NEW BEDFORD — Representatives of the Tom Lopes Park and Community Sculpture Project received a $30,000 award from the Department of Conservation and Recreation on Friday.

The project was awarded for its design, fabrication, and installation of the Statue of Tom Lopes in the newly created Tom Lopes Park, located on County and Washington Street.

A New Bedford resident, Tom Lopes was the first Cape Verdean elected as a Massachusetts State Representative. Lopes also published the Cape Verdean News and is described by many as a "longtime city and neighborhood advocate." He passed in 2012 at the age of 70.

The sculpture and park were originally funded by its organizers, who covered the costs constructing the statue and park privately through fundraisers, generous donations from area residents, and their own money. After two and a half years of seeking reimbursement from the state, organizers were finally reimbursed with the $30,000 check.

"For the love of the city and the Ramos family, we are so thankful. My sisters Patricia, Lenora, and Deloris, we all have such fond memories of my brother,” said Lopes’ sister Debbie Ramos. “With a team of six or seven ventured with the task of raising $40,000, $50,000 to turn a bladed corner into a welcomed tribute on my brother Tommy’s achievements.”

The grant was secured by State Representative Tony Cabral, who was a known friend of Lopes before his passing. Lopes’ brother in law, Len Ramos, married to his sister Debbie, explained the long and exhausting process it took the family to not only raise enough money to fund the project, but to also acquire permission from the necessary city and state officials for its construction.

Len says that while at the dedication ceremony for the statue in 2016, Cabral approached Ramos and offered him money from the state to finish the project.

“Representative Cabral came up to me and said ‘Hey, Len. How much do you need to finish the project?’” Len recalled. “I sat there and I went ‘Well, we owe $11,000 for this stuff and we owe for the bricks,’ and I finally came up with a figure of $20,000. And he went ‘Are you sure you don’t need thirty?’”

The family and project organizers didn’t see the money right away, however, and wound up waiting over two years until Rep. Cabral handed it to them in person at the Friday event.

“This initiative was probably one of the best initiatives I’ve seen, rising from the community in terms of being able to recognize someone from this community forever. That sculpture will be there for generations to come,” said Rep. Cabral. “Tom was a good friend of mine. He was somebody that wasn’t only a good friend of mine but someone that was a leader in this community. He was the first Cape Verdean American to be elected to the state legislature. He was someone who worked tirelessly to make this community a better place for all of us.”

The life size bronze sculpture, created by local artist Eric Durant, was officially dedicated back in October 2016.