Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) announced Julie LaFontaine as the recipient of the third annual Jeremiah J. Healy Service Award. Established by Ferrante in 2017, the award is given to an individual who best epitomizes the social gospel of Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Julie LaFontaine is the Executive Director of The Open Door, a community food resource center serving 10 cities and towns in the Cape Ann and North Shore region. Julie assumed leadership of The Open Door in 2002. Under her vision and guidance, The Open Door’s food distribution has grown to 1.65 million healthy meals annually through innovative distribution models and robust nutrition programming. Julie has also grown The Open Door’s mission with the expansion of Second Glance thrift store, which provides the public with reduced-cost clothing and household goods and raises revenues to support The Open Door hunger-relief programs. Julie serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Board of Directors of BankGloucester, and the Advisory Council of Root, a non-profit culinary arts social enterprise.
“Undoubtedly, Julie LaFontaine has been a successful manager at The Open Door food pantry and Second Glance thrift shop. In a world where managerial skills are highly regarded and compensated, Julie, in the spirit of Reverend J.J. Healy, has chosen a career in which her focus and skills have been dedicated to giving, rather than receiving,” said Ferrante. “For these reasons, we are immensely proud to select Julie as the recipient of this year’s J.J. Healy Award.”
“Feeding people is work we do as a community because it is important and because it is the right thing to do,” said LaFontaine. “I am grateful to share this recognition that reflects a community that so truly cares for its own.”
An immigrant from Ireland, Jeremiah James (J.J.) Healy was a highly regarded pastor at St. Ann’s Church in Gloucester, Massachusetts from the time he arrived at St. Ann’s Parish in 1871 until the time of his death in 1910. Healy was responsible for the construction of St. Ann’s Church, the St. Ann’s Rectory and Convent. With the construction of these buildings, he educated and hired immigrant families, primarily those that “need not apply.”
During his time as permanent rector, Healy served the Cape Ann community by living social gospel. At his own personal expense, he established a fund in the City of Gloucester for the support of the poor and needy, built and equipped the non-sectarian Gloucester Free Library, and made the single largest contribution to Addison Gilbert Hospital for the “free care of the poor.”
Father Ronald Garibaldi was the first recipient of the J.J. Healy Award for his work and leading role in founding the Grace Center. In 2018, Michael Arsenian, MD was the second recipient of the J.J. Healy Award for the use of his considerable knowledge and skills for the care of Gloucester’s sick and expansion of the cardiac services at Addison Gilbert Hospital, a beneficiary of Rev. Healy’s generosity.