Put the two of them together and they could probably run a small country. In some ways, they already do. Longtime friends Helaine Hazlett of Marblehead and Phyllis Sagan of Swampscott have chaired countless local organizations and raised millions of dollars for them. To honor their decades of community service, local media publisher Essex Media Group has named them both Person of the Year of their respective hometowns. They accepted the award on Jan. 14 at a reception at the Lynn Museum.
Both were caught by surprise when they received letters informing them of the honor, for which fellow community members nominated them. “I’m very humbled,” said Sagan, who is president of Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty. “I work not to get the honors – I work just because I believe in it. I’m lucky enough that I can find time to give back to the community.”
Hazlett, a longtime community activist, feels the same way. “I was excited, but I don’t do all this work to get the recognition.” Instead, she does it because she feels like it’s “in [her] blood to be an activist.”
Both Sagan and Hazlett actively support children, education and health. They’ve won the Community Hero Award from Jewish Family & Children’s Service and supported Girls, Inc. Sagan is active with the Lynn Community Health Center, My Brother’s Table (where her staff volunteers often), the Marblehead Counseling Center and the Lappin Foundation’s Youth to Israel trip. Sagan also sits on the Board of Overseers at Salem State University. In addition, she has funded scholarships at Marblehead and Swampscott high schools, and served as the co-chairperson of the North Shore Cancer Walk.
Hazlett majored in public health education and is the current chair of the Marblehead Board of Health, and served as president of the board of the Marblehead Counseling Center, which provides mental health services to people who may not otherwise be able to afford them. She began her volunteerism as president of the PTA at Eveleth School in Marblehead, which led to three terms on the Marblehead School Committee. She founded Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools, which raises money for K-12 enrichment programs, and Dollars for Scholars, a scholarship program for Marblehead students, for which she’s helped raise an endowment of $2 million. “My friends always say they don’t have their checkbooks with them whenever they see me,” Hazlett joked.
Both women value their Jewish heritage, and are active within the community. A member of Congregation Shirat Hayam, Sagan is active with CJP Women’s Philanthropy and Jewish Family & Children’s Service, and has served as the chairperson of the North Shore Advisory Board of the Anti-Defamation League. “Tikkun olam is the motto of the Jewish people, and I believe in it,” said Sagan. “Philanthropy is not an option – it’s an imperative.”
Hazlett, also a member of Congregation Shirat Hayam, serves on the board of CJP Women’s Philanthropy, and is past president of the Women’s Division of the former Jewish Federation of the North Shore, and sat on the board when it merged with CJP. She served as president of the former Temple Beth El in Swampscott during the merger with Temple Israel to create Congregation Shirat Hayam.
Hazlett has won a Community Hero Award for JF&CS, and is active with the Anti-Defamation League, where she chaired the North Shore Interfaith Seder for 24 years and received the Leonard P. Zakim Humanitarian Award. She also sits on the board of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Salem State University, and helped create the Sonia Weitz Humanitarian Award at St. John’s Prep to honor the famous Holocaust survivor.
She has served as president of the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore. During her tenure, the JCCNS and Temple Emanu-El were both spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti. As a response, Hazlett worked with the Marblehead Board of Selectmen to found the Task Force Against Discrimination, which is still in effect today.
“I brought up four Jewish children and have 11 Jewish grandchildren,” said Hazlett. “I’ve got a Jewish heart. I care about my Judaism, I practice it in my home, my synagogue, and everything that I do.”