Chilaka Named Mercy Otis Warren Award Winner

By: William F. Galvin

Harwich resident Angelina Chilaka has been named the 2022 Mercy Otis Warren Woman of the Year by the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners. COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH – Angelina Chilaka has been recognized for her commitments to the community throughout her life, and now she is being honored on a regional level.

The Barnstable County Commissioners endorsed Chilaka as the 2022 Mercy Otis Warren Woman of the Year recipient. The award will be presented in a ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, at 7 p.m. at the 1717 Meetinghouse, 2049 Meetinghouse Way in West Barnstable.

The annual award was established in 2002 to recognize a woman who exemplifies the traits of leadership in the community and who has made a significant contribution to the arts, education, business or community involvement and volunteerism while embracing the ideals of patriotism. 

“I had no idea I was nominated,” Chilaka said. “I was surprised to be selected. It is an award that can be given to most women. Women make the world a better place, and they help other women along the way.”

Chilaka, a retired educator, taught health for 30 years at Harwich High School and the Monomoy Regional School District. She also taught for 10 years in Manhattan. She grew up in Harwich, where her father, the late John Raneo, served as police chief for a quarter of a century. Chilaka’s contributions to Harwich started early; she was a basketball star at Harwich High School, scoring more than 1,000 points in her career. 

That was just the beginning. In her letter nominating Chilaka to the award committee, Karen Boujoukos, a Harwich resident, wrote that Chilaka’s teaching job “gave her a window into the lives of the students, some of whom were struggling with economic stability in their homes.” Chilaka’s charitable endeavors ensured that warm winter clothes and school supplies were provided to students in need, Boujoukos wrote.

Chilaka is a founding member of the Harwich Children’s Fund, a nonprofit community collaborative made up of school and community partners who provide assistance to students within the Monomoy Regional School District for clothing, food, medical and dental, vision and hearing, enrichment, school supplies and holiday needs.

“The fund is off and running and getting better every year,” Chilaka said. “We just finished a big pickleball tournament fundraiser this weekend.”

Boujoukos noted that Chilaka is a volunteer with the American Red Cross, the Harwich Council on Aging, and serves on the board of directors of Outer Cape Health Services. She has been a long-time member of the MLK Action Team, a racial justice group of the Nauset Interfaith Association, and through that work has been instrumental in promoting racial justice. She is also the producer of the Cape Verdean Heritage Oral History Project, a video documentary series.

“Mercy Otis Warren, remembered as ‘the historian of the American Revolution,’ would have appreciated Ms. Chilaka’s efforts to record the stories of Cape Verdeans who have woven their stories into the history of Harwich and Cape Cod,” said award committee member Ed Maroney.

According to the press release announcing the award, Mercy Otis Warren, born in West Barnstable in 1728, was a playwright, historian, pioneer in women’s causes, a champion of liberty, an advocate of the Bill of Rights, and a patriot. In an era when it was unusual for a woman to receive an education or emerge as a leader, her advocacy for the cause of patriotism during the revolution was remarkable.

A very humble Chilaka said she is just doing her job, following in the footsteps of her aunts and uncles who donated a lot of time to the community. Her cousin, Eugenia Fortes, who did a lot of work with women and in the Cape Verdean community, was the 2004 Mercy Otis Warren Women of the Year.

“It’s just something you are supposed to do,” Chilaka said of contributing to the community.

The Mercy Otis Warren award is scheduled to be presented by last year’s recipient, Wendy Northcross. Chilaka will receive a bronze statuette sculpted by Marston Mills artist David Lewis, a replica of the statue of Mercy Otis Warren located outside the Barnstable County Courthouse in Barnstable Village.