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40 Under 40

Class of 2022 Event Galleries Special Coverage

The Class of 2022

More than 600 people turned out at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House on June 16 to celebrate BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2022. The class, chosen by a panel of five judges, was the 16th class of rising stars celebrated by BusinessWest. The evening also featured the announcement of the Alumni Achievement Award winner for 2022 — Anthony Gleason II, president and co-founder of the Gleason-Johndrow Companies, a member of the class of 2010. The loud, boisterous crowd enjoyed networking, fine food, entertainment, and an opportunity to celebrate the latest young leaders to join one of the region’s more exclusive clubs. The photos on the following pages help convey the energy from a special evening. The event was sponsored by presenting sponsor PeoplesBank, with supporting sponsors Comcast Business, Live Nation, Mercedes Benz of Springfield, The Mill District, UMass Isenberg School of Management, and Stand Out Truck. The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield was an event partner. The Alumni Achievement Award was again sponsored by Health New England.

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Class of 2022 Cover Story

Celebrating 15 Years
of Excellence

Call it a trend. What it means … well, we don’t really know, but it’s there.

When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty in 2007 to honor young professionals in Western Mass. — not only for their career achievements, but for their service to the community — that first class featured far more men than women.

In recent years, the opposite has been true. Indeed, in 2021, there were 26 women and 14 men. This year? The pendulum has swung even further, with 28 women in the Class of 2022 and 12 men.

Again, we don’t really know what that means. What we do know is that beyond this bit of statistical intrigue, this class of honorees is like the 15 that came before it, in that it is diverse, in every way imaginable — ethnically, geographically, and professionally.

Indeed, the members of this class took a number of paths to this honor. Many are professionals, but there are also several entrepreneurs. There are nonprofit managers, college administrators, and a few public servants as well.

 

Each story is uniquely different, but there are, as always, some common denominators, including excellence within one’s profession, a commitment to giving back to the community, dedication to family and work/life balance, and a focus on how they can make this region better for all those who live and work here.

The judges for this year’s program — spotlighted below — reviewed more than 120 nominations, a number that speaks to the continued vibrancy of this program and the dedication of the region’s rising stars.

The class of 2022 will be celebrated on Thursday, June 16 at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. That gala will also feature the announcement of the winner of the eighth annual Alumni Achievement Award, a recognition program that salutes the 40 Under Forty honoree who has most impressively added to their accomplishments in the workplace and within the community, as chosen by a panel of judges.


See the 2022 40 Under Forty Digital Issue Here

2022 40 Under Forty:

SAVE the DATE

Come party with us as we celebrate the 2022 40 Under Forty

June 16, 2022, 4-9 pm at the Log Cabin in Holyoke

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Meet Our Judges

Xiomara Albán DeLobato, a member of the 40 Under Forty class of 2021, currently serves as chief of staff for the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, where she facilitates the growth and development of the regional economy by encouraging, influencing, and sustaining capital investment and quality job growth. She has dedicated her career and community involvement in serving as an active change agent and advocate for equitable access to economic and academic opportunities in the region and beyond.

Madeline Landrau, one of BusinessWest’s Women of Impact in 2021, works on MassMutual’s Community Responsibility team as a Program Engagement Manager. She oversees MassMutual’s Home Office Giving portfolio and associated relationship management, working with nonprofit organizations primarily in MassMutual’s home office community of Springfield. She’s the lead for LifeBridgeSM, MassMutual’s program that offers free life insurance coverage to eligible parents for the benefit of their children’s education. Landrau mentors young Latinas, providing informal mentoring and coaching, guiding them to make sound decisions, develop socially and enhance their educational skills.

Ryan McCollum, a 40 Under 40 winner in 2012, is the owner of RMC Strategies, which provides full service political consulting to candidates, elected officials, nonprofits and for-profit institutions. A founder of YPS of Greater Springfield, he is on several area boards, including 16 Lyrics, Suit Up Springfield, Square One, Healing Racism Institute, ROCA, NCCJ, and the marketing committee of the Springfield Museums. He sat on Longmeadow’s Coalition for Racial Justice Task Force, and also serves on the Rian Immigrant Center, which helps immigrants assimilate to our country. 

Chad Moir, president and CEO of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center in Easthampton, was honored by BusinessWest with both its 40 Under Forty and Difference Maker awards in 2021. A graduate of American International College and its Public Health program, Moir created DopaFit in 2015. The company uses exercise prograns to help people stop or slow down the progression of Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disorder that increasingly robs the body of dopamine, which is released during exercise.

Amy Roberts, executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer at PeoplesBank, has more than 18 years of experience working with business leaders to develop and implement people-management and talent-development strategies. An active member of the community, she has served on many boards including the United Way of Hampshire County, Leadership Pioneer Valley and CHD. She is a reader for the Link to Libraries program and serves on the Service Above Self Annual Luncheon Committee for the Springfield Rotary and Basketball Hall of Fame.

Alumni Achievement Award Judging Underway

When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so to identify rising stars across our region — individuals who were excelling in business and through involvement within the community — and celebrate their accomplishments.

In 2015, BusinessWest announced a new award, one that builds on the foundation upon which 40 Under Forty was created. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award. As the name suggests, it is presented to the 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of an independent panel of judges, has most impressively continued and built upon his or her track record of accomplishment.

Past winners include: 2021: Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County district attorney (40 Under Forty class of 2015); 2020: Carla Cosenzi, president, TommyCar Auto Group (class of 2012), and Peter DePergola, director of Clinical Ethics, Baystate Health (class of 2015); 2019: Cinda Jones, president, W.D. Cowls Inc. (class of 2007); 2018: Samalid Hogan, regional director, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013); 2017: Scott Foster, attorney, Bulkley Richardson (class of 2011), and Nicole Griffin, owner, ManeHire (class of 2014); 2016: Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president, Allergy & Immunology Associates of New England (class of 2008); 2015: Delcie Bean, president, Paragus Strategic IT (class of 2008).

This year’s nominees are currently being weighed by three independent judges, including last year’s honorees. They are:

Anthony Gulluni was sworn into office as Hampden District Attorney in January 2015 and is currently serving his second four-year term. He earned both his bachelor’s degree (2003) and juris doctorate (2007) from Western New England University. As D.A., he has promoted his vision of safer communities by innovative and significant investment in community building and outreach, crime prevention and education, and by focusing efforts on the smart prosecution of violent offenders. The Hampden D.A.’s Office has engaged with many community-based organizations, including Roca, the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, and the YWCA to broaden its reach and provide equitable services to all communities in need.

Keith Ledoux is vice president, Commercial Line of Business and Business Development at Health New England, responsible for driving commercial sales, marketing, and business development. He has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, and has a background in sales, healthcare information technology, and strategy development. Previously, he held leadership roles with MiHealth, Tufts Health Plan, Fallon Health, Minuteman Health, and Constitution Health. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Worcester State University and an MBA from Purdue in Health Care Adminsitration. He also completed the AHIP Executive Leadership Program at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.

Kimberly Williams is vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Stanley Black & Decker. She provides the center of excellence for the Stanley Black & Decker global DE&I community through the development and implementation of best practices, knowledge management, leadership development, and metrics that can be deployed by the local talent and affinity teams within each region. With more than 25 years of HR experience, she has supported and led DE&I initiatives in several organizations across industries, including, investment banking, health care, nonprofit, and aerospace manufacturing. She received her MBA in Human Resource Management from Syracuse University and her bachelor of Arts degree from American University.

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director of Food Service, Chicopee Public Schools; Age 39

It’s called the ‘Curbside Cafeteria.’ That’s the name now attached to an intriguing concept cooked up by Melanie Wilk and her team at Chicopee Public Schools.

Wilk is the Food Service director at CPS, and she’s constantly looking for new and impactful ways to improve the nutrition and overall health of not only students but all those in this community. Which brings us to the Curbside Cafeteria.

“A lot of families in Chicopee don’t have transportation to get to meal sites — we saw a big need,” said Wilk, who, with her team, was able to purchase a food truck with a Food Security Infrastructure Grant awarded by the state. Starting this summer, it will provide mobile meals to students on their way to school, during after-school activities, or at parks during the summer months — free of charge.

This intersection of nutrition and community is where Wilk’s passion lies. The Chicopee native wasn’t always interested in nutrition, but that changed after relocating to the Big Apple.

“I moved to New York for seven years, and I think that’s where my interest in nutrition kind of sparked,” she explained. “It was a little bit more trendy in New York to know about healthy foods.”

After returning home, Wilk pursued a degree in nutrition at UMass Amherst, although she never dreamed she would end up working for a public school system.

“Nobody intends to end up in food service,” she admitted, but while doing her food-service rotation at Chicopee Public Schools, she realized it was much different than she thought.

“We have a very large farm-to-school program, so we partner with several local farms and distributors in the area to do fresh fruits and veggies,” she recalled. “And that was so interesting to me and so different … that they were trying to provide such fresh and local foods on kids’ trays.”

Shortly after Wilk graduated, she stepped into her what became her dream job. About one year later, the pandemic struck. She mobilized her staff to use a safe drive-up method of serving meals; from March 2020 through June 2021, she and her team served more than 1.5 million free meals to Chicopee families.

Just three years since starting with CPS, Wilk couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else. She is working hard to ensure that hers is not just a food-service program, but a community program with a mission of combating food insecurity and helping children create healthy relationships with food.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director of Sales Operations, Webber & Grinnell Insurance; Age 35

In college, Reynolds Whalen said, his dual passions were acting and travel. So, in 2011, he founded a company, called Performing Arts Abroad, that offered international experiences to travelers in music, dance, theater, and film.

He focused especially on collaborating with marginalized communities around the world, using the arts for education, development, and social change, growing the Northampton-based company to more than 160 participants in 2019.

