BUW, Miraval Berkshires Announce Winner

As a senior case worker at Berkshire Immigrant Center (BIC), Lorena Dus has helped hundreds of immigrants with legal consultations, case filings, referrals, translations and emergency fund assistance. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, her case load increased, yet she remained committed to helping others.

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Berkshire Immigrant Center Executive Director Michelle Lopez, left, nominated Lorena Dus, right, senior case worker at BIC
Michelle Lopez, executive director of Berkshire Immigrant Center, left, nominated Lorena Dus.

“Lorena is a champion for immigrants and her community,” said BIC Executive Director Michelle Lopez, who nominated Dus for Berkshire United Way’s recent gratitude nomination process.

In partnership with Miraval Berkshires, Berkshire United Way issued a call for nominations to honor first responders and essential workers supporting their community during the pandemic. World Gratitude Day kicked off the nomination process and 28 names were submitted. Dus was randomly selected, and she and a guest will enjoy a four-day, three-night transformative retreat at Miraval Berkshires in Lenox.

“Thank you to everyone who took the time to send in these nominations. We’re excited for Lorena and appreciate the support she and the rest of the nominees are providing our neighbors throughout the county. We also want to thank Miraval Berkshires for their generosity in offering this great getaway right here in the Berkshires,” said Candace Winkler, BUW president and chief executive officer.

“We are overwhelmed by the abundance of nominations our Gratitude Day giveaway has received from the local community,” added Vic Cappadona, general manager of Miraval Berkshires. “Miraval Berkshires, along with Berkshire United Way, looks forward to honoring Lorena’s impressive contributions to our community with a well-being retreat filled with healing and restoration.”

Dus, who was surprised but thankful for the nomination, said, “I am very lucky I have a job I love and being able to help others is my reward. I feel very humbled and honored and I look forward to staying at Miraval Berkshires. Thank you to Berkshire United Way and to my colleagues for thinking of me.”

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BUW's Candace Winkler with retreat winner Lorena Dus and Miraval Berkshires GM Vic Cappadona
From left, Berkshire United Way President/CEO Candace Winkler, retreat winner Lorena Dus, and Miraval Berkshires General Manager Vic Cappadona.

During her tenure at BIC, Dus has helped over 160 immigrants achieve U.S. citizenship and advocated for the rights of hundreds of other immigrants in various difficult situations. Since the shutdown in March, she has screened more than 50 undocumented immigrant families not eligible to receive government benefits so that BIC Development Coordinator Sheryl Lechner, who raised most of the COVID-19 emergency relief funds, could then provide them the funds. Dus has also filed for 23 immigrants to become U.S. citizens and has met with or called more than 80 clients to file immigration visa petitions, provide document translations and notarizations and give referrals to other community services.

Dus herself immigrated to Berkshire County from Venezuela more than four years ago and expressed what an incredibly exciting and meaningful time this is for her and her family. It will be the first presidential election she can vote in. On Oct. 14, Dus was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in a small ceremony at Naumkeag.

In addition to her role at Berkshire Immigrant Center, Dus also serves on the Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force created by the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and is a virtual volunteer for the Estamos Unidos translation project for asylum seekers at the United States/Mexico border.

“Lorena works tirelessly to make the Berkshires a safer and more welcoming community for immigrants. She is the most selfless and dedicated employee I have ever had the pleasure of supervising in my three managerial roles at different organizations over the past five years,” added Lopez.