ANDOVER — Marianne Paley Nadel not only loves Lawrence but exudes a passion for the city.
The Everett and Stone mills she owns serve as an incubator for dozens of small businesses – including manufacturing firms. She was the founding executive director of Groundwork Lawrence, a nonprofit organization that promotes urban farming and has created parks and trails in the city.
Nadel is this year’s recipient of the Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deeds Award. She was honored at a testimonial dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Boston-Andover Tuesday evening.
The Book of Golden Deeds is the most prestigious award granted by the club, according to Bob Wescott, a past president of the Exchange Club.
“We don’t give it lightly,” he said.
Heather McMann, current executive director of Groundwork Lawrence, said the organization would not be as successful as it without Nadel.
“She has done it quietly,” she said.
Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn said he first met Nadel at a rally in Pemberton Park in 2012. The rally was organized to rebut the negative image of the community that was expressed in a Boston Magazine article titled “Lawrence: City of the Damned.”
Glenn, who leads a college with campuses in Lawrence and Haverhill, called the article “irresponsible” and “reprehensible.” He carried a sign that day that bore a single word: optimistic.
Nadel was drawn to that message, he said. She has a powerful combination of business acumen, drive and humility, according to Glenn.
“I also look up greatly to Marianne,” said state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, Methuen. Nadel, she said, is in business “not just for financial gain.” She presented Nadel with a citation from the Massachusetts Senate.
Nadel also received citations from the Massachusetts House and the U.S. House of Representatives. Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera issued a proclamation honoring her work for the community.
“I try to be a connector,” Nadel told the several dozen guests. She noted that her father, the late Bert Paley, bought the Everett Mill in 1981.
He was a clothing manufacturer who was making the transition to real estate.
“He was a full-time optimist,” Nadel said. Her father “loved to connect with the business owners,” she said.
When Paley died in 2008, Nadel took over the ownership of the Everett and Stone mills. Phoenix High School, which helps students who have had problems in a regular classroom, is one of her tenants in the Everett Mill.
Another tenant, National Fiber Technology, makes artificial hair and fur for the entertainment industry, she pointed out. The Everett Mill has more than 50 tenants, she said.
The mill has also provided space for EforAll – the E stands for entrepreneurship – a nonprofit group that helps people with ambitious ideas but limited capital start their own businesses.
Nadel said she and her tenants are hard at work “proving manufacturing can thrive in a Northeast gateway city.”
She talked about her next project: Establishing a million-dollar endowment that will help Lawrence secondary school graduates get a college education.
“I’m sure you will agree education is the best way to move Lawrence forward,” she said.
Nadel was raised in Brookline. She graduated from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in English, then earned a master’s in urban planning at MIT.
Besides honoring people who work hard to improve the community, the Exchange Club of Lawrence, which also serves Andover and North Andover, recognizes outstanding police officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders. The Exchange Club will honor them at an event expected to take place in February.