Brockton honors ‘Women of the Year’

Donna Cotterell (center)

BROCKTON - They are women with a common theme, helping others through their volunteerism. They also share a common tribute: Each earned a 2012 “Women of the Year Award’’ from Mayor Linda M. Balzotti of Brockton and the city’s Commission on Women’s Issues, in a ceremony held at the Shaw’s Center Saturday.

Janice Beyer

The women are Barbara Litchman, a founding member of the Brockton Library Foundation and a volunteer at the Brockton Public Library; Janice Beyer, a longtime school teacher and active volunteer who tutors students; Michelle DuBois, a Brockton city councilor and leader in Alternatives for Community and Environment’s fight against a proposed power plant in the city; and Donna Cotterell, founder of the nonprofit Indaba Theatre of New England, which gives youths a chance to explore the theatrical arts.

“They are all committed to bettering the community they live in,’’ said Noelle Foye, one of five women on the Commission on Women’s Issues, which chose the winners. “They are all outstanding volunteers with a keen dedication to the city of Brockton, trying to make it a better place for people to live.’’


In addition to the Women of the Year Awards, first given out in 1997, Women of Courage awards were bestowed on twins Samara and Tamara Pires, who have cerebral palsy and have endured many surgeries in their lives but still maintain honor roll status at Brockton High and participate in many activities.

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Litchman, 79, worked for 20 years at the Brockton Public Library and helped found the library foundation, which raises money for the facility. She organizes library book sales and manages the gift shop in the main library, which sells used books as well as jewelry and scarves.

“The library needs all the money it can get, and all the money we raise in the shop goes right back to the library,’’ she said. “It’s important we do this; libraries aren’t funded the way they used to be.’’

And libraries are still vital to the community even in the Internet age, she said, adding: “Our children’s department in particular is very busy; they have great programs. And things like our English as a Second Language program, and the use of public computers - in some ways libraries are now more important than ever to some people.’’

Beyer, 79, worked for 31 years at Brockton’s Kennedy School teaching third-graders - “a great age,’’ she said. “They’re old enough to do things themselves but young enough to have a lot of fun with.’’


After her retirement, she served 10 years on the Brockton School Committee. She is a volunteer with the city’s Council on Aging, also serves on the board of the Boys & Girls Club, and is a longtime supporter and volunteer for the Little Red School House in Brockton, a preserved one-room school house. She also tutors during the day at her old school.

“It’s fun; I like it,’’ she said of her volunteerism. “I like being involved, and the people involved in the groups I work with are wonderful.’’

Cotterell founded Indaba Theatre to give the youth of Brockton a chance to explore the theater arts and provide community performances, she said. She also leads Dare to Dream, a group where participants explore wellness and health.

“Indaba is a Zulu word for ‘coming together for a meeting or a purpose,’ ’’ said Cotterell, who says she got the concept of the theater when she was working on her first master’s degree at Boston University and was taking a class in nonprofit management. “I have always done theater and decided to create a theater company, because without theater I would not be where I am today.’’

Michelle DuBois

She started Indaba Theatre in 2005, and has helped young people express themselves through performing since then, in a variety of programs. On Monday, her group will present “Woven Stories II: From Silence to Joy - Hope, Love and Healing for Survivors of Domestic Violence’’ at the Brockton Public Library’s main branch. And on March 23-25, she will lead a holistic health retreat at Packard Manse in Stoughton. For information on the nonprofit, visit


DuBois, 38, has been very active on the issue of housing foreclosures in the city, in addition to being a leading volunteer with a group fighting a power plant proposed in Brockton, Foye said.

“Brockton was hit hard by the recession and she recognized that and made a real effort to help people and not just sit back and watch it happen,’’ Foye said.

DuBois said she was “honored to be nominated and for the affirmation of my community service by the women’s commission.

“The effort to stop a dangerous natural-gas power plant from being built in a densely populated area is something I am 110 percent committed to and pray the citizens’ voice will be heard and it will be stopped,’’ she said.

The Commission on Women’s Issues is always seeking more members, Foye said. Those interested, who must live in Brockton, should write a letter with résumé and send it to Balzotti at Brockton City Hall, 45 School St., Brockton, MA 02301.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at