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Class of 2008

40 Under 40 Class of 2008

Age 29: Program Manager, WMAS

Rob Anthony says they’re the best three days of the year.

He was referring to the Children’s Miracle Network radiothon that he and others at WMAS radio — which he now serves as program manager, ‘afternoon host,’ and operations manager — have been part of for the past seven years. This is an intense, emotional, rewarding three days that raise money for Baystate Children’s Hospital (more than $200,000 during the 2008 edition) and each year creates memories that last a lifetime.

Like 11-year-old Devon Roy’s speech on Rosa Parks. It was perhaps the most unforgettable moment of this year’s radiothon, staged just a few weeks ago. Roy was supposed to deliver that address at her Greenfield school’s history fair, but she had to be in the children’s hospital instead because of her respiratory illness. So Anthony got the idea to have her read the speech over the air, with the entire school listening in the auditorium.

“There wasn’t a dry eye on the play deck,” said Anthony, referring to the area that serves as a broadcast studio for the radiothon, and including himself in that company. That’s one of the occupational hazards of the radiothon, he said, adding that he and others from the station often get emotional as they’re broadcasting, and have no regrets about doing so. “It just shows you’re human.”

Anthony says the radiothon is just one reason why he says of his job, “calling it work is a bit of a stretch.” In short, he loves music, and thoroughly enjoys being on the air. In fact, he left another station in the area for his first job at WMAS, at a considerable reduction in salary, because it afforded him the chance to get behind the microphone.

He’s still there, working the 3 to 7 p.m. shift, while also helping to set a strategic plan for the station, and charting an aggressive philanthropic course that includes work to assist groups ranging from the children’s hospital to the Children’s Study Home.

An avid sports fan and NASCAR follower (he’s a Dale Earnhardt Jr. devotee), Anthony must balance these interests and his work in radio with family, and especially his 8-month-old daughter, Kaitlynn.

The ’08 radiothon was the first since her birth, he noted, and this juxtaposition made those three days even more poignant — and special. George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008

Age 36: Chief Forester/Sawmill Manager, Cowls Land & Lumber Co.

Shane Bajnoci says there’s some science associated with sustainable forestry, but it’s also a bit of an art.

“It’s a forever-changing job, and I’m always trying to explain it to people so they understand what we’re doing,” he said, noting that it all boils down to managing a resource — the region’s large, but not limitless, supply of forest land — so that the needs of current and future generations can be met.

Bajnoci started his career at Cowls Land and Lumber Co. 12 years ago after earning a bachelor’s degree in Forest Conservation at UMass Amherst, and since then, his responsibilities have only grown. He leads a crew of 14 that harvests and manufactures some 2 million board feet of logs and lumber per year, while also managing thousands of acres of land and their boundaries in nearly 30 towns across the region.

His post also requires completing countless pages of state and federal paperwork, drafting management plans for the year, contracting with local loggers and truckers, and cultivating a small Christmas tree farm. Bajnoci also sits on several industry-related boards, including the Mass. Wood Producers Assoc., the Mass. Assoc. of Professional Foresters, and the Pelham Forest Conservation Committee.

But despite this workload, Bajnoci added another bullet to his resume this past year, leading Cowls’ participation in the Inaugural American Woodcock Initiative.

The business joined forces with the Mass. Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and the Wildlife Management Institute to launch the program, which focuses on habitat-management efforts that can curb the decline of various wildlife populations in addition to the woodcock, such as the New England cottontail, wood turtle, and gold-winged warbler. Bajnoci has incorporated initiatives that benefit these species into his annual plans, and, in 2007, garnered a Forest Stewardship Award for his company from the International Assoc. of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“I hope others can use us as a model for habitat management,” said Bajnoci, “and I want to create more habitats that would support certain species, especially birds. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also my passion to do long-term land management, so I’m glad I have a place to do it.”

And while much of his job revolves around cutting down trees, he’s also planting important seeds, and watching them grow. Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 38: Attorney (Associate), Bacon Wilson, P.C.

Jeff Fialky had several options when he was job-hunting a few years ago, near the end of his stint with Adelphia Communications in Andover.

A few of them were with Boston-based law firms, and they were certainly attractive, he told BusinessWest. But another was with Springfield-based Bacon Wilson, where his father happened to be a partner. He eventually chose the latter, in part because it meant returning to an area he grew up in and loved. But there was more; he really wanted to get involved in the community and “make a difference,” and knew that the opportunities to do so — and the need to do so — were here in the Pioneer Valley.

“In Boston, they don’t really need people to raise their hand and volunteer,” he explained. “Here, they do; here, you can make an impact.”

And since joining Bacon Wilson nearly two years ago, Fialky has committed himself to “walking the walk.” Indeed, while building a law practice focused on business and commercial real estate, he has been active in the community on several levels.

He’s a board member with a number of organizations, including the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the American Red Cross of the Pioneer Valley, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, or YPS. He’s also on the Advisory Committee at the Springfield Enterprise Center at STCC.

Fialky said his involvement with the Chamber, YPS, and enterprise center helps satisfy his desire to foster economic development in the region. He told BusinessWest that the Valley provides an attractive quality of life, but to attract and keep more young people it must also offer career opportunities.

Fialky is devoting considerable energy to YPS, a group formed in 2007. He is one of many shaping a mission for the growing fellowship of young leaders, and helping it make a significant impact — there’s that word again — in the Pioneer Valley.

Perhaps his biggest challenge at the moment is finding time to grow his practice and serve those nonprofit groups, and that test will become even sterner this summer, when Fialky and his wife, Emily, are expecting their first child, a boy.

“This is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time,” he said of fatherhood, adding that it will soon be the most important line on his resume — and still another opportunity to make a difference.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 29: Associate, Cooley, Shrair, P.C.

It’s all about family for Diana Sorretini-Velez. Without her mother and four siblings, she would never have grown up with the drive and competitive nature that has taken her to where she is today.

When Sorrentini-Velez moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico in 1985, she was just 7 years old. But she was a child with big dreams and an even bigger drive to succeed. That drive stems from her mother, who moved her five children to the U.S. with no job, no husband, and just 29 boxes of personal items. “That was it,” said Sorrentini-Velez. “That’s all we had.”

Thus, Sorrentini-Velez set out to make her mom proud just like her four other siblings, who made for some pretty big competition. “I made a bet with my older brother when we were little that I’d become a lawyer before he did,” she said.
“Sure enough, he changed his major to business in college, and I won.”

That same competitive edge and the theme of family can be seen in everything that Sorrentini-Velez does. Not only does she deal with some tough family and civil litigation, but she also makes every effort to give back to her community on a regular basis. As a member of the board of directors of the Spanish American Union, she is helping to plan the organization’s 40th anniversary. “It’s so invigorating to be a part of one of the area’s oldest Spanish organizations,” she said.

Sorrentini-Velez also contributes time and expertise to the Gray House, raising funds, and holding various food and clothing drives for the underprivileged individuals it serves. And recently she helped revive the Mass. Citizens for Africa, an organization focused on the educational needs of children on that continent. Slipping between the cracks for awhile, the organization is again on the rise, and Sorrentini-Velez is at the forefront of efforts to help get books and computers into classrooms in Africa. “Our goal is to get a computer in every classroom there,” she said.

But when she’s not helping in the community or working on a case, Sorrentini-Velez is usually visiting a family member or two. “I like to spend my free time visiting my grandmother and my mom,” she said. “It’s all about family.”

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: Founder and Owner, America’s Box Choice

Thinking outside the box comes naturally to Dennis Francis. So does thinking about the box and ways to shape it into a highly successful business venture.

But that would be expected from someone who founded a company called America’s Box Choice (ABC), a Holyoke-based enterprise that now does $2.5 million in sales annually only a few years after Francis started the operation from the back seat of his car.

After being laid off from a job at a box-making company in 2004, Francis decided to strike out on his own and act on a business idea that he wrote down on a napkin one day. “The general idea was just to sell boxes and moving supplies to people who were moving in the area,” he told BusinessWest. Just four years later, Francis is selling everything from mailing tubes to bubblewrap out of a 30,000-square-foot warehouse, and servicing more than 285 customers, including 180 UPS stores throughout New England.

But Francis’ ambition doesn’t stop with his company. He has been a major player in rejuvenating the Springfield Salvation Army’s Coats for Kids campaign. His company has provided boxes for the drive, and has transported the coats for cleaning. In addition, Francis rolled up his sleeves and helped families pick out coats during the annual distribution event last fall.

Francis told BusinessWest that seeing the families in need made him want to keep on giving. “You don’t realize how much help these kids need until you get involved,” he said.

Francis also continues to be an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society. After seeing cancer strike someone in his life, Francis turned to the American Cancer Society for support, and now makes every effort to give back. This year will be his seventh year volunteering at the annual We Can Weekend retreat for cancer patients and their families at Mount Holyoke College. “They helped me, so I want to give back,” he said. “It just feels good.”

When he’s not running his business or volunteering, Francis and his wife, Lori, like to travel. Recently back from a trip to Aruba, he said that, now that his business is off the ground, he’d like to travel more and perhaps take a trip across the country in the near future.

