Rep. Velis’ weekly update

Hello Westfield! Hope you all had a great week and made it through the snow okay. Even though the snowstorm prevented us from holding formal session in Boston this week, it was still plenty busy around Westfield.

On Monday, I started the week off by attending the retirement party of Priscilla Chalmers, the Executive Director of WestMass Elder Care. WestMass offers a variety of services for elders, their families and caregivers, and persons with disabilities, so that they can remain in their homes and avoid institutionalization. Priscilla has been serving the community for 43 years, and so it was a real honor to be able to attend her retirement party and wish her well. I am always in awe at the work our elder services organizations do around Western Mass. I can’t say enough how important and meaningful their jobs are when it comes to ensuring that some of our most vulnerable residents are well cared for. I am so appreciative of Priscilla and her colleagues and look forward to working with her successor in the coming years.

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit Franklin Ave Elementary to present third grade teacher, Julie Neuser, with a congratulatory citation. Mrs. Neuser was one of 7 WPS recipients of the Grinspoon Foundation’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Although I never had Mrs. Neuser as a teacher, educators like her, that go above and beyond to make sure their students succeed, are the reason I am where I am today. I always say that without a few exceptional teachers in the Westfield Public Schools, I wouldn’t have graduated high school, let alone college or law school. I truly believe that we need to celebrate all teachers and recognize them for the vital and difficult work they do, day-in and day-out. I am so glad to have been able to meet Mrs. Neuser, and am very much looking forward to shaking the hand of the other 6 amazing educators who were recognized this year.

Friday was probably the busiest day of 2018 so far. I started off the morning at the Western Mass Fire Chiefs Association breakfast- one of my favorite events of the year. This year was especially sweet because I was able to inform the Fire Chiefs that my Firefighters with Parkinson’s Disease legislation has made it out of committee. A quick recap for those of you who may not know, this bill would extend accidental disability benefits to firefighters who are diagnosed with Parkinson’ Disease. Accidental disability benefits are reserved for public safety officers who suffer injury or illness in the line-of-duty and are larger than regular disability benefits. For the retired Firefighters living with Parkinson’s, the extra income can make a real difference. In addition to this update on legislation, I was also able to discuss funding priorities with the Chiefs, as well as catch up on the work they have been doing over the last year.

While I was at the Fire Chiefs breakfast, my legislative aide attended the Western Mass Department of Mental Health breakfast, where Westfield’s very own Sue Smith was recognized with the Judge Frank Freedman Award. Sue has worked at the Forum House for many, many years helping individuals living with mental illness find employment. Steady employment is extremely important to many of the Forum House’s members, at it can often be the first step to living independently. Sue has helped countless people to better their situations and find stability. I could not be prouder of her and can’t think of anyone more deserving of this recognition. I can honestly say that Westfield is beyond lucky to have her in our community. Congrats Sue!

After a few meetings on Friday afternoon, I then headed over to Barnes ANGB to celebrate the dedication and ribbon cutting for their new F-15 Hangar. Senator Warren, Congressman Neal, and Governor Baker, among many other officials, were also in attendance. As a member of the armed forces, I love to see the amount of support these kind of events receive from elected officials and the local community. Barnes is such an integral part of Westfield’s community, so I leap at any chance to pay them a visit- especially when it involves seeing fighter jets up close! I then ended my Friday by attending the annual March of Dimes Spaghetti Dinner at the American Legion. I can’t believe they have been raising money for the March of Dimes for over 70 years now- absolutely remarkable, and always a great time!

That’s it for this week, folks. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at (413) 572-3920 or [email protected]. Enjoy your weekend!

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