By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – The Citizens Scholarship Foundation (CSF) of Marlborough, a local chapter of Scholarship America, will honor its founder Mary Lou Vanzini at its 25th Anniversary Gala to be held Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Marlborough Senior Center, 40 New St. Doors will open with food stations at 6:30 p.m. Vanzini is looking forward to reuniting with people she’s met throughout her several decades as a community leader.
“The reason I agreed to do the gala in honor of me is because it’s a fundraiser for CSF of Marlborough,” she said.
Vanzini began developing leadership skills while a junior at Marlborough High School (MHS), then located at the current Walker Building. Next door in the Victoria Building was the Marlborough Boys Club with no girls’ participation – until Vanzini met with then-director, D. Joseph Hannigan.
“I convinced Mr. Hannigan that he should allow a Girls Night at the Boys Club,” she explained.
Now, there’s an annual CSF Boys & Girls Clubs D. Joseph Hannigan Scholarship.
After graduating from MHS in 1959, Vanzini and her friend Delma Josephson both started their families and often walked together with their baby carriages.
“We were young and naïve, and talked about lots of things,” Vanzini relayed. “All of a sudden we decided to do something because there was a Boys Club, but no place for girls to go.”
In 1965, they co-founded the Marlborough Girls Club, which ultimately found its home at the property now occupied by Greater Grace Christian Fellowship on Pleasant Street.
“The girls felt that they could be themselves there,” Vanzini said. “They weren’t bound by what other people said they couldn’t do.”
In 1990, the Marlborough Girls Club became known as Girls, Inc., of Greater Marlborough when the national organization changed its name. In 1996, the local Girls, Inc., chapter merged with the Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest.
With a child in MHS in 1986, Vanzini became concerned about post-prom partying. She met with then-senior class advisor Deb Ellsworth and then-Superintendent of Schools David Flynn, each of whom also expressed concern.
“Post-prom was a very fearful time,” Vanzini acknowledged. “Celebrating always involved liquor and driving around. If we could corral them in one place, then they wouldn’t drive around.”
She spearheaded the first All-Nighter at MHS its first year. The All-Nighter has continued annually at Wayside Racquet & Swim Club.
Vanzini served on the School Committee from 1978 to 1990. In 1990, she attended a conference for school committee members in California, where she spoke with a CSF representative.
“He talked about this program that raised money to give scholarships for young people to further their education,” she recalled. “It was another need in the community.”
Returning to Marlborough, she again met with Flynn. CSF of Marlborough was founded and the fundraising began with a phone-a-thon – before the common use of cellphones.
“We searched for a place where everybody could be together with phones,” Vanzini recalled. “We used a bank of phones from the high school.”
Fundraising has continued. To date, CSF of Marlborough has raised and awarded over $600,000 in scholarship funds for more than 1,000 Marlborough residents pursuing undergraduate or advanced degrees.
“The need is the same, if not more because it’s now so expensive to go to college” Vanzini said. “Young people graduate owing so much money.”
Vanzini extends an invitation to everyone she met through the Girls Club, All-Nighter and CSF: “I’d like to ask them to come to this fundraiser and pay it forward, so that there will be more young people able to continue their education.”
Gala tickets are $50 each and can be reserved by contacting Deb Giroux at 508-481-0056 or dag197[email protected]. For more information about CSF of Marlborough, visit marlborough.dollarsforscholars.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/CSFMarlborough.