The Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund

Thomas J. Ruffen (1982-2022) was the very essence of a visionary grassroots community leader: he loved his people and community, he worked with countless organizations and in countless ways to improve it, and he brought joy and deep commitment to the daily work of launching campaigns, events, initiatives and organizations.

It is the vision of the Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund to cultivate and support emerging Boston area community leaders just like Thomas who are: committed to their community, wanting to implement new ideas, and need an initial source of financial support to get their initiative going.

The mission of the Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund is to provide initial one-time funding support for emerging leaders across the Boston area who are ready to lead and launch their new efforts across sectors (civic, service, or entrepreneurship).

The Fund was launched by an initial generous contribution from The Boston Foundation. Solicitation for further support of the Fund will be shared in the future.

Union Capital Boston serves as fiscal sponsor (with 0% fee) for leaders if they do not have their own mechanism to receive, process, and manage the funds.

The Fund is led by a committee facilitated by Union Capital Boston. The Committee is comprised of representatives from Thomas Ruffen's family, The Boston Foundation, Union Capital Boston, Massachusetts Creating Community Power Association (MCCPA), Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), Mel King Institute, Transitional Remedies Solutions (TRS)

The Fund aims to administer awards once a year. Awards can range in amount up to $10,000 based on the specific request.

Thomas Ruffen
Thomas J. Ruffen

Meet the 2023 Awardees


Headshot photo of Daniel Laurent, a black man. He is bald with a goatee.
Artist/Filmmaker | Creative | Community Advocate | 2023 Fund Awardee

Daniel Laurent is a recording artist, writer, impulse speaker and owner of Black Dollar, a small business that focuses on an apparel line to amplify the messaging of the importance of the dollar in the Black community and increasing it from 6 hours to an ambitious goal of 7 days. He recently wrote, starred and funded a short film entitled "Cry for Me" which centers around domestic violence and sexual abuse. His goal is to use his male voice to amplify the awareness and fight against and stand in solidarity with survivors and also make intentional actions to course correct to reduce the amount of new victims being created. Daniel Laurent's daily mantra as well as Black Dollar's tagline is "Intentionality is the Only Option"

Follow Daniel: @daniellaurentsme (Instagram), LinkedIn

What does it mean to you and your project to be a Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund awardee?

It means the world to be chosen as one of the few awardees to continue in the efforts of community and building space. People can make a difference without running for office or having some massive title at a prestigious organization. It is things on the ground level that gain traction and ultimately impact the ecosystem. My hope is to inject kindness, humanity and intentionality into my efforts supported by this leadership fund.
Creative Entrepreneur | Community Storyteller | 2023 Fund Awardee

Dr. Heang Leung Rubin is pivoting her career towards creative entrepreneurship and community storytelling after a twenty-year career in higher education. As the recipient of the 2023 Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Award, she brings her passion to share community stories for health, healing and wholeness. With over three decades of experience in community engagement, advocacy, education, and research in Asian American communities nationally, she is excited to work with communities to amplify and uplift their stories. She is co-producing a documentary film on the fight for the Chinatown library in Boston and working on her first memoir project about faith, family, and forgiveness. Two years ago she launched her own consulting company CHIC Community Engagement Consulting to bring more compassion, harmony, imagination, and celebration into the world. Follow her on Instagram @chiccommunityengagement. 

What does it mean to you and your project to be a Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund awardee?

I feel honored and blessed to be a recipient of the Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund. The funds will be used to start a documentary project about the fight for the Chinatown library, a project I am doing in collaboration with local artists Mel Taing and Jesse Epstein. This is a story about love, hope, and resilience. These are values exemplified by Mr. Ruffen's work and life. I am so grateful to the Fund for having faith in me and this story. It is a story we all know will resonate across many communities and it is a story meant to engage, teach, and heal. This award is like a gift to me, a gift bringing connection, possibility, and solidarity. Having the support of the Fund gives me the confidence, courage, and conviction to grow and lean deeper into my life's purpose and work.  


Dr Heang Laung Rubin headshot. An Asian woman with short hair tied back with a headband.


Headshot photo of Shamilia Lloyd, a black woman. She has long dark hair with bangs
Community Advocate | Residential Program Coordinator | Teacher | 2023 Fund Awardee

Shamilia Lloyd may be the newest member of the Charlestown Resident Alliance but who she was before has led her to this moment. With nearly a decade of teaching throughout Boston, as well volunteering, Shamilia  taught Early Education, basic meal prep, arts and S.T.E.M.  Stepping into her new role with new innovative ideas, she is determined to make an impact in her community. They say timing is everything, and this moment is proof. After becoming one of four TJR Fund recipients, Shamilia was filled with such passion that she applied, was offered, and accepted the position of Resident Program Coordinator, with her new program, “ Let The Youth Into the Kitchen” being her first of many programs. The Thomas J Ruffen Fund has been a major piece to a puzzle in my life. Not only providing her funding, but also the motivation to make some changes for herself.

What does it mean to you and your project to be a Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund awardee?

As a Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund awardee, my project and I are finally connecting. In this world, me as a person, always felt lacking. When I gave my time or energy, I always felt limited. Thinking maybe if I did a little more or worked a little harder, it would make up for things I was lacking. But deep down, I knew what it was. I knew that even when giving my best, financially I was at a disadvantage. I could not give my best because my resources were short. So my ideas and dreams came with a set limit. But receiving this funding and reassessing my resources, my ideas and dreams grew, and remain growing. Thomas J. Ruffen gave that to me, a gift that I did not truly understand that I needed. A simple thank you would never be enough. I only hope that the impact I plan on making in his honor is close to it.
Community Advocate | Facilitator | Motivational Speaker | 2023 Fund Awardee

Growing up in a single parent household, struggling with a drug addiction most of his life, and in and out of prison, Garrick Thames found life worth living through serving his community. Since then Garrick has graduated from Gordon Conwell Seminary, with a degree in urban ministry, published three books, and became a motivational speaker. Garrick's passion for helping others led him to develop " Lives Are Meant To Be Changed ", an organization that focuses on assisting others with personal challenges through consulting, mentoring, and educational workshops. Mr. Thames primary focus is to empower others by helping them make and meet expectations in both their personal and professional lives. You can always expect Garrick to say "Lives Are Meant To Be Changed So Let's Do Our Job And Change Some."

What does it mean to you and your project to be a Thomas J. Ruffen Community Leadership Fund awardee?

I want to start off by saying it's an honor to be awarded this grant for a number of reasons. Thomas is and always be a great pillar in many communities in Boston. Thomas was one of the first men I've ever met that spoke about fatherhood, men stepping up, and showing his love for UCB. Today I strive to model that same goal as Thomas, by sharing my story, facilitating Nurturing Fathers groups, bringing awareness of the lack of men helping our communities, and most of all sharing UCB and all its resources with everyone I come in contact with. With this funding I'm able to run my men's group, do events, give stipends to the youth, help volunteers, pursue with our resource van, and bring a presence of men within UCB that will model Thomas and I and what influence we can have in our community. Again this is an honor!


Garrick Thames headshot, he is a black man wearing a suit and bright blue tie