By Grant Welker
LOWELL -- Community Teamwork, Inc., calls it "building bridges to independence" when community members help others with housing, jobs, food and other assistance.
On Thursday, CTI gave tribute to what it calls its "bridge builders," those who best exemplified coming to the aid of those who have needed it across the city over the years.
Recipients were Market Basket and its founding family, the Demoulases; Bruce Robinson, vice president of Fred C. Church Insurance; Anita Greenwood, dean of education at UMass Lowell; Mike Durkin, president of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley; and Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
CTI, the city's antipoverty agency, gave a higher profile to its awards this year as it begins marking its 50th anniversary next year.
"Our work has changed over these 50 years and it'll continue to change," said Karen Frederick, CTI executive director. "If we're going to be a vital organization, it has to continue to change."
Former state Senator Steve Panagiotakos introduced Market Basket Operations Director Dave McLean, who received the award on behalf of the company and the Demoulas family.
"There's more than one bottom line," Panagiotakos said of the Tewksbury-based grocery chain. There's also how you treat employees and customers and give back to the community, he said.
"In all three of those measurements," he added, "Demoulas is a model for American corporate citizens."
McLean gave a common saying from Market Basket President and CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
"We are looking out for our customers' best interests even when they're not looking," he said, adding that the same could be said for CTI.
Robinson, of Fred C. Church Insurance, was recognized for his volunteer service with a range of entities, including the Greater Lowell Community Health Center, Girls, Inc., and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"And those are just the highlights," said Michael Collins, CTI's chief program officer.
Also honored was Greenwood of UMass Lowell, who is also a co-director of UTeach, a teacher-orientation program at the university.
Connie Martin, the associate executive director of energy and community resources for CTI, said she once took a class with Greenwood.
"She was without question one of the great professors I was ever lucky to have," Martin said.
Durkin, who oversees the local United Way, was recognized for his work at the forefront of housing and other aid.
"It's always nice to be recognized," Durkin said. "But to be recognized by an organization you respect like CTI and you all here is extra special."
CTI also awarded the head of the state's housing agency.
"If you've been in the housing and aid world, you only need to know the first name, Aaron," said Ed Cameron, CTI's associate executive director of housing and homeless services.
"Sort of like Cher or Oprah, two of his favorite celebrities," he added, drawing laughs. "That part I made up."
Presenters and speakers also praised CTI, which helps 48,000 people a year.
"It's really unmatched throughout the state," Gornstein said.
"They bring help to the helpless," Panagiotakos said. "They bring hope to the hopeless. And every day they change the community for the better."