Gwen Holden Kelly
Gwen Holden Kelly and her husband Paul bought their home in Orleans in 1991, the same year the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association started. But she didn’t spend much time on the Cape until years later because she was working for another non-profit organization: The National Criminal Justice Association in Washington D.C.. In her 21-year association with the special interest group, 12 as executive vice president, Holden Kelly managed finances and more as the organization took on new challenges, secured funding, and implemented policy, research, and legislative programs.
“It parallels what happened at the Alliance, the organization had to learn to grow up,” Holden Kelly said.
Holden Kelly’s organizational skills and penchant for best practices was why she was tapped to serve on the finance committee of what was the Hook Association in 2011, then on the board of directors in 2014 of what had become the Fishermen’s Alliance a year earlier.
Holden Kelly’s introduction to the Fishermen’s Alliance had started years earlier in a more celebratory atmosphere as a volunteer for the Hookers Ball. Holden Kelly and her husband had become full-time residents of Orleans in 1997 and began looking for ways to volunteer. They met the late David Martin, hit it off, and were soon introduced to his son Kurt, a fisherman and a Fishermen’s Alliance board member.
They were talking at the Nauset lobstermen’s clambake, the Hookers Ball came up and she was roped in. Holden Kelly wasn’t a fisherman, or even a boater, but she found the industry interesting. “I just love the ocean,” she said. Holden Kelly and Paul helped Kurt at the raw bar, divvied up steamed clams and mussels and as she had ideas about how to help the organization her role grew.
A decade later, chairman of the finance committee and treasurer of the board, she is more impressed than ever.
“The Fishermen’s Alliance promotes the interests and concerns of local commercial fishermen; influences the shaping and implementation of national and state policies and regulations affecting the fishing industry; and pursues the viability and longevity of the fishing industry through research and demonstration of best practices,” she said.
Holden Kelly believes the organization’s close relationship with the community helps make that possible. Whether through events that celebrate the value of the fishing industry like Meet the Fleet, or campaigns that enlist support such as the fight to protect herring, or new endeavors like a haddock chowder outreach, she sees the Fishermen’s Alliance working hard to build connections:
“People aren’t like, ‘I wonder what they are doing?’ That’s huge.”
Gwen is active in the community, serving as the chair of the Orleans Finance Committee for several years and for the past five years on the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School building committee.
Holden Kelly’s favorite early morning spot is Priscilla’s Landing in Orleans. Haddock is her favorite finfish, and she’d never turn down lobster, clams, mussels or scallops.