PITTSFIELD – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) was named the 2014 “Irish” Person of the Year by Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc. during the 13th Annual Robert (Bees) Prendergast St. Patrick’s Reception at the Country Club of Pittsfield last night.
“This award is an annual recognition for those who are advocates for the rights of children. Senator Downing clearly fits this role, as he provides a strong voice for our children here in the Berkshires and on Beacon Hill,” said Hillcrest President and CEO Gerard “Jerry” Burke.
Hillcrest Educational Centers is a private not-for-profit agency that provides a range of individualized and comprehensive clinical, psychological and special education services for children, adolescents and families in Berkshire County and the Northeast. The students served by Hillcrest in nonresidential and residential programs have complex psychiatric, behavioral and/or developmental disorders, including autism, and a variety of high risk behaviors.
"Hillcrest Educational is a special place,” said Downing. “They see it as their mission to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their God-given talents, no matter how hard or far they have fallen in the past. I am proud to support their work and am humbled to be recognized for the small role I have played."
Hillcrest’s mission is to facilitate the social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth of its students through the development of new skills that will enable them to succeed in their home community.
Past “Irish” Person of the Year honorees include Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (2013), former Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jake Eberwein (2012), former Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto (2011), Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray (2010), former Lt. Governor Timothy Murray (2009), Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin (2008), Congressman Richard E. Neal (2007), former State Representative Peter Larkin (2006), former Attorney General Thomas Reilly (2005) and former Massachusetts Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran (2004).
“I’d like to congratulate Senator Downing on receiving the Irish Person of the Year Award – an honor that is very well-deserved. Having joined the Senate at an early age, and representing the largest District in the Commonwealth, Senator Downing has quickly risen to become a strong and reliable leader in the Senate. He is a passionate advocate for the Commonwealth’s Chapter 766 schools, including the Hillcrest Education Centers in Berkshire County, and supports their policy agendas to ensure these facilities are providing the best care possible for their students. I am confident that Senator Downing will continue to have a very successful career in public service and I look forward to hearing about his many more accomplishments in the future,” said Senate President Murray.
During the festivities Hillcrest also honored Mick Callahan with the Judge John A. Barry Community Service Award. Mr. Callahan serves as president of M. Callahan, Inc., a real estate development and property management company, and is the current chairman of the board of Pittsfield Economic Development Authority.