If he needs any boxes, he’ll know where to get them.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 38: Partner, Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn

Imagine walking into a court case thinking you’ll be defending a company that’s having trouble with a so-called ‘alien’ (most often interpreted as a person residing and working illegally in the U.S.), only to find out that the plaintiff actually believes he’s an alien from outer space.

This is just one of many interesting cases that Meghan Sullivan has encountered during her career. “Sometimes we come across people and cases that give us real pause,” she said, actually pausing for effect. And that partly explains why she loves her job as a labor and employment lawyer.

“There’s always something,” she said. “You can never begin to anticipate how people’s personal lives influence their work lives.”

While living and working in New York City in her early 20s, Sullivan ran into a variety of tough hiring and employment decisions, which would eventually lead her to pursue a law degree. “I was managing a retail store and kept running into situations where I’d need my dad’s advice,” she explained, referring to Frederick Sullivan of Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn. “I wanted to learn more about these employment and legal issues, and get my law degree.”

But doing battle in the courtroom is just one way Sullivan likes to spend her time. She also enjoys taking a spin on the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, which she has been riding since she was a child. “My grandfather used to take me to the carousel when it was at Mountain Park,” she said. “He stood for hours while I rode it.” After the park was closed in 1987, the ride was moved by a group of citizens to Heritage Park in Holyoke so that people could continue to enjoy it.

Today, Sullivan serves on the board of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, something in which she takes great pride.

“I often take my children to ride the carousel,” she noted. “It fascinates me that this same bit of amusement has spanned generations.”

When she’s not visiting the carousel, Sullivan spends her free time with her family teaching her children how to ski, a hobby she recently took up again. She also isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty digging in her garden. “It’s a nice way to spend quality time with my children,” she says. “Their interests have become my hobbies.”

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 30: Systems and Research Manager, Westfield State College

All women can be divas.

That’s a motto that Kelly Galanis lives by. Not only is she truly the self-proclaimed “diva of data,” as the systems and research manager for Westfield State College, but she also spends much of her free time helping other women find their diva side.

Galanis says her values for success were instilled in her at Bay Path College, where she spent six years attaining her associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees (the first person in the college’s history to earn three degrees consecutively). “I was able to collaborate with so many professional women there that I felt the need to do the same for other aspiring women,” she told BusinessWest.

As a member of multiple women’s organizations, including the Women in Philanthropy of Western Mass., Dress for Success and its Western Mass. chapter, and Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education, Galanis continually lends her time to ensuring that all women share her drive to be the best they can be.

She also likes the fact that meeting with a variety of strong and successful women in these organizations lends clarity to tough topics and event planning.

“I’ve always enjoyed getting to know people,” she said. “Dealing with these women makes things go much smoother.”

Galanis has also found ways to incorporate her diva philosophy into her work at Westfield State. While managing the database for the Advancement and College Relations Department, something she helped bring online just a few weeks after she started her job there, Galanis also finds time to coordinate the Girl’s State Conference. This huge gathering brings high-school juniors together from across the state to participate in a mock government convention. “It’s great for the girls,” she said. “They get really excited about government topics.”  

Even with all of this on her plate, she still finds time to help senior citizens learn how to use eBay, Digital Scrapbooking, and Microsoft Office by teaching a class at WSC through its Lifelong Learning Program. “It’s a lot of fun to see them get so excited about learning how to use the different resources,” she noted.

With that, it’s hard not to think that the diva of data is more like a diva of empowerment, which, in the eyes of many, is quite divine.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 37: Attorney (Partner), Doherty Wallace Pillsbury & Murphy

He was only getting started at Brown University, but Michael Sweet already had his career plans all figured out.

“I knew what I wanted; I was going to be a business lawyer at Doherty Wallace Pillsbury and Murphy,” said Sweet, adding that this ambition was actually inspired long before he got to Brown — and, later, its law school — by the words and deeds of long-time lawyers at that Springfield-based institution, including his former lacrosse coach in Longmeadow and mentor, Craig Brown.

Sweet fulfilled his stated career goal — his office is just down the hall from Brown’s — but not before taking a slight detour, specifically a two-year stint with the prestigious New York firm Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts. How he went from Wall Street and representing Fortune 100 companies to Springfield’s Main Street is an intriguing story, one the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. might want to borrow as it goes about selling the Pioneer Valley.

That’s because, while Sweet was once determined to make his career in the Valley, he thought he had to see the bright lights and the big city first — especially after hearing from other students at Brown about their plans. Only after doing so did he realize that he was right the first time.

“I had to get it out of my system,” he said of his New York experience, adding that he came back home to realize his early career ambition — and to make a difference in the community. And he’s doing so at places like Gray House, a large, gray house in Springfield’s North End that has created a number of programs to help disadvantaged families.

Sweet has been involved with Gray House for a decade now and currently serves as president of its board of directors.

He’s been involved with many other groups, including the Springfield Enterprise Center at STCC.

Giving back is part of the corporate philosophy at Doherty Wallace, he said, adding that this is one of many lessons that Brown and others have imparted to him — not through words, but with actions. And now, he’s providing inspiration to others.

“You do things in the community because it’s the right thing to do,” explained. “But you also do it because you recognize that we are part of the community, so it’s something you’re doing for everyone, including yourself.”

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 32: Director of Public Relations, Winstanley Associates

For Jennifer Glockner, it’s all about getting the word out.

The director of public relations for Lenox-based Winstanley Associates handles not only the regular PR work for her firm, but also similar duties for some big-name clients such as Spalding. Recently, she helped coordinate community events surrounding the visit of Prince Saud bin Thunayan Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, chairman of SABIC, the new owner of GE Plastics (now SABIC Innovative Plastics).

But it wasn’t always PR and the Berkshires for Glockner. Starting out in Kalamazoo, Mich. at a television station, she relocated to Denver, Colo. to become producer of a top morning show. The show even ended up with the highest ratings in the country for its market. Then, after meeting her future husband, who is originally from Pittsfield, she took another leap and moved to Massachusetts to become an advertising salesperson for the Berkshire Eagle.

“This is actually my third career,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I risked moving without a job or knowing anyone, but it was also nice to go off on my own.”

Despite her taste for new frontiers, Glockner thinks she’ll be staying put for a while. Since moving to Massachusetts in 2003, she has become involved with a variety of community organizations, including the Berkshire Leadership Program Committee, the Mass. Audubon Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries, and the Pediatric Development Center.

Most dear to Glockner, however, is the Junior League of Berkshire County. Initially coaxed by her mother-in-law to join so she could meet people and become familiar with the area, Glockner ended up falling in love with the organization. In fact, Glockner is slated to become the next president of the group.

“I am excited to take over as president. This is an organization with a great group of women in it,” she noted. “I know that we’ll get a lot done in the community over the next several months and have fun doing it.”

In her spare time, Glockner loves to ski, something she picked up in Colorado. But now that the snow is almost gone, you can find her and her husband, Theodore, trekking across the Berkshires with their loveable dog, Pudding, a 10-year-old chocolate lab, who can’t get enough of the outdoors — or carrots.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 31: Director of Development and Public Relations, Girls Inc.

Heidi Thomson has a real passion for spurring social change, promoting human rights, ending violence against women, and raising funds for all of the above.

These are weighty tasks, to say the least, but Thomson has already proven that she has the chops. Since joining Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization in Holyoke that works with young women, especially in underserved areas, Thomson has opened Holyoke’s first girls-only teen center, executed the launch of a $1 million HIV and substance-abuse-prevention project, spearheaded a mentorship program, and increased individual giving to Girls Inc. by 500% in one year.

She’s also held five different positions within the organization since 2005, each change representing a promotion. And as far as Thomson is concerned, she’s right on track.

“I love what I do because I’m a people person, and that’s the backbone of this work,” she said, noting that one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is working with the girls — like Solimar Fraticelli, pictured below.

“The girls we serve are very involved in the fundraising, and they never were before,” she said, noting that a project that has had particular impact is a series of facility visits dubbed Strong, Smart, and Bold Tours, for which girls are trained, by Thomson, in public speaking and social skills. Thomson said more than 200 people have taken these tours, designed to inform the community about what’s happening at Girls Inc.

But in addition to philanthropic work, she’s also passionate about moving her entire industry forward. As a board member with Women in Philanthropy of Western Mass., Thomson helps identify professional-development opportunities for women in the field, and also stays abreast of trends within the sector. This is important not only because it helps her do her job more effectively, but it also prepares her for the future, for which she has some very specific ambitions.

“My long-term goal is to work for an organization focused on international human rights,” she said, such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, or Unicef. “To be an executive director would be a career high. But I’m most passionate about ending violence and affecting social change; those are the goals that got me this far.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 35: Owner, Market Mentors

Once Michelle Abdow got her feet wet in marketing, she had to dive in.
“My big debut was working for a broadcast group in Eastern Mass.,” said Abdow of a role that included helping the company place media buys in other markets and otherwise target its dollars. “I also worked in the restaurant business; whenever we had big campaigns we were able to see immediate results from it, and I decided I really liked the field. It’s very rewarding to help clients.”
It’s even more rewarding to do it while calling the shots, which Abdow has done since launching Market Mentors, a West Springfield-based marketing and advertising firm, in 2002. “We’re a full-service marketing firm; we do all aspects of strategy, media buying, design services, public relations — everything to do with marketing and advertising.”

