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Fen-tastic Fest features food and philanthropy in Fenway

The Fenway Community Development Corporation hosted “Fen-tastic Fest,” a food festival featuring dishes from around the globe. PHOTO BY RACHEL MCLEAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
The Fenway Community Development Corporation hosted “Fen-tastic Fest,” a food festival featuring dishes from around the globe. PHOTO BY RACHEL MCLEAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

On a night that applauded the diversity of the Fenway neighborhood, approximately 100 professionals attending the Fen-tastic Fest fundraising affair Tuesday, displaying the heterogeneous culture that the Fenway Community Development Corporation wants to preserve.

The event helped raise money for Fenway CDC, an organization working to help all people find and keep affordable housing in the area.

“We have a lot of people in the business sector, a lot of the residents, it looks like,” said Louvere Walker, president of Fenway CDC’s board of directors, about the evening’s crowd. “And we also have a quite a few board members and staff … I am so happy that we don’t just see clones of each other.”

Rosie Kamal, a former board member of Fenway CDC and area resident since 1967, has been “committed to the Fenway for years” and watched the organization’s efforts to preserve the area’s culture.

“Fenway CDC has been really committed to seeing that Fenway remains a really vibrant place for everybody of all different backgrounds and all different incomes,” she said at Tuesday night’s gathering.

The annual fundraiser has been going on for years — so long that many attendees couldn’t remember when it started.

“I would say it’s been at least 10-plus years,” Walker said.

Others racked their brain to think about how long it’s been. They settled on about 10 years as well.

This time around, packed into the startup Hatch Fenway’s office at the Landmark Center, more than $50,000 was raised through donations, making it one of the largest fall fundraisers for the group ever. All of the money from Tuesday night’s event, according to Walker, will go to the organization. Though she didn’t specify exactly how funds would be allocated, she said they’d be divided between an array of functions to keep the program thriving.

Iris Tan, Fenway CDC’s marketing and development director, spoke to the necessity of the donations.

“Fenway CDC needs to raise essential funds to support our programs such as, number one, affordable housing — the development and preservation,” said Tan, who organized the fundraiser.

Other initiatives the program puts on include connecting students to job training and employment opportunities, working with residents to help educate them and meeting with city leaders about solving social issues.

The night culminated in the gathering of guests to hear from various sponsors and directors of the nonprofit as they thanked the group for, as one put it, trying “to fight to ensure that people find and maintain affordable housing.”

Dating back to 1973, Fenway CDC has worked to keep the neighborhood available to all — not just the wealthy, Walker said. But the fight has only gotten harder.

“We have to adjust here and there over the years, but I hope we can remain strong and do what we need to do and assist as many people as possible,” Walker said.

As for the attendees, several said they left inspired by the group’s efforts.

Janaya Hart, who works at Elkus Manfredi Architects, said the night spiked her interest to learn more about Fenway CDC and potentially get involved with the group.

Alycia Joyal said she scored tickets to the event because her company, Wilmington Trust, which has a Boston location, partnered with M&T Bank, one of the sponsors from the night.

“The food’s delicious. We’ve met great people,” Joyal said. “It’s for a good cause, so … I’m happy to be here.”

As the night came to a close, Walker said she felt confident in what her group had done and will continue to do.

“Of course, there are a lot of other topics related to social issues across the country,” she said, “but [affordable housing] is going to be one of those fights that I think Fenway CDC is at the forefront of.”

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