LYNN — Community advocate Lisa Wallace is in the running for a sizable monetary award for her volunteer work.
Wallace, 43, of Lynn, said she was recently notified that she was in the top five for the Cox Conserves Heroes community volunteer award, and the top 10 for a national award through the same grant program.
If she won, she’d be awarded $10,000 for the local; or $50,000 for the national. Either way, the award money would go toward a nonprofit of her choice.
Wallace, founder of the Community Path of Lynn Coalition, said she plans to use the funding for summer or after-school programs for kids in the city, which would be aimed at skills training.
All of the programming would be part of the coalition’s services. The group is made up of organizations, community members, and businesses and brings resources into communities to raise their standard of living, said Wallace. The nonprofit is committed to the revitalization of the abandoned Boston and Maine railroad tracks in Lynn.
Wallace said she didn’t know she was nominated until her son, Drew, told her that he received a phone call from Boston 25 News — which is affiliated with the contest — that she was a finalist. She still doesn’t know who nominated her, but it was relayed to her that she was chosen because there were more than 40 newspaper articles that were submitted that detailed her work in the community.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Wallace. “It felt good, not that I do this for people to recognize (me), but it was kind of nice to have someone say you did a lot. I usually don’t like it when people know I do stuff. I never tell anybody, but it was kind of nice to be recognized.”
Cox Conserves Heroes is an awards program created by Cox Enterprises, parent company of Boston 25 News, and The Trust for Public Land, which serves to honor environmental volunteers who create, preserve or enhance shared outdoor spaces in their local communities. Winning volunteers are honored with financial support to their nonprofit of choice, according to its website.
Wallace said she became interested in giving back to the community after she bought her first home on Neptune Street Court in 2012, which was in the Brickyard neighborhood of West Lynn.
She quickly took notice of the abandoned railroad tracks running through the neighborhood and also about how neighbors didn’t know where to access help. It became her mission to become that resource for them.
She got to work on neighborhood revitalization, not only remodeling and fixing up her own home, but helping neighbors do the same with their properties. She learned the trade from her father, who was a carpenter.
Wallace teamed up with former Ward 6 Councilor and now-state Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn) to coordinate neighborhood clean-ups and beautification projects along the railroad line, in an effort to turn it into a community asset.
“Your neighborhood, if they are all happy and looking out for each other, the neighborhood is stronger,” Wallace said. “The whole idea of the (Community Path of Lynn) coalition and the people that worked there was to better the community.”
She was able to flip her first house, selling it for $100,000 more than what she paid for it. Now, she’s remodeling her home on Cedar Brook Road.
Earlier this year, Wallace started an initiative through the coalition to collect environmentally unfriendly bottle caps, which would be melted down and turned into vinyl benches for the community path.
Another initiative allows people to buy a brick, which they can get engraved, and will be incorporated along the Western Avenue section of the path, she said.
The coalition is also working with the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce in an effort to encourage businesses to offer internships to the city’s high school and college students, Wallace said.
It’s efforts like these that could net Wallace up to $50,000, which she would put right back into the community.
Grants for the local and national contests are awarded by the James M. Cox Foundation. The local winner will be announced this month and the national competition winner will be announced in late October.