Succeeding in a world as fast-moving as advertising, one in which players need to stay on top of trends, if not ahead of them, requires a broad approach to reaching customers, said Abdow.

“Some companies call themselves full-service, but they’re really not. We truly are full-service; we can help with any type of buying, any aspect of marketing. We subscribe to Arbitron and Nielsen Media Research, and we have our fingers on the pulse of current ratings data. That’s a big expense for us, but I believe firmly in having access to resources like that if it helps our clients.”
In addition, she said, “we have an in-house writer, graphic designers, a complete creative services team. If we’re going to help people grow their own businesses, we need to invest in ours, and have the right people in place.”
Like many of this year’s Forty Under 40, Abdow balances work and home responsibilities — she and her husband have two children — with a healthy dose of community involvement; she’s on the boards of the Salvation Army and the Springfield Technical Community College Foundation, donates PR and advertising for the Shriners Circus, and helped bring back back the Coats for Kids program in Springfield, among other efforts.

“I believe it’s very important to give back to your community,” she said. “I live here, I operate a business here, and I’m raising my family here. I also encourage my employees to get involved in something they feel they can wrap their arms around. We really need it.”
That’s Abdow, always making a pitch.
Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: President, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services

One career was beginning while another was ending. And a local success story was born.

Andrea Hill-Cataldo was pursuing her graduate degree at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst at the same time Kelly Services, a chain of employment agencies, was taking back its privately managed franchises; one of those had been run by her aunt, who had been with Kelly for 35 years.

“So my aunt’s daughter and I started a company,” said Hill-Cataldo. “I was the sweat equity, and my cousin was the financial backing.” They hired two key employees of the former Kelly franchise, and Johnson & Hill Staffing Services hit the ground running in 1995.

“It wasn’t a typical startup,” Hill-Cataldo said of an operation that had plenty of connections right off the bat. “It had different challenges, like, how do I build an infrastructure to support this business coming in? At the beginning, we didn’t have computers, marketing … I was doing payroll for the staff at first, which wasn’t my skill set; I forgot to sign the checks the first week. But we built the business quickly.”

Johnson & Hill has grown, in fact, even when the general economy has not. “We tend to follow the economy, so if people expect a downturn, we see it first, and we usually come out of it first,” said Hill-Cataldo, explaining that employers will test the waters on an improving economy with temporary or temp-to-hire workers. “No business is recession-proof, but, having been through two downturns, I think we’re less reliant on the economy than some.”

Working a flexible schedule and juggling work and home obligations — she and her husband have a 4-year-old son, Frannie — can be tougher than a typical 9-to-5 job, said Hill-Cataldo. That’s especially true for someone heavily involved in civic leadership, on organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters, the American Cancer Society, and the YWCA. “It’s harder because there are so many responsibilities, and people depend on you for leadership, and you’re never done,” she said.

“But on the other hand, because I work for myself, I can make choices that are right for me personally, that wouldn’t be OK if I worked for someone else. To decide to be with my son today instead of making another sale — to be accountable to myself and not have anyone pressure me or question my priorities — that’s nice.”

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: Vice President/Retail Sales Director, Hampden Bank

Hector Toledo is a big believer in the power of forging a personal connection, be it with an organization, a cause, or a colleague.

When his son, Hector Jr., was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Toledo became an active member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, chairing its annual walk last year. He understands the importance of blood donations, especially after his daughter, Rebecca, was born premature, and now donates platelets every three weeks at the American Red Cross.

And as a graduate of Springfield Technical Community College, he’s a strong proponent of educational support for all students. Gov. Deval Patrick was among those who recently took notice of that commitment, asking Toledo to join STCC’s board of trustees.

“I went through the system, and I know what the struggle is like,” he said.

But beyond those commitments, Toledo serves on six more boards and volunteers on his church’s finance committee, in addition to serving as a vice president and retail sales director for Hampden Bank. He’s also a library commissioner for the city of Springfield.

“I try to stay busy,” Toledo said with a laugh, adding that, on a more serious note, he believes community involvement is an important family value. “We’ve been blessed, so we try to give back.”

Both personally and professionally, much of Toledo’s work is centered in Springfield, where he and his wife Danielle live and work and where their children attend public school.

“I’m tied closely to the community,” he said. “The bank is interested in the shape of Springfield because as the city goes, so will we. But in general, there’s a new excitement about the way things are going in Springfield, and I hope to participate in any way I can.”

Toledo added that he’s looking forward to continuing his work within various positions, always with the goal of making new connections.

“It’s gotten to the point where I’ve met so many people, there’s always someone I can call. A lot of what I do now is help people meet other people.”

That said, the next person he’s hoping to meet is a travel agent.

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: Co-owner, Atlas TC

Steve Bandarra, co-owner of the Holyoke-based IT solutions company Atlas Technology Consulting (TC), says that as his company addresses the needs of other businesses, there aren’t a lot of natural inroads to community service.

So, Bandarra cleared a few of his own. A new computer-recycling aspect of his business, for instance, will reduce electronic waste by appropriately disposing of some units, while donating others to area nonprofits and educational institutions. Not long ago, Bandarra offered some pro-bono work to Holyoke’s Enchanted Circle Theater, a nonprofit drama group specializing in performing-arts education, and liked the group’s mission so much he joined its board of directors. He did the same in his hometown of Northampton, where he liked what he saw coming out of the Chamber of Commerce, and became an active volunteer.

And then there’s what Bandarra calls the “kitten story.” It seems a stray found its way into a nook in the stones lining the Holyoke Canal near his office, and, hearing its cries, Bandarra climbed down to rescue it — and got stuck himself.

“This story keeps following me around,” he groaned, noting that, eventually, both he and the kitten wriggled free and now share a home, along with Bandarra’s wife, Meg Moynahan, and their dog, Lucy. To commemorate those rocky beginnings, they named the cat Pebbles.

Bandarra told BusinessWest that helping others, feline or otherwise, has long been a guiding principle of his life. However, it’s also his primary business philosophy. “I truly believe that treating people fairly and with respect is a formula for success,” he said, and so far, his theory is proving true.

Atlas TC, which Bandarra owns with Nathan DeLong, is enjoying brisk business. Clients seem to like the company’s focus on providing efficient, cost-saving technologies, as well as the staff’s ability to speak two languages — English and ‘geek.’

“We’re very happy with where we are,” he said. “We’re busy, and there’s so much word of mouth; that always makes me feel good, because it proves our customers like how we treat them.”

As for any further rewards, Bandarra isn’t one for accolades. He’d much prefer the kitten story went away for good. “I don’t really like recognition,” he said, “but I do like the sense that I’ve treated others well, both in and out of work.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 32: Executive Director, Valley Opportunity Council

Stephen Huntley has a number of passions — that’s his word — competing for his time and energy these days.

One of them is making maple syrup, a process that is now a family affair also involving his wife, Christine, and children, Camren and Shea. It started as a hobby for Huntley when he was an accountant earlier in his career and needed a release during tax season. “I worked long hours and needed something besides work and sleep,” he told BusinessWest.

“I’d come home from work at 9 a.m. and boil sap for an hour.”

Today, there is plenty besides work and sleep to account for the hours in the day, but Huntley was still hard at work earlier this spring making syrup — his goal was 10 gallons, which requires 400 gallons of sap.

By day, Huntley is executive director of the Valley Opportunity Council (VOC), the Holyoke-based nonprofit agency with a $26 million budget and a broad mission to help the 25,000 people it serves to achieve measures of self-sufficiency.

It does so through a wide range of programming that involves literacy, GED, the Women, Infants and Children Program, the RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), a senior companion program, adult day health, child care, transportation, case management, and more.

Huntley recently steered the VOC through a trying yet satisfying $2.7 million project to rehab the former Mount Carmel School in Chicopee into a home for those services, a move that provides the council with more room and better visibility.

While rescuing that project, Huntley has also helped salvage more than 100 acres of farmland in his hometown of Deerfield from commercial or residential development. “That’s another of my passions,” he explained, referring to his work as part of the Deerfield Agriculture Commission. “I enjoy helping to preserve rural characteristics of suburban communities; there’s nothing like driving down country roads and seeing corn fields and open land.”

Huntley’s involvement in the community takes other forms. He represents Chicopee and Mayor Michael Bissonnette on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Board, for example, and also chairs the Emergency Food and Shelter Committee for the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Looking over his resume, and that list of passions, one could say that Huntley specializes in getting out of — or into — some sticky situations.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: Chief Operating Officer, Insurance Center of New England

William Trudeau always has a game plan on the job, but that’s not why he recently bought a baseball glove.

“I think I might need to practice, because I’m starting to coach a softball team of 7- and 8-year-old girls,” he said — not surprising, since both of his daughters play. “It’s a new adventure for me.”