And then the pandemic struck.

“It started as an arts-for-social-change program in Kenya, a country I’ve been involved with for many years,” Whalen recalled. “It grew quickly, and we had a lot of success, but COVID just wiped everything out; performing arts and travel both stopped in their tracks.”

His next role, at Webber & Grinnell Insurance, might not seem like an obvious progression, but he was intrigued by being able to tackle a culture-building role at the agency, while creating a more data-driven model and empowering the team to do their best work as efficiently as possible.

Outside of work, Whalen is active in the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew in Greenfield, serving on the governing board, directing the youth group, and founding a digital ministry during the pandemic; he also serves on the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. In addition, he’s a member of Eggtooth Productions in Greenfield and is a teaching artist for public-school program that uses an immersive theater framework to boost literacy for first- and second-graders.

His heart for the international community still gets a workout, too, serving as board clerk and a member of the finance committee at the International Language Institute in Northampton. He also supports several Afghan refugee families through a Circle of Care group, doing things like taking them to their local survival centers to get registered, showing them how to navigate the bus system, and helping them enroll in free English classes.

“My passion for a long time has been creating understanding amongst people of different cultures and ways of living in the world; the most important thing for our country at this moment in time is access to information about other people and other cultures, and understanding the value that immigrants bring to our community,” Whalen said. “Our community is made stronger by people who are visitors or settling here from other places. Those aspects of the community are particularly important to me.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Community Development Director, Town of West Springfield; Age 25

Stephanie Welch has her own working definition of the phrase that now appears on her business card (or one of them, anyway): community development.

“To me, it means removing equity barriers for those around you,” she told BusinessWest, adding that she goes about this assignment in a number of ways through her role with the town of West Springfield, everything from help administering a down-payment assistance program to those looking to buy a home to work assisting the local food pantry in securing a much-needed new home.

And this same basic goal also defines her work outside of her day job as a consultant and as a controller for a local manufacturer.

“Everyone I work with is tied to the same goal,” she said. “All the organizations, from West Springfield to the private companies I work with — they’re trying to remove equity barriers for people.”

Prior to the pandemic, Welch was working as a project manager for a large consulting firm that specialized in work with small- to medium-sized businesses when she decided she wanted to make a career shift. She saw the position of community developer in West Springfield as a natural fit and a logical move.
“A lot of it is administering grant funding, but it’s also basic accounting and budgeting and doing strategic planning,” she explained. “And I thought, ‘I can do this.’” City officials thought the same thing, and she started just after the pandemic hit.

Since arriving, she’s been involved in the multi-phase renovation of the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club, which she calls her “pride and joy,” as well as a number of paving projects, job-training initiatives for non-English-speaking residents (there are many in this community), and that aforementioned down-payment assistance project, administered in conjunction with Way Finders, which is helping many city residents become homeowners.

“Many people will say, ‘I can afford the mortgage, but I can just never get caught up to make the down payment,” she explained, adding that the program provides $5,000 to those who quality to get them over that hump.

That’s just one example of barrier removal, she said, reiterating that her work outside of Town Hall usually takes a similar course. Indeed, she serves as controller to the Coating House, a manufacturer working to bring more women into that industry.

Outside of her many kinds of work, Welch skis, hikes, and hangs out with her rescue dog, Whiskey.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Marketing & Recruiting Manager, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Age 38

Choreography is the art of planning and arranging movements, as in a ballet or musical, so they come together in a cohesive and powerful way.

Sarah Rose Stack handles choreography in what would be considered the traditional sense — leading recent productions for the Opera House Players in Enfield and Little Theater of Manchester that include Shrek, Something Rotten, Legally Blonde: the Musical, and her latest, In the Heights.

But her multi-faceted work as marketing manager for the Holyoke-based accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, her day job, would also be considered choreography. There, she handles the firm’s marketing, digital presence, community outreach, public relations, business development, and communications, and brings all that together in many powerful ways that are yielding results on several different levels.

These include everything from a new, responsive website that has spawned a more than 200% increase in active users to a social-media strategy that has generated a nearly 900% increase in impressions and a 530% increase in engagements, to new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She also co-leads and champions the firm’s community-outreach program, coordinating drives, awareness campaigns, and service for a wide range of organizations.

Looking at the many sides of her life, Stack said they complement one another and ultimately make her better at each one.

“My formal training in music and dance has made me really good at my job in communications because music and dance is the ultimate expression of feeling,” she said. “And I really believe my career landed where it is because of that training … it’s the weird secret sauce in my background.”

Perhaps the most difficult assignment for Stack when it comes to choreography is her own schedule. Indeed, the retired professional dancer for the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse currently teaches multiple styles of dance at Nutmegs Dance and Theatre Company (while also managing the studio’s website). She’s also a seasonal choreographer for the Opera House Players; marketing co-chair for the Massachusetts Society of CPAs; contributing writer for publications ranging from BusinessWest to UFO Magazine; frequent public speaker on topics ranging from business development to marketing; active volunteer for several nonprofits, including Boston Children’s Hospital and the Boston Cannons Foundation; and devoted mother of two boys.

On top of all that, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in communications online at Johns Hopkins University.

Asked where she finds the time, she said she makes it, because all of those aspects of her life are important to her and contribute to who she is.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Founder, MOVE Athletics; Age 32

Roger St. Onge is no stranger to physical challenges. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he served two deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While in the Marines, he developed a passion for helping others with their fitness.

“I was helping the Marines that weren’t passing their physical-fitness test or meeting the height and weight standard to be able to pass those standards and meet the requirements,” he explained, adding that this passion stayed with him after his service was over.

Indeed, while working toward his doctoral degree in physical therapy at American International College, he taught fitness classes in Springfield and competed in both CrossFit at the regional level and Olympic weightlifting.

It was during this time that St. Onge noticed there were many athletes and active adults who were having athletic aches and pains, or getting injuries that were preventing them from exercising — and they weren’t getting any help.

So he made it his mission to get them that help.

“I felt like it was my responsibility to figure out a way to provide that service to the community because there was nowhere for people to get that help,” he said, adding that this mindset compelled him to pursue his doctorate. What he realized was that the standard route of physical therapy wasn’t necessarily the best route.

“Most of the care given in the insurance-driven world is not designed to help people get better,” he said. “It’s designed to help overworked, burnt-out, underpaid therapists manage their time.”

St. Onge founded MOVE Athletics as an out-of-network practice that would operate in a manner best for the client.

“We have a whole mini-gym in here so we can do literally anything that anybody needs to do to get back to fitness and an active lifestyle without being limited by insurance,” he said.

Outside of work, he lives an active lifestyle and loves spending time with his two children.

“We’re either going on hikes or paddleboarding, or in the winter we’ll go snowboarding,” he said. “I’ll shoot hoops in the driveway with my son or take the dog for a 20-minute walk with my daughter … just being outside with the kids and enjoying nature.”

It is clear that, whether inside or outside of work, St. Onge is passionate about playing an active role in his community.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Assistant District Attorney, Northwestern District Attorney’s Office; Age 34

Veronice Santana keeps a busy schedule.

As an assistant district attorney in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, she’s handling a full load of cases. She’s also an adjunct professor at both Bay Path University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and Western New England University School of Law, where she earned her juris doctor. She’s also active in the community, as we’ll see.

But she makes sure to reserve time to mentor those involved with Girls Inc. of the Valley and provide support to high-school girls preparing for college, especially those thinking about careers in law. This mentoring takes many forms and includes simply being a role model and showing them that no career, including the path she took, is beyond their reach if they work hard.

“I’m one of very few women of color in my profession, and so one of the things I enjoy doing is being a representative of the legal field and showing young women, young people of color, that this is something they can also achieve,” she said. “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

What those girls see when Santana is in the room is a rising star in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, one who was the first in her family to attend college, and someone who was firm of the belief that she would become a defense attorney until her last semester in law school, when a judge told her she could become more of a change agent, and impact more lives, as a prosecutor, especially in the Northwestern DA’s office.

She has come to believe those words, and in her role as assistant DA, she stresses that not all crimes need to be prosecuted and not all offenders need to be incarcerated.

“There are a lot of reasons why people commit crimes,” she told BusinessWest. Sometimes, they just need substance-abuse or mental-health treatment. I very quickly learned that this office is focused on alternatives to incarceration, restorative justice, rehabilitation, and treatment. And this is what I believe in.”

As noted, Santana, who recently rescued a dog which is now the “light of her life,” is active in the community. In addition to her work with Girls Inc., she’s a member of Zonta International and also serves as a member of Bay Path University’s paralegal advisory committee and as a board member of the WNE Law Alumni Assoc. She’s also on the Puerto Rican Parade committee.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director of Behavioral Health, Trinity Health Of New England; Age 36

Dr. Edna Rodriguez says there are few, if any, silver linings attached to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to healthcare and those who provide it.

But if there is one, she believes it is the way the pandemic has brought much-needed attention to the broad subject of behavioral health, attention that may bring some positive results in the years and decades to come.

“The past 24 months have shone a bright spotlight on a problem that was already there,” she explained. “We already had issues with access to care; we already had issues with people contemplating whether to seek behavioral-health services because of stigma and fears of how the system can play out for them.

“COVID has given a different level of importance to behavioral health,” she went on. “I’m hearing more senators, more legislators talking about behavioral health and budgeting for behavioral health … in a way, this crisis has humanized behavioral health.”

