Children’s Services of Roxbury (CSR) founders Rev. Richard Richardson and Mrs. Jestina Richardson received the Drum Major Award at the 54th Annual Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast on January 15, for their extraordinary contributions to justice, diversity, and inclusion efforts in Boston. The Richardsons established CSR 50 years ago with the goal of providing resources that increase the social and economic health of families and children of color, and the organization has grown to be one of the largest Black-run nonprofits in Massachusetts.
“When we started Children’s Services of Roxbury, we sought to fill in the gap that was missing to meet the critical needs of families and children of color who often find themselves trapped in systems they cannot access effectively to meet their needs,” said Rev. Richard Richardson and Mrs. Jestina Richardson. “We’ve always been about the people we serve, so this award, which we are grateful to receive, is a validation of the work we started is a part of the legacy and vision of Dr. King to live in service to others.”
CSR provides children and families with culturally competent wraparound services across five key areas: behavioral health; early education and childcare, intensive foster care and family support; housing and stabilization; and youth development. Since its founding, CSR has expanded to annually serve more than 6,000 of the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth across Greater Roxbury, Greater Lowell, Greater Springfield, and Worcester.
“Reverand and Mrs. Richardson have dedicated more than half of their lives to serving others, they truly embody what it means to be a drum major,” saidSandra McCroom, president and CEO of CSR. “As CSR continues to uphold the legacy created by both Dr. King and the Richardsons, we are proud to be a catalyst of the services that empower children and families in changing the trajectory of their lives.”
The longest-running celebration of its kind in the United States, the Boston MLK Breakfast is co-hosted annually by St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church and Union United Methodist Church. Each year, the MLK Breakfast Committee bestows the Drum Major Award to individuals and community organizations that exemplify the qualities of instinct of service and care for community described by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1968 “drum major” sermon.
“For over 50 years, the Richardsons have been pillars of the Boston community, promoting Dr. King’s messages of social justice,” said James Dilday, a lifelong Boston resident, principal attorney of Dilday Law, and co-chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast Committee. “The Committee is honored to celebrate the work both the Richardsons and CSR have done to allow our state’s most vulnerable children, particularly those in foster care, to break systemic barriers.”
The Richardsons were honored alongside Dorchester native Greg Almeida, founder of Global View Communications, a leading diversity and inclusion business strategy firm.
Held at the Boston Convention Center, nearly 1,000 dignitaries, business, community, religious, and civil rights leaders attended the breakfast, including Governor Maura Healey, Mayor Michelle Wu, Senator Ed Markey, and Representative Ayanna Pressley. The Drum Major Award comes on the heels of three major grants to CSR from the Eastern Bank Foundation, the Lynch Foundation, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, supporting efforts to expand services, including early childhood programs and behavioral health services.
Children’s Services of Roxbury is celebrating 50 years of providing wraparound programs for children and families that include family shelter, culturally attuned behavioral health services, foster care and family support services, early education and childcare, and youth development programs. CSR is one of Massachusetts’ largest Black-run nonprofit organizations, led by a Board and staff that represent the diverse communities it serves. CSR’s programs and services demonstrate practices that break the cycle of systemic racism for future generations and empower families and young adults on their journey from poverty to stability and wealth-building.