Marlborough’s THRIVE organization remembers founder Lorraine Spinazzola


By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer

Lorraine Spinazzola and her son Phillip, pose for a photo with Mike Rodrigues, THRIVE’s president and CEO at THRIVE’s 2017 Fun Fest.

Marlborough – Lorraine Spinazzola’s recent passing has left a void in those whose lives she had touched by her advocacy, volunteerism, dedication, hard work and kindness.

Spinazzola’s son, Phillip, who is now 55, was born with Down syndrome. His mother was a strong advocate for him and as such, was one of the founders of THRIVE in 1973, then known as the Greater Marlboro Programs, Inc. Her colleagues noted that Spinazzola was a very active members, including time spent on the Human Rights Committee. “Twenty years ago, Lorraine wanted to integrate Phillip into the community and reside in one of the organization’s group homes. She was waiting for the funding and the approval from DDS [Department of Developmental Services]. For him to transition into this residential housing, we started to do weekend respite in one of the homes where there was a vacant room. Here he would come, socialize and be away from his mom, who he was extremely close to,” said Denise Vojackova-Karami, vice president of developmental services at THRIVE.

Spinazzola volunteered for the many events that Phillip participated in such as Special Olympics, swimming, bowling and track and field. She also worked for DSS for many years before retiring.

“She was such a kind woman. The love between her and Phillip was very touching. She was a great supporter for the employees here at this organization and she advocated for the agency,” said Vojackova-Karami. “It was not unusual for her to donate her own money to the agency for furniture improvements and vacations for the students with disabilities. Eight years ago, there was Mexican cruise that Lorraine chaperoned.”

She recalled that Spinazzola spent a lot of time visiting the group home and she would cook meals for everyone.

“Her bond with her son was one that you wish for any parent and child. She always gave 100 percent knowing that he has this disability along with great ability. She taught him how to read, swim and so much more, said Vojackova-Karami.

Spinazzola was 95 when she passed away. Until a couple of years ago, she would come into the office to check in, introduce herself to the new employees and just be among those she considered to be family. The agency would also transport Phillip to the nursing home in Avon, where she was living prior to her passing.

“Phillip is doing well,” Vojackova-Karami noted. “While he has limited verbal skills, he understands that his mom is no longer here. When I took him to her funeral with the other staff, he pointed and said, ‘Mom’ so that confirmed that he knew and understood.”

Lorraine Spinazzola and her son Phillip photo/submitted

She added: “Lorraine never expected much. She was a giver and, even as an elderly woman, she would volunteer all of the time. I think it gave her a sense of purpose. She is already missed by so many.”