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BOSTON — Starting today, Sept. 28, restaurants in Massachusetts will be allowed to expand seating from six to 10 people at a table, as well as open bar seating.

The new guidelines apply to both indoor and outdoor seating, and tables must remain at least six feet apart. Customers must wear a face covering when not seated at a table.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s guidance also stressed that patrons at restaurants’ bars must sit and not stand in the bar area, and bars and nightclubs that are not also restaurants must stay closed until phase 4 of the state’s reopening, which may not be announced until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Click here for the state’s full current guidance on restaurants, including social-distancing, staffing, hygiene, cleaning, and disinfecting protocols.

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EASTHAMPTON — bankESB was recently honored for overall quality and commitment to the community.

The bank earned the number-one spot for Overall Quality in Western Mass. in the 2020 New England Banking Choice Awards. The awards are presented annually by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England, and are based on the results of the Rivel Banking Benchmarks, the largest and most comprehensive measure of banking customer experience in the world. The 2020 results are based on more than 11,000 interviews and 300,000 reviews of nearly 300 Massachusetts institutions.

The bank also was named an honoree by the Boston Business Journal in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, a recognition of the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to showcase companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. Companies qualify for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year.

“We’re honored and humbled to be named to the top spot for quality among banks in our area, and then to be recognized among the most benevolent companies in the state is just icing on the cake,” bankESB President and CEO Matthew Sosik said. “Being here for our customers and giving back to our communities is what we’re all about.”

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BOSTON — Two former administrators of the Holyoke Soldier’s Home, where nearly 80 people died after being exposed to coronavirus, have been charged over their handling of the outbreak, state Attorney General Maura Healey said Friday, according to the Boston Globe.

In what is believed to be the first criminal case in the country brought against nursing-home officials for actions during the pandemic, former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton were indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from their decision in March to combine two dementia units, packing residents who were positive for the coronavirus into the same space as those with no symptoms, Healey said.

The veterans “risked their lives from the beaches of Normandy, to some the jungles of Vietnam, and to know that they died under the most horrific circumstances is truly shocking,” Healey told reporters.

In a statement, family members noted that “we now want our state to move forward and do the right thing to ensure this never happens again to any other veteran,” the Globe reported.

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HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded a five-year, $14 million contract to provide training and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs for all six New England states. The grants allows the institute to continue to work with local Head Start programs on their educational, health, and family services as well as management systems to strengthen their ability to serve children and their families.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide comprehensive services that support the development of children from birth to age 5, and their families, in centers, childcare partner locations, and their own homes. Early Head Start also provides services to pregnant women. Head Start and Early Head Start services include early learning, health, and family well-being.

The contract was awarded by the Office of Head Start in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nationally, Head Start/Early Head Start is divided into 12 regions. UMass Donahue Institute will be the sole provider of training and technical assistance to Region 1, which includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The institute was first awarded the New England training and technical assistance grant in 2003.

“We are honored to continue serving Head Start programs throughout New England,” said Eric Heller, executive director of the UMass Donahue Institute. “We have been the predominant provider of training and technical assistance to Head Start in this region for the past 17 years and continue to build on an outstanding reputation.”

Ruth-Ann Rasbold, UMass Donahue Institute’s regional Early Childhood manager, noted that “Head Start is such an essential set of services and supports for children and families. We are glad that we can remain a partner with New England Head Start programs as they continually improve their services.”

Added Rosario Dominguez, Training & Technical Assistance coordinator, “we are honored to continue to work with the Office of Head Start and New England Head Start programs in supporting families with young children, in our communities, to build strong foundations for achieving their goals and full potential.”

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SPRINGFIELD — Bright Nights at Forest Park will take place this year, according to its organizer, Spirit of Springfield.

“Bright Nights is needed more than ever now, especially in these challenging and surreal times we are currently living in,” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said. “I’m very pleased that my city team and the Spirit of Springfield have worked together to come up with a safe and acceptable public-health model that allows our beloved Bright Nights to continue to bring holiday cheer to all our families from near and far. Also, I am very appreciative of our generous business and philanthropic community for their continued belief and investment in our City of Springfield.”

Spirit of Springfield and the city of Springfield have developed protocols to provide a safe and festive event that has been a holiday tradition since 1995. They will be instituted during setup, breakdown, and during the event, and include masks, regular cleaning, online ticketing, and more. Restrooms will be for emergency use only, and the usual bustling gift shop, amusement rides, horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides, and visits and supper with Santa will not be available. This will help keep all visitors safe and socially distanced in their vehicles during the experience.

“We are so pleased that Bright Nights at Forest Park will continue to be a part of the holiday season. It is important we celebrate each and every holiday while staying safe and healthy,” Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt said. “We want to keep the tradition glowing.”

Bright Nights at Forest Park is three miles of a unique holiday experience featuring more than 675,000 lights and iconic displays like Seuss Land, Everett Barney Mansion, Toy Land, Happy Holidays, Springfield, and so many more. It generates $15 million in economic impact annually and has created a lifetime of family memories in its 25-year history. It also promises to be one of the safest events, with families contained in their cars.

The season will open on Wednesday, Nov. 25 and operate through Sunday, Jan. 3. Admission will be $23 per car weeknights, weekdays, and holidays. Discounted tickets will be available at participating Big Y World Class Markets for $16.50. Due to bus-capacity limitations in Massachusetts, admission for buses has been reduced to $100 for buses with capacity of more than 30 people. Vehicles with seating from 17 to 30 people will be charged $50 for admission.

Bright Nights’ 26th season is sponsored by AAA Pioneer Valley, Balise Auto, Baystate Health, Big Y World Class Markets, Charlie Arment Trucking Inc., Comcast, Eversource Energy, Gleason Johndrow Landscaping, Health New England, iHeart Media, MassLive, MassMutual, Mercy Medical Center, MGM Springfield, MP P.C., PeoplesBank, the Republican, Sheraton Springfield, the Springfield Thunderbirds, WWLP-22News, and more.

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PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share has begun offering a special discount to all area students with an .edu e-mail address. The pass costs $60 for an annual membership that includes unlimited 45-minute rides.

ValleyBike Share is the all-electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley, which includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus.

Students can use ValleyBike Share to explore the Pioneer Valley without a car. The electric-assist bikes can go from one town to another with ease within the system, which makes them perfect to use if a student has classes at any of the other colleges in the service area. To join, visit www.valleybike.org.

ValleyBike is open from approximately April 1 to Nov. 30, weather permitting.

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SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University School of Law and Massachusetts Fair Housing will present a virtual panel discussion on “Eviction in the Time of COVID-19: the Next National Crisis” on Friday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

A panel of experts will discuss the impact the coronavirus has had on an already-existing housing crisis. Bringing important perspectives on