LAWRENCE — Last month, the Greater Lawrence Psychological Center, Inc., hosted approximately 200 people at their 5th-annual Overcoming Obstacles Gala at Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant in Lawrence. I first want to thank Michael Agricola and Phillip Wood, (owners of Salvatore’s) for donating their food and space for this event.
The gala raised approximately $50,000 to support the center’s programs:
The Psychological Center cares for individuals through three programs dedicated to addiction and recovery services: Pegasus House, Women’s View, and the Day-break Shelter. The programs focus on improving mental health and recovery from substance abuse disorders, which help individuals gain the skills necessary to reintegrate back into the community and live better lives.
Seven local heroes were honored at gala for helping others overcome obstacles. “It was a true privilege to honor well-deserving community members who understand the importance of helping individuals in need overcome obstacles,” the center’s CEO Carina Pappalardo said.
“We are committed to making a difference with respect and dignity while empowering individuals.”
This year’s honorees were:
JUAN “MANNY” GONZALEZ
Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, a dedicated Lawrence firefighter for 26 years, is the co-founder of Heal Lawrence, a grassroots organization offering vital aid to fire and disaster victims.
He plays a pivotal role in coordinating temporary housing, donation drives, and volunteer efforts for local organizations. Manny’s compassion extends to humanitarian missions, including support for Hurricanes Maria and Fiona victims in Puerto Rico. We’re excited to honor him for his outstanding contributions at the Gala. His full-time dedication to Heal Lawrence has been instrumental in its progress since the Easter fires of 2020.
Manny led the development of a Fire Protocol that mobilizes support immediately at the fire scene. This collaborative effort engages local authorities, nonprofits, and community resources to help affected families rebuild their lives. Heal Lawrence’s impact has extended beyond Lawrence to nearby communities. Manny’s commitment is unwavering as he strives to establish emergency protocols for displaced residents, recognizing the urgent need for such assistance.
Wendy Luzon, a dedicated Lawrence resident for over 25 years and a successful business owner, is deeply committed to her community.
Born in the Dominican Republic, she moved to the U.S. as a teenager in search of a better life. Today, Wendy, along with her husband Raul, calls Lawrence home, where they raised their family, instilling values of hard work, community service, and faith. As the owner of “Casabe Fruit Store & Delicatessen” and “El Caldero Restaurant,” Wendy actively contributes to the local economy and provides job opportunities for Lawrence residents. Beyond her businesses, she’s an advocate for social justice.
Wendy co-founded Delamano, an organization dedicated to eliminating domestic violence, and launched the annual Festival de Teatro to preserve the arts in the community. Currently serving as the President of La Federacion Hispana de Comerciantes, a Chamber of Commerce supporting small businesses in Lawrence, Wendy is deeply invested in the city’s economic development.
Jessica Philips is a shining example of unwavering commitment to community service, as one of the distinguished honorees at the upcoming Overcoming Obstacles Gala.
Her remarkable journey is a testament to the transformative power of selfless dedication and humility. Jessica’s indomitable spirit shines through her involvement on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations and her tireless volunteer efforts in support of local causes.
In her professional role at Enterprise Bank, she goes above and beyond, offering invaluable additional support to these vital organizations. Yet, what truly sets Jessica apart is her genuine desire to make a difference, a motivation that remains untouched by the allure of recognition or praise. Her selfless dedication and humility are beacons of inspiration, serving as a potent reminder of the profound impact that one individual can have on a community. Jessica Philips stands as a remarkable role model, embodying the values of service, compassion, and community.
Tom’s remarkable journey as an intrepid journalist and devoted community advocate has left an indelible mark on the Merrimack Valley, earning him a well-deserved place in the spotlight. With a career spanning over three decades, Tom boasts a rich tapestry of experience that encompasses the realms of politics, campaign management, marketing, and media strategy. He has a remarkable talent for crafting compelling speeches, possesses a commanding presence as a public speaker, and is well-versed in the intricacies of radio, television, and print media.
Tom’s expertise extends to crisis management, where he has offered invaluable guidance to individuals suddenly thrust into the public eye due to scandals or media scrutiny.
Today, Tom’s primary objective is to propel The Valley Patriot newspaper to new heights, solidifying its reputation as a trusted source of news and information within the region.
Additionally, he has again made himself available for public speaking engagements, where he passionately addresses pivotal subjects such as media relations, crisis management, the intricate dynamics between law enforcement and the media, strategies to enhance community engagement, and the pivotal role of a motivated workforce as an influential public relations asset.. Tom Duggan’s enduring commitment to truth, justice, and philanthropy resonates deeply with the spirit of our gala. He has also become a homeless advocate in the community.
STEPHANIE MESSINA SEWADE:
Stephanie Messina Sewade, a partner at LukeJackson, leads their Human Resource Consulting practice, bringing two decades of experience in assisting employers of all scales.
Stephanie holds an MBA in Human Resource Management from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, a B.A. in Mathematics from Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, and a SHRM-CP Professional Certification from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Her dedication extends beyond her profession, as she is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Psychological Center. She is known as the “Fairy Godmother” of the Psychological Center’s Pegasus House program, where she brings joy to the guests through her generous charitable contributions and unwavering support.
Stephanie has also contributed her leadership to organizations like the Greater Lawrence YWCA and the Haverhill Boys & Girls Club. She is an active member of professional associations such as the Greater Merrimack Valley Human Resource Association, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the New England Employee Benefits Council. We honor Stephanie for her unwavering commitment to her community and her outstanding achievements in her field.
With 20+ years in the financial industry, Penny Hamel is Vice President and Mortgage Loan Officer at Bangor Savings Bank. She holds a Summa Cum Laude Bachelor of Science degree from Merrimack College. Penny’s achievements include Massachusetts Housing Originator of the Year in 2013 and 2015 and Northeast Realtor Association Business Partner of the Year in 2007, 2015, and 2022. Penny is deeply engaged in her community, generously giving her time and expertise to several nonprofits. Notably, she serves on the board of the Psychological Center, which supports the Daybreak Shelter. For nearly three decades, Penny has been an active member of the Westford Rotary Club. Additionally, she holds positions on the Board of Directors for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank and the American Lebanese Awareness Association. Beyond her professional life, Penny enjoys outdoor activities, volunteering for the Aussie Rescue, and dog training.
Zoraida is the VP & Co-Founder of Somos Green Innovations and the President & CEO of the non-profit The Green Evolution Corporation. Both companies help communities live more sustainably.
She has a love for humanitarian work, donating her time to help others progress while providing resources to help families grow and prosper. Zoraida’s expertise is empowering individuals to do more than what they believe they can do, educating and guiding them to become independent, and creating a path toward prosperity by providing the resources to reach that goal. Knowledge is power, and she believes that anyone can do anything they set their mind to do if they have the right resources and guidance. Opportunities are everywhere, you just need to know where to look.
The Psychological Center would like to offer a very special thank you to lead sponsors:
• U.S. Bank
• LukeJackson Benefit & HR Solutions
• Foster Sullivan Insurance/ACRISURE
• Enterprise Bank
• Gomez & Palumbo, LLC Attorneys at Law
• The Green Evolution Corporation ◊