6th Annual Gala Honorees

5th Annual Gala Honorees

Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree  - City Counselor Rita Mercier

The name Rita Mercier has become synonymous with the spirit and soul that makes Lowell one of the most dynamic and caring communities in Massachusetts. Her volunteer work in both city government and human service organizations has been an outstanding feature of the Lowell City landscape for well over 40 years.

Rita’s storied political career includes 26 years as a City Councilor and, in 2002, she became the third woman ever elected as Lowell mayor in 172 years. She has topped the ticket in over eleven elections, a testament to the respect, trust, and love of the citizens of Lowell. She is truly a woman of the people!

Rita's energy and her passion for community service are boundless. She has served as the Chairperson of the Lowell School Committee and led the charge for a new Senior Center in 2006. Never resting on past accomplishment, Rita has served on the Neighborhood/Traffic, Youth, Council Rules, and Parks and Recreation Subcommittees. As chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Committee, she has led the development of 14 park renovations, as well as numerous Islands to the City of Lowell. She is a proud member of the Ladies Auxiliary at the East End Club and an honorary member of Post 662 VFW Honor Guard, an honorary member of the Greek American Veterans Post 1, and an honorary member of the Portuguese American Veterans Post 4. She is currently the president of the Friends of the Council on Aging and serves on the Board of Directors for Community Teamwork and The Hellenic American Academy. She has been widely recognized- for her dedication with a string of honors too numerous to mention.

Councilor Mercier was born and raised in Lowell, the daughter of Leo Rospond and was married to the late Ralph Mercier for 41 years. They raised four children, two sons, and two daughters. When Rita is not advocating for the citizens of Lowell, she loves to spend time with her eight beautiful grandchildren.

District Attorney Marian Ryan often calls Rita “the glue that holds us together” and, without question, Rita Mercier's time, energy and passion for service energizes and unites the entire Lowell Community. It is with great pleasure that our friend Rita Mercier receive the 2019-2020 Lowell House Lifetime Achievement Award.

Honoree Sheriff Peter Koutoujian

A career public servant, Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian has overseen one of the nation's oldest law enforcement agencies - the Middlesex Sheriff's Office - as it has become a premier public safety institution known for innovation and professional excellence. During his eight years in office, Sheriff Koutoujian has initiated several landmark programs at the Middlesex Sheriff's Office that have garnered national attention. These include a medication-assisted treatment program recognized as a Center of Excellence by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC); the Housing Unit for Military Veterans (HUMV) that has been touted by the Washington Examiner and Vice News Tonight; and a unique unit for young adult offenders that has been called "one of the most important criminal justice reform experiments in the country" by the Boston Globe.

In January of 2020, Sheriff Koutoujian began his first term as President of Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), representing sheriffs from the most populous counties in the nation. Sheriff Koutoujian previously served as MCSA’s Vice President and Chair of its Communications Committee. The Sheriff also sits on the Advisory Board for the Council on State Governments Justice Center, a national nonprofit organization whose findings and technical assistance are utilized by state officials across the U.S. Sheriff Koutoujian currently serves as President of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association, and is a founding member of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration, a group of nearly 200 police chiefs, attorneys general, sheriffs and agency leaders committed to reducing rates of incarceration.

Living in the Light V not only honors Sheriff Koutoujian for all his amazing accomplishments as a public servant, but also because of his laser-like focus on the issues of incarcerated individuals with substance use and mental health disorders. His innovative and humane approach to this population using all the tools available including Medication Assisted Treatment, Jail Diversion, and linking community programs to individuals with addiction issues re-entering the community has created a national model of excellence.

Honoree Lowell Community Health Center

Lowell Community Health Center has provided access to high quality, affordable health care to children and adults of all ages in Greater Lowell, regardless of their ability to pay, for over 50 years. The Health Center is focused on “wellness” in the broadest sense and has grown to include many specialty services in addition to comprehensive primary health care.

LCHC is the very cornerstone of wellness for every citizen in Greater Lowell. Employees speak 28 different languages, and at least 40 staff are trained medical interpreters. Patients are offered an easily accessible, basic variety of health care options ranging from adult primary care to pediatrics and adolescent medicine with an in-house pharmacy. But it's what they offer beyond a garden variety of medical services that make them a gem in our community and one of the best in the country. Their affordable eye care and dental services exceed even the best private clinics in the area. A full variety of behavioral health services not only includes counseling and mental health supports but houses one of the only Office Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) programs in Merrimack Valley. Their life-changing Teen Block program, family planning, and Carino HIV services help community members deal with some of the most challenging issues confronting us today.

We honor Lowell Community Health Center for all you see and for what you don’t see. Sue Levine, CEO, her Board, and staff have forged meaningful partnerships with Lowell General Hospital, CMAA, and the Cambodian community and human service agencies like Lowell House. The impact of this major outreach effort has made Lowell one of the most collaborative, effective and supportive living environments in New England.

Living in the Light V offers a grand tip of the hat to a true community treasure, Lowell Community Health Center.