Rodriguez should know. She’s spent her professional career working in behavioral health, starting at the Gandara Center in 2013, after earning her doctorate in clinical psychology in Puerto Rico. There, she worked with the Latinx population in Springfield’s North End. She joined the staff of the former Providence Hospital (then an affiliate of Mercy Medical Center) in 2016, and was named to several leadership positions, serving as clinical supervisor of the Clinical Stabilization Unit, director of Clinical Programming and Social Work, and director of the Clinical Assessment Center and Ambulatory programs. She was named to her current position, in which she also directs Brightside for Families and Children, in 2021.

In that position, she oversees collaborations with Behavioral Health Network for crisis management in Mercy’s Emergency Department, manages psychiatric and addiction consultation teams, and ensures that resources are utilized effectively to treat patients and help them transfer to appropriate levels of care.

She also manages grants received by Mercy to help improve and expand access to care for those struggling with a substance-abuse disorder, and also oversees the overall operations of Brightside for Families and Children, an outpatient service offering counseling and family-support programs.

Rodriguez, a mother of two, is also active in the community, serving as a member of the Western Mass. Area Board for the Department of Mental Health; as a parent member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for East Longmeadow Public Schools; and as a leadership member of the Hampden County Addiction Taskforce.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Vice President of Marketing, Country Bank; Age 32

For Justin Roberts, being vice president of Marketing at Country Bank is all about giving back to the community.

“It all goes back to my interest that I’ve always had in giving back and making sure that individuals and organizations continue to succeed, especially the ones that have important missions that support the communities and the individuals that live in them and that need help,” he told BusinessWest.

Roberts’ desire to support individuals who need help was the driving force behind Suit Up Springfield, a nonprofit he founded eight years ago that provides professional attire in the form of suits, shirts, and ties to individuals graduating from high school or college, and individuals being released from incarceration who need assistance with their professional development. The program has provided attire to thousands of young men in the Greater Springfield area.

Additionally, Roberts has developed a partnership with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, providing professional attire to all inmates in the post-incarceration program. He’s even an honorary Hampden County deputy sheriff.

Beyond Suit Up Springfield, Roberts’ role at Country Bank has allowed him to be active with countless organizations.

“We do so much good and give back so much time, talent, and treasure to the community, which has always really been such an important part of my mission, my personal mission statement,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to both personally and professionally give back in so many ways, whether it’s sitting and serving on some boards or volunteering for some organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Square One, or my board involvement at AIC, where I did my undergrad and MBA work. It just all ties back to the opportunities that I have to continue to give back and support the communities and the individuals that make them up.”

Currently, Roberts is vice president of the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity board. He’s been involved with building 10 homes in the past five years for families in need of good, affordable housing in Western Mass. He was instrumental in raising more than $150,000 to build Tommy’s House, a house built in memory of Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, who died as a result of an act of domestic terrorism at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Tennessee in 2015.

Outside of his work and volunteering, Roberts loves to spend time with his family, his partner, Heather, and their two daughters, Maxie and Charlie. He loves playing golf, cooking, and eating good food.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Owner, N. Riley Construction; Age 39

Nick Riley knows construction changes lives — both those of his clients, when they step into a new home or undergo a dramatic renovation, and in his own life, in which a bet on himself paid off at a young age.

Age 24, to be exact. Riley had been working as a laborer for another construction business for a couple of years, and decided he loved the work, and how the results of his labor made people happy.

“I decided I was going to start my own business,” he recalled. “So I got into small remodeling, and gradually got into homebuilding pretty quickly.”

That was 2007, an interesting time to strike out on his own, with the global financial crisis and the Great Recession just around the corner. Riley credits his participation in an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build in Springfield in 2011 with bringing attention to N. Riley Construction and taking the firm to the next level.

“That definitely helped me,” he said. “Since then, we’ve been at it non-stop, growing by leaps and bounds every year. We’re doing 10-plus houses a year, large commercial buildings … I’ve got a good group of guys working for me, and that helps.”

It’s tough for contractors to keep and grow their crews these days, but Riley has been addressing that issue at the source, by cultivating the next generation of workers through an initiative called Student Builders.

“I’m the president, and I work with a couple other local people on that board,” he said. “What we do is purchase property in Chicopee — usually either dilapidated homes that need to be ripped down or pieces of land that need to be developed — and we set it up so kids in vocational programs, like carpentry, electrical, or landscaping, can build an entry-level house. It’s good, hands-on experience, and they can see if that’s something they want to do. It’s a good way to reach out to kids and get them into the workforce.”

The hope is that many will find the career as gratifying as he does.

“I love transforming people’s houses, working with customers and creating something for them that they’re excited about, that they’ll cherish for years,” Riley said. “It’s a very satisfying job. When I drive down the street and look around and say, ‘yeah, we did that house,’ or ‘we did that project,’ it’s nice. We take a lot of pride in our work.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Business & Community Liaison, Work-based Learning Coordinator, Westover Job Corps; Age: 34

Students at Westover Job Corps (WJC) receive technical training to pursue successful careers. Thanks to the efforts of staff members like Walter Rice, the students also learn how to have a successful life.

In his role with WJC, Rice builds relationships with employers in the community to create internship opportunities for students, so when they graduate with industry-certified training in welding, plumbing, electrical, and other skills, they have a path to employment.

That represents only part of the training, as Rice works with students to learn interviewing and interpersonal skills.

“We make sure students work on what they need to succeed on the job and to make sure they are empowered with independent living skills to maximize their personal lives,” he noted.

While sometimes called “soft skills,” he contends interpersonal skills are life skills that help a person represent their brand, and when combined with technical skills, the result is a truly successful person.

Rice is involved in about a dozen different community efforts in Western Mass. to make life better for young people. One notable recognition came from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Excellence in Community Outreach and Prevention.

“We had a speaker series called ‘You Can Be Who You Want to Be,’ where WJC graduates shared stories of how they were able to succeed in their careers and encouraged young people they could do the same,” he noted.

Rice lives by a philosophy of always doing his best and living in the moment.

“The most defining moment we can have is right now,” he said. “No matter what is going on, I have to give 100% of myself and try to make a difference right now.”

At the same time, he can see the bigger picture.

“All of us who work in the community have many people standing behind us and many who came before us,” he said. “Because of the work we’ve done collectively, our community is stronger.”

Proud of all his accomplishments at WJC, Rice recently joined the United Way in a similar role as a liaison for business and community organizations.

“I enjoy working in Western Mass. because we can really have an impact and help others,” he said. “It’s just an honor to serve our community.”

 

— Mark Morris

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director of Placemaking, W.D. Cowls Inc.; Age 39

Not everyone knows what placemaking is. But, to hear Hannah Rechtschaffen talk about it, maybe everyone should.

“Placemaking, to me, is really looking at the arts and culture and history and current residents of a place and really paying attention to how that place is developing and changing,” she explained. “Because all places are changing in some way.”

At W.D. Cowls Inc., specifically at the Mill District in North Amherst, a burgeoning center for living, shopping, dining, and lifestyle experiences, Rechtschaffen plans and executes events, convenes stakeholders in better leveraging the neighborhood’s assets, oversees the direction of the complex’s Local Art Gallery, guides internal team building and company growth, and interfaces with potential commercial tenants and developers.

“We want to create a great place to live and work and visit, by constantly paying attention to what’s here and what could be here and what we want here, and then stewarding that.”

The art gallery has been a particular passion; Rechtschaffen says the arts have been a lifelong passion, and her focus on economic development and how an ecosystem develops came after that.

“But I think the arts are very underrepresented; people don’t always imagine the extent to which the arts can be included,” she noted. On the other hand, “when we look at economic development, the arts are always at the core because artists are in the world to see things clearly and bring awareness and a voice to people, groups, or ideas that are not being seen.”

As a board member of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, she sits on multiple committees, including government affairs, marketing, the equity and inclusion task force (which she helped launch in 2021), and the first responders’ annual picnic. In Greenfield, where she lives, she chairs the town’s Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee, which is focused on tracking the use and communication of the town’s master plan.

“I live in Greenfield, and everything I get to effect in Amherst, I want that to happen in Greenfield as well,” she said. “It’s hard for me not to join in; I can’t expect other people to do it.”

Whatever her role, Rechtschaffen added that “my work is much more focused on equity and inclusivity than it used to be. That’s been a real gift of this time of COVID, a silver lining, as it were — I feel like I’ve always paid attention, but I’m putting more effort into paying attention to who a place is for and how a community is for everyone.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director of Marketing & Communications, Caring Health Center; Age 38

Aundrea Paulk likes to cut through the noise and deliver messages that resonate with her community. She is a natural born creator who loves the idea of trying to create new and exciting experiences for other people.

“What made me get into marketing was the fact that you were able to do these kinds of things in that field, whether it was for nonprofit, for-profit, in any kind of sector,” she explained. “If you’re in the marketing field, you’re able to be creative, but you’re also able to create experiences.”

As director of Marketing & Communications at Caring Health Center, a healthcare facility serving residents of the Greater Springfield area, Paulk is responsible for leading its marketing, digital-strategy, and brand-management efforts. She also handles analytics, communications, and public relations.

One aspect of the job she particularly loves is special events. “We create so many opportunities to connect with the community; it’s my joy,” she said.

During the pandemic, Paulk was a driving force behind the center’s multi-faceted campaign to inform and educate the public.

“I was involved with the communication strategies, such as creating various culturally and linguistically tailored videos for our community in several languages to first help them understand what COVID is, but secondly to make sure that they know how to stay safe during these times,” she explained. “I had them translated so that they were more easily digestible and that one could relate with the information that was there.”

Outside of her position at Caring Health Center, Paulk has her own company, Soiree Mi. It’s a local event-planning and design business that offers creative and personalized services for both private and corporate clients.

Paulk is committed to giving back to the community by organizing female-empowerment events while simultaneously raising awareness for causes that support women and families in Springfield. Soiree Mi’s events have raised money for such causes as Square One, the Endometriosis Foundation of America, and the YWCA of Western Massachusetts.

