I hope everyone has had a great week. Last weekend, I headed off to Fort Devens for Army Reserves Drill, which carried into the beginning of this week. Among other things, we qualified on our weapons and completed a variety of different physical and mental trainings. Although it is always hard to be away from home, these trainings are extremely important to me and make me appreciate the service of our military even more. I drove back to Westfield on Tuesday, and finished the week up with a flurry of meetings and events in the district.
Wednesday afternoon, I joined the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, community partners, and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse for an exciting announcement regarding the Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative. The program, which is a partnership between law enforcement and other community and business organizations, will be handing out 2,000 backpacks filled with supplies to Holyoke’s schoolchildren. For 9 years, the program has held a day-long event. Due to the pandemic, the initiative will be holding 11 “Grab-and-Go” events at Holyoke Schools. I am so inspired by all the sponsors and contributors of this program, and know how much of a difference this has on our community.
Thursday morning, I had the honor of presenting two Senate citations to some incredible students from Westfield High School! Colin McGrady achieved perfect attendance at WHS while Jaelyn Towle recently received the Bronze Tablet Award, and it was great to recognize them for their achievements. Both of them will be starting at American International College in Springfield this Fall, where Jaelyn will be going into Event Planning and Colin will be studying Accounting. I wish them continued success in their education, and can’t wait to see what all of our recent graduates go on to do!
Later on Thursday, I went over to the Agawam Senior Center to help out with their monthly Brown Bag event, where we handed out bags of groceries and supplies to seniors and members of the community as they drove up. I’m grateful to all of the great organizations helping our elderly population during this pandemic, and am glad that I could join in for a little while.
Early Friday Afternoon, I had a conversation with Chief McCabe of the Westfield Police Department. Among other things, we discussed roadway infrastructure in Westfield, and the possibility of a future project that would put an easement to get onto the Mass Pike. Friday evening, I visited the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam for a ceremony honoring a Purple Heart veteran from our community. We must never forget the sacrifices that our brave men and women in the armed forces have made in serving and protecting our country.
Saturday morning I attended the ribbon cutting of Hampton Ponds Market in Westfield alongside Mayor Humason. It was a great event with live music, and I wish the business the best of luck! Later that afternoon, I attended the “Heroes are Everywhere” mural dedication ceremony at the under-pass between Hedges Avenue and Taylor Avenue in Westfield. Artworks of Westfield dedicated the mural to the City of Westfield and all of the heroes and first-responders of the COVID pandemic. It was great to see all the amazing images, and be around the mural painters, neighborhood residents, and other local community supporters.
Earlier this week, the State announced that it had hired the architecture firm Payette to conduct the first phase of the capital project to renovate and expand the Soldiers Home. Payette has experience with the Soldiers Home, and with VA design requirements. I’m glad that the planning for this capital project is moving along, so that the Home has a roadmap for how upgrades and improvements are going to take place. During this work, it is going to be critical that Payette fully engages with all stakeholders, and takes into account both the immediate and long-term needs of the Home so that it will be sustainable for years to come.
I also want to take this opportunity to urge everyone to respond to the Census if they have not done so already. Responding to the Census is critical to ensuring that our communities receive the proper levels of federal funding. Census workers are currently going door-to-door (safely) to help get an accurate count, and I ask you all to please answer them if they come by, even if you have already responded to the Census. You can also respond online at 2020Census.gov, or by phone at 844-330-2020.
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 phone: (413) 572-3920.
John C. Velis