2021 Recipient, MPHA Community Leadership Award
At MPHA’s 2021 Spring Awards Breakfast on June 4, we recognized individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to achieving health equity in Massachusetts.
This year, we recognized Martha Velez, Director of Human Services for the City of Lawrence, with our Community Leadership Award for her outstanding service to the community, both throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and following the Columbia Gas explosions in 2018. Kendrys Vasquez, Mayor of Lawrence, MA, will present the award to Ms. Velez.
MPHA also honored Michael Curry, Esq., CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, with the Paul Revere Award for his unwavering leadership and commitment to reducing health inequities in our Commonwealth. Leon W. Russell, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors presented the award to Mr Curry.
2021 Bio for Martha Velez
Martha Velez is the Director of Human Services for the City of Lawrence, overseeing the Council on Aging, Veterans’ Services Office, Recreation Department, Mayor’s Health Task Force and the Human Rights Committee. Previously, she served as the Director of the Lawrence Senior Center for 11 years.
Her leadership at the Lawrence Council on Aging and her commitment as Director of the Lawrence Senior Center have created a community-centered environment that provides a wide range of services to thousands of people every year. Mrs. Velez has also been instrumental in the development of the Lawrence Mayor’s Health Task Force.
By establishing linkages between the Council on Aging and area organizations at local, statewide, regional, and national levels, she has fostered a wide range of cooperative and collaborative relationships with community providers. She has served as the Chair of Lawrence Diabetes Today Coalition and the President of Merrimack Valley Community Service Core, presently she serves as a board member at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and the Patient, Co-Chair of the Healthy Active Living Working Group, Family Advisory Committee at Lawrence General Hospital (PFAC), as well as, an active contributor to the Determination of Need’s Healthy Aging Advisory Committee, Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative, and the Alzheimer’s Disease Supportive Services Program Advisory Committee at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.
Mrs. Velez has worked tirelessly through the years to educate area residents about the benefits of healthier lifestyle choices. For more than 15 years, she has helped organize and run the largest Health Fair in the City of Lawrence, the “Fiesta de Salud/Celebrating Health Fair”, and she played a key role in developing the well-known “Winning with Diabetes” program at the Lawrence Senior Center. She has also served on the GLFHC Latino Center of Excellence to eliminate Disparities, REACH New England, and the American Diabetes Association National Latino Subcommittee.
Mrs. Velez has been instrumental in, not only changing the logo and appearance of “The Center,” but with changing the overall image of what The Center has always been, which is the heartbeat and soul of the city. She is credited with diversifying The Center, highlighting the cultural richness and deep rooted traditions, by offering inter-generational activities and programs to keep the heritage ever present in daily activities, conversations, and interactions.
Mrs. Velez has received many honors and awards, including the Unsung Heroine Award from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, the Honorary Veteran Award, and the Director of the Year Award from the Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA).
Born in Cuba, Mrs. Velez migrated with her parents to Lawrence when she was five years old. She has been a resident of Lawrence since 1969 and an employee of the City of Lawrence for more than 30 years. She is the proud wife of Fernando Velez, and mother of Tabitha and Sheldon Velez. ###