Gladys Vega

Executive Director
La Colaborativa
Chelsea, MA

Gladys Vega has dedicated more than 30 years of service to the city of Chelsea and The Chelsea Collaborative/La Colaborativa, which she joined in 1990 – just two years after its founding. She took  on increasing responsibility with each passing year, moving from receptionist to community  organizer to Assistant Executive Director and, ultimately, to Executive Director in 2006. Gladys has worked as an organizer and an advocate to ensure that the Latinx community has a role  in determining the ways its needs and concerns are addressed. She believes that empowerment of  the individual leads to empowerment of the community and that social action is the vehicle an  empowered community can use to achieve its goals. 

Gladys is the architect of most of La Colaborativa’s programs, initiatives, and coalitions. She has  played leadership roles in organizing for immigrants’ rights, welfare rights, tenants’ rights, open  space and the environment, multicultural and anti-racism programs, and in numerous grassroots  campaigns. 

She is also one of Chelsea’s most prominent and important community leaders, receiving local and  national accolades for her leadership. In 2010, she was named as a Barr Foundation Fellow, which  enabled her to participate in a learning journey with eleven other non-profit leaders from  Massachusetts. In 2020, La Colaborativa was selected for a competitive New England-wide grant  from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation based on Gladys’s groundbreaking leadership as a  person of color. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in Chelsea, and the small city become the epicenter of the virus  outbreak in the state of Massachusetts, Gladys once again took the lead in sounding the alarm,  demanding increased resources for her community, and mobilizing city- and statewide resources to  ensure Latinx communities were not left behind in response efforts. She has directed the rapid  expansion of survival programs at La Colaborativa, including the opening of a pop-up food pantry  distributing food, diapers and other essential supplies to up to 8,000 individuals during the height of  the pandemic. Gladys has been a steady, strong, and effective voice organizing residents and  demanding action from those in power throughout the pandemic. Her activism and  leadership has been spotlighted in The Atlantic, recognized by The Boston Foundation, and featured  on WGBH and Latino USA, among others. 

Gladys was born in Puerto Rico and came to Chelsea with her family at the age of nine. Since that  time, Gladys has made a lifelong commitment to the community in which she was raised.