Paulk’s civic contributions don’t stop with Soiree Mi. She is currently a board member for the Springfield Boys and Girls Club and has also volunteered her marketing services for Strategic Alliances at Bay Path University’s annual Women’s Leadership Conference.

Outside of her many roles in the community, Paulk loves spending time with her family. She’s also a fan of art — she enjoys visiting museums and even does some painting herself.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley; Age 36

When John Pappas helps clients put together financial plans, he starts by asking what is important to them. Their answer is often family, a sentiment shared by Pappas himself.

As a third-generation financial advisor in the Pappas Group at Morgan Stanley, Pappas also values family. His main priority involves continuing the legacies of his grandfather — who started the practice — and, more recently, his father.

“It’s not often you have three generations in the same line of work,” he said. “It’s important for me to build on the great reputation my grandfather and father have established.”

Pappas finds the most satisfaction helping families organize their finances and form a plan that works for them and the generations that follow. This approach has made him a top producer in the Springfield Morgan Stanley office and has brought national recognition.

Forbes magazine included him on its most recent list of America’s Top Next-Gen Advisors. While he appreciates the honor, he credits it to the people around him.

“This is not a one-man show,” he said. “I received the honor thanks to a whole team of people dedicated to continuous improvement.”

Early in his career while working in Boston, Pappas became a Big Brother to a young man and saw for himself that positive mentoring works.

“There are no bad kids, just kids brought up in tough circumstances,” he said. “Positive mentoring can change someone’s life. Again, it’s about family and taking care of the next generation.”

Now treasurer and board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County, Pappas has continued his connection with the organization. “I like the idea of helping children find a path to success because it makes them and their family proud.”

This fall, he will be the next board president for the Children’s Study Home, following a proud family tradition. Both grandmothers have served on the board, with his grandmother on his mother’s side a past president. His father is also a past president.

“This is another third-generation opportunity afforded me because many years ago, my family recognized the important work Children’s Study Home does in our community,” he said.

In short, Pappas lives by the credo to always help others.

“If you can lend a hand to help someone achieve their goals, then you should do it. That’s how I live and what I would like to be known for.”

 

— Mark Morris

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Owner, Cellf Juices; Age 30

Jazlinda Navarro wants to help everyone squeeze the most out of life — figuratively but also quite literally. She’s the owner of Cellf Juices, Springfield’s first cold-press juice bar, which has become a manifestation of her entrepreneurial spirit — and passion for health and nutrition.

Navarro had aspirations of getting into a pharmacy program, but that changed after a month-long trip to Honduras. While there, she learned of the benefits of fasting, proper nutrition, and juice. Once she returned home, she began juicing for herself.

“I started juicing, and then one of my friends asked me about it — next thing you know, I’m juicing for my friend and then her friend … it became a chain thing,” she explained.

Navarro started selling her juices at a local salon. They became such a hit that she became inspired to help more people with fasting and nutrition.

“I knew I wanted to make something in Springfield,” said Navarro, a UMass Amherst graduate who signed a lease for space in a building on Bay Street, but couldn’t open her doors because of the pandemic.

She admits that this was a scary time, but she decided to utilize all she knew to keep her business dreams alive. As a result, she started offering outdoor spinning classes to bring in income. Her perseverance paid off, and she was able to renovate the space on Bay Street and officially open Dec. 12, 2021. She has since expanded her offerings with a variety of smoothies. Free smoothie tastings quickly lured customers to the store, and business took off from there.

“Our second month was really like a boom from out of nowhere,” she said. “We hit really good sales.”

Cellf Juices also recently began a recycling program. It teamed up with Urban Garden Composting to recycle juice pulp into compost. The business donates all the compost to local gardens and farms. Having a degree in horticulture and biology, Navarro knows the benefits of using compost in gardens. Cellf Juices also uses recyclable bottles and offers discounts to clients who return juice bottles.

Navarro’s goal has always been to help people take control of their health and their lives by making healthier choices. She encourages everyone to stop by and give her smoothies and juices a try. The most popular offering is the Brook Smoothie, a peanut-butter-based smoothie. And if you stop by, you’ll likely see Navarro with her goldendoodle, Bomar.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Medicaid Program Manager, Health New England; Age 29

Preeti Nakrani described it as a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. That would be an understatement.

She was talking about her internship at Baystate Health while she was working toward her master’s degree in Public Health at UMass Amherst. At the time, Baystate was getting ready to roll out its BeHealthy Partnership ACO (accountable-care organization), and as an intern, Nakrani was heavily involved with many aspects of that initiative.

So much so that the health system hired her as program manager for the ACO upon graduation. She provided daily management and support of the program, including establishing programmatic goals, care management for inpatient and outpatient workflows, tracking performance, and generating reports.

“I don’t think a lot of people get lucky enough to manage this type of an innovative model right out of grad school,” she said. “I see it as a blessing.”

Today, she handles many of those same responsibilities in a different setting and with a different title — as Medicaid Program manager for Health New England, an affiliate of Baystate Health.

Providing a quick job description, she said, “I’m essentially trying to help patients get the right care at the right time and try to help them use appropriate care settings and support them through whatever social, medical, and behavioral-health concerns they may have. The intention is that this [ACO] model will help people through a population-health approach and control some costs in our Medicaid line of business.”

Nakrani, who earned her bachelor’s degree in health policy analysis from Brandeis University, said she always wanted to work in healthcare — and especially in the public-health realm, where, as she put it, she could look at healthcare not from an individual perspective, but from a population perspective, and help underserved individuals. And she has essentially made this her career.

It’s a career marked by thoughtful and innovative approaches to the task of bringing down the cost of healthcare by focusing on improving the overall health of the region. And it’s a career that’s really just getting started.

Within the community, Nakrani is involved with a number of initiatives that are in line with her passion for healthcare and public health. She has been a facilitator of the ACO Patient and Family Advisory Council, a facilitator of Baystate Community Faculty meetings, an advisor for Baystate’s PURCH (Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health) program, and a volunteer for Baystate Health’s ‘poverty simulations.’

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Executive Director, EforAll Holyoke/EparaTodos; Holyoke City Councilor; Age 32

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti says she was just 8 years old when she had her first experience with effecting change in Holyoke.
Telling the story, she said she had a real affection for Friendly’s ice-cream treats. To get to the Friendly’s, she had to cross busy Route 5, which wasn’t a problem until a certain traffic light stopped working as it should.

Missing her ice cream compelled her to ask her grandfather what could be done to get the light fixed, and upon being told that she should call the mayor’s office … she did just that. And her phone call promoted some action.

And it did more than that. Much more. It empowered her, and, in many ways, it put her on a path to occupying an at-large seat on her hometown’s City Council; she won election last fall.

“From that traffic-light experience, I was like, ‘what else can I fix?’” she recalled, adding that she quickly moved on to the vacant field across from her house. When a candidate for City Council knocked on the door, she informed him that she would like to see it turned into a park. It took a while, but that’s just what that space became.

“I always had a deep love for local government, and I’ve always cared about improving my neighborhood,” said Murphy-Romboletti, adding that this passion eventually led to taking an internship with then-mayor Mike Sullivan while she was in college, which led to a job in the mayor’s office and, later, another job with the Planning and Economic Development department.

Her love of Holyoke and desire to build its business community took a different path when, in 2016, she became director of SPARK, a nonprofit that was part of the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, and merged it into EforAll, now a national organization.

In just over five years, she’s helped more than 50 businesses launch and expanded EforAll Holyoke with a program in Spanish, EparaTodos. Her work to build EforAll earned the organization recognition as one of BusinessWest’s Difference Makers in 2021.

But her passion for Holyoke runs even deeper. Indeed, for many years now, she has been a member of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, and has served as chair of MassHire Holyoke.

Two dozen years after getting that traffic light working, she’s still looking for things to fix, and for ways to make her city a better place to live, work, and operate a business.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

President, Quality Fleet Service Inc.; Age: 37

Nick Moynihan believes success comes to those who aren’t afraid of hard work.

Since childhood, Moynihan had an interest and an ability to fix mechanical things. At age 20, while working as a fleet mechanic, he bought a business that was about to close. Included in the sale were two trucks — only one worked — and a list of a dozen customers. When he reached out to the customers, all but two doubted this young man could handle their business.

“It was always my plan to go out on my own,” he said. “When the opportunity came at age 20, I thought, ‘even if I fail, I can recoup the lost years.’”

Mobile service for industrial fleets is a niche business, and servicing heavy equipment in the field presents its own set of challenges. That’s why Moynihan put in the work seven days a week at all hours to establish and grow his business.

“I had two choices: either get it done, or my customers would find someone else who would,” he said.

The hard work is paying off. Moynihan is president of Quality Fleet Service (QFS) and oversees two dozen mobile crews to repair heavy-duty trucks and industrial equipment for customers all over New England.

While mobile service is the main part of the business, Moynihan opened a state-of-the-art repair facility in 2016 that employs more than 50 people.

“Visitors to QFS always remark how busy the service bays are,” he said. “That actually represents about one-tenth of what we’re working on at job sites all over New England.”

The crews are so spread out that he plans to open service facilities in Central Conn. and Eastern Mass.

Mechanics at QFS receive certified training to repair any piece of equipment from the major manufacturers. This designation brings in business from area dealers who insist on service that meets the manufacturer’s standards.

QFS has partnered with Smith Vocational High School to teach students workplace skills, and one student is a part-time welder with the company.

“This is our way of introducing the next generation to the business,” Moynihan said.

He also serves on the board for Clinical & Support Options in Northampton because of its emphasis on holistic services to people throughout Western Mass.

