A tribute to the lovely Renae Gray 1

I was blessed to witness a beautiful tribute tonight to a woman who has worked diligently, without fanfare, for social justice in various realms in Greater Boston.  It was a love fest that brought together many different people to honor the life of Renae Scott Gray,* a woman who has given so much to so many and now finds herself in need.

Renae was there to hear the impact she’s had on so many people. She witnessed what her friends, her daughter and current and former colleagues love about her.  It is rare that many of us able to get feted while we are living.

As with all such tributes, many of us learned things we didn’t know about Renae – like the fact that she has a serious “thing” for Denzel Washington, that she was one of the international monitors for the first presidential election after apartheid’s end in South African, and that she once worked at Sears in the very building this celebration was held.  (The tribute was held in beautiful space donated by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation in the Landmark Building in the Fenway area of Boston.  Long-time Bostonians remember this as the Sears Building.  I still have folding wooden chairs purchased from the outlet store there.)

The photo montage that played throughout the evening paid tribute to the various tributaries that feed the river that is Renae – her mothering, her philanthropy, her work on behalf of domestic violence, her love of travelling, and the importance of friends and family in her life.  One woman spoke of meeting Renae when she was a young mother with no family support and how Renae became her family!

Almost everyone remarked on her near-constant smile, her caring attitude, her encouragement of others, and her strength.  Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner said she was a warrior with a smile. 

Renae has end-stage kidney disease.  Luckily a donor has been identified.  Tonight’s event was to collect funds to help her with all the expenses that getting a transplant entails.  Checks can be made out to the National Transplant Assistance Fund (please note “in honor of Renae Gray” in the memo line.   Mail to:  NTAF
150 N. Radnor Chester Road, Suite F-120
Radnor, PA 19087
Donations can also be made online (www.transplantfund.org).  Donations are tax deductible.

One of her colleagues noted that Renae would always encourage people to contribute whatever they could – quarters or dollars – to the various organizations for which she worked.  Renae has also done a lot of research on Black philanthropy and noted that tonight’s event was in keep with the spirit of Black philanthropy – that she had given of herself to the non-profit world and the community for 35 years and that now the community was giving back to her.

We honored her tonight and we pray for her successful transplant and that enough funds are raised that she doesn’t have to stress about money.  Surely, Renae will heal to continue her incredible work in the world.  We need her.

* Renae Gray is the past Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Fund.  A founding member, she was involved with the fund for more than 20 years.  She has more than 35 years of nonprofit experience, having worked with the Girl’s Coalition, the Haymarket Peoples Fund, the Women’s Theological Center, and the Cambridge Algebra Project.


About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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