Dunlavy, Bialecki-Canning celebrated as Commonwealth Heroines



For the Recorder
Published: 6/20/2022 3:39:00 PM
Modified: 6/20/2022 3:38:40 PM

When the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women honors its Commonwealth Heroines during the 19th annual awards ceremony in Dorchester on Wednesday, two local women will be among the 121 from across the state to be recognized: Linda Dunlavy of South Deerfield and Heather Bialecki-Canning of Athol.

Commonwealth Heroines are women who have been chosen by their legislators for their extraordinary acts of service. According to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, those who are recognized “perform unheralded acts daily that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities and towns better places to live.”

Since 1999, Dunlavy has served as executive director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG). Under her leadership, the Greenfield-based organization has worked on numerous projects for Franklin County. Most recently, FRCOG has been part of the three-year effort to replace the county’s failing emergency radio system. Dunlavy praised the effectiveness of the new state-owned system at enabling efficient emergency response.

Dunlavy was nominated to be a Commonwealth Heroine by Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, who calls Dunlavy a state leader on rural issues.

“Western Massachusetts has a reputation for collaborative work,” Blais said, “and under Linda’s leadership, FRCOG has been held up as a model for what we can accomplish when communities work together.”

Dunlavy thanked Blais for the nomination and said, “It’s quite an unexpected honor.”

“It is amazing and inspiring to be recognized with a group of women making positive change in Massachusetts,” Dunlavy said.

Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, nominated Bialecki-Canning, executive director of the Athol-based North Quabbin Community Coalition.

“I cannot begin to put into words how honored I was to receive this nomination,” Bialecki-Canning said in a statement. “I am truly lucky to work at North Quabbin Community Coalition. … We are not strangers to being pioneers in our rural part of the state, and are always creatively finding ways to fill gaps, bring down barriers and celebrate the strengths of North Quabbin.”

The North Quabbin Community Coalition was founded in 1984 to improve quality of life for North Quabbin residents. Through its various task forces and projects, the coalition works to improve housing access, destigmatize behavioral health supports, promote economic development, assist with addiction recovery, and support children and families.

“Heather’s amazing work at North Quabbin Community Coalition strengthens individuals, families and the community as a whole,” Whipps said in a statement. “We’re so lucky to have her.”

“I am very proud to join with colleagues in recognizing Heather’s essential work and her leadership of the North Quabbin Community Coalition,” Comerford said in a statement. “Thank you to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women for celebrating a powerful advocate for the North Quabbin region as a 2022 Commonwealth Heroine.”

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women will be streaming Wednesday’s celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on its Facebook page at facebook.com/MassCSW.

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