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    Fitchburg’s former mayor is Chinatown nonprofit’s No. 2

    Lisa Wong (left) and Mary Chin of the Asian American Civic Association.
    Chris Morris for The Boston Globe
    Lisa Wong (left) and Mary Chin of the Asian American Civic Association.

    Last we left Lisa Wong , political wunderkind and the first female Asian-American mayor in Massachusetts, she was a newlywed set to leave Fitchburg, where she governed for four terms.

    She settled in Holyoke with her husband, Anthony Soto , a former Holyoke city councilor who had made an unsuccessful run for mayor.

    Now, nearly two years after leaving office, Wong has resurfaced in Boston as deputy director of the Asian American Civic Association, a venerable Chinatown nonprofit that serves immigrants.


    Wong is part of a new leadership team installed this fall with the appointment of Mary Chin as executive director. Chin, 69, is a former AACA board president who served as interim director after the sudden death in June of Chau-ming Lee, who led the organization for over three decades.

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    Chin, a social worker by training, has been a longtime member of the AACA board and oversaw the organization’s growth, including construction of its new building on Tyler Street.

    Wong, 38, served as Fitchburg’s mayor from 2008 to 2016 and is credited with steering an economic revival in the old mill town. After leaving politics, Wong and Soto started a home health care business in Holyoke, but with the election of Donald Trump and the attack on immigrants in this country, Wong wanted to help.

    Wong had known the AACA’s late leader Lee and helped the group with fund-raising. One year, she shared her parents’ immigration story for the organization’s gala.

    “It felt like a really good fit,” Wong said of her new post working with Chin, who brings deep institutional knowledge. “I like to say we are honoring the past, and we are getting excited by the future. It takes both of us to do that.”


    One of Wong’s goals is to help the nonprofit raise its profile at a time when immigrants need services the AACA provides, such as adult education, workforce development, and other social services. “Given there is so much need and so much fear in the immigration community, we need to be a lot more visible,” Wong said.

    As for her living arrangements, Wong gets to enjoy both the eastern and western parts of the state. She spends weekends in Holyoke — more than an hour away — and the rest of the time in Boston, where her family owns a condo in Kenmore Square.

    Wong shrugs off the long commute. She has been sitting on quite a few local boards, including the Board of Overseers at Boston University, where she is an alumna.

    “I feel like I am always in Boston,” she said.


    A son who delivers


    A month after his New York delivery startup, Parcel, was acquired by Walmart, Newton native Jesse Kaplan still can’t reveal much about the deal.

    His mother, however, has something to say: She’s very proud of him.

    Annette Kaplan recently contacted the Globe to point out the local connection to the deal, in which the retail behemoth bought her 26-year-old son’s business for an undisclosed sum.

    Parcel is a round-the-clock package-delivery operation that can handle perishables.

    “I don’t think any of us could believe it was real,” Annette Kaplan said in an interview.

    But Kaplan has had more exposure to the world of startups than your average parent. Her 28-year-old daughter, Stephanie Kaplan Lewis , is chief executive of the college media company Her Campus . Their father, Bill Kaplan , is the chief executive of Newton-based FreshAddress , which helps companies maintain e-mail lists.

    The siblings, both products of the Newton Public Schools and Harvard University , didn’t show any particular affinity for entrepreneurship while growing up. Stephanie was a writer, and Jesse was more math-oriented, Annette Kaplan said.

    They did show an independence and a resilience that served them well, their mother said.

    “I don’t think they saw themselves as business people, but I think they realized early on that they had their own way of doing things, which makes it harder to be a subordinate somewhere,” she said, adding: “I am in awe of them.”


    Philanthropy’s boom times

    Welcome to the New Gilded Age for philanthropy.

    That’s how author David Callahan describes the time we live in now: a boom for foundations as a growing crowd of business leaders deploy the wealth they’ve gained over the years from building and/or selling successful companies.

    Callahan, who writes about the phenomenon in his new book “The Givers,” visited Liberty Mutual’s Back Bay headquarterslast week to talk to a high-powered group of more than 200 nonprofit leaders in the city. The Liberty Mutual Foundation convened the event, which also featured a panel discussion on philanthropy with the Barr Foundation’s Jim Canales, Bithiah Carter of New England Blacks in Philanthropy, and Vanessa Kirsch, founder of the New Profit venture philanthropy fund. Liberty Mutual’s chief executive, David Long, also spoke.

    Callahan says what makes this “new age” of philanthropy intriguing is the number of donors who are politically active in public policy issues, rather than bequeathing their riches after they die. He pointed to Amos Hostetter, a former telecom executive who funds the Barr Foundation, as a local example.

    Callahan says the sheer number of philanthropists in the country today is unprecedented.

    “There are many more wealthy people than there have ever been before in America, [and] an explosion in private foundations,” Callahan says.

    “It’s really changed the landscape of philanthropy. . . . You want to be happy that these private philanthropists are coming along to help solve problems. On the other hand, it raises important questions about how to make sure these new philanthropists are accountable.”


    A noteworthy rail station

    Paul Pedini just received another plaque to hang on the walls of Skanska’s office lobby in Waltham.

    The construction/development conglomerate has earned Envision certification from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure for the Boston Landing MBTA commuter rail station, which began serving Allston and Brighton this year. Haven’t heard of Envision? Think of it like LEED certification – but for infrastructure projects, instead of for buildings.

    Skanska plans to tout the honor at the Greenbuild conference this week at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. It’s the second project in the state to win Envision recognition; the first was the recently completed Greenough Greenway project along the Charles River in Watertown.

    In Boston Landing’s case, more than half of the excavated materials were reused onsite. For example, the stones below the train tracks were cleaned and recycled for the project. The certification also recognizes community benefits. For Boston Landing, that means bringing rail travel to a part of the city that had been without it for decades.

    An affiliate of the shoe company New Balance paid for the station’s $20 million-plus price tag. Pedini, a Skanska vice president, says Skanska’s approach fits with New Balance chairman Jim Davis’s broader vision for the area. “This effort really dovetailed into Jim Davis’s quest to be a sustainable developer,” Pedini says.

    Skanska has received Envision recognition for much larger infrastructure projects in Florida and California. Pedini says that he’s already looking to apply the standards to other Boston-area projects.

    “We couldn’t let Boston be second to any city,” Pedini says. “We had to get our own candidate, right quick. [Boston Landing] is not a big, sexy building. But it’s very utilitarian.”


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