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Sister Molly, Sen. Ulibarri honored by Community Reach Center

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By The Staff

THORNTON — Sister Maria Luisa Munoz, better known as “Sister Molly” to many in the community, was honored with the 2015 Mary Ciancio Memorial Distinguished Service Award on April 20 by Community Reach Center.

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Sister Molly, 77, is a public health nurse and community activist who has devoted many years to providing food, clothing, medical help, legal aid, counseling and spiritual support to migrant farmworkers in the Brighton area.

Her work in visiting detention centers and accompanying migrant individuals to courtrooms for hearings also was noted among her many accomplishments in serving the community as reason for the honor.

“Sr. Molly is a compassionate, courageous woman who inspires everyone she encounters. Her impact on others is stunning,” wrote Gloria Rudden of Denver in her nomination. “She is known throughout the Southwest as the Mother Teresa of the Latinos and people from everywhere call (her) asking for advice, seeking comfort or looking for help.” 

The Mary Ciancio Memorial Distinguished Service Award honors the memory of Mary Ciancio, an extraordinary community volunteer who championed mental-health care in Adams County. Her efforts benefited thousands of Adams County residents living with mental and physical challenges. Community Reach Center’s Thornton office is named in honor of Mary Ciancio. This prestigious award has been presented annually to an outstanding Adams County volunteer by the Community Reach Center Foundation Board since 1980.

Other Adams County residents recognized for their extensive volunteering efforts were Dorothy Hale, of Denver; Laura Huerta, of Brighton; Beverly Marozsan, of Westminster; Peter Snyder, of Broomfield; and Dr. Darwin Strickland, of Northglenn. Dr. Robert Williams of Wheat Ridge was nominated for his extensive volunteer work in Westminster. 

Earlier in the evening, Warren Taylor, PhD, was presented the Marjory Ball Mental Health Advocacy Award for dedicating much of his life to advocating on behalf of those with mental-health challenges. Taylor, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Adams County, has a long history of community service that includes his work on the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory Board and the Behavioral Healthcare Inc. Board. 

“Warren’s  commitment to community service has provided him with a forum to spread the message that mental illness is treatable, that there is no shame in seeking help, and that individuals living with mental health challenges not only deserve but have a right to expect fair, respectful treatment in the community,” said Community Reach Center Board member Mary Ann Wisehart in announcing the award.

State Sen. Jessie Ulibarri received Community Reach Center’s 2015 Legislator of the Year Award for championing mental-health legislation in the General Assembly. Sen. Ulibarri co-sponsored legislation eliminating long-term solitary confinement for inmates with serious mental illness that was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year. As a result, there are 160 prisoners in solitary confinement in Colorado prisons; in 2011, there were more than 1,500.

“It’s nice to get awards, but when you get one from an organization you admire and trust, and which has had the trust of the community for decades, it means all that much more,” said Sen. Ulibarri in accepting the award. “Thank you, Community Reach.”