County Fare: Nurses union honors state Rep. Paul Mark as labor `ally'

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The Massachusetts Nurses Association board of directors has honored state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, for being a "staunch ally to labor."

Mark was presented with the group's 2017 Legislative Advocacy Award on March 22.

"Representative Mark has stood with nurses on Beacon Hill and on the picket line," said MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, in a prepared release. "We are very fortunate to have Representative Mark serving in the House of Representatives and we thank him for his commitment to the MNA, our nurses and our patients."

Mark, who represents the 2nd Berkshire District, chairs the House Committee on Redistricting and is a co-sponsor on several bills related to health care and labor rights for the 2017-18 session.

"Nurses are truly the backbone of our communities, they work tirelessly serving others, and ask for so little in return," he said in the release. "It is an honor and an obligation to use my voice in the legislature to advocate for a group of individuals that consistently stand ready to serve each of us at the times when we are most in need."

Rep. Mark accepted the award accompanied by his aunt, Darlyn Scott, an MNA member and nurse for more than 30 years.

He also met with Barb Connor, a registered nurse active in Berkshire Medical Center's MNA bargaining unit and nurses working in the endoscopy unit. Connor also chairs the MNA Region 1 council.

Mark was a longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2324, and no stranger to contract negotiations.

This year, he picketed with the Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses in their contract negotiations to ensure improved staffing, adequate benefits and compensation, and greater security improvements.

He also issued a letter to the Baystate Franklin Medical Center calling them to the bargaining table to produce an equitable settlement regarding staffing and bargaining practices.

BMC nurse honored

On the same day Paul Mark received his award, Mark Brodeur also was honored at the State House last week for his work as a caregiver for a disabled man named Gerry.

Brodeur, a registered nurse at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, was presented with an award by state Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Elin Howe for his "vision, advocacy and support in promoting social inclusion."

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Brodeur met Gerry in 1999 when he was a citizen advocate and Gerry was living in a group home, struggling with medication issues.

"He was so over-medicated, he became medically compromised, couldn't swallow, ended up in the hospital in 2013 and came close to not making it out several times," said Brodeur, who later had Gerry move in with him.

Gerry's health and ability to be involved in the community have improved tremendously since then, according to those who know him.

"My title is care provider, but my role is of family, interpreter and public relations for Gerry so that he can put his best foot forward and have the best chance of making a positive impact on the community," Brodeur said. "Most recently, We have attended The Women's March, the Four Freedoms March and the Pittsfield rally in support of the ACA, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security [as well as the recent BMC picket]. This would not be something that would be considered an option for him even five years ago."

Support for Down syndrome

Another celebration of inclusion recently took place in the Berkshires. More than 175 moviegoers attended the 10th Berkshire County Sprout Film Festival on March 12 at Berkshire Community College's Robert Boland Theatre in Pittsfield, according to Berkshire County Arc.

The annual event is hosted by the Arc's Down Syndrome Family Group. This year's festival featured 11 films about individuals with various disabilities, their lives and personal achievements. A reception catered by Berkshire Community College followed the screening, during which guests were able to view an exhibit featuring photography from local artists with disabilities.

The Down Syndrome Family Group is comprised of more than 40 families throughout Berkshire County working to advocate for and educate the public about Down syndrome and people with disabilities.

All proceeds from the event, ticketed at $5 per person, will go to support children, adults and families impacted by Down syndrome.

The festival opened with the film "Be My Brother," a story about an aspiring actor who challenges the prejudices of a stranger at a bus stop and his own struggles with acceptance from his brother being embarrassed by him in public.

"Go Jackson Doll" also hit home for attendees, and served as a good segue into April which is Autism Awareness Month. The film features the story of Jackson Doll, a 9-year-old boy with autism who is enrolled in ice skating by his mother. Through acceptance and the safe environment created by the other parents and teachers at the rink, Jackson and his family are able to discover their own successes.

The 90-minute festival ended with a series of four movies about love; solidifying the fact that those with developmental disabilities experience the same feelings, questions and thoughts about love as everyone else.

For information about the Down Syndrome Family Group, visit bcarc.org/dsfg/.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.


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