Allencres Community Center renamed Capoccia, longtime LHA leader

LEOMINSTER — In 1998, the executive director of the Leominster Housing Authority, Eugene Capoccia, was helping his then college-aged daughter with a school project.

But Capoccia was also thinking of people living in social housing like the Allencrest flats on Viscoloid Avenue which he monitored every day.

According to current LHA executive director Ben Gold, Capoccia wondered “how difficult it would be for them to compete on a level playing field without perhaps the materials involved in these projects.”

So Capoccia worked with the Leominster school department to set up a learning center in a three-bedroom apartment in Allencrest that provided homework help, tutoring and project supplies.

In 2010, after outgrowing this apartment, the Allencrest Learning Center moved to a brand new building at the corner of Viscoloid and Crossman Avenues.

The center is still going strong, seven years after Capoccia’s retirement and two and a half years after his unexpected death at the age of 72.

To honor his legacy and his impact on public housing in Leominster and beyond, the Allencrest Learning Center House is now known as the Eugene J. Capoccia Community Center.

The new name was unveiled in a ceremony on Friday June 17, a few years later than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hope the center will continue to thrive,” Gold said, “and that our dedication today will properly honor Gene and help his legacy, transcending generations to come.”

In addition to his push for a center of learning, and later a new community center for him to call home, Capoccia was an avid supporter of public housing. He partnered with local housing authorities to regionalize services, creating the North Central Massachusetts Housing Authorities which now include Leominster, Lunenburg, Sterling and West Boylston.

“He was in the field,” Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said. “He knew every project. There was a problem in the housing anywhere, he took it upon himself and went to meet the tenants. He really wanted people to be happy, and he wanted social housing to be safe, dignified, he wanted people to have a positive image of social housing.

Peter Proulx, who succeeded Capoccia as executive director and is now chief operating officer at the Worcester Housing Authority, called Cappocia “a housing legend in Massachusetts, from Boston to Pittsfield. Everyone remembers Gene and the work he did, his dedication to all the housing authorities he oversaw, like a father. He cared about all the residents, he cared about all his staff, and he endured doing things the right way and to the best of his abilities.

“He had adrenaline like no one I’ve ever met,” said Stella, Cappocia’s daughter. “He had creativity, and those were his fuels. There was no problem for dad. There were only solutions. »

Among the residents of Allencrest who benefited from the learning center were sisters Josie and Chrissy Evans.

“The center was truly an amazing place for the students, and even for the people who work there,” said Josie Evans. “It was always a place where the kids after school could go and get help with their homework, just have someone to talk to. It was a very welcoming place and I really liked all the people who worked there because they were so nice to everyone.

Chrissy Evans said she learned something else from going to the center.

« Coming to the Allencrest community [Center], the learning center that now bears Gene’s name was life changing,” she said. “It really was. I think over time I learned not to be afraid of who I was, not to be afraid of where I came from, because in At the end of the day, you can’t change who you are. You can’t change where you come from. The only thing you can change is your point of view.

Stella Capoccia said renaming the building that houses the Allencrest Learning Center is a fitting way to honor her father.

“It transmits learning and creativity across generations,” she said. “He would join a group the magnitude of 1,000 personalities, and he was the force that brought people together in ways that had not yet been imagined. And nothing could be a more fitting relic of that legacy than this learning center.

Jill E. Washington