Liz Mitchell and state Rep. John Barrett III at Tuesday's 2019 Unsung Heroine ceremony at the State House.
BOSTON — Three Berkshires women were named Unsung Heroines for 2019 during a State House ceremony on Tuesday.
State Sen. Adam G. Hinds nominated Donna Cesan for this recognition because of her dedication to community, having served as Community Development Director and interim Town Administrator for the town of Adams for 19 years.
Elizabeth "Liz" Mitchell, a North Adams resident and advocate for domestic violance victims with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, was nominated by state Rep. John Barrett III and Marie Richardson of Pittsfield, a caseworker in the Pittsfield Public Schools, was nominated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
"Donna has selflessly given countless hours of her time to ensure Adams is moving in the right direction," said Hinds. "She is well-respected in her hometown of Lanesborough, and the town of Adams is well-served by her. She is absolutely an Unsung Heroine for her dedication to our region and her professionalism, which is effortlessly showcased in all of her projects."
Massachusetts Commission of the Status of Women annually celebrates "unsung heroines" who don't always make the news, but who make a difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.
Hinds said Cesan has dedicated her career to public service. As the director of community development, she has spearheaded economic development projects with big impact, like the construction of a platform for the Adams terminus of the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's Hoosac Valley Service, the renovation of the Adams Visitor Center parking lot and implementing the community's vision for the Greylock Glen. Since 2014, she has been asked twice by the Board of Selectmen to also serve as interim town administrator, managing every aspect of municipal government for months, while also promoting community development initiatives in town.
"I am deeply honored to be nominated by Senator Adam Hinds and named by the commission as a member of the 2019 class of Unsung Heroines," said Cesan. "Working on behalf of a small municipality like Adams with a transitioning economy has not only provided the professional challenges I've sought in a career but it has provided a richness of relationships across government at all levels and within the community itself. Advancing projects that take years to develop and implement, like the Greylock Glen Resort, has been especially gratifying to me professionally and personally."
Farley-Bouvier said she recommended Richardson for this recognition because of her commitment to helping students.
Marie Richardson, left, of the Pittsfield Public Schools at a press conference on diversity at Pittsfield City Hall in 2017. She was nominated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
As a caseworker at Taconic High School, she is a strong advocate, mentor and passionate supporter of students during and beyond the end of the school day, Farley-Bouvier said in a statement, and her office has been regarded as a safe space for students particularly those feeling alienated and disconnected.
"Richardson is committed to helping students be their best selves; she encourages academic excellence, helps find employment, complete college applications, take them on college tours and is often one of their biggest cheerleaders," according to the statement. "The students affectionately call her Ms. Rich. As a volunteer, she is an advisor to Taconic book clubs, Social Justice Club and Co-Cultural Competency trainer for Pittsfield Public Schools. In the community she serves on the City of Pittsfield homeless committee."
Richardson will also be recognized at the Pittsfield City Council meeting on June 25, followed by a reception at Farley-Bouvier's office.
Mitchell has been in the lead in the Freeman Center's partnership with the city of North Adams to address issues of domestic abuse, including participating in community forums, presentations for local businesses and organizations and training for law enforcement.
A Safeplan and court advocate for the past 22 years, Mitchell provides life-saving and life-renewing help to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families. She provides assistance with restraining orders and talks with victims to get them the services they need, including income support, medical care, education and training, legal assistance, help with bills and finding safe and affordable housing.
"Liz provides the safety and guidance needed in assisting victims in gaining their lives back and with understanding and compassion that is often needed," said Barrett. "She is much deserving of this honor and I was proud to nominate her."
Tuesday's ceremony recognizing more than 100 Unsung Heroines was held in the Hall of Flags and emceed by MCSW Chairwoman Nina Kimball. It included remarks from Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Karen Spilka, and state Rep. Colleen M. Garry, co-chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators.