Martha Velez has been a resident of the City of Lawrence since 1969 and an employee of the City of Lawrence for 30 years, she is the proud wife of Fernando Velez, and mother of Tabitha and Sheldon Velez. Born in Cuba, her parents migrated to Lawrence when she was five years old. Mrs. Velez’s, parents Jose and Paulina Lopez, came to the United States with the hope of a better life.
She is a passionate member of the community who has a unique ability to bring people together to achieve common goals. She models the “La Familia” culture at the Senior Center. Anchored in love for her family and the community, Mrs. Velez has wrapped her arms around all who live in Lawrence by creating a bridge between diverse cultures and by giving a voice, dignity, and respect to all she meets. Her leadership at the Lawrence Council on Aging and her commitment as Director of the Lawrence Senior Center has fostered a holistic approach in creating community, which has resulted in a vibrant, enriching environment that serves thousands of people a year by providing a range of services and programs for adults of all ages. In all that she does, she also brings together her hardworking nature, her grateful spirit, and her deep personal understanding of the sacrifices immigrant families make when they come to this country, to help lift up and strengthen the city of Lawrence for the future.
In June 2016, Mrs. Velez was honored by the Lawrence History Society and received The Eartha Dengler History Award for her progressive and inclusive views for the City of Lawrence and in 2010, Mrs. Velez was awarded the Lawrence’s Unsung Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women for the remarkable work she has done in the Greater Lawrence community. She has also been recognized by the Diabetes Coalition of Massachusetts for Program Excellence, Latin Pride Award local recognition, 2008 Citizens Award, Mayor’s Health Task Force, Women of Action Award, Women’s Agenda, YWCA of Greater Lawrence Women of the Year Award and the Honorary Veteran Award. In October 2019, Mrs. Velez was named the Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA) Director of the Year, for her ongoing efforts to improve, not only the lives of the elder community, but, all the lives within the community she serves.
In June 2019, Martha was given a promotion to Health and Human Services Director, overseeing the Council on Aging, Veteran Service Office, Recreation Dept., and the Human Rights Committee. Mrs. Velez was very instrumental in the development of the City of Lawrence Mayor’s Health Task Force and currently serves has an Executive Committee Member, she has fostered many cooperative and collaborative relationships with community providers by establishing linkages between the Council on Aging, City of Lawrence and area organizations at local, statewide, regional, and national levels. She serves in various coalitions, boards and committees, which includes but not limited to, Chair of Lawrence Diabetes Today Coalition, Co-Chairs the Men’s & Women’s Working Group, Healthy Active Living Working Group. She is President of Merrimack Valley Community Service Core, and serves as a board member at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Merrimack Valley Affordable Care Organization (MVACO) which is a partnership with Lawrence General Hospital, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center and Neighborhood Health Plan. She also serves on the Patient, Family Advisory Committee at Lawrence General Hospital (PFAC), Determination of Need’s Healthy Aging Advisory Committee(DoN), Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative, Alzheimer’s Disease Supportive Services Program Advisory Committee at Executive Office of Elder Affairs in Boston, Community Base Participation Research Projects funded by the U-Mass Worcester Advisory Board as a community member representative for research.
Mrs. Velez has worked tirelessly through the years to educate and promote healthier lifestyles for the community, from its infancy to recently celebrating the 15th year of the Fiesta de Salud/Celebrating Health Fair; this is one of the longest standing community health fairs that are hosted in the City of Lawrence. She was one of three leaders to develop 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.