When a tornado watch was announced for Western Massachusetts earlier this week, thousands of residents of the Commonwealth and hundreds of employees at the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) held their breath. Memories of the June 1, 2011 tornados and storms are still fresh in the minds of everyone who experienced the destruction and are part of the ongoing recovery.
Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby personally congratulated 25 DTA staff members who received the Manuel Carballo Award for their work in the tornado recovery efforts. These Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) Key Contributors, who work in DTA offices in Springfield, Southbridge, Holyoke, Worcester, and Boston, are representative of their nearly 500 DTA staff who also worked to provide food assistance to more than 20,000 households affected by the tornados.
I was not at DTA last June, but I have heard many stories about the long, hot days my colleagues spent in our offices, and in tents, to bring whatever comfort they could to residents who lost everything. They worked day and night – some foregoing their vacations, and all sacrificing sleep and time with their family and friends – to coordinate and manage an unprecedented event for the Department. Their compassion, dedication, and teamwork reflect the essence of DTA’s mission to assist low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs, increase their incomes, and improve their quality of life.
With disaster recovery plans well-tested and proven following the June 2011 tornados, many of these DSNAP team members leapt into action again following Hurricane Irene last August and the snowstorm in late October 2011. Some of our employees came to work after those storms, despite the fact that their own homes lost power and needed repair.
While I’m sure we all hope for peaceful weather throughout 2012, I am confident that the DTA team is prepared for anything Mother Nature sends our way.
…and to everyone at DTA who participated in administering DSNAP. I am proud to stand beside you.