24th Annual Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Center of Hope Foundation, Inc., Central Mass Providers & South Valley DDS Citizen Advisory Board.

Jim Howard, Executive Director of the Center of Hope Foundation, Inc. welcomed over 100 attendees, 20 of which were Legislators and Candidates during our “Year of Celebration” Legislative Breakfast held at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester on April 7, 2014.  Linda Cournoyer, Family Support Director of Seven Hills Family Services and President of the Center of Hope Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors and Cindy Howard, Director of Operations for the Center of Hope Foundation, Inc. were the moderators for the event.

This year’s first awardee recognized was the Chairman of Senate Ways and Means, Stephen Brewer for his 26 years of dedication to the people of his district, state and country.  Senator Brewer has been a dedicated public servant both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Throughout his time in the legislature, he, along with his constituents have successfully championed many local community projects.  As well as, advocate for crucial funding for a range of mental health services; including new investments in child, adolescent and emergency mental services.  Additionally, Senator Brewer reminded everyone of how far we have come in our quest for human dignity and respect for people with disabilities, by sharing his personal experiences of visitations to Belchertown and Monson State Hospital.

DDS Commissioner Elin Howe discussed the necessary planning for adequate funding for individuals with disabilities turning 22, as well as expanding DDS financial supports for the overwhelming number of individuals on the autism spectrum who will need supports.

Presentations from the Keynote Speaker Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz, HMEA CEO Mike Moloney and video remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren discussed many topics on how important funding is to provide excellent services to individuals, but also to the staff who takes care of individuals with disabilities.  HMEA CEO Mike Moloney expanded upon how many Human Service Workers dedicating themselves emotionally and physically to the care of individuals with disabilities and yet they themselves struggle with the cost of living and are considered the “working poor.”

Personal experiences were shared by the author of A Mother’s Journey, Lisa Brodeur, mother and advocate for early planning of transitional services for those aging out of educational entitlements, Cheryl Chan and self-advocate Erin Power discussing how vital the Center of Hope has been for her ability to work and lead a more independent life.

Mr. Kevin Lord of Tackle Solutions, LLC was awarded “Advocate of the Year” for the partnership and commitment to The Arc of Opportunity in Fitchburg, MA.  Hannaford Markets in Milford, MA was recognized by awarding Manager of Cashiers, Maureen Pittsley with “Employer of the Year” and Jamie Consoletti as “Employee of the Year”.

Chad Krause, Center of Hope Staff received “Staff of the Year”, nominated for his ability to “provide a calm in the storm of anxiety and fear of the unknown” when working with individuals going through the transition process states Nancy Moore, colleague and nominator.

Thank you once again to everyone in attendance and their contributions to making this event successful and educational.