Trudeau has made his entire career an adventure, especially considering that he “kind of found it by accident,” joining the Insurance Center of New England in West Springfield two months after graduating in 1990 from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. He trained in a specialty program in insurance for banks, all the while thinking he wanted to be in a sales-based career. “I had certain preconceived ideas about the insurance industry. But while I went into the program thinking it would be for practice, I left thinking I might like it.”

Trudeau eventually became the Insurance Center’s vice president of commercial lines and then COO, leaving a path of innovation in his wake; 10 years ago, he launched the company’s Group Benefits Division, which he now heads. In 2001, he became a partner with the firm.

“I wear a few different hats,” he said. “I’m involved in taking care of my clients and a book of personal and commercial accounts, and I also oversee our commercial insurance department, as well as working with the sales team on our direction and goals.

“I like being able to learn about a wide variety of businesses and meet interesting people,” he added. “I get to have a pretty intimate view of dozens of different businesses and the people who run them. A lot of jobs don’t allow that much variety.”

While making a name for himself in business, Trudeau has also given back to the community, taking leadership positions with organizations including the Red Cross, First Congregational Church of East Longmeadow, Junior Achievement, and the Exchange Club of Springfield.

“I’ve always enjoyed being involved, and contributing with different projects and ideas,” he said. “It has kind of become a part of what I do.”

But right now, none is quite as important as teaching young girls how to swing, catch, and throw. “That’s priceless, when the kids are involved,” he said. “They won’t forget that sort of thing.”

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 35: Partner, Hampden County Physician Associates

A food allergy — to a morsel of rice, a dab of peanut butter — can kill within minutes. And that, says Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, has many parents “totally freaked out.”

But as an allergist and immunologist, he sees his job as not just telling people what to avoid, but helping them live as normal a life as possible.

“There are a lot of myths out there, and also a need for teaching in the schools,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he consults, pro bono, with many local schools regarding their food-allergy policies.

To help dispel those myths, and also assist parents with managing their anxieties over a dangerous but manageable condition, Bayuk is writing a resource book on food allergies, including information on how responsive area restaurants are to allergy sufferers.

“We’re looking at restaurants and places where families go with kids, and rating them,” he said. “Some places can tell you what’s in everything, and the chef will carefully prepare your meal for you, and at others, there are no accommodations, and no guarantees.”

With a busy practice to maintain — in addition to training allergy and immunology residents at Baystate Medical Center — writing the book has been slow going, but Bayuk intends to finish it and distribute it free of charge. It’s a commitment to his field that also includes leadership of the Western Mass. Food Allergy Network, a nonprofit organization he founded in part to educate the public.

“Most schools are great about dealing with this issue, but sometimes — and I’m not sure why — they’re not as interested,” he said. But he suggested that finances often come into play. “The federal government subsidizes peanut butter, and schools are pretty strapped for cash, so they’re stuck — they really need the peanut butter, but parents need a peanut-free school.”

However, Bayuk said, most school officials are receptive to the issue when he talks with them face to face. “I haven’t had any situations where superintendents are resistant to it. It’s more, ‘let’s go ahead and make a policy if it makes sense for the kids.’

“I love my job,” he added. “I can’t think of a better one. I always feel good going to work because, most of the time, I can solve problems.”

And give the family a stress-free dinner out, too.

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 32: Founder and Treasurer, Pedal People Cooperative

Alex Jarrett likes bicycling. About five years ago, he and his partner, Ruthy Woodring, wondered whether they could turn that passion into a business.

“We saw that there were no city services for the recycling of trash, and we thought, ‘what if we could go around and pick up people’s recycling and bring it to the transfer station for them — and do it on a bike?’” So they did — and Pedal People was born.

“There are so many things we can do that don’t need gas-powered machinery,” said Jarrett, noting that, while Pedal People must use trucks to bring large loads of recycling to the transfer center, “it’s not very efficient for that truck to go to every house. That start and stop every time emits a lot of smoke, it’s really inefficient, and it takes a lot of energy.”

As the company started to grow, Jarrett and Woodring knew they didn’t want to be a conventional business, but a cooperative, with ownership shared among the workers. The payroll now includes 11 of them, and all new recruits must first complete a nine-month apprenticeship period to determine whether they’re a good fit with Pedal People. The customer roster totals several hundred throughout Northampton, Florence, and Leeds, in addition to a municipal contract with Florence.

“I think a lot of our customers choose us because of the environmental angle,” said Jarrett, noting that he’s also started a program to help people compost food scraps. “Composting doesn’t use any energy, and we can turn that into a locally available resource to help grow more food. I feel like that’s 100% recycling.”

Jarrett’s big ideas haven’t stopped there. He also founded the Pedal People Food Collective, which uses bicycles for bulk grocery purchasing and distribution, as well as Montview Neighborhood Farm in Northampton, an experiment in running a farm using only human power. He says he tries to find ways to use resources efficiently and protect the environment, but his bicycle-powered efforts do more than that.

“I have a passion for community, too,” he said. “When you’re out there on the bike, you can be accessible to people and talk to them. Instead of being in a car, in a box, you’re right there on the street with people, right in their neighborhoods. I get excited about that.”

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 37: Marketing Director, MassMutual Financial Services

David Vermette says adoptive parents create something called ‘forever families,’ and it’s a term he’s happy to explain.

“When you adopt a child, you’re giving that child so much potential, and also creating an important ripple effect. The child could be a future police officer, firefighter, or mayor,” he said, adding that he knows firsthand what an adoptive family can do for a child — he’s an adoptee himself. “I often think about how much different my life would have been if my parents had not adopted me and given me a loving home.”

Today, Vermette handles a number of different tasks at MassMutual Financial Services in Springfield. Overall, he provides operational support and devises various marketing and lead-generating tools for agents in the field. He said the environment at MassMutual has provided him with a number of professional options over the past 15 years, as he worked in several different capacities before assuming his current post.

But in addition to professional development, he said his employer is also one that promotes and welcomes volunteerism and charitable work. That was a huge benefit for Vermette when he created a nonprofit of his own with a coworker. The Good Morning Fund (GMF) was launched three years ago to assist families considering adoption with the sometimes-prohibitive fees associated with the process.

“So many people don’t appreciate how much these fees can be, and how many people say ‘no’ to adoption simply because of the cost. We help parents afford adoption, and by doing so, we’re helping to place as many children as we can.”

Most of the fundraisers GMF stages are family-oriented, such as family fun days, mini-golf tournaments, and tag sales.

The group will also help families identify other funding sources, such as grants, that few families realize exist, in part through its Web site, thegoodmorningfund.com.

Vermette said MassMutual also employs a number of adoptive parents, and GMF has already become a well-known organization within its walls. “The company is working with us, and helping me pay it forward,” he said. “When I look at a picture of myself as a baby, I know that, if not for my parents, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I know we’re helping other children find that kind of potential.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 21: President, Valley Computer Works / Valley Technology Outreach

Delcie Bean had a lemonade stand in his youth like a lot of other kids, but his took the concept to a slightly higher level than most.

“I remember we had four tables with snow cone machines and laminated signs,” he said with a laugh, noting that, as long as he can remember, he’s had that entrepreneurial drive. “I’ve always loved the idea of running a business, making things grow, and seeing things change.”

He also didn’t wait long to move on to more serious pursuits after cornering the lemonade market. As a freshman in high school, Bean founded Valley Computer Works (then called Vertical Horizons), a computer-repair service. He wasn’t old enough to drive a car or open a checking account, but with some help from his family, he parlayed equal interests in business management and technology into a successful venture that continues to grow today.

Valley Computer Works still offers repair services, and also works with small businesses to manage IT operations. A third concentration, selling and servicing point-of-sale hardware and software, especially within the hospitality and restaurant industries, is growing.

At 21, Bean has already accomplished more than many seasoned professionals, but his ongoing interest in facilitating growth and change is not relegated to his own business. Six months ago, he launched Valley Technology Outreach, a nonprofit agency that collects and refurbishes computers in order to pass the hardware on to other nonprofits in the region.

This philanthropic endeavor is the latest in a string of efforts Bean has already put forth. At 17, he organized a ‘climb-a-thon’ of Mount Monadnock to raise money to build a women’s shelter in his native New Hampshire — “I loved seeing a need gradually turn into a building we could actually walk into,” he said — and after moving to Western Mass. with his family in 2000, he joined the board of directors for the Amherst Ballet, for which his sister is a dancer.

In the future, Bean has a few other ideas up his sleeve, including a foray into the real-estate sector. He’s also a consummate student, happy to admit he’s got plenty left to experience.

“I’m entirely self-taught,” he said. “I’ve always loved taking stuff apart and putting it back together — the more I pull things apart, the more I diversify my experience, and the more I learn.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 36: City Councilor at Large, Holyoke

A lifelong Holyoke resident, Kevin Jourdain has made a career out of giving back to the community.

Fifteen years ago, he secured a piece of Holyoke history when, at age 22, he became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. Now 36, he’s an at-large councilor, a seasoned veteran of Western Mass. politics, and an individual with a strong commitment to this industrial city and its future.

