HARWICH — The 90-degree temperatures kept participation to a minimum in Saturday's third annual Cape Verdean Festival in Brooks Park, but it was nonetheless a day to celebrate the late Mabel Gomes Canto, who was recognized for her commitment to the community.
Each year the festival honors a person who has made major contributions to the community. Shawn Fernandes, vice president of the festival committee, recognized Canto for the work she did to further the Cape Verdean and Harwich communities.
All her life she was a champion of those in need and a driving force for many social service agencies on Cape Cod, he said. She was proud to serve as a member of several advocacy agencies such as Cape United Elderly, Community Action Committee, CORD, and Legal Services to name a few, according to Fernandes.
“Her political support was sought after on both the local and regional level because of the respect which she had earned in the community and her passion to fight for what she believed in,” Fernandes said.
Those words were echoed by Selectman Stephen Ford, who served as district manager for the late Congressman Gerry E. Studds for eight years. Ford said Mabel Canto was the first person in Harwich Congressman Studds would call when seeking organizational support for issues or campaigning. She was an incredible political organizer, he said.
“While raising her six children she always had time to be the special person for someone else's family as well,” Fernandes said. “Whether it was a pot of jag, a cup of tea in her living room or just a hug, she would always be there. To her children she was ‘Ma,’ to her grandchildren she was ‘Nana.' To all the neighborhood and most of the younger generation in the Harwich Cape Verdean community, she was Auntie Mabel. To those who did not even know her she was a kind face with a loving heart,” Fernandes said.
Selectman Ed McManus also recognized Mabel Canto’s contribution to the community. The Cape Verdean community is such an important part of the history of Harwich, he said, and it is important to honor its culture and heritage.
He thanked the Cape Verdean community for all it has done for the town, including its participation in the development of Cranberry Valley Golf Course and for providing the land that got Cape Cod Regional Technical High School off the ground.
“Thank you for all the community endeavors you have participated in,” McManus said.