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These South Shore philanthropists are giving away $1m a week to various charities

A new boss at Walden Meat; Steph Lewis steps up The BASE; and CVS’s Lynch keeps an eye on mega-rival Amazon.

Karen and Rob Hale.Chris Morris

With a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine to be $5 billion, Rob Hale is one of the wealthiest people in Greater Boston. Along with his wife Karen Hale, he is also among the region’s most generous philanthropists.

Their philanthropy took a quirky turn this year. They are major donors to big institutions such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. But the Hales decided to do something different for 2022: They would give away $52 million, or $1 million a week, through their family-run Fox Rock Foundation to dozens of nonprofits. In most cases, the nonprofits have been given $1 million each, although in a few instances the gifts have been split between two organizations, at $500,000 apiece. So far, 40 recipients have received the good news.

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Recipients have included well-known local organizations — such as Artists For Humanity and Wonderfund — as well as many that keep lower profiles or are out of state. The Hales’ giving strategy became public earlier this month after Rob Hale disclosed it to a Forbes writer who was researching the magazine’s annual roundup of the wealthiest people in the United States, the “Forbes 400.”

Hale built his primary business, Granite Telecommunications in Quincy, during the past two decades to be a significant reseller of landlines and other telecom services. He also owns Foxrock Properties, a commercial real estate investor and manager on the South Shore.

He said breaking up the couple’s giving this year in this way made it easier to see quick results.

“When you give $1 million to an organization that’s literally operating on a shoestring budget, they’re overjoyed,” Rob Hale said. “That immediately resonated with us.”

In most instances, the Hales are using the money to help the beneficiaries set up endowments, to provide their organizations some long-term stability.

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That’s what happened at the Friendship Home in Norwell, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities. Executive director Andrea Pyke said she found out that the Friendship Home would get $1 million to create an endowment when she had lunch with Karen Hale in July. It was by far the largest-ever donation to the nonprofit, whose annual budget is around $3 million.

“I literally cried,” Pyke said. “It was the most incredible moment of my life, besides the birth of my two children.”

Nancy Pak will take over the chief executive position at Walden Local Meat Co. in Tewksbury this week. Walden Local Meat Co.

For Pak, a new brand to broaden

As an executive at two of the country’s biggest consumer products companies, Nancy Pak often enjoyed being on the front lines, engaging with workers who were making and packing the products.

She’ll get plenty of opportunities to do that now that she has left a corporate job at Mondelez International to be the new chief executive at Walden Local Meat Co. in Tewksbury this week. The privately held, 120-person company founded by board chairman Charley Cummings provides fresh beef, chicken, fish, and other meats from New England and New York farms to 30,000 members. (She takes over for Philip Giampietro in the chief executive’s job.)

For Pak, joining a company with a mission like Walden’s hearkens back to her four years running Tom’s of Maine, the maker of natural toothpastes and deodorants, on behalf of its corporate owner, Colgate-Palmolive. She left Tom’s in 2019 to take a job with Mondelez, first running its Tate’s Bake Shop brand and then a broader assortment of premium brands under Mondelez’s North American Ventures umbrella. Meanwhile, her family has continued to live in Southern Maine, just over an hour’s drive from Tewksbury, assuming no big traffic jams.

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One of the things on Pak’s to-do list is engaging with other like-minded companies with similar commitments to environmental sustainability. And she’s evaluating how to get Walden products into more brick-and-mortar stores, in part to build brand awareness and draw in more subscribers. “For me, to be a part of ... taking the brand to many more households in New England is really exciting,” Pak said.

Boston, Ma- July 30, 2020-Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff- t Robert Lewis Jr. , founder and president of The BASE greets the BASE Astros during a work out at Madison Park High School. Stephen “Steph” Lewis is following the footsteps of his dad, Robert Lewis Jr., pictured here in a July 30, 2020 photo. The elder Lewis founded The BASE in 2013 to use baseball and other sports to build kids’ confidence.Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Another Lewis in charge at The BASE

Like father, like son? Sure seems that way at The BASE.

Stephen “Steph” Lewis is following the footsteps of his dad, Robert Lewis Jr., who founded The BASE in 2013 to use baseball and other sports to build kids’ confidence; Robert Lewis left earlier this year to run the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

Steph Lewis had been the longest-tenured staff member. And now he’s the chief executive, like his dad was. Lewis was promoted from general manager of athletic operations at the Boston nonprofit earlier this month.

The BASE board said it hired headhunting firm Koya Partners to find someone to replace Robert Lewis. It turns out, Koya didn’t need to look far.

Steph Lewis said that despite the family connection, he had no guarantee he would get the job. But his familiarity with The BASE, which has a staff of 16 full-timers and budget of $3.6 million, certainly will help. His dad, he said, made him start at The BASE as an intern.

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“I’m talking cleaning toilets, vacuuming the entire facility at night,” Steph Lewis said. “Ultimately, it was the hard work that paid off, and getting the understanding that no one person in the organization is greater than the other.”

CVS Health President and Chief Executive Officer Karen S. Lynch speaks during a gathering at the Boston College's Chief Executives Club, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Boston.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

CVS Health chief has eyes on Amazon

If CVS Health chief executive Karen Lynch worries about Amazon’s healthcare ambitions, she certainly doesn’t show it.

Lynch spoke about the potential challenge to CVS posed by the e-commerce giant during a Q&A session at the most recent Boston College Chief Executives Club meeting last week, after being asked about Amazon’s encroachment on CVS Health’s home turf. Among other things, Amazon acquired Somerville-based online pharmacy startup PillPack in 2019 and recently struck a $3.9 billion deal for doctors group One Medical.

“Amazon has disrupted every single industry they’ve walked into so we are paying particular attention,” Lynch responded. “I have a head start on them in healthcare. CVS knows all the nuances in healthcare. It’s a highly regulated industry, as you know. People want to trust the companies they interact with.”

Then Lynch added: “I will play our game. I will play it hard. And I like to win.”

The One Medical deal gives Amazon more of a foothold in primary care, a sector where Lynch said she would also like to complete an acquisition. And as she fielded questions from Boston Scientific chief executive Mike Mahoney, the event host, Lynch talked about the motivation behind her pending $8 billion acquisition of home-health provider Signify Health, her first acquisition since taking over as CEO in early 2021 from longtime chief Larry Merlo.

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Acquiring Signify, Lynch said, “puts us smack dab in the middle of the home.”

Mahoney noted that it’s unusual for an executive in an acquired company to eventually become the chief executive. But that’s exactly what happened with Lynch, who was a top Aetna executive when Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS reached a deal to buy the health insurer about five years ago.

Mahoney and Lynch both know that running a large company means juggling a seemingly never-ending stream of tasks.

“It’s why I get up at 4:30 every morning to do the Peloton [workouts] and get that out of the way,” Lynch said.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.