Martha Vélez of Lawrence Chosen to Receive the Community Leadership Award
Leader honored for her Extraordinary Commitment to Local Health
The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) announced that it will present its Community Leadership Award to Martha Velez of Lawrence for her outstanding service to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and following the Columbia Gas explosions in 2018. The award Community Leadership Award is awarded to an elected or appointed official who has made a significant contribution to the health of the residents of his or her community. It was featured at the MPHA Spring Virtual Awards Breakfast on June 4.
“Martha Velez’s career has been dedicated to improving public health in the City of Lawrence,” said MPHA Executive Director Carlene Pavlos. “Her work has led the community through the COVID-19 pandemic and Columbia Gas’ relief and recovery effort has been truly remarkable and provides a wonderful example of public health and community service at her best.”
Martha Velez is the Director of Human Services for the City of Lawrence and oversees the Council of Elders, the Office of Veterans Services, the Recreation Department, the Mayor’s Health Task Force, and the Human Rights Committee.
In this capacity, she was responsible for coordinating the provision of services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the distribution of more than 1.2 million pounds of food, providing thousands of screenings to isolated seniors and residents in isolation, and monitoring mobile sites COVID testing centers and mobile vaccination clinics.
Before becoming Director of Human Services, Ms. Velez served as Director of the Lawrence Senior Center for 11 years. In that role, she was responsible for overseeing relief efforts following the Columbia Gas explosions in 2018. Among other duties, she managed the city’s first emergency shelter, oversaw the collection and redistribution of huge amounts of donated food and other supplies, coordinated the preparation and delivery of meals for thousands of affected people.
“I am delighted to accept this award from the Massachusetts Public Health Association,” said Martha Velez, Lawrence Director of Human Services. “I am very proud of what our team here at Lawrence has accomplished in the last few years. We work hand in hand with all non-profit organizations and service agencies, and together we are creating a culture that distinguishes the needs of our residents and truly prioritizes treating everyone with dignity, respect, and care.”
Through her leadership on the Council of Elders and her role as director of the Lawrence Senior Center, Ms. Velez has created a community-centered approach to serving thousands of people each year. She has also worked tirelessly to educate area residents about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. For more than 15 years, she has helped organize and run the City of Lawrence’s largest Health Fair, the “Health Party,” and played a key role in the development of the successful “Win with Diabetes” program at the Center for Lawrence Seniors.
Born in Cuba, Martha Vélez immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of five. She has been a resident of the City of Lawrence since 1969 and an employee of the City of Lawrence for over 30 years. She is the proud wife of Fernando Velez and mother of Tabitha and Sheldon Velez.
The MPHA also honored Michael Curry, executive director of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, at the Awards Breakfast. Mr. Curry received the Paul Revere Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his contributions to achieving health equity in Massachusetts. Finally, the event featured a special tribute to the thousands of local public health professionals and volunteers, who worked heroically during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep Massachusetts residents and communities safe.
The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy Massachusetts through advocacy, community organizing, and coalition building. We are leaders in the movement to create health equity by addressing the root causes of health and wellness. We promote policies that impact the main drivers of health outcomes, such as access to healthy food, safe and affordable housing, and transportation. We also advocate for equitable public health services throughout the Commonwealth.