(Worcester, MA – March 16, 2022) Open Sky Community Services has announced the 2022 recipients of the Safe Homes People of Courage Awards which will be presented at the virtual Safe Homes Gala on April 8, 6-7pm.
This year, the Allyship Award recipient is Stacey Sirois. Stacey (she/her) is a strong ally for the LGBTQIA+ Community in her role as Commonwealth Corps Program Manager at Massachusetts Service Alliance. She goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone she encounters feels respected and valued. She is committed to amplifying marginalized voices and creating spaces that prioritize equality. Just one example of her efforts is an annual LGBTQIA+ training she implemented for Commonwealth Corps members who are serving at nonprofit agencies throughout Massachusetts. This training, led by program alumni with expertise in this area, includes information on LGBTQIA+ terms, history, and the importance of using pronouns. Stacey has also changed all Commonwealth Corps written materials to be more gender inclusive so that all members feel seen and respected.
The award recipient for the Community Champion Award is Lynne Dumais (she/her). Lynne has gone above and beyond for the Safe Homes North program in its first year. Originally connected to the program as a clinician with LUK, Inc., she developed a passion for Safe Homes. Although she now works for a different organization, she continues to attend the weekly drop-ins as a volunteer. She is an incredibly kind and supportive person and makes a difference in the lives of the youth that she works with. As the only clinician currently supporting Safe Homes North, she is always available for the youth and has made it her priority to ensure they have the guidance they need. Safe Homes is fortunate to have volunteers like Lynne who have given their all throughout the pandemic.
Thu Nguyen(they/them) is the recipient of the Public Service Award. Thu is the Worcester City Councilor At-Large and has recently gained notoriety as the first publicly non-binary person elected to any city council in Massachusetts, however, their work with LGBTQIA+ youth goes much deeper. Thu ran a strong campaign for City Council, proudly identifying themselves as a Vietnamese refugee and non-binary individual. Thu grew up in Worcester and has spent their career advocating for youth. Thu co-founded an organization that showed young people how to use art to tell their stories and facilitated after school programming at the Worcester Youth Center. In their first few months as a City Councilor they have already begun advocating for marginalized communities and we can't wait to see what they accomplish in the coming months and years.
Connor Hayden (he/him), recipient of the Volunteer Award, has made it his life's mission to help others understand the importance of equity and fairness for all people, and his involvement with Safe Homes is just one of the ways in which he is demonstrating his commitment to this cause. Prior to the pandemic, Connor was a regular volunteer at the in-person drop-in sessions where he assisted staff, supported youth participants and led a workshop on interviewing and job skills. As a member of the Safe Homes Advisory Committee, Connor has continued to support the program throughout the pandemic by assisting with the Safe Homes Gala, soliciting donations for the silent auction and connecting new supporters with Safe Homes and Open Sky.
Young Adult Award recipient Lamar Brown-Noguera (they/them) has certainly made their presence known in a very positive way in Worcester's LGBTQIA+ community, both as a student at Quinsigamond Community College and in their 6 + years at AIDS Project Worcester. Originally from Jamaica, Lamar came to the United States as an Asylum Seeker, seeking opportunities they didn't have in their home country as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a student at QCC, they were an active member of the campus community as a staunch advocate for LQBTQIA+ issues, a member of the Black Student Union and part of the College’s #QCCVotes campaign. They were named a Hometown hero and MA youth worker of the year in 2019. Currently serving as Community Relations Manager at AIDS Project Worcester and the Program Coordinator for Supporters of Worcester LGBTQ+ youth (SWAGLY), they continue to make a difference by supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and public health efforts in the City.
Youth Award recipient Maxwell Farrell (he/him) has shown consistent commitment to Safe Homes, both in his position as a Peer Leader and as a member of the Safe Homes community. He started attending the drop-in sessions in 2018, and after a short time began helping staff before and after drop-in. Since becoming a Peer Leader two years ago, he has developed into a great role model for his fellow Peer Leaders and the youth attendees. He has an innate ability to make others around him feel seen and respected, and his work ethic and passion for the Safe Homes program is impressive and deserving of recognition.
The 2022 Social Justice Advocacy and Action Award recipient is the LGBT Asylum Task Force. The LGBT Asylum Task Force is a mission of Hadwen Park Congregational Church, UCC and one of the only organizations of its kind in the United States. Formed in 2008, the Task Force assists LGBTQ Asylum Seekers who have fled their home country due to persecution for their gender or sexual identity. Asylum Seekers are prohibited from working for up to two years after they arrive in the United States and the program provides them with housing, food and a small stipend, as well as access to pro bono legal services and mental health services. We are so fortunate to have this remarkable and unique organization doing important work right here in Central Massachusetts.
Safe Homes is a program of Open Sky. It offers two Drop-in Centers with peer-led services and supports for LGBTQIA+ youth ages 14-23 in Central Massachusetts. Safe Homes Worcester has been offering services for over 25 years, and Safe Homes North opened virtually in 2021, and will be offering in-person services on the Fitchburg State University campus later this year. Safe Homes offers leadership development, educational and social programming, connections to resources and mental health counseling at no cost to participants. The program is supported in part by grants from The United Way of Central Massachusetts, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and others.
“I am pleased that Safe Homes continues to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth in our community,” says Ken Bates, President and CEO at Open Sky. “Throughout the pandemic we have connected with youth through virtual drop-ins, food deliveries and free counseling. The opening of Safe Homes North has allowed us to offer support to LGBTQIA+ youth in northern Worcester County.”
The Safe Homes Gala will include an online silent auction, fund-a-need, messages from celebrities, special guests, and the presentation of the People of Courage Awards.
Leadership sponsors include Berkshire Bank, Fallon Health, Hanover Insurance Group Foundation, MSG Staffing and Revelation Productions.
There are a variety of ticket options available including a free registration option. VIP registrants will receive a gift box which includes snacks and other great items. Registration is now open at safehomesma.org/gala.
About Open Sky Community Services
Open Sky Community Services is a 501(c)3 non-profit agency that offers a wide range of services for adults, adolescents, and children with mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, brain injury, homelessness and other challenges throughout Central Massachusetts. Open Sky Community Services has over 1,100 dedicated employees and an annual budget of $90M with more than 100 programs throughout the region. For more information, please visit www.openskycs.org .