AUGUSTA – The Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) has named two awardees for Dr. Wendy J. Wolf Health Leadership Award in 2021, having paused the award in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 recognizes both Jess Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Council on Aging (MCOA), and Lisa Sockabasin, Director of Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness (WPHW), as recipients. Both awardees were recognized at MeHAF’s Joint Board of Trustees and Community Advisory Committee meeting on October 14 and each organization was given a $10,000 grant as part of the honor. The annual awardee is selected through an open nomination process and decisions are made by a committee made up of MeHAF Trustees and Community Advisory Committee members.
Jess Maurer, a Maine Council on Aging founder (2012) and now Executive Director (2018), has framed the vision of a Maine where we can all live healthy, engaged, and secure lives with choices and opportunities as we age in our homes and communities, a vision embraced by the MCOA Board of Directors, members and partners. So much so that the MCOA has grown from 27 foundational members to over 120 members today. Through her work on the Municipal Data Across Sectors for Healthy Aging Initiative, the Equity and Healthy Aging Initiative, and the Power in Aging Project, she puts her commitment to creating healthier communities and building an age-positive culture in Maine free of ageism into action. The MCOA network became critical in responding to emerging and on-going needs of older people and service providers during the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the pandemic, Jess curated and shared needed information, engaged in multi-sector problem solving, and coordinated advocacy efforts on emerging issues, with special focus on Maine’s care workforce.
Lisa Sockabasin has led Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness for nearly five years and previously served as the Director of the State of Maine Office of Health Equity for a decade. She has used her knowledge and skills to help realize many dreams that Wabanaki leaders have had for their communities for generations. Lisa builds momentum for new initiatives through long term, trusting relationships with members of her community, which drive all of her work. Lisa has also built strong connections with colleagues in sectors across the state that help achieve WPHW’s ambitious goals. She measures success in more formal ways, but also through people’s interest in participating in whatever innovation is being created – be they community members, people in need of support, or people with support to share, knowing many people are all of these things.
“This year’s two winners exemplify so much of what the award is intended to recognize,” said Barbara Leonard, President & CEO of MeHAF. “Both Jess and Lisa are incredible leaders who have worked tirelessly to support communities that too often go unnoticed and unserved, and whose importance in the fabric of our communities and state is underacknowledged. Further, they have both responded in heroic and creative ways to address the pandemic in the communities they support. MeHAF’s Board, Community Advisory Committee, and staff are truly honored to celebrate these two exemplary women and the work they do in Maine.”
The Dr. Wendy J. Wolf Health Leadership Award will be made annually until 2026 to honor the legacy of MeHAF’s founding CEO, Wendy Wolf, who stepped down in October 2016. The award honors her 15-year tenure by recognizing the exceptional leadership and achievements of nonprofit leaders working to promote access to quality health care and improve the health of Maine people, especially those who are uninsured and underserved.