“My whole adult life has been in public service,” he said. “This is a great outlet to make a difference and an impact, as well as meet hundreds of people you never would have met before.”

Jourdain met some of those people through his extensive community service, entered into both as part of his duties on the City Council and on his own, to pursue personal passions. He’s a former board member of the T.J. O’Connor Animal Shelter in Springfield and the Valley Opportunity Council, and a current member of the Board of Trustees at Holyoke Community College.

“This position has been a pleasure because I feel strongly that HCC can become a real incubator of business and commerce for Holyoke,” he said. “It already has a great foundation and a strong sense of community, and I think it’s showing.”

That sentiment extends to other parts of Holyoke, too. Jourdain speaks enthusiastically about several projects in the city, including many with an educational component. He’s particularly excited about work beginning on a new intermodal transportation center, which, through a collaboration with Peter Pan Bus Lines, will create a bus depot in a former fire station, as well as an adult basic education center.

“This will be one more way to link Holyoke’s community,” he said, “especially its young people, to education in any way we can.”

Jourdain holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics from UMass Amherst and an MBA from Anna Maria College, and is currently pursuing a Juris Doctor from the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover. That’s in addition to raising three children under the age of 6 (Kevin Jr., Jacqueline, and Allison) in Holyoke along with his wife, Shari.

“I think no matter how busy we are, there’s always time to give something back,” said Jourdain. “I like this community. I like living here, and I made a commitment early on to get involved.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 38: Director of the Entrepreneurial Program at Bay Path College

Lauren Way calls it “academic entrepreneurship,” which is not to be confused with entrepreneurship education — and she does that, too.

Way, director of the Entrepreneurial Program, director of Cooperative Education, and assistant professor of Business at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, has a rather detailed definition of that first term. She says it involves, well, being entrepreneurial when it comes to education.

In other words, being innovative, thus bringing new ideas, imaginative learning tools, and better ways of doing things to the classroom (but not in the traditional sense) and the growing, evolving realm of entrepreneurship education. Elaborating, Way, the highest point-scorer within the Forty Under 40 class of ’08, told BusinessWest that, by focusing on what’s known as experiential education, or learning by doing, she’s working to break new ground in this field that she entered after undertaking a number of entrepreneurial ventures herself.

“If you tell me something, I’ll forget it,” she said, beginning a phrase often used to describe experiential learning. “If you show me, I might remember, but if you let me do it, it will be my skill forever.”

Way’s M.O. can be boiled down to a simple working philosophy — taking students out of their comfort zone — and she does it, in one program, by putting them into the shoes of the business owner. She calls it the ‘entrepreneur-for-a-semester’ exercise, and it involves pairing students in her classes with actual entrepreneurs in Western Mass. and Northern Conn., some of whom are facing growing pains and hard choices about where to take their companies, and how.

“They sit in the driver’s seat and make decisions, and it’s really frightening for students because it goes outside their comfort zone,” she said. “But I firmly believe that this is the only way people grow — to go outside that zone.”

As she talked about entrepreneurship education, Way said one of the elements involved in this course of study is convincing people that being an entrepreneur is not just a viable career option, but one that can, in her words, “set you free.”

She’s knows this because she’s done it — and as she said, getting people to do, and not just read about things in a book, is how they’ll learn, how they’ll grow, and how they’ll reach their full potential.

That’s the real definition of academic entrepreneurship.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 20: CEO, Ten Minute Media

Brendan Ciecko certainly doesn’t act his age — and he rarely even shows it.

There are some exceptions to this rule, though, such as when Ciecko talks about hockey and how he loved watching the Springfield Falcons — and his role model, Manny Legace — when he was “really young.” Legace played in Springfield from 1994 to 1998!

Meanwhile, Ciecko says he’s only known the local AHL affiliate as the Falcons, a name they took in 1993, after being known as the Indians, then the Kings, and then the Indians again.

If it wasn’t for such references (and the fact that he looks like he’s barely out of Granby High School), one would never know that Ciecko is the only Forty Under 40 winner who can’t legally enjoy a cocktail at the May 22 party to showcase the winners. That’s right, he just turned 20 a few months ago.

But his list of accomplishments would be impressive for someone of any age. Through his business, which he started when he was 13 and eventually named Ten Minute Media, he has done Web site design work for Mick Jagger, Natalie Cole, Bob Seger, and others. His work has turned some heads among local business owners — Ciecko is starting to add many new clients within the 413 area code — and also among judges at the Ad Club’s recent ADDY Awards, where he took home Best in Show.

Ciecko attributes his business success to an acquired rare blend of artistic, or design, talent, and knowledge of technology (he calls himself a geek) and how it can be used to help both businesses and rock stars gain visibility and increased profits.

These days, perhaps Ciecko’s biggest challenge is trying to find time for a growing list of professional and personal pursuits. He’s successfully growing and diversifying Ten Minute Media, while also renovating some commercial properties he’s acquired, and traveling — he’s been all across Europe and is mulling South America. Meanwhile, he’s getting back into hockey after putting that sport aside for a while to handle more-pressing matters. He sold his old goalie equipment on eBay a few years ago, and has bought new gear that he puts to use in pick-up games.

And he still charts the career of Legace, his hero from when he was “really young.”

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 34: General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer, Hampden Bank and Hampden Bancorp Inc.

Ask Craig Kaylor what teaching and being a lawyer have in common, and he’ll probably tell you, “a lot.” In fact, he might even say that he was destined to find ways to marry the two.

Since the age of 10, Kaylor has dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but knew that he could be just as successful as a teacher since both of his parents were educators. “I always knew it was the law or teaching,” he told BusinessWest. In the end, the law won. “You can teach when you’re a lawyer, but it’s tough to practice law while you’re a teacher.”

Kaylor has made a name for himself in the legal profession. At 32 he was named general counsel of Hampden Bank and parent company Hampden Bancorp. He helped take Hampden Bancorp public last year, and was instrumental in helping the company achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating for its Community Reinvestment Act Committee. As a member of the CRA, Kaylor helps determine which community loans, service, and volunteering efforts will take place. It’s a huge effort, he said, since the committee logs about 6,000 service hours among just 100 employees.

But despite his success in the legal sector, Kaylor has never forgotten his second love, teaching. Not only does he spend a good amount of time educating his peers at Hampden Bank about the many aspects of legality, compliance, security, and risk management, he also teaches a payment systems class at Western New England College.

With 10 students in his class, Kaylor says his first year in a true teaching gig is going very well. He said it feels good to be sharing his knowledge with the up-and-coming generations. “I’ve had great role models in my life who have gone out of their way to help me, so it’s important for me to give back,” he said.

Giving back also includes coaching youth sports leagues in Longmeadow and Springfield for the past 17 years. In fact, this is the first year since 1990 that Kaylor is not coaching a team, but he has a good reason — becoming a father. His wife, Debra, recently delivered a son, James William.

Could this be another lawyer/teacher to grace the world? We’ll have to wait and see.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 38: CFO and Executive Producer, Brain Powered Concepts

Three guys with day jobs — and a vision. That’s Paul Yacovone and his business partners, Eric Stevens and Fred Pokryzwa, who hope to eventually dedicate all their time to a sweet idea. That idea is the Berries, a children’s TV show they formulated after launching their production company, Brain Powered Concepts.

To date, they’ve created a pilot DVD, Friends Like You and Me, containing three episodes of high-spirited, musical, educational fun starring Straw, Blue, and Raz — and their cousin, Cran — played by four young, Boston-area actresses. The three partners are long-time friends, all with children, and Brain Powered Concepts originated with a conversation one evening about the TV shows their kids watched, and what was missing.

“We were looking for something different, something that has really positive role models, and I think we hit that,” Yacovone said. “We didn’t think there was a live-action show based in the U.S. quite like this. We love music, our kids love music, and we wanted a show that’s interested in music.” So, as it turns out, did others.

In 2006, Friends Like You and Me, for which Yacovone and company hired some well-regarded producers, screenwriters and composers, won the Seal of Approval from the National Parenting Center — the same accolate afforded to much higher-profile ventures, such as High School Musical and the recent film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. “Kids love the show,” said Yacovone said, “and we want to get to national television and really begin to grow this brand. Word of mouth has been great for us, but now we want to take it to the level of a franchise.”

Working in marketing for Lego had already exposed Yacovone to the world of children’s entertainment, but he gets his best feedback at home, from his two daughters, ages 5 and 8. “They give me a feel for what they’re into, and that was very helpful when we made the show,” he said.

He tries to help them right back, volunteering with their Brownie troop; his wife, Tammie, is a troop leader. “It’s tough to juggle everything in life, so you have to prioritize,” he said. “You can’t be all things to everybody — but everyone can offer something.” And that’s some berry good advice.

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 37: CEO, Universal Mind Inc.

Todd Cieplinski has built a business by finding ways to make existing technology even better. Now, he’s turning that discerning eye in a new direction aimed not at the bottom line, but the greater good.

Cieplinski, CEO of Universal Mind Inc., a Web-based application design and consultancy firm with offices in Westfield and Golden, Colo., works with specific technologies, including those owned by Adobe, one of the largest Internet-based companies in the world. His company creates, troubleshoots, manages, and updates a wide variety of ever-changing applications, and the firm’s expertise, coupled with the lightning speed at which the Internet is evolving, creates abundant business opportunities.

