Rep. Velis’ weekly update

Hello Westfield! Hope you all had a wonderful week and enjoyed the nice weather a few days ago.

I want to start off this week’s update by remembering my friend and colleague, Representative Peter Kocot, who died aged 61 earlier this week. Rep Kocot, who lived in Northampton, was the consummate public servant and served as a mentor and role model to many legislators, particularly in the Western Mass delegation. He was more than just intelligent and kind- his listening skills and knowledge of the issues was unparalleled. Rep Kocot had a certain way of making everyone feel comfortable and understood. He was truly an outstanding advocate for his constituents and the Western Mass community at-large, and his presence will be missed more than I can say.

With this past week being school vacation, the office was a little less busy than usual. Nevertheless, there were still a few highlights, including the 3rd Annual Wild Game Dinner and Fundraiser on Saturday hosted by New England Adventures. NEA is a local non-profit that seeks to help Veterans connect with nature by providing free wilderness retreats to Vets and their families. Todd Crevier, the founder, came up with this idea a few years back and has really done some remarkable trips with local Vets. As a Veteran himself, he found that reconnecting with nature helped to heal some of his battle wounds, and I have to say I couldn’t agree more with the mission of his organization. The Wild Game Dinner was a huge success, and I am very much looking forward to working with Todd throughout the year to help spread the word about his non-profit.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the first anniversary celebration for WRAFT, or Westfield Residents Advocating for Themselves. WRAFT initially formed one year ago this week to organize residents affected by the PFAS contamination in some of the wells near Barnes ANGB. Since then, they have been lobbying elected officials, including myself, and state and federal agencies to advocate for no-cost blood testing and more education about the issue. It was great to speak to the members of the group about their continued advocacy work, and to applaud them on the progress they have made in a relatively short amount of time. Congratulations, again, to everyone who has worked to hard to grow the organization to what it is today- very impressive!

Later that day was the Veterans Town Hall hosted by the VA of Central and Western Massachusetts. I can’t say often enough how important it is for the VA to do these kind of outreach events, and I’m very thankful that they came to Westfield this week. I know many older Veterans feel that the VA doesn’t work for them, or that the hassle of the application process isn’t worth the benefits they could receive. Many often don’t even know about the benefits available to them from the VA. That’s why these kinds of informational sessions are vital- even I learned a lot about the services they offer and the improvements they’ve made recently to their claims process. If you’re a Vet and you couldn’t attend on Friday, I highly suggest that you speak to a VSO or someone at the VBA. As they said yesterday, not everyone will be eligible to get something, but if you don’t ask, you’re guaranteed to get nothing!

That’s it for this week, folks. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to my office at (413) 572-3920 or [email protected]. Enjoy your weekend!

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