Skip to main content

Fenway Community Health Center records

Identifier: M172


The Fenway Community Health Center was founded in 1971 by David Scondras, Linda Beane, and nursing students from Northeastern University to serve the elderly, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities of the Fenway area of Boston. The aim of the Center since its founding has been to provide health care as a right rather than as a privilege. The Center started on a part-time basis, with women's health, gay health, and elder health groups operating the clinic at different times. Fees were instituted after 1973 and deliberately kept low. During the 1980s, the Center expanded its services and began a formal research program, largely in response to the rise of HIV infection. Center staff regularly presented their research work at national and international HIV, AIDS, and gay health conferences, and the Center was responsible for the first official diagnosis of AIDS in New England in 1981. In 1983, the AIDS Action Committee was formed as a discussion group at the Center and later became an independent organization. During the 1990s, the Center began formal fundraising and community outreach efforts, hosting the first Women's Dinner Party event in 1992 and founding the Color Me Healthy initiative to provide HIV and safe sex education to gay men of color in Boston. The Center became more involved in area events, including the Boston to New York AIDS Ride, Boston Pride, and AIDSWalk Boston. In the early 2000s, the Center started a capital campaign to fund construction of a new building and, in 2009, the Center moved to Boylston Street, bringing together all its services in one building and changing its name to Fenway Health.


  • Creation: 1972-2007


Language of Materials

The collection is mainly in English; some material is in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

The Fenway Community Health Center was founded in 1971 by David Scondras, Linda Beane, and several nursing students from Northeastern University to fill a gap in local, free community health care for the elderly and gay community. Fenway's mission was described in its first slogan: ?We believe health care is a right, not a privilege.? In its early years, the Center operated out of space rented from the Christian Science Church. After clashes with the Church over the Center's medical policy and its interest in serving the lesbian and gay community of the Fenway, the Center moved into its own offices in 1973, renting rooms at 16 Haviland Street.

The Center originally operated on a part-time basis with individual health groups using the space at different times. The Elder Health Collective, the Gay Health Collective, and the Women's Health Collective worked separately to serve the local elder, gay, and lesbian populations of the Fenway. Original services included testing for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies, basic obstetric and gynecological services, and mental health counseling; pediatrics, podiatry, and primary care, were added as local need dictated. To provide more coverage for the services offered, volunteers were trained by professional staff members.

Because the medical services were free, the Center struggled with staffing and financial issues through the 1970s. The largely volunteer board of directors and staff worked to resolve the contradictions in wanting to offer the best free care to locals and LGBT residents while needing to keep the Center solvent and appropriately compensate staff for their time and skills. There were intense debates among board members about the imposition of the Center's first fees in the mid-1970s; the decision was eventually made to request, if the patient could afford the cost, a fee of 50 cents per visit.

In 1980, the board hired the Center's first executive director, Sally Deane, who immediately faced financial and staffing problems, including owing back taxes and fines to the IRS. Deane worked with the board to grant herself more independence and oversight of the Center's financial activity, to improve the Center's billing system, and to work with insurance providers to provide better coverage policies. She also oversaw the hiring of medical director Natalie Mariano and mental health practitioner Rhonda Linde to expand and professionalize medical and mental health services.

At the same time, the Center was seeing its first patients with HIV / AIDS-related infections. Medical staff was starting to realize the seriousness of the disease and position themselves to research the HIV / AIDS disease and its secondary ailments, and to assist patients with medical and psychological care. In 1981, the Center was responsible for making the first official diagnosis of AIDS in New England. Ken Mayer, a long-time volunteer and later Research Director, worked on the first research project related to HIV infection in 1983, studying T-helper cell populations in people with AIDS.

In 1982, Rhonda Linde worked with colleague Jim Fishman to organize AIDS Forums to discuss the medical and psychological issues surrounding AIDS and HIV infection. Attendees from the Forums began to meet regularly to continue the discussions, and in early 1983 this group became the AIDS Action Committee. Due to concerns over the Center's long-term financial stability and the Committee's desire to focus more closely on AIDS-related issues, the Committee split off from the Center and became an independent entity in 1986. .

In 1982, the Center developed the Alternative Insemination Program for single women and lesbians. The program operated under a veil of secrecy due to fears that the Center might be physically or verbally attacked by those opposed to the idea of gay couples having children. It thrived largely via word of mouth.

The Center continued its work on HIV and AIDS-related projects, partnering with other community organizations working on the same issues, sponsoring clinical drug trials, and providing data to national medical organizations. In 1986, the Center also actively collected data on anti-LGBT violence in Boston, eventually codifying this work as the Victim Recovery Program which worked with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs to submit data to the national report and publish its own annual statistics on Boston-area hate crime. In the 1990s, the Program changed its name to the Violence Recovery Program.

In 1987, the Center accepted a donation from real estate developer Harold Brown for the construction of a new building on the 7 Haviland Street lot, across from the Center's original, now out-dated, building. In 1991, the Center moved into the new building.

During the 1990s, the Center worked to expand and publicize the Alternative Insemination Program as lesbian and gay parenting became more widely accepted. The Center began to present its research regularly at national and international HIV and AIDS conferences, keeping its place at the forefront of research into the disease. The Center also strengthened its alliances with local hospitals, including the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.

The Center increased fundraising efforts, throwing its first major fundraiser, the Women's Dinner Party, in 1992. The aim of the fundraiser was to publicize the work of the Center and acknowledge staff and community members who had been of particular assistance. The Color Me Healthy program began the same year with the aim of providing HIV education to Boston men of color. In 1995, riders from Boston and the Center joined in the first Boston to New York AIDSRide, one of the most successful AIDS fundraisers in the country.

In 2001, the Center launched The Fenway Institute, a center for research and support in building skilled, LGBT-friendly health care on a national level. In 2006, the Center broke ground on a new building in the West Fens, near Fenway Park, and in 2009 moved to the building at 1340 Boylston Street. The same year, the Center changed its name to Fenway Health.


Center founded by David Scondras, Linda Beane, and Northeastern University students.
Moves to 16 Haviland Street; Board of Directors imposes first fee.
Hires first Executive Director, Sally Deane.
Makes first official diagnosis of AIDS in New England.
Begins its Alternative Insemination program.
Begins its first HIV study.
Founds Victim Recovery Program, later renamed the Violence Recovery Program.
Accepts donation of new building from developer Harold Brown.
Moves to new building at 7 Haviland Street.
Holds first Women's Dinner Party fundraiser; Color Me Healthy program begins.
First Boston to New York AIDSRide.
Launches The Fenway Institute.
Moves to new building at 1340 Boylston Street; changes name to Fenway Health.


12.50 cubic feet (14 containers, 1 flat file folder, 1 tube)

System of Arrangement:

Arranged in 4 series: 1. Administration; 2. Events and Outreach; 3. Research Programs and Services; and 4. Audio-Visual and Memorabilia.

Physical Location

56/4, 55/1, 55/2, FF5/D8, RS11/S2

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The material was donated to the Archives by Fenway Community Health Center in 2009.

Related Archival Materials:

AIDS Action Committee (M061)

The Archives and Special Collections Department capture the website content of the Fenway Community Health Center, which is accessible at:*/


  • M172, Box 1, Folders 8-11, "Board of Directors."
  • M172, Box 2, Folder 13, "History and Fact Sheets."
  • M172, Box 5, Folder 7-39, "Publications."
  • M172, Box 7, Folder 40, "The Fenway Institute."
  • Fenway Health Website, (accessed April 2010).
Finding aid for the Fenway Community Health Center Records
Finding aid prepared by Hanna Clutterbuck
June 2010
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US