But something else caught Cieplinski’s attention recently — the state of the computer labs in his daughters’ schools.

“The technology is antiquated; they’re not great labs,” he said. “I’m at the point in my life where I can’t stand on the sidelines and watch others take care of things, so I tasked myself with getting more involved to make an impact in Westfield.”

He thought he could leverage Universal Mind’s recent success — in 2007 alone, the company doubled its revenues, was placed on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S., and increased its staff sevenfold — but he didn’t want to simply throw money at the problem.

“I could have made a donation, but that’s selfish,” he said. “There’s a lot to be done in Westfield. I’d much rather roll up my sleeves and see what, as a technology company, we can bring to the table.”

Currently, Cieplinski is working to identify possible relationships that could lead to new equipment for Westfield’s schools, but he’s also drafting plans to create a training program for volunteers and teachers. “There are a lot of pieces; we want to upgrade the labs, get the teachers in there and provide training, and make sure everything is properly networked. In my eyes, we can do it.”

Beyond his work with Westfield’s schools, however, Cieplinski is fostering a greater passion to assist communities and businesses across the nation through more-efficient technology. “As a company, we’re striving to make an impact on how people perceive and interact with data,” he said, noting that improving that understanding, universally, is the greatest sign of success.

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: President and CEO, FloDesign Inc.

It’s called ‘disruptive technology,’ or ‘disruptive innovation.’

That’s a marketing term, first coined by Harvard Business professor and author Clayton Christensen, and now widely used to describe a product or service that essentially disrupts, or overturns, the status quo in a given market.

Examples include the telephone, which displaced telegraphy; minicomputers, which did the same for mainframes; and digital photography, which has supplanted chemical photography.

Stanley Kowalski III used to read about disruptive technology, and he witnessed the incredible rise of digital photography first-hand as an engineer with a local film-processing company. He was at a trade show back in 1995 and saw a booth for a small company, SanDisk, displaying digital photo technology. “I remember looking at this stuff and saying, ‘that will never work,’” he said, recalling that the equipment was expensive and the quality wasn’t very good.

History, quite obviously, has proven him — and many others — dead wrong.

Today, Kowalski is creating new examples of disruption at Wilbraham-based FloDesign Inc., a company that he purchased just over a year ago, and that certainly bears watching over the coming years. Indeed, FloDesign has garnered 19 patents over the past year and has licensed 16 of them to various organizations. Kowalski, who prefers ‘inventor’ over ‘business owner,’ is hiring top talent to continue and accelerate this pattern, and has plans to take a spinoff company, FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp., public. “We’re going to make this a billion-dollar company.”

The list of inventions, or innovations, credited to FloDesign engineers is impressive, and includes technology involving everything from silicone breast implants to non-lethal weapons. The company is working at solving problems, or making game-changing developments, across four sectors — aerospace, defense, ‘green technology,’ and biomedical — and has ongoing projects in each realm.

Each initiative employs what Kowalski calls “aerospace methodology” — one of the company’s slogans is ‘Aerospace Technologies Everywhere’ — which centers around creating radical improvements in both performance and cost, which is at the heart of disruptive innovation. The wind turbine is an example, he said, noting that new design features enable the product to essentially extract more energy from the wind.

Though he didn’t actually use the phrase, Kowalski said his current career ambition is plain and simple: to be a disruptive force. In many ways, he already is one.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 28: Director of Operations, Spoleto Restaurant Group

When Bill Collins was 13 years old, visiting Northampton for the first time, he ate at Spoleto — and was impressed.

“At that point, I already wanted to follow in the family business, which was hotels and restaurants,” he said. “I was with my uncle, and I said, ‘you know what? I’m going to work at this restaurant someday.’”

After high school, Collins was managing an Applebee’s when he responded to a help-wanted ad for a waiter at Spoleto. To get his foot in the door there, he did both jobs for awhile, until Spoleto founder Claudio Guerra, who already operated three restaurants, began talking about launching Spoleto Express, a more casual eatery, in Northampton.

“I told him, ‘listen, I just want to learn how to open a restaurant from the best in this business,’” said Collins. “So I spearheaded the project when we opened Spoleto Express, and it was hugely successful.” Soon after, Guerra had Collins scouting out locations for other restaurants, and eventually made him director of Operations for a group of dining locations that now totals six.

In that role, Collins does a bit of everything, from overseeing the day-to-day details of the restaurants to advertising; from marketing to special events. “I’ve helped with the transition from a mom-and-pop style to a more corporate style,” he explained. “We’ve come up with new systems and procedures to manage the business. Claudio is such a visionary, and I have a lot of the corporate background, having managed at Applebee’s, so together we make a great team.”

The proof, he said, is in the doubling of the group’s revenues since he stepped into his role — and, of course, all the full bellies and smiling faces.

“For me, the biggest payoff is when I’m in the restaurant and I look around and see all these people eating, drinking, having parties and anniversary dinners, and I think back to when the restaurant was just bare walls,” he said. “And I know this was something Claudio and I created as an escape, where people can come and enjoy themselves.

“Many people appreciate art or music or different areas of life,” he continued, “but dining is such a special experience. To give them that experience, to make people happy, that’s my favorite part of this job.”

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 36: Founder and Owner, NetLogix Inc.

Marco Liquori’s business venture, Westfield-based NetLogix, delivers a wide array of services to clients. Asked to describe them, he does so with a neat, two-word phrase: solutions provider.

And that’s what businesses are looking for today, he told BusinessWest, adding that information technology is changing and improving at light speed. Companies need a partner — that’s a term he would use often — to help them make sense of it and, more importantly, use it to help grow.

Founded in 2004, NetLogix was a simple progression for Liquori after he earned his bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Technology from UConn. “I just kind of fell into IT as a profession,” he said. “It always interested me in college and I got a lot of on-the-job training.”

Since starting in his basement providing basic IT support, Liquori has grown his company to employ five people and has quintupled revenues. Today, NetLogix has become an integral IT partner for more than 125 companies throughout New England, New Jersey, and New York. Liquori has recently expanded NetLogix’s offerings to include WLAN solutions, Voice-Over-IP phone systems, content filtering, and disaster-recovery preparation to its clients.

When he’s not helping other businesses find IT solutions, Liquori is usually out on the field cheering on his children at one of their many sports activities. “A lot of my time is devoted to my family,” he said, referring to his wife Bethany and four children, Nicholas, 13, Hannah, 11, TJ, 4, and Michael, 2. “They’re into soccer, lacrosse, baseball, basketball and gymnastics … my life revolves around my children.”

Watching all those games is a joy for Liquori, who was an avid athlete growing up and has coached youth sports in the past. “I played a lot of sports,” he said. “I love to watch them and I love to participate.”

Liquori has carried this fondness for sports over to his company, which sponsors a number of youth programs. NetLogix has donated considerable time and money to ensure that many of the Westfield sporting programs remain vibrant: “I think sports are important because they’re a good way to meet people and get involved in the community,” he noted.

For the future, Liquori hopes to continue to expand Netlogix’s slate of offerings, and remain at the forefront of the information age.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 36: Co-owner, Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House

Michael Corduff was talking about banquets, events, and the need to be creative and cutting-edge in such work. Which brought him back to the goldfish.

It was the 2004 Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame dinner, and staff at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House served sorbet in dishes atop glass bowls, each one containing a goldfish. The trick wasn’t so much in the presentation — although that was tricky — but in the preparation, specifically keeping and feeding the fish for three weeks before the event.

“They told us to get a few extra, because sometimes they don’t survive the trip from the bag to the jar,” Corduff recalled. “We stored them in our sous chef’s basement … we had to go around and feed 600 fish; that was really going above and beyond.”

Today, ownership at the Log Cabin, which later acquired the Delaney House restaurant in Holyoke, continues to go above and beyond, often with events to support area nonprofit agencies such as the United Way and the March of Dimes.

Corduff has played a pivotal role in these efforts since coming to the Log Cabin from the Springfield Marriott, which was his first career stop after emigrating from West Kerry in Ireland in 1989. He progressed from line cook to banquet chef at the Marriott, and was looking for a new challenge in the hospitality sector when he interviewed with Larry Perrault, then-restaurant manager at Twin Hills County Club. Perrault didn’t have a good match for him then, but advised him to check back in a few months, when he might have “something else.”

That something else turned out to be the Log Cabin, which Perreault had resurrected as a banquet facility with partner Peter Rosskothen. Corduff, named ‘chef of the year’ by the Mass. Restaurant Assoc. in 2001, would eventually become a partner, and today, he and Rosskothen remain as principals of this two-venue enterprise.

As he talked with BusinessWest, Corduff was preparing the Log Cabin for a night of boxing — an eight-bout card featuring New England area amateurs that reflected Holyoke’s tradition as a boxing hub. Like the goldfish, the boxing event was something different, something unique for this area.

You might say they were both events on a grand scale.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 37: Communications Director, City of Springfield

Azell Murphy Cavaan has been around the block a few times, not to mention the world.