Moynihan strongly believes in leading by example and that no one is above any job, including him.

“We have a successful company because we do the work,” he said.

 

— Mark Morris

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Senior Account Executive, Integrated Digital Specialist, WWLP-22News; Age 35

Kelly McGiverin’s involvement in Western Mass. can be traced back to the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round — and she has certainly grabbed the brass ring.

She worked at the merry-go-round through high school and while getting her bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing at Elms College. During her senior year of college, she took an internship at WWLP-22News, which was the jumping-off point into her marketing career.

Indeed, McGiverin soon joined the marketing and public-relations firm Market Mentors, where she gained considerable experience in marketing, advertising, and the digital industry, including backend digital-platform development.

“I decided to take a leap into a marketing agency; I went over to Market Mentors, and that is where I really fell in love with the area,” she said. “I was able to meet so many different clients, attend a lot of different networking events, expand beyond the digital to learn all about the TV, the print, the radio, the billboards — helping clients run events and really do everything I love, and getting involved in so many different local businesses.”

Now, McGiverin is back at WWLP-22News working her “dream job” as senior account executive. She coordinates media buys for digital and TV campaigns, among other duties.

Outside of her business accomplishments, she is dedicated when it comes to community service in the city of Holyoke. After years of consideration, she followed in her grandfather’s footsteps and joined the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade Committee in 2015. She has played a critical role ever since — she organized and chairs the Battle of the Bars, a top fundraising event, and acts as a liaison between the parade and WWLP-22News.

“The passion behind that comes from the history of my Irish heritage and my family growing up watching the parade,” she said. “My grandfather sitting outside of our house on a stool talking to everyone, my Nana baking corned beef every parade morning … just everything about it is, again, where that passion drives from sitting on the parade committee.”

Her civic leadership doesn’t stop there. She recently returned to the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round by joining its operations committee, volunteering her time to work with committee members to work on their social-media presence. Additionally, she is a board member of the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club as well as secretary for its executive committee.

It’s clear to see that McGiverin is a true leader — in all areas of her life.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Owner, Events by Jackie M; Venue & Events Manager, Montague Retreat Center; Age 39

Jackie Martucci is a self-proclaimed ‘Jackie of all trades.’

She started her event-planning business from the ground up, leaning on her background in management, hospitality, customer service, and sales. She jokingly admits that when she started her business, she really had no idea of what she was getting herself into.

“I wanted to start my own business but didn’t actually have the credentials to do that … I didn’t have a breadth of experience in the event world,” she said. “I really got into it because I was interested, but also I just put my nose down and worked.”

One thing that helped with Martucci’s progress was never turning down an opportunity to learn. She always seized the opportunity to go to every conference and learning seminar she could.

After more than 11 years in the business, Martucci’s interests have shifted from late nights as a wedding planner to working with nonprofits.

“I’ve been slowly evolving over the past couple of years because I really, really enjoy working with nonprofit groups and organizations on their fundraisers and bettering their businesses,” she explained. “I don’t want my tombstone to say ‘she was a great event planner’; I want it to say something more meaningful.”

These days Martucci is working with Square One, one of her favorite organizations to collaborate with, on its Kentucky Derby fundraiser. She’s also working on a fundraiser for the Cutchins Program in Northampton and is involved with Dress for Success Western Massachusetts, Reading Success by 4th Grade, and Christina’s House.

She’s also active in the community. Martucci is presently the president-elect on the executive board for the Junior League of Greater Springfield. She has been involved with JLGS for the past five years and previously served as the vice president of Communications.

Outside of work, Martucci loves to go to the beach, travel, or sit down and read a book. But nothing beats spending time with her family. She lives up to her title of ‘Jackie of all trades,’ but the common thread is her desire to give back to the community.

“I just want to do as much good as I can for as many amazing organizations as I can,” she said. “If that means that I’m doing work through volunteer shifts or helping them produce a fabulous fundraiser and expose them a little bit more, I’m so happy to do any of that.”

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Realtor and Team Leader, Hamre Martin Team, Rovi Homes New England; Age 35

While on active duty at Fort Campbell, a military base in Kentucky, Christopher Martin was a private assigned to a barracks with a roommate he didn’t know. More than a decade later, that roommate is now Martin’s business partner. Not only that, but he was the one who convinced Martin they needed to get out of the barracks.

“He told me ‘hey, we can’t stay in these barracks — they’re from the 1950s.’ There was black mold and a bunch of stuff. It was not an ideal situation to be living in,” Martin explained, adding that he ended up buying a house through a first-time homebuyer’s program, as did his roommate.

“We started buying investment properties, and it kind of snowballed from there,” Martin explained. “When I got out from active duty and went into the Reserves and came back to Massachusetts, it was just a natural fit to continue that process.”

Martin oversees and trains a nine-member team that provides residential and commercial real-estate services in Massachusetts and Connecticut. After each real-estate closing, a donation to a charity of the client’s choosing is sent to local organizations, such as Shriners Hospitals for Children and Square One.

Martin is also president of Suit Up Springfield, recently moved to a new location.. The nonprofit provides professional attire to those who need it, particularly targeting young men in Springfield who otherwise wouldn’t have access to business clothing, and it partners with other organizations to provide mentoring services and give individuals opportunities to attend career fairs. It also teaches basic but useful skills, such as how to tie a tie.

On top of that, the organization works with correctional facilities, veterans’ organizations, schools, colleges, and the general public to further their outreach and access. Since its inception in 2015, Suit Up Springfield has provided attire to thousands in the area.

Beyond his many roles in the community, Martin is a huge fan of the arts and loves live music. Recently, he discovered a new artistic passion.

“The current unit I’m in is in Brooklyn, N.Y., so I have to go to my reserve on weekends there … there was a ballet going on, and I went for the first time,” he said. “That was something that I was never exposed to, and that’s actually one of my favorite things to do now, to go a couple of times a year to the ballet.”

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst; Age 29

When asked why there are now so many colleges, municipalities, and businesses that employ administrators focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Alaina Macaulay gave a quick but direct answer.

“To be quite honest, many of the ways in which society operates are designed to promote some and exclude others,” she explained. “We need these positions so that we have advocacy for people, but then we’re also dismantling systems that have been oppressive and have kept people out.”

And among area DEI professionals, Macaulay has become a true leader. Formerly the director of DEI at Elms College, she has served for three years now as executive director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, and is the first person to hold that title.

A graduate of Western Illinois University, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees while playing on the volleyball team, Macaulay said each day is different, which is what she likes most about her work. But overall, she works with the Admissions team on encouraging ways to attract and connect with students from all backgrounds “so they see Isenberg is a destination that they want to be a part of and that they feel they can belong in.”

For students already enrolled, she works on programming and creating curriculum that centers the experiences of students that have historically come from the most marginalized backgrounds.

“I advise student groups; work with students, faculty, and staff closely on DEI initiatives; and I also help with training to make sure we’re all operating from an inclusive and equitable practice,” she explained.

Since arriving at Isenberg, Macaulay has many accomplishments and new initiatives to her credit, including:

• Creating and chairing Isenberg’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee;

• Launching Isenberg’s first Diversity and Inclusion Education Week;

• Creation of Isenberg’s “Many Minds” workshop series dedicated to discussions on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; and

• Building and maintaining relationships with K-12 organizations to create a pipeline of students from the most marginalized backgrounds.

In addition to her work at Isenberg, Macaulay is also very involved in the community. She serves on the board of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield and the Chester Theater. She’s also an active volunteer with Sisters of St. Joseph, specifically serving on its peace and justice committee, which is committed to centering racial justice and equity in the congregation.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Chief Financial Officer, Holyoke Soldiers’ Home; Age 31

Michael Lynch’s accounting and finance career has long focused on roles with a community benefit.

Like when he joined the city of Springfield in 2014, working in Disaster Recovery and Compliance, a new unit created after the June 2011 tornado to fund new housing projects, demolish blighted properties, and improve the city in other ways.

Four years later, Lynch transitioned to the state level, serving as fiscal director for the Western Region of the Department of Youth Services. When the governor declared a state of emergency early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Lynch immediately began working with his colleagues to procure appropriate PPE to protect DYS youth and personnel on a daily basis.

A little over a year ago, Lynch saw another opportunity he couldn’t pass up — as chief financial officer at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, which was still recovering from a mismanaged COVID outbreak early in the pandemic that saw dozens of veterans die.

“When this opportunity became available, I had to jump at it,” he said, noting that he was aware of what had happened there, but behind the headlines, he also knew changes were being made, and he wanted to be part of the team that could turn the facility around.

“This is a very special place because of the people we serve, but also because of the employees I’ve been lucky to work with,” he added. “The people here have such a deep level of care for the work they do; they are so committed to helping veterans day in and day out.”

Lynch, an adjunct professor of Accounting at Holyoke Community College, is committed to his community in other ways as well, namely through two charity golf tournaments he organizes each year that have, to date, raised more than $25,000 for local organizations like Rays of Hope, Miracle League of Western Massachusetts, Autism Speaks New England, Autism Connections, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Special Olympics Massachusetts, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Response Fund.

“I started these golf tournaments as a way to make sure families can come together to do something positive for local charities,” he said. “I love doing this; I love event planning. My dream is to add a banquet dinner afterward and a much larger raffle, which will ultimately raise more funds. It’s so exciting to me. I want to continue to do everything I can to help people and bring people together.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Co-owner, Kelley and Katzer Real Estate, LLC; Age 38

Joe Kelley says it all started with a hard read of Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal while on a family trip to West Palm Beach when he was in high school.

“My mother was always looking for something to light my fire,” he recalled. “So she got me that book; I read it cover to cover.”

Actually, that book only solidified plans he’d mapped out years earlier — plans to get into real estate, to own his own business, and to make some significant deals of his own.

