The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship announced today that Kathe McKenna, cofounder of Haley House, will receive the Boston Schweitzer Leadership Award from the Schweitzer Fellowship program in Boston. The award recognizes the achievements of an individual who has worked to significantly mitigate the social determinants of health in Greater Boston or Central Massachusetts, and whose commitment to service has influenced and inspired others.
McKenna cofounded Haley House with her husband John, and ran it for 43 before transitioning to a new role in 2013 as Director of Special Projects. Haley House started as a soup kitchen and food pantry and has grown to provide additional services, including affordable housing, urban agriculture, and opportunities for economic independence and education for underserved youth and those with limited employment opportunities.
“For the entirety of her professional life, Kathe McKenna has served others by providing hope, opportunity, and dignity to people struggling with homelessness or facing economic barriers, such as transitioning out of incarceration,” said Sylvia Stevens-Edouard, executive director of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. “Our award to Kathe comes during the 75th anniversary year of the founding of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, whose mission focuses on improving the health of communities by preparing the next generation of health and human service professionals to serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives. There is no question that Kathe’s life example is aligned with Dr. Schweitzer’s legacy of service to others.”
McKenna and her husband began working with people experiencing homeless in 1966 by inviting them to sleep in their basement apartment. The following year, they purchased property in the South End and turned it into a soup kitchen and homeless shelter. Over the years, the program expanded to include 100 units of affordable housing, and a bakery operated by men from the soup kitchen. In 2005, Haley House opened a café in Dudley Square where it now includes a transitional employment program for ex-offenders and functions as an important community gathering space. Additionally, Haley House has served as a community partner site for numerous projects implemented by Boston Schweitzer Fellows.
Founded in 1991, the Boston Schweitzer Fellows Program is the oldest program of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (http://www.schweitzerfellowship.org/ ) and one of 12 Schweitzer Fellowship programs throughout the United States and in Lambaréné, Gabon, at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital. Fellows are graduate students who commit to a year of service, learning effective strategies and leadership skills to address the social factors that impact health. In doing so, they model their service after the life example set by pioneering physician-humanitarian and Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who was one of the 20th century’s most admired global citizens.
Boston Fellows have contributed nearly 100,000 hours of service since 1992 to vulnerable populations in Massachusetts. The program is hosted and sponsored by Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center. Other sponsors have included Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston University School of Public Health, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, DentaQuest Foundation, Eastern Bank Foundation, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation, New England College of Optometry, Novo Nordisk, Tufts University, and Walgreens. More information is available at SchweitzerFellowship.org/Boston.