With plenty of journalism and public-relations experience spanning Europe, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston, Springfield couldn’t have called on a better person to help get it back on the map.

Cavaan spent more than 14 years honing her skills in some of the biggest media markets in the world, including London as a trade journalist, Chicago as a reporter for the Daily Law Bulletin, Washington D.C. for the Medill News Service, and as a reporter for the Boston Herald. She’s interviewed some big names, including former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. But even with all of the excitement of big cities and big names, Cavaan always held a special admiration for her home.

Thus, in 2002 Cavaan returned with her husband to Springfield. They were expecting their first child, and Cavaan hoped the city would provide her child with the same nurturing and quality of life that she experienced here. “My family was here, so I wanted to make sure that my son would be close to them,” she said.

After the move, Cavaan worked for the Republican, covering Springfield City Hall as officials tried to get the city back on its feet. In 2007, former Mayor Charles Ryan beckoned Cavaan to join his team as a herald to get the word out about the positive things happening in Springfield. “When your city needs or asks you to help, you do it,” said Cavaan.

That’s a philosophy she came to wholeheartedly believe in after all of her traveling. “When I was working in these big cities, I got the professional development and personal growth that I am able to apply to Springfield,” she notes. “I’m glad to have gone and then come back.”

Cavaan also enjoys lending her time to various organizations, including the Mass. Commission on the Status of Women.

She is also a member of the Springfield School Volunteers and has become a mentor to students. “I’ve developed a real energy with them,” she noted.

All in, Cavaan said she always thought that she would end up staying in a big city, but has realized that Springfield is the best community on the map for her. Simply put, she said, “I love this city.”

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 32: President, New City Scenic & Display

Amy Davis grew up in Oregon, but as a third-grader, she wrote a report about Vermont — and New England has never lost its appeal.

She wound up studying Theater and Sociology at Marlboro College in Vermont — “I knew little about the area, but it sounded nice, so I came out here.” Then, after returning to the West Coast for a string of prop-building, special-effects, and related work in television and cinema, she earned her master’s in Scenic Design at UMass Amherst.

She could have headed west again, but an opportunity arose that convinced her to remain in Massachusetts. “There was a scene shop in Greenfield, and I had worked for them on and off while in grad school,” she said. “They eventually had to close, but for personal reasons, not any lack of business. I had inherited a little money, so my partner, Andrew Stuart, and I bought their equipment and materials.”

The two had already developed ties with some of the former owner’s clients, and began to cultivate others after launching New City Scenic & Display in 2005 at the Eastworks complex in Easthampton. Today, they design and build sets and displays not only for film, TV, and theater, but also for museums, restaurants, places of worship, trade shows, and other venues large and small. For example, New City recently designed and built a new bar for the Eastworks-based Apollo Grill.

“In our shop, we build, paint, do metal fabrication, work with wood, sew — a little bit of everything,” said Davis, who is also the company’s master welder.

Life was a whirlwind two years ago; in the space of six months, Davis opened the business, defended her thesis, and had her first child, Ava. Since then, entrepreneurship has given her more flexibility to be with her baby than she could have working for others. Although the pace is still hectic, she said, it helps that she loves her work.

“I like the fact that I never stop learning,” she said. “With every project I work on, I learn something new, whether it’s about design or how materials go together. But I couldn’t do this without Andy and Ava. To have such a great working relationship with my partner, and have such a fantastic daughter, make even the stressful parts of my job worth it.”

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 36: Executive Chef/Proprietor, the Federal Restaurant

When Michael Presnal owned and operated a restaurant, Alchemy, on Martha’s Vineyard, he saw a number of famous faces come through the door.

President Bill Clinton and the first family dined there — more than once. Billy Joel stopped in, as did Cindy Crawford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner, and many other celebrities. Presnal had each of them sign a chef’s coat, giving him quite a collection that now resides somewhere at his new establishment, the Federal in Agawam.

Since taking over that landmark in 2002 with partner Ralph Santaniello, Presnal, ‘executive chef/proprietor’ (that’s what it says on the business card), hasn’t had any opportunities to add to that collection. Indeed, when asked if any dignitaries had made it to the Cooper Street landmark for its ‘Contemporary American cuisine,’ Presnal rubbed his chin, thought for a quick second or two, and said, “none that I can think of.”

That’s OK with him, though, because his business philosophy is to treat everyone like they’re a celebrity. This is one of the key ingredients in a formula that has enabled him to thrive in what he described as a “hard business,” where the difference between success and failure is razor-thin — like the margins in this industry.

“People look at this business and think it’s pretty easy — well, it’s not,” he said, noting that those committed to succeed in this field must be willing to work hard, put in long hours, and make the sacrifices demanded by such a schedule. “You miss out on a lot of things, like kids’ birthday parties, because you have to be here; it’s a tough, tough life.”

Which brings him to another of those necessary ingredients and perhaps the most important one: passion for the business. Presnal says he’s had it since he first started washing dishes at another restaurant on the Vineyard, owned and operated by his aunt and uncle, at age 13. He went on to attend the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, and eventually became executive chef at the restaurant where he got his start.

His entrepreneurial appetite is rather large, as evidenced by Alchemy, the Federal, and emerging plans for a second restaurant in Western Mass. “We’re looking hard at it,” said Presnal, offering few other details. “We just need a location.”

That’s because he already has the passion.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 38: President, Innovative Business Systems Inc.

Dave DelVecchio says he was blogging long before it became a national pastime.

“I don’t think they called it blogging then,” he said, referring to the mid-’90s, when he started using the Internet to reach out to friends, family, and colleagues in a manner designed to inform and entertain.

He’s still doing it, through his Web site, davedelvecchio.com, or “the new Dave’s World,” as he calls it, where you could learn much more about this member of the Forty Under 40 than you can in this space — probably more than you want to know. You can even hear a tune from Big Pain, the garage band for which DelVecchio, or the “king of low end,” plays bass — pretty well, actually.

And you can click on ‘Dave at Work’ and find out about Innovative Business Systems, which he serves as president. It is for his work at Easthampton-based IBS, and also his involvement in the Easthampton community, and not for music, that DelVecchio earned a spot among the ‘40,’ although maybe the judges did give the band a listen.

It is more likely that they were impressed with DelVecchio’s ability to take IBS, the IT-solutions company that he and four others purchased from founder Bill Tremblay in 2003, and guide it to steady growth, recognition as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner (the corporation’s highest designation), and a Workforce Development Award from the Hampshire/Franklin Regional Employment Board.

The “five guys,” as they’re called at IBS — the others are Brian Scanlon, Scott Seifel, Ben Scoble, and Sean Benoit — have created an appealing workplace, said DelVecchio, an environment that provides the tools for professional growth, while also facilitating the often-difficult act of balancing work and life.

While directing IBS and also taking an active role with the Regional Technology Corp., DelVecchio is also involved, on a number of levels, in the revitalization of Easthampton. The former mill town, now officially a city, has reinvented itself as a center for the arts and home to a diverse mix of small businesses.

“This is a community on the rise,” said DelVecchio, who works and lives in the town, is former president of the chamber of commerce, and is entertainment committee chair of the Easthampton Fall Festival.

What else would you expect from the king of low end?

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 39: Attorney, Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn

Melissa Shea was always fascinated by the law. But like many who eventually join the legal profession, she needed some inspiration to convert an interest into a career.

She found hers in 1981, when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That moment in history provided a spark for the Shea, now an employment-law specialist at Springfield-based Sullivan Hayes & Quinn, who is inspiring younger generations through her work inside the courtroom — and the community.

As a labor, employment, and school-law attorney, Shea keeps busy representing many nonprofit organizations, as well as the Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee school systems. She has been recognized as a rising star among lawyers in Massachusetts by Boston magazine, and speaks before various organizations in the region, including the National Assoc. of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.

She also lends her expertise to the Early Childhood Centers of Greater Springfield, the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, and the Springfield Women’s Committee, an organization dedicated to honoring outstanding women in the community and bringing awareness to issues such as domestic violence.

Shea has been involved with the Women’s Committee for the past 10 years, and has been devoted to the committee’s annual International Women’s Day celebration, as well as fundraising and holding food drives for area shelters. She says her involvement in the committee is rewarding because she is helping raise awareness of key issues that are important to continuing the success of local women.

However, just as much as Shea feels at home in the courtroom, working in the legal system, and volunteering, she also feels quite comfortable in the kitchen.

Fluent in Italian, Shea spent many of her summers growing up in Italy, and her first year of college was in Rome, where she perfected her cooking and gained a fondness for Italian culture and cuisine.

“I spent a lot of time with my family there, and my aunt passed on her Italian recipes,” she told BusinessWest.

“Cooking is rewarding, relaxing, and enjoyable, and I often cook with my children, so it provides an opportunity to spend some quality time with them while passing on traditions.”

Shea hopes to take her husband and two children to Italy in the near future — once again, drawing on her experiences to inspire others.

Laura DeMars

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 37: CEO, EOS Ventures

In Greek mythology, Eos is the god of the new dawn.