At age 38, Kelley can say that pretty much every one of those goals has not only been met, but exceeded. He got into real estate soon after graduating from college, and before he was 30 he had launched his own real-estate company. A few years later, he partnered with Christine Katzer to create Kelley and Katzer Real Estate, LLC, a firm that has grown to two offices (in West Springfield and Feeding Hills), 10 agents, two administrators, and $52 million in sales in 2020.

As for deals … Kelley has been managing partner in several investment firms that oversee residential and business rental properties, new construction of residential homes, and renovation and resale of homes. Recent development initiatives have included everything from residential subdivisions — Angelica Estates in Westfield and Somerset Heights in West Springfield — to a medical office facility in what was a Knights of Columbus hall in Palmer.

But the success story Kelley is authoring himself includes much more than achievements in business.

Inspired by his parents and their strong track record of giving back, Kelley has been very involved in the community, supporting everything from the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club to Rays of Hope; from the Sister Caritas Cancer Center to local Little League teams.

Maybe the best example of his commitment to helping others, though, was an initiative he and the team at Kelley and Katzer launched during the height of the pandemic called Friends Helping Friends in the Community, created to assist struggling residents and businesses alike. Businesses were asked to partner with Kelley and Katzer and sponsor a restaurant that would supply bag lunches to the Parish Cupboard to give out.

When not working or helping in the community, Kelley said he’s spending time with his family — his wife Keri and sons Teddy (2) and Harrison (11 months). They enjoy going on walks and playing in the backyard.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Community Outreach Specialist, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts; Age 31

Sasha Jiménez has performed plenty of jobs in her life — gas-station cashier, summer-programs facilitator, teacher of English and science, just to name a few — but her current role may be closest to her heart.

As the Community Outreach manager for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Jiménez provides resources to organizations across the Commonwealth and connects them to referral partners. She also gives presentations at schools and other venues and is the team lead for the organization’s HIV-prevention plan.

Her interest in this area was sparked as a freshman at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School. “I was exposed to such a broad range of topics, one of them being sexual reproductive health — not just the disparities that existed, but also the atrocities done to Puerto Rican women and Nicaraguan women, and how important sexual reproductive health is to marginalized communities,” she explained. “I’ve been passionate about it ever since.”

Even while teaching at Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, she’d bring in Tapestry to give workshops on consent, and coordinated a donation drive to make menstrual products available and easily accessible at area high schools and homeless shelters.

Her daughter has been another source of her passion. “I’m trying to build a place where she can access something as basic as menstrual products or birth control or a Pap smear or chest exam. Part of my profession is making sure this work continues — not only for my daughter, but so all women have access to sexual reproductive health.”

Active in the community, Jiménez was instrumental in the passing of the Paris Agreement Declaration 4.0, signed by Mayor Domenic Sarno, designating Springfield as a Fast Track City committed to HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness initiatives.

Jimenez, who has earned degrees at Springfield Technical Community College, Smith College, and UMass Amherst, has also helped Putnam students access extracurricular opportunities for college readiness and improved MCAS scores through social and emotional learning; supported Inclusive Strategies and its goal of addressing systemic racism statewide; organized and advocated for political candidates; and worked with domestic-violence survivors at the YWCA while providing support with housing, employment, and other social determinants of health.

That role at the YWCA, in particular, opened Jiménez’s eyes to health disparities among women, especially in regard to intimate-partner violence, HIV prevention, and substance-use disorder, she said.

And as for all those other jobs in her past? They’re all important on her journey to the critical work she’s doing today, she said. “It’s always OK to be passionate and pursue something else and follow whatever feeds your soul.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Chief Executive Officer, HomeCare Hands; Age 38

One of Sina Holloman’s favorite quotes is “fortune favors the bold.” But she adds to it, “once you receive that fortune, social responsibility becomes your mission.”

After starting with a single client, Holloman’s HomeCare Hands provides in-home caregiving throughout Western Mass., Connecticut, and even into Boston.

Originally trained as a nurse, she enjoyed working with seniors and began researching how to turn her passion into a business. Now celebrating its seventh anniversary, HomeCare Hands has always found ways to expand to meet client needs. Originally providing homecare and personal aides, the business added a transportation division to help clients get to appointments. During the pandemic, the company created a staffing agency to help medical facilities find workers. This year, HomeCare Hands opened an education division to train future home health aides and personal-care assistants.

Along the way, Holloman has always been eager to learn, and joined a business mentoring group.

“I was hoping to be a mentee, but they asked me to be a mentor,” she said. “It was a great experience because it helped me grow as a person and as a businesswoman.”

Now in demand as a speaker for groups and conferences, Holloman enjoys sharing all that she’s learned.

“I didn’t have a mentor, so I want to be there for others,” she said. “I tell them, ‘as long as you show up, have grit and patience, you can do this.’”

Holloman created the Humble Heroes Foundation to recognize everyday caregivers, the people who quietly care for a loved one or a neighbor. While many organizations support the afflicted person, she noted, those providing care are often overlooked.

“We want to take the people who are always in the back and bring them forward,” she went on. “We want to let them know we appreciate them and we see them.”

The recognition involves granting any kind of wish the caregiver might have as well as free care from HomeCare Hands. While Holloman thought the requests would be for exotic vacations, instead they were for simpler things like spa days and going out for dinner. “It was humbling to see what people actually wanted and what made them feel good.”

Now with more than 200 employees and growing, Holloman sees it as her responsibility to keep making bold moves for her clients and community.

“We’re in the business of people,” she said. “They need us, and they can’t wait.”

 

— Mark Morris

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Co-executive Director, Women of Color Health Equity Collective; Age 39

Jenise Katalina and her family are avid Marvel fans, always up to see the latest MCU movie. But the heroes on screen have nothing on Katalina.

She serves as the co-executive director of the Women of Color Equity Collective, which recognizes the mental-health issues that mothers face, and addresses them.

“To not get food on the table or the constant rejection you face trying to get assistance for your family, that plays a huge role in your mental health, and then that plays a huge role in your physical well-being,” said Katalina, adding that the Collective’s approach is to address things at a systemic level and support individuals at the same time. It is a holistic model that recognizes that mental and physical well-being impact each other.

Katalina has spent her career in family and social-service work, a field that essentially chose her, rather than the other around.

“I feel like I’ve always been in it; I started at a young age in high school working after-school programs, early-ed programs, and just continued,” she noted. “I worked in an after-school program that was a drop-in center in the North End of Springfield and really loved it. I enjoyed the people that I met and the people coming from different backgrounds and different experiences.”

The ability to build relationships and create engaging programs played a big role in inspiring her career.

“I felt like it was creating a safe space for them that they were able to have a say in, so they felt empowered to contribute toward decision making in that space,” she said.

Katalina went on to earn her master of social work degree from Springfield College. While making home visits, she became exposed to the different systems parents were trying to navigate. It was then that she noted the treatment and biases these parents faced. It was these experiences that brought her into social justice, knowing she had to explore these inequities.

“I wanted to know why people were being treated differently and why some families were getting access and other families not, when it made a huge difference on whether they could get food on the table for their children,” she explained. “And I wanted to know why they were being turned away or told that they didn’t qualify for things when I could see them struggling.”

Katalina’s leisure activities are an extension of her love of people and cultures. She enjoys taking her children to explore new places, cultures, and communities.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Principal, West Springfield Middle School; Age 39

Peter Gillen has been a champion on Wheel of Fortune. Indeed, he and his wife, Lynn, won some money and a cruise on the popular game show a few years ago.

But that’s just one, albeit high-profile, example of his ability to solve problems and come up with the right answers to some difficult questions.

Indeed, Gillen, a former English teacher, is now principal of West Springfield Middle School, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the Commonwealth — and also one of the most diverse; there are more than 1,000 students at the school, and more than 20 different languages are spoken.

All this presents a challenge, and Gillen, as noted, enjoys challenges.

“One of the things about the job that I love is that every day is active; I love that every day is a problem to solve, and different people to connect with,” said Gillen, who, through his leadership, has led his school to a number-3 ranking among middle schools in the state, according to U.S. News and World Report, an accomplishment that helped him earn Massachusetts State Principal of the Year honors in 2019.

But for Gillen, it’s not about awards and rankings, but instead about creating a successful learning environment and helping students reach higher and clear hurdles they might have thought were too high for them.

“My passion has always been helping people do things they didn’t think they could,” he said. “There’s no bigger thrill than seeing someone accomplish something they thought was too difficult, and the perfect avenue for that passion is coaching and teaching.”

And he’s been successful in both roles. In 2007, he received the Harold W. Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Teaching. As for coaching, he was head coach of the West Springfield boys and girls cross-country and track and field teams for several years, leading them to a combined total of six league championships. Currently, he coaches with three youth basketball programs for his three eldest daughters in the East Longmeadow Parks and Recreation Department.

Meanwhile, he serves on the board of directors for the New England League of Middle Schools, he’s a Massachusetts State Middle Level Athletics Commission board member, and he’s a co-founder of NPT Education, LLC, an educational consulting and training company that provides many free services to educators across the country.

In short, he can spell ‘success,’ even when several of the letters are missing.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Founder, Estoy Aqui LLC; Age 29

Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about. But Ysabel Garcia knows firsthand that it is a subject that must be addressed. A first-generation Dominican immigrant, she identifies as a psychiatric survivor who experienced what she calls the “failures of the mental health system.”

“I got stuck in the psychiatric hospitalization residential programs system,” she explained. “I started this whole journey of hospitalizations. Social workers started to come to the home we moved into … but the thing about that is that any time I said that I was suicidal, they wouldn’t ask me questions or anything like that. The only thing they did was pick up the phone and call 911. Then, police would come to the home and then get me into basically an emergency room for hours to then be hospitalized, to then be thrown into residential programs … every two to three months, I was in the hospital just because social workers didn’t know how to handle conversations about suicide.”

