Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester celebrated its 40th anniversary Thursday night by honoring US Representative Ayanna Pressley and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross.

The pair were recognized during the center’s annual meeting for their support of the nonprofit‘s mission to promote healthy living among residents of all ages and backgrounds.

Gross said the center is a shining example of what Boston needs to do to shed a stigma long associated with mental health.

“As a young black man, it was often taboo to even talk about mental health issues - if you wanted to address a health issue you were considered weak,” he said in brief remarks to the gathering of about 100 people in the center’s Great Hall.


Codman Health mental health services can help Boston’s youth to cope with the senseless violence in city neighborhoods, Gross said.

“Mental health is for everyone,” Gross said. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

Pressley was unable to attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict, but she sent a video tribute and a member of her staff to accept an award on her behalf.

Robert MacEachern, the board president, recalled that The Great Hall at Codman Square was once the last remaining Dorchester town hall before the neighborhood became part of Boston.

In the 1970s, it was a struggle to open Codman’s doors because Boston did not want a health center in their city-owned building, MacEachern said.

“This neighborhood was created by activists, and this health center was founded by activists,” MacEachern said.

In 2019, the center is going to redecorate The Great Hall and raise money to improve the exterior and entry-way, MacEachern said.

Sandra Cotterell, Codman’s chief executive discussed the health center’s 2018 accomplishments: 9,000 patients and 650 children interacted with their behavioral health team, 21 students participated in internships, and over 6,000 people received flu vaccines.


“When you’re in the day to day it is hard to recognize all the work we all do,” Cotterell said.

Codman Health Center marked its 40 years of public service with a healthy dinner spread of salads, wraps and fruit. And for dessert, they cut into two, baby blue and white birthday cakes.

Even in the healthiest of lifestyles, occasionally people deserve to indulge.

“Someone asked me how long I spent preparing these giant cakes,” Cotterell said while laughing. “To which I responded, I definitely had some help.”

Robert MacEachern, president of the board at Codman Square Health Center, spoke about the organization’s founding.
Robert MacEachern, president of the board at Codman Square Health Center, spoke about the organization’s founding. Sofia Saric for the Boston Globe

Sofia Saric can be reached at sofia.saric@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sofia_saric.