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Mayor Martin Walsh visits OneUnited Bank in Grove Hall during a tour of neighborhood business districts.

Local businesses recognized for contributions to neighborhoods

Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently presented Main Street Awards as part of the annual “Mayor on Main” trolley tour, a three-day tour of Boston Main Streets districts to recognize the achievements of Boston’s small businesses. This year’s tour took place on July 22, 29 and 30.

The Boston Main Streets program was launched by former Mayor Thomas M. Menino in 1995 to improve the economic vitality of small businesses along central streets in neighborhoods across the city. The Boston Main Streets program provides resources to small businesses to promote structural organization, increase community engagement, offer educational workshops in communities and teach businesses about sustainable growth. Since its founding, the program has helped launch 1,394 businesses and more than 8,000 new jobs.

OneUnited Bank

Among this year’s awardees is OneUnited Bank, the largest black-owned bank in America. The bank received a Main Street Award for its partnership with both Greater Grove Hall Main Streets and the Mayor’s office. OneUnited Bank supported Technology Innovation Night, a public event that showcased the achievements of black tech innovators. Teri Williams, the president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank, also is the chair of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), a group that works with the Mayor’s Office to determine municipal funding for minority businesses.

On July 29, Williams expressed OneUnited Bank’s commitment to investing in community businesses and events while also highlighting the importance of recognizing the achievements of small businesses.

“We would do the work without the award, so it’s not for the award that we do the work,” Williams explained. “But I do think it is important to recognize businesses within local communities that may not get the recognition of the bigger businesses that are downtown.”

Grove Hall volunteer

Angela Williams-Mitchell, a volunteer at Greater Grove Hall Main Streets and a retired Boston Police Officer, received a Main Street Award for her cooperation with businesses whose primary language is Spanish. Williams-Mitchell, who is an immigrant from Panama, said in comments to the Banner that her time on the Boston Police Force taught her how to communicate comfortably with members of the community. Since retiring from the force, Williams-Mitchell has been involved with local educational institutions, community organizations, and the Greater Grove Hall Main Street Program.

Williams-Mitchell explained her motivations for involving herself with numerous local organizations.

“I do a lot, but it’s because I find that there is a need in our community,” Williams-Mitchell said. “A lot of people have agendas for why they do things. I don’t believe in that. Today me, tomorrow you. If you don’t help one another, there will be nobody around to help you when your time comes.”

Businesses: part of a community

Mayor Walsh, in comments to the Banner, expressed the importance of both recognizing community businesses and shopping at local businesses.

“It is really important to recognize any of our businesses,” Mayor Walsh remarked. “Because when you think about a community, what’s part of a community is housing, people living there — but it’s also businesses. And we have to support them to keep a neighborhood thriving.”

In 2021, Boston will host the National Main Street Organization’s national convention, an event centered around the development of Main Streets in America.

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