Eventually, Garcia obtained her GED and then a degree in child psychology from Bay Path University, where she would later earn her master of public health degree. After she began working in the field, she quickly realized that the system was lacking.

Her answer was to create Estoy Aqui LLC, an education initiative that provides suicide prevention and social justice training to organizations and businesses primarily serving Latinx and black communities to raise awareness of the underlying sociocultural and racial factors that increase suicide risk in these populations.

Looking back on her own experiences, she saw a clear need for such a venture. “I thought, ‘why is there nobody talking about what I care about?’ I started researching and looking for organizations to find out who is talking about suicide or who is talking about the psychiatric system, the abuses that go on in there, because it is not only that I was involuntarily hospitalized, it’s also that I went through physical restraints, solitary confinement, and a bunch of abuses.”

Garcia realized that the people working in the psychiatric system didn’t take into consideration social or cultural factors or assimilation problems that someone like herself went through.

“They looked at everything through a very white lens,” Garcia said, and she knew she needed to do something about it. She’s doing just that, as a social justice educator, a skilled dialogue facilitator, a wounded healer, and a change agent.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Community Development Manager, Sevita; Age 33

When asked what she loves most about her job, Giselle Gaines had trouble picking out anything she doesn’t love.

“It doesn’t feel like work,” she said. “They say if you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. This is a lifestyle for me.”

She was speaking about her role with Sevita, a provider of home- and community-based care for people of all ages with any number of needs. “We offer adults, children, and families high-quality services and supports that lead to growth and independence no matter what physical, intellectual, or behavioral challenges they face.”

The organization, once known as the Mentor Network, has been around for 50 years, providing services ranging from home care and adult day health to foster care and programs for children with autism. As the Community Development manager, Gaines brings new partners and new revenue streams to the company, but also serves as a liaison between the community and those services, building relationships with other healthcare professionals who can help clients.

“I feel I can relate to these families and bring my own story to them,” she said. “I have children with disabilities as well. Part of the reason I chose this vital work is to help build a world I want for my kids and other kids when they become adults.”

As the mother of four children with autism, Gaines wanted a career where she could advocate for her family and others like it. But she has a heart for serving the community in other ways, too.

A Leadership Pioneer Valley alumna and coach, she’s also the Diversity and Outreach officer for the Springfield Ward 4 Democratic Committee and worked with Springfield College staff on last year’s Be the Change event, which promoted leadership and civic engagement. She’s also a board member of Easterseals Massachusetts’ Western Mass. Regional Board; founder and board chair of the Miracle Marc Foundation, which promotes water safety; and a board member with Keep Springfield Beautiful.

She also created 413 Community Hands, a collaboration among local organizations to bring essential resources, education, and healthcare access to people and communities in need.

Why take on all that on top of her career and family? Again, she doesn’t consider it work. “I want to be the change I want to see in the world, and I strive to do that every single day.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Superintendent of Operations, Westfield Gas + Electric; Age 33

Folks in Westfield don’t always see Greg Freeman during the best of times. But he’s always trying to make things better.

Freeman has been working with the city for the past decade, starting in the Engineering department, where he performed mostly clerical work, but rising up the ranks through a series of promotions to his current role as superintendent of Operations at Westfield Gas + Electric, overseeing more than 70 employees.

“Whether it’s someone building a new house or someone whose furnace fails in the winter, and we run a new gas line to the house, or the phone calls during the last storm that took out branches, and we got their power back up, we’re seen as very valuable to the town because of our quick response and reliability,” he explained.

Freeman, who earned degrees at Springfield Technical College, UMass Amherst, and Norwich University, oversees the general operations of both the natural-gas and electrical sides of the municipal utility, including construction, storm response, and regulatory compliance.

“I enjoy being part of the community I live in — that’s the biggest thing,” he said, with his community-outreach roles ranging from Dig Safe campaigns to safety and career presentations at local schools. “Almost every day is different, but helping people out and giving back to the community is nice.”

As the safety officer for WG+E, those civic engagements are especially meaningful. “Every year, we do a safety class with fifth-graders, things like how to notice a natural-gas odor or what’s not safe when you see downed wires. We try to get word out there as much as possible.”

Michael Erwin, an electrician and business owner who nominated Freeman for 40 Under Forty, noted that “Greg continues to work together with his team of colleagues to promote infrastructure improvements, foster safety culture, promote the success of future WG+E endeavors such as fiber, and is the embodiment of the term ‘community.’”

Through all of that, family is especially important to Freeman, who has four children, all under age 9, with his wife, Kelly.

“My biggest cheerleader is definitely my wife, and my family is my biggest accomplishment, and also my biggest motivator,” he said. “When I’m working a long day or I’m out on a storm for days on end, I always know I have a good group behind me, supporting everything I do.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

CEO, Wellness for the Culture; Age 32

Whitney Dodds is on a mission to shift the narrative on mental healthcare in black and brown communities. And she told BusinessWest that her inspiration was her own life experience.

“My lived experience as a black woman living here in the city of Springfield was such a traumatic background, and I didn’t really have an understanding of what therapy was and how to utilize it,” she recalled, adding that, if she had such an understanding of what was available and how safe it was, her early life would have been different — and better.

Dodds earned a degree in psychology from UMass Amherst and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from American International College. It was during her college years that she questioned why she didn’t have therapy and why she didn’t know what therapy was. It was then that she realized things needed to change; she knew not only that something needed to happen, but that she needed to be the one to make it happen.

And that’s exactly what she’s doing as the founder of Wellness for the Culture, a mental-health organization in Springfield.

“We offer individual and group therapy services — that is the meat of what we do,” she explained. “We also provide educational training and workshops to professionals. We have an internship program where we offer education for them as well to get into the field.”

On top of that, Wellness for the Culture offers wellness-track education, which includes things like yoga, mindfulness, and “just anything involved with healing — generational healing,” she explained.

Wellness for the Culture caters to marginalized populations, specifically black and brown populations, who are often apprehensive in seeking out therapeutic services based on safety and the history of abuse in therapeutic techniques and practices against people of color.

Outside of work, Dodds has three “amazing” boys to whom she enjoys being a soccer mom, basketball mom, and piano mom. She loves reading, as well as date nights with her husband. She adds that what keeps her sane is anything that she can do with her hands — particularly gardening. She also values the importance of self-care so that she can continue to do the important work that goes on at Wellness for the Culture.

 

— Elizabeth Sears

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Deputy Public Health Commissioner, City of Springfield; Age 34

When you hear someone referring to a “friend of the homeless,” they may be talking about Tiana Davis.

After working for years in healthcare, Davis changed her career path from direct patient care to public health. When she earned her master of public health degree with a concentration in community health education and health policy & management from UMass Amherst, she didn’t envision herself in her current position, but she’s found that she has a passion for service.

Davis, who first earned an associate’s degree at Springfield Technical Community College, oversees services for the Homeless Health Center, a federally qualified health center in the city of Springfield that provides quality primary healthcare, dental care, behavioral-health services, and comprehensive support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness within Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.

She oversees the day-to-day operations relating to patient care, staff development, training, program data and collection, and billing. She also manages the contracts with community partners with whom she collaborates to provide services to individuals within the community. For instance, she works closely with Mercy Medical Center and Baystate Health.

Davis works tirelessly to ensure that people without housing are treated with dignity and respect by assuring that quality medical care is rendered. She has strengthened partnerships by cultivating relationships with open-door/open-pantry programs and the Friends of the Homeless program by helping to enhance their case-management systems.

As a consummate professional who takes her job very seriously, Davis led the Homeless Health Center organization through a site visit that was conducted by the Health Resources Services Administration, the department’s federal funding organization, and was extremely successful.

Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris noted that, during the pandemic, Davis’s ability to guide health services for the homeless was key to assuring that medical care for homeless population was rendered with steadfast consistency through that difficult period.

Davis received recognition from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) for staff-development programs. The citation acknowledges her commitment to public service, as well as her ongoing dedication to enhance the quality of services delivered to residents of the Commonwealth.

When asked what she does for fun outside of work, she replied, “I love gardening and eating. I like to explore different types of foods from various cultural backgrounds. I like trying different foods and going to different places to eat.”

 

— Elizabeth Sears

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Owner, Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop; Age 39

Lucy Damkoehler has always blended (that’s an industry term) her passion for baking with a desire to give back to the community.

But during the pandemic, these twin forces came together as never before, and in a very powerful way.

The program was called Take & Bake Meals. It started small, right after the lockdown in mid-March 2020, with Damkoehler, chef and owner of the suddenly sidelined Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop in Bernardston, making six chicken pot pies with the belief that elderly individuals and families coping with COVID could use them. Suffice it to say, she was right.

“I had these pies … I said, ‘I’m going to put this on Facebook, and maybe one or two people will want one.’ Within a half-hour, every one of them was sold, and I had 10 more people calling for them,” she said, adding that the pot pies, mac-and-cheese dinners, and other offerings would be dropped off on neighbors’ doorsteps, sent off to colleges, and brought to others in need of quick, nutritious meals. At the height of the program, she was making 50 to 60 meals a day.

And while Take & Bake Meals certainly helped those in the community, it gave a new and improved lease on life to Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop as well. Indeed, the pot pies have now become a staple for the business, and they have introduced it to new audiences that have become steady clients, enabling Damkoehler to add employees and grow her venture.