The name has become synonymous with new beginnings and hope for the future, and that’s why Tyler Fairbank attached it to his intriguing business enterprise.

EOS Ventures, launched just a few months ago, was created to help businesses, colleges, municipalities, and other large electricity users incorporate sustainable-energy programs. It was inspired by the successful installation of a wind-power turbine at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, which is owned and managed by Fairbank’s family, and it was prompted by the intersection of two powerful trends — skyrocketing energy costs and a desire among many businesses and institutions to ‘go green.’

The company will focus primarily on wind power, because of the experience gained at Jiminy Peak and the installation there named Zephyr, but it will also involve photovoltaics (solar power) and biofuels, such as biomass. The common denominators, said Fairbank, are ‘green technology,’ and much-desired energy independence.

EOS Ventures also represents a new beginning for Fairbank — sort of.

He’s always been involved in economic development, mostly from the standpoint of promoting and nurturing it, although he has exemplified it by helping to grow Jiminy Peak into a thriving, year-round venture. He has been active with a number of business groups in the Berkshires, from the Chamber of Commerce to the tourism bureau; from the Regional Competitiveness Council to the Berkshire Economic Development Corp., which he served as president. It was during that last stop that he helped write something called the Berkshire Blueprint, a roadmap for growth and diversification of the Berkshires economy.

In a few short months, Fairbank has gone from drafting the blueprint to being a shining example of what it espouses — a diverse economy dominated by small businesses that represent many business sectors.

The past few months have been a whirlwind — no pun intended — for Fairbank, who packed up his belongings at the BEDC and unpacked them at EOS offices at Jiminy Peak. His nomination for the Forty Under 40 class of 2008 was based mostly on his past work within the community, but also on his promise as an entrepreneur.

While getting this business off the ground won’t be a breeze, Fairbank believes he has the right venture at the right time — and thus, some wind in his sales.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 33: Senior Vice President, Hampden Bank

Sheryl Shinn loved studying math — even though she had no idea what career it would lead to.

“My favorite subject was mathemetics,” said Shinn, who selected it as a major at Mount Holyoke College. After graduation, with an additional major in Statistics and a minor in Computer Science in hand, she found a good career fit at Easthampton Savings Bank, where she worked in the systems department. She eventually advanced to an officer’s position, but saw no further room for growth. That changed when a vice-president job opened up at Hampden Bank in 2005.

She was promoted soon after to senior vice president — the first woman to serve in such a capacity at Hampden — and today oversees two divisions: operations and information technology, the latter of which includes managing the bank’s network communications, Internet, and any other technology in use. In 2007, she led a project to implement new check-imaging technology for commercial customers.

“I love that my job is very challenging,” said Shinn. “It changes constantly, and there are always opportunities for learning, growth, and advancement. When I meet other people in my position, we say we’re jacks of all trades, masters of none.”

Well, masterful enough to understand the ins and outs of 60 different software applications, each with its own idisyncracies, she explained. “With the size of our organization, you need to know a lot of things; I work on the network, service, workstations. The job is ever-changing, and that’s what keeps things interesting and creates opportunities as well.”

It’s no surprise that Shinn values lifetime learning. In her spare time, she serves on the New Hingham Regional School Council and also mentors a Springfield ninth-grader one day a week.

“I believe education was the basis for my whole career,” she said, “and when I learned that the graduation rate in Springfield schools is around 50%, it really hit home for me. There are so many students out there who won’t ever graduate from high school, never mind college. So I really wanted to put some work into that area.”

The citywide program aims to match each student with one mentor in a relationship that will last throughout high school. “I get to be a role model for someone to see that you can be successful by staying in school.”

That’s advice anyone can, well, count on.

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 36: Owner, F.W. Farrell Insurance

Tim Farrell, owner of F.W. Farrell Insurance in Greenfield, had no intention of coming back to Franklin County after college, and didn’t plan on working in insurance, either.

In fact, he was a Sports Management major at Salem State when, at 21, he returned home 13 credits shy to take over the family business after his father’s passing. But Farrell says he has no regrets. “The worst thing that’s happened to me was my dad dying, but the best was coming back to Greenfield,” he said. “If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have been involved in so many things.”

‘Involved’ is an understatement. Indeed, Farrell was a long-time member of Greenfield’s Board of Selectmen before the community became the Commonwealth’s newest city and adopted a mayoral system in 2003. He joined the board at the age of 27, and while in office focused much of his energies on economic development, not just in Greenfield, but across the county.

“Greenfield is not an island,” he said. “Working on a county level, all towns together, can help us grow in a positive way. It can get us more noticed.”

One of the projects he started as a selectman was aimed at just that type of region-wide improvement. It involved rehabilitation of several mill buildings in Greenfield with considerable environmental and infrastructure issues to remedy. Farrell remained involved with the project throughout the transition of the city’s government, and last year was able to see the result of his work, a new assisted-living facility (The Arbors), open its doors.

“When I ran for selectman, my goal was to get the property clean and back on the tax rolls,” he said. “It took some time and millions of dollars, but now it’s back. I’m really proud of that.”

Now that the Board of Selectmen is history, Farrell said he’s mulled other political positions, and currently sits on the Board of Trustees for Greenfield Community College.

He said this position calls for a measure of hometown pride, and he’s developed just that as a business owner and civic leader in Greenfield.

“Had I not taken over the business when I did, it would have faced some tough issues,” he said. “My number-one priority is growing the business, but I’m always thinking about Franklin County and how everyone can work together. I’m going to keep doing what I can.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008
Age 30: Clinical Director, Center for Human Development Terri Thomas Girls Program

Ja’Net Smith has built a life and a career on the idea that, with a little perseverance, anyone can make the world better.

When a landslide destroyed the homes of several families halfway around the world in Manila, Smith boarded a plane for the Philippines to help with relief efforts. When a volcano erupted on the island of Montserrat and children were relocated to already-crowded schools in Antigua, Smith was there to provide educational support.

But it’s at home in Western Mass. where she’s found her greatest reward, working with at-risk girls. As clinical director of the Terri Thomas Girls program, which provides treatment to youths referred by the State Department of Youth Services, Smith is responsible for everything from clinician training to group counseling to press relations.

It’s a big job, but one that she says represents the kind of important work that she’s taken on since she was a teenager.

Smith says she lost sight of her dream to pursue social work only briefly; after earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Boston College, she took on several jobs, including a stint as an assistant buyer for Filenes.

“But when I was presented with the opportunity to teach in the Terri Thomas program, I started to reconnect with my passion, and decided to take it even further,” she explained, noting that she returned to school to earn her master’s in social work and advanced to the clinical director’s position in 2006. “I love working with the girls. When you see a face and hear a story, you understand what has led them to this place — including neglect, trauma, and chronic disconnect from role models. The biggest goal I have is to change the perceptions these girls have of themselves, and those of others.”

In the future, Smith said she might like to continue that work through her own nonprofit group, focused on the needs of children, teenagers, and families in crisis.

“I’d love to create some sort of agency that could address their needs,” she said. “There are two things that drive me.

The first is my faith, and the second is my family. My husband is a social worker, so he understands. And our son … I want very much for him to be a visionary. I think he can change the world.”

Jaclyn Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2008

Age 27: Program Supervisor, Best Buddies of Western Mass.

A lot of people spend their 20s killing time. Matthew Andrews didn’t want to waste any.

And considering the arc of Andrews’ travels the past few years — volunteering at a South American orphanage, helping people in a remote village in India learn practical trades, working at a soup kitchen in Baltimore, and hiking from Georgia to Connecticut, to list a few — ‘time well spent’ seems like an understatement.

“I spent my high-school years goofing off. But I turned 21 the day I got to India, and that was the end of it; I was ready to do something else,” said Andrews, whose latest adventure is serving as program supervisor of Best Buddies of Western Mass. That’s the local arm of an international organization that matches individuals suffering intellectual disabilities with adult friends, enhancing their access to community ties and employment.

After his long walk (he had previously hiked the Appalachian Trail), “my feet gave out on me, so I took a break,” he said, during which time he worked as a carpenter’s apprentice and, significantly, befriended a supporter of Best Buddies. When she secured funding to open a Western Mass. office, she offered Andrews a job.

Today, his expansive role includes fund-raising and finances, event planning, public-awareness efforts, and supervision of the friendship programs, which currently serve more than 600 clients throughout the region. “The range of activities here is so diverse,” he said. “I never know what’s going to happen next, and I never get bored.”

To Andrews, the work isn’t far removed from the community-building efforts he has taken on stateside and overseas for much of the past decade.

“Best Buddies is all about empowerment. A lot of organizations raise money through special events with no connection to the organization’s mission,” he said, explaining that his agency’s clients are consistently involved in such efforts. For example, a benefit concert in Northampton on May 3 will feature national and local musicians performing alongside Best Buddies clients from Berkshire Hills Music Academy, a private music school for students with developmental disabilities.

“Our mission is to show that people with special needs have talent, so we develop opportunities for them at public events,” said Andrews.

For many, that alone is a huge step — almost as big as a stroll up the East Coast.
Joseph Bednar