I hope you all had a restful Memorial Day weekend, perhaps getting a chance to spend time with loved ones. In honor of the holiday, I was privileged to attend Memorial Day events in Agawam, Westfield, and Russell on Monday.
I am also wishing everyone a happy Pride Month as we enter June, remembering that our very own Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same sex marriage back in 2004. This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to speak at Westfield’s Pride Progress Flag raising ceremony at City Hall, which was organized by the Westfield Pride Alliance. The momentous occasion featured the raising of the flag by former Associate Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice John M. Greaney. This was fitting, as Justice Greaney was not only instrumental in legalizing gay marriage in Massachusetts through his written concurring opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health but is also originally from Westfield. We can be proud to have a man of such influence hailing from our community.
On Wednesday of this week, I was thankful for the chance to speak at the Hampden County Addiction Task Force meeting alongside many other recovery advocates. As I shared at the Task Force meeting, this issue of combatting addiction and aiding recovery is one extremely close to my heart. As Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery, I am committed to fighting the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction. Due to a lack of human connection, the pandemic exacerbated the challenges of many people struggling with addiction, and it is important to me to serve as a resource and asset to those battling this disease. The voice of the community, and those with firsthand experiences with these struggles, is instrumental in effecting positive change.
I was able to spend some time with youth in our community this week as well, speaking to an eighth-grade class at the St. Joan of Arc School in Chicopee on Tuesday and second graders at Paper Hill Elementary School in Westfield on Thursday. We discussed civics and military duty, two especially prevalent topics to the Memorial Day season.
In a similar congratulatory vein, I want to acknowledge the many seniors during this graduation season, with Westfield and Agawam graduations being held this week. The past year of virtual work and learning have been difficult for many of us, and I commend you for persevering to obtain your diplomas.
Our office continues to work from home, and I was pleased to welcome a virtual intern, Baylee Cox, to our team this week. A Massachusetts native, Cox is a rising junior at Princeton majoring in the School of Public and International Affairs who will be working with us for the next two months. We have hopes of our office returning to more in-person work later in the summer as the number of vaccinated individuals continues to rise. If you have not already, I encourage you once again to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for both your personal well-being as well as that of our community. You can go to vaxfinder.mass.gov to find vaccine locations.
As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at my email:[email protected] or by phone: (413) 572-3920 and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.