Take & Bake helps explain why Damkoehler is a 40 Under Forty honoree, but there is so much more to the story. She started baking at a very young age and took her first job at a bakery in Deerfield. She earned an associate of occupational studies degree at New England Culinary Institute, then moved to New York to work under Claudia Fleming at the Gramercy Tavern. She eventually settled in Washington and spent the next 12 years building her reputation as an industry leader.

Desiring to return home — and fulfill her dream of opening her own business, she launched Sweet Lucy’s Bakeshop. In addition to those pot pies, it specializes in croissants, muffins, scones, cookies, and more.

As noted, Damkoehler is also active in the community, serving on the board of trustees for the Cushman Library in Bernardson. She’s also involved with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Franklin County Community Meals, and Empty Arms Bereavement Support.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director of Development & Communications, Girls Inc. of the Valley

Jessica Colson was looking for a new and different career challenge — a position where she could utilize her skills in fundraising and digital marketing, and in a setting where her personal mission aligned with her work.

She found all that after a quick visit to the Girls Inc. of the Valley website.

“A pro-girl environment is something I experienced as a softball player growing up and playing for various teams,” she explained. “I was able to thrive in that environment, so I could clearly see the need for such an organization in the community. It was a very easy decision to apply for the job there.”

We’ll get back to the softball in a minute, because it’s a big part of this story. But first, that job she took. It put her on a path to becoming the director of Development & Communications for the Holyoke-based nonprofit, a position with many responsibilities in both marketing and development, from events to mail appeals; from writing newsletters to coordinating the May 5 Spirit of Girls fundraiser, a drive-in event at the Big E with a goal of raising $100,000.

Summing it all up, she said it’s her job to make sure the Western Mass. community knows about Girls Inc. and its many programs — and that these programs have the funding they need to continue.

It’s a big job, one in which she works closely with other team members to achieve the organization’s stated goals — and set some new ones for the future. Which is what she’s always done while playing, coaching, and teaching softball, which is her other passion.

A long-time player — at Agawam High School and then Elms College, where she earned both a bachelor’s degree in sports management and an MBA — she is now a volunteer assistant coach at Elms, working specifically with pitchers. She’s also the head coach of the JV girls volleyball team at Agawam High School.

But softball is more than a pastime for her — it’s also a business. Indeed, Colson launched NWS Fastpitch, where she focuses on providing instruction to pitchers.

“It started as a real desire to give back to the sport that gave me so many life skills — communication, teamwork, pushing through adversity,” she explained. “I was really looking for an outlet to pass on my knowledge to the next generation.”

Active in the community, she is a board member for Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, and has been a team captain for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s for several years.

 

— George O’Brien

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Resource Development Director, West Springfield Boys & Girls Club; Age 30

You might call it coming full circle. Sort of. But not really.

When she comes to the stage to collect her 40 Under Forty plaque in mid-June, it won’t be the first time Sarah Calabrese has touched such an award.

Indeed, back in 2012, the West Springfield native, then a student at Holyoke Community College, was a communications intern at BusinessWest. One of her many duties that summer was to help coordinate and execute the 40 Under Forty event. She remembers handling a number of assignments, from helping with marketing pre-event to working the check-in desk and arranging the honoree plaques on the big night. She recalls something else, too.

“I remember saying, ‘wow, I hope I get this award someday,’” she told BusinessWest, adding that her experience during that internship helped propel her into what has become a career working in marketing, events, and fundraising.

She now wears all those hats and even a few more for the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club, which she serves as Resource Development director. She arrived at the club after stints with Western Mass News and later Comcast Spotlight, and said the shift to the nonprofit realm was sparked by a long-held passion to serve the community and help others.

“Working for corporate America was different, and I really enjoyed my position, but I missed my local connection; I missed my community and giving back to the community that I was a lifelong resident of, and that I live in,” she explained. “So it was a no-brainer when I saw the position open at the Boys & Girls Club. I have a huge, huge passion for working with youth.”

As noted, she wears many hats in this role, including marketing and the coordination of events, with both responsibilities becoming far more challenging during the pandemic. Displaying creativity and perseverance, she conducted many events virtually, enabling them to continue, successfully, in very challenging times.

Meanwhile, she carries out many of these same responsibilities for the West Springfield Rotary Club, which she currently serves as vice president. She is also involved with YPS and the West of the River Chamber.

And speaking of event planning, there’s one more big one she’s working on — her own destination wedding in Sicily, slated for July 2023, when she will tie the knot with Jack Dunphy, a West Springfield firefighter and paramedic.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director, Center for Social Justice, Western New England University School of Law; Age 39

From her early career, teaching elementary school in New York City’s Spanish Harlem with Teach for America, Ariel Clemmer has been passionate about changing lives.

“That was an amazing experience,” she recalled. “I was working with a community-based school, meaning most students lived next to the school in project housing. It was a small environment, and I was an outsider coming in, trying to shake up the system a little bit. That’s been true of most of my positions.”

While studying law, her initial plans were to be a public defender. In fact, immediately after graduation, she joined Bronx Defenders, representing low-income clients charged with crimes.

“From there, my career has taken kind of a winding path, but the common thread has been to help people and try to make the world a better place,” said Clemmer, whose passion for pro bono work saw her named one of the top 30 pro bono attorneys of 2014 by Legal Services of New York City.

What has stayed with her from her experiences in NYC was a burden for people who are struggling, especially those victimized by systemic inequities. She brought that passion to her recent role as pro bono director at the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and then to her current position, as director of the Center for Social Justice at Western New England University School of Law.

“Our mission is to advance justice through research, education, advocacy, innovation, and public engagement,” she said, and the center does so through initiatives like a sealing and expungement program to address harm caused to people of color by the war on drugs, a consumer-debt initiative to defend consumers facing wrongful credit-card collection actions, and a gender-affirming identification project that offers pro bono legal services to individuals who need help with gender-affirming name changes, birth-certificate amendments, and more.

“It’s an exciting time to be working in social justice and living out this mission through our programming,” Clemmer said. “I’ve always had the sense that the world would be a better place if everyone was allowed the same opportunities and treated equally, regardless of what makes them different. So many times in my life, I’ve seen that’s just not the case.

“When racial injustice happens, or other types of limitations are put on people because of disabilities or gender status or sexual orientation, it bothers me,” she added. “That’s why the work I do now is so meaningful. It enables me, every day, to work toward something better.”

 

— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Communications Director, Office of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal; Age 31

Margaret Boyle remembers her first real taste of politics — and it didn’t exactly go down well.

When she was very young, her father was a Springfield city councilor. She would go along with him to campaign events and even appeared, somewhat reluctantly, in a few of his TV commercials.

“I always said, ‘this is not the life for me,’ she recalled, adding that things changed in a profound way when she arrived at Smith College, and especially when she enrolled in a class at UMass Amherst through the Five College Consortium.

It was called “The Politician and the Journalist,” and it was taught by Congressman Richard Neal. By the end of that semester, Boyle was asking Neal if she could intern in his office. He said ‘yes,’ and that put her on a path that has taken her to the position of Communications director in that office.

This is a big job with many different responsibilities, from issuing press releases to updating Neal’s website on a daily basis; from handling all the social media for the congressman to following up with members of the press doing stories on matters Neal is involved with.

“No two days are alike, which is what I like about this job,” she said, adding that she’s in Washington at least a day or two or month and spends considerable time with Neal visiting some of the 87 cities and towns that make up a massive district that covers parts of five counties.

In addition to her work with Neal, Boyle is very active in the community, especially in ways that honor the memory and legacy of her father, William J. Boyle, who eventually became first justice of the Springfield District Court.

Indeed, with her mother, Rose, brother Martin, and lifelong friends of her father, she founded the William J. Boyle Scholarship Fund to advance educational opportunities for Springfield high-school students. She also played a lead role in creating the annual Run Billy Run 5K road race and one-mile walk, which last year raised more than $35,000 for scholarships. She not only organizes it, she runs in it, thus honoring another legacy — going for runs with her father years ago.

Recently, Boyle joined the board of directors of the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, and she is actively involved in fundraising efforts for the Susie Foundation, which provides families living with ALS with compassionate and enduring support services.

 

— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Vice President of Family Support Services, Square One; Age 37

Melissa Blissett brought a lot of personal items along for her 40 Under Forty photo shoot, and for a reason.

There are many things that are important to her, and she wanted to try to represent them all with one image.

She’s big into plants, and also reading. Family is a huge part of her life, and she brought along a portrait of the group, as well as a framed copy of one of her favorite quotes, and a pink elephant, which represents the sorority she belongs to — Delta Sigma Theta, an organization of college-educated women “committed to constructive development of its members and to public service, with a primary focus on the black community.”

There isn’t anything that directly represents her work as vice president of Family Support Services at Square One, but then again, all or at least most of those other items reflect what she does.

In short, her work is all about family, education, service to others, and helping others live the life they’ve always dreamed of while, as that quote goes, “remembering where you came from but never losing sight of where you are going.”

Blissett, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Lowell and a master’s degree in social work at Springfield College, told BusinessWest that while Square One is most associated with early-childhood education, the nonprofit has long understood the importance of supporting families. And it is her job to essentially coordinate and deliver that support, which comes in many forms.

“The parent is the child’s first teacher in general, so the goal is to provide educational support,” she explained. “We also want to provide and help them access resources within the community. We want to make sure that the child is safe, that the child is receiving adequate education, and that the family is getting the resources it needs to grow healthy children.”

Blissett first worked at Square One as an intern while working toward her master’s at Springfield College, and later joined the agency as Healthy Families and Supervised Visitation supervisor. She was later promoted to assistant vice president of Family Support Services and is now vice president of that department.

She is also an adjunct professor at Springfield College in the graduate department of Social Work and, as noted, very active with Delta Sigma Theta. She is also active at her church, Shiloh Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Springfield.

 

— George O’Brien

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