I hope that as many of you near your summer breaks, you have all been able to find a pleasant balance between “work and play.” It’s certainly been easy to enjoy the outdoors with the weather we’ve been having and the easing of mask mandates for vaccinated individuals. If you have not yet been vaccinated, please consider visiting vaxfinder.mass.gov to find a vaccine location near you.
This weekend is Juneteenth and this is the first year the day is marked as an official State Holiday in Massachusetts. Juneteenth commemorates the real end of slavery in the United States, an ending that came over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was actually issued. This weekend I encourage you all to reflect on our nation’s history and the distance we have come.
This week, there are a few congratulations in order for a handful of outstanding individuals in our community. Firstly, I would like to extend my regards to Francine Tishman and Janet Cain for their distinction as Southampton Council on Aging volunteers of the year. Tishman and Cain were recognized for going above and beyond during the pandemic in their commitment to their volunteer work with the Council. Southampton is lucky to have them.
I also want to commend students from Westfield who have recently completed the Bridge to Adulthood program. This program aims to uplift individuals with disabilities by offering them the freedom to make choices and cultivate their living skills. The Bridge to Adulthood proclaims a mission of “providing meaningful support and services for individuals” through “setting goals of each participant’s unique needs, and by enriching the lives of participants and their families with information, support and encouragement.” I am thankful for the presence of such an institution in our community.
This week I also participated in several Legislative committee hearings. On Tuesday I submitted testimony to the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery on bills I filed related to student’s health. One of these bills would require that schools permit absences for behavioral health concerns, an issue that is simply not talked about in our school system. On Thursday I testified in front of the Committee on Economic Development in support of a bill filed by my colleague Senator Gomez that would legalize sports wagering in Massachusetts. While many sports wagering bills have been filed this session, this bill is the only one that would allow small retailers like restaurants and bars the opportunity to offer sports wagering to their patrons as well.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to attend a few different events in the district this past week. On Tuesday, I attended a tour of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke. The Paper City was the birthplace of the sport all the way back in 1895. Interestingly, it was invented by the YMCA’s director at the time as a sport for “businessmen” and was went by the title “mintonette.” I had a great time learning a bit more about the sport and the cultural contributions of Western Mass at the Hall of Fame.
Saturday marked the Grand Opening of the Dreamer Dispensary in Southampton, an event which I attended. The shop is the first licensed recreational cannabis dispensary in the town of Southampton and Saturday afternoon’s opening was an action-packed celebration that featured food trucks, hot air balloons, and even a local band, the “Changes in Latitude”.
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.