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Holliston - Local Town Pages

Barbara Ryan, Steve Bradford, Leslie and Jonathan Gerber receive Holliston Humanitarian Awards

By Theresa Knapp 

On Nov. 13, the Town of Holliston held its 5th annual Humanitarian Awards ceremony in Upper Town Hall. 

State Rep. James Arena-DeRosa, who lives in Holliston, welcomed the crowd. 

“There are lots of ways that we honor service in this town but this is somewhat unique and it really speaks to those people in our community who care for others…This is so important, it is such a blessing to live in this town,” said Arena-DeRosa. 

Barbara Ryan 

Select Board member Tina Hein nominated Barbara Ryan for her many contributions to the community. 

Before moving to Holliston in 2019, Ryan served in the Army, was a pediatric nurse practitioner at Walter Reed Medical Center, and retired from military service in 2008. 

Hein said, “These experiences as a health care provider and through her service in the military are carried over to the many volunteer roles Barbara holds in Holliston and in our community.” Those roles include serving as a community parent representative on the Holliston Drug and Alcohol Awareness Coalition; Holliston Parent Teachers Organization where she has led programs related to mental health and adolescent health, and is current president; and leading an effort to create an Outdoor Learning Space at the Placentino Elementary School. 

Said Hein, “I think by, at this point, you all can see what I see in Barbara Ryan. She is a devoted volunteer in Holliston with a clear vision to bring positive change for the health and well-being of others. She is effective. She is strong. She is kind.” 

While accepting the award, Ryan said, “I’m honored to be recognized. I really don’t like recognition, but I will humbly say thank you to all of you for this, and to the community that I moved to with my family four years ago that has welcomed us and we’re grateful to be part of it…It’s great to be a Hollistonian, thank you.”  

Steve Bradford

Select Board member Ben Sparrell nominated Steve Bradford who continuously gives to his community with a selfless and respectful demeanor. 

“Saturday was Veterans Day. It feels fitting to honor a veteran for their humanitarian efforts today. Steve has led the Veterans Post and has recently retired from that position. We see him lead the parade on Memorial Day, behind the scenes on the holiday, as well as advocating for veterans throughout the year. Steve makes Holliston better for veterans and has made Holliston a better place as well…We are indebted to you for all you have done for [veterans] and for our community, day in and day out. You are able to connect on a personal level and understand the needs of our veterans and help to explain to those of us who have not served. You help bring people together in all parts of Holliston to honor and celebrate service to our community and our country. We thank you for your service and all you’ve given of yourself to the veterans and the people of Holliston.”

Upon accepting the award, Bradford said, “I don’t do any of this stuff by myself. I’ve always had the help of other veterans in town…It’s a joy to work on the things I get to work on in town…Thank you very much, it’s a pleasure to be able to receive this honor.” 

Leslie and Jonathan Gerber 

Select Board Chair John Cronin nominated Leslie and Jonathan Gerber, “a couple who have been truly doing amazing things.” 

Both Leslie and Jonathan were born and raised in Holliston and are now raising their family in town. Approximately 10 years ago, they created the Holiday Dreams Foundation which has provided holiday gifts to numerous children and families; it also 

Provides ready-to-cook Thanksgiving meals to area senior citizens. The program soon grew to provide assistance year-round, including addressing food insecurity and providing personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now working to assist children and families in Israel.

Cronin said to the Gerbers, “Thank you for all you do to make the lives of others better. We all benefit from your kindness, caring and compassion, and it is my pleasure to award this humanitarian award to both of you.” 

As they received the award, Jonathan Gerber said, “Thank you to the board for this honor, this means a lot to us. Thank you to our children, to our parents. This is something we started many years ago to teach ‘giving back’ to our children, and it actually gave a platform to the community to give back to underserved, underprivileged families in the area, in the neighborhoods, in the Metrowest. This program has grown not necessarily from just our family but through the community. Starting over the next six weeks is going to be a crazy time but it’s such a cheerful time and now we allow the community to help and give back. It’s great that we’re able to provide this…Thank you.”  

To watch the full 2023 Humanitarian Awards, visit