Her mission: those in need
FITCHBURG -- As Three Pyramids Inc. prepares to enter its 48th year at its annual board meeting Thursday, the organization honored someone who has helped those in need in recent years, while bringing in someone with ideas and resources to continue supporting the underserved in North Central Massachusetts.
The organization, in partnership with the North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition, presented its 2016 Community Service Leadership Award to MaryAnn Melanson, the marketing director for The Highlands, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center.
""In this role, MaryAnn and the team at both Highlands and Leominster are very involved and committed to the communities they serve," said Adrian Ford, CEO of Three Pyramids.
He cited Melanson's work in having The Highlands' facility host the 2016 Stand Against Racism Luncheon and other events in conjunction with Three Pyramids and their work to provide resources and help to those in need locally.
"I just want to say, there is nothing that I have done that compares to what you all have done," Melanson said when accepting the award at the meeting Thursday. "I am so humbled."
She said working with Three Pyramids and the North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition has made her "so proud to be apart of this community." Melanson said Thursday she urges other local organizations to step outside of their comfort zone and reach out to Ford and the others involved with those tw
"Get to know hardship," she said. "Be proud to support the homeless and the men and woman in this community."
Before Melanson received her award, Gina Plata-Nino, an attorney who manages the Central West Justice Center's Food Security Outreach project, which is a subsidiary of Community Legal Aid, spoke to the board and those in attendance Thursday about the importance of nutrition and how her role is to educate people on the government benefits available to them.
"Your voice needs to be heard because they have to know what is going on," Plata-Nino said.
She travels Worcester County explaining to residents the benefits of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and trying to remove the stigma of a service millions use.
"Nutrition is the key to many of the systematic issues we have," Plata-Nino said. "Everyone deserves the right to eat."
Her role as an attorney can be giving guidance to those entitled to nutritional benefits, reaching out to government agencies who may be mistreating those looking benefits and making sire sure those who are entitled to benefits receive those benefits.
"This is an entitlement program," Plata-Nino said about SNAP. "You are entitled to this."
But her main message Thursday was that she and others providing legal aid cannot help if the people who are being discriminated against or are struggling don't use their voice.
"You need to be the voice to bring these issues to the forefront," Plata-Nino said. "Knowledge is power and empowering our people is important."