The Parker Foundation

Lowell MA: May 30, 2019   Theodore Edson Parker Foundation announces the appointment of three new Lowell advisors, residents Maria Cunha, Ben Opara, and Vladimir Saldana, who will serve for a two-year term in an advisory capacity to the foundation’s board until 2021.

Parker President Newell Flather made the announcement of the appointment following the Spring Board of Trustees meeting, and said, “I am very pleased that these outstanding individuals have agreed to join us, and provide their insights, knowledge, and experience about organizations serving Lowell.  They will expand our deliberations in making grants. In particular, each advisor reflects our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the most important value of the current board. Their advice and counsel will greatly inform our processes.”

Maria Cunha

Born in the Azores and coming to Lowell with her family in 1967, Maria quickly learned English and excelled in the Lowell Public Schools, receiving a scholarship to Regis College, being the first in her family to attend and graduate college. For over 30 years, she has supported immigrants and refugees in Lowell through her work at the International Institute, Congressman Meehan’s district office and as an administrator at Middlesex Community College.

Benjamin T. Opara

Ben owns and operates Duziem Labs, Inc., a manufacturer of personal care products. He serves as vice president of the Lowell Pan African Association and is co-founder of the African Cultural Festival which has been thriving for 19 years. Ben earned a degree in engineering from the University of Nigeria, and, after immigrating to the USA in 1990, earned a Master of Science in engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He and his wife have lived in Lowell for 28 years; they have three children.

Vladimir Saldana

A native of the Dominican Republic, Vlad moved to Lowell when he was 10, speaking only Spanish, but quickly adapting in the Lowell Public Schools and achieving the AA in Science from Middlesex Community College, and the BS in Finance and Management from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.  In addition to raising funds for rural Rwanda, he chairs Fortaleza, a broad based community group to advocate for equal educational opportunities for Lowell’s Latino students and their families. In his day job, he manages community outreach for Congresswoman Lori Trahan in the northern part of the third district.

About the Parker Foundation, Lowell MA

The Parker Foundation was established in 1944 under the will of Theodore Edson Parker of Lowell. Since the late 1980s the foundation has focused its grantmaking in Lowell, which is home to the second largest Cambodian American population in the United States. The Parker board includes Newell Flather, President; Karen H. Carpenter, Vice President; David W. Donahue Jr., Treasurer; Sophy Theam, Clerk; and Luis M. Pedroso.  In 2018, the foundation made grant payments of $1,000,000 in charitable contributions. For a complete list of recipients, visit

Suggestion Box

We would love to hear from you!