Girls Inc. of Greater Haverhill celebrated its 100th birthday recently at DiBurros Function Facility with a dinner and awards ceremony.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty Dukakis reminisced about Michael Dukakis’ mother, Euterpe Boukis Dukakis, who immigrated to Haverhill in 1913, the year Girls Inc. was founded. She worked in the city’s shoe factories, was inspired by Winter Street Elementary School Principal Stanley Gray to continue her education beyond Haverhill High School and was the first Greek woman in the United States to attend college.
Girls Inc. also honored three local women for being Strong, Smart and Bold. The Strong Woman Award went to Kathleen Sullivan Rurak — tutor, religious educator and former first lady of Haverhill; the Smart Woman Award went to Jean Poth, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Northern Essex Community College; and the Bold Woman Award went to Ellen Roche, branch manager at Mortgage Network.
Girls Inc. was started in 1913 when early feminists and philanthropists saw a need in the community. At that time, the shoe and textile industries in Haverhill were booming and jobs were plentiful. Many young women moved to Haverhill to work in the factories, without family or friends in the city. Haverhill’s “foremothers” recognized that need to support these young women, and in 1913 Girls Inc. opened its doors at 114 Merrimack St. as the Kumsumore Club. In 1945, the club became a charter member of the Girls Club of America. In 1990 the Haverhill Girls Club became Girls Incorporated to avoid being confused with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Girls Inc. currently runs an onsite school-age, after-school program and summer camp and operates many national award-winning programs in several Haverhill public schools and in other venues in the community.