In 2021, Legacy Place is again recognizing inspirational people through its annual TogetHER event, this year making selections from heroes nominated by individuals in the broader community. From dozens of earnest nominations and compelling stories, the Legacy Place team selected five fascinating people to honor with this recognition.

On behalf of Legacy Place, each honoree was given a token of appreciation in the form of a gift basket full of items, services and more to enjoy at Legacy Place.

A photo of Gladys Ortiz

Gladys Ortiz

Bilingual Court Advocacy Manager and Outreach Specialist, REACH
A native of Colombia, Gladys Ortiz emigrated to the U.S. after meeting her future husband while on vacation from college. Emboldened by her effort to learn the language and navigate cultural differences, Ortiz found work that employed her enthusiasm for empowerment and sensitivity to others. REACH services those caught in domestic crisis including men, women, and children. In 2010 she co-founded Latinas Know Your Rights, working with lawmakers to develop legislation that protects immigrants and survivors in Massachusetts. Ortiz also sits on several committees, including the Attorney General’s Advisory Council on New Americans. Her lifetime of passionate advocacy for others is inspiring.

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A photo of Gina Preziosa

Gina Preziosa

Digital Marketing Director, LEK Consulting
Most seniors enjoy their last year of high school but the passing of Gina Preziosa’s parents meant she’d have to work hard, graduate early, earn acceptance to college, and settle into a dorm or she’d be without a home. This combined with working to put herself through school was a lesson in hustle hard earned. It’s also one Preziosa found she’d apply many times. Ultimately, she wound up at an ad agency buying and selling media and rising quickly to the top of some of Boston’s most tawny agencies. Then she found a challenge she didn’t see coming: trying to have it all. She realized the deck was stacked. Even with a husband, good income, and healthy children there was just no way to have it all. That’s when she founded TeamPrez, which offers more than networking, it’s a supportive peer group for women in media from all backgrounds.

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A photo of Julie Gage

Julie Gage

Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club
A graduate of Bates College in Maine, Gage found work at the Boys & Girls Club ultimately becoming its executive director. Through the shutdown Gage transformed the comprehensive programming she and her team had always provided to the Woburn community, first with virtual interactivity and supply drop-offs, then by opening the club as a learning center that allowed students access to the technology and support needed. What has powered Gage’s indefatigable efforts? “I recall about two weeks into it I shifted from the overwhelming panic of What are we going to do? into How are we going to do what it takes?”

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A photo of Many Lussier

Mandy Lussier

Program Manager, Youth on Fire
An internship at Youth on Fire seemed like a viable gig for a student pursuing a degree in psychology. Little did Mandy Lussier realize that 11 years later they’d be a key member of its small but mighty staff and one of its most compelling advocates. YoF services youth ages 14 to 24. It employs development models, harm reduction, and works with homelessness and those who are unstably housed. The needs of those seeking help vary greatly. Programming ranges from providing a place to shower, eat, and receive mail to receiving support navigating public services, transportation, job applications, the interview process, and medical or mental health needs. Lussier dreams of a day when YoF can allocate more time to each member and have the center open all the days and hours for which services are needed.

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A photo of Nila Shah

Nila Shah

Retired teacher
Nila Shah is a former preschool teacher hailing from India. Her mission has been to embody, extol, and encourage the valuable gift that is education. At a time when most young women in Shah’s community would leave school early to marry by the age of 16, Shah earned a scholarship to college in the States. In 1960, as a seventeen-year-old with no formal English language training, she made her way to the U.S. Nearing graduation, her dreams were cut short as she returned to her home country to take care of her ailing mother. It took Shah two decades to return to America, but her dream of raising her daughters in a country where the freedom to choose their futures and pursue education was worth the wait. Shah’s story is long and nuanced; she faced criticism and social backlash for her choices. Yet no amount of external pressure would sway her from touching the lives of dozens of young people in ways that afforded them independence and opportunity.

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