucher said the organization has evolved since first being envisioned in 2017—bringing in sewing machines to train workers for the now-defunct Southwick Clothing factory and, then, completely shifting gears in light of the pandemic. However, he notes, the core mission is unchanged.
“The whole thing is to get people in the building here—whether they are learning English, whether they’re learning computers or whether they’re working to get a job. All those programs feed each other,” he explained.
Boucher thanked state Rep. Andy X. Vargas for spearheading the $50,000 grant to hire a director and Reps. Linda Dean Campbell and Christina Minicucci for supporting the program in the House and Sen. Barry R. Finegold, who did not yet have Haverhill in the 2nd Essex and Middlesex District, for supporting it in the state Senate. He also credited Community Action with expanding MakeIT Haverhill’s reach by adopting the nonprofit.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Community Action CEO Kerri Perry were also on hand to praise MakeIT’s determination and growth.
Valdez formerly worked at Merrimack College as assistant director of Hands to Help.
There was also another gift. Finegold said Haverhill is getting $40,000 to replace the aging signage at the Ward Hill Business Park—the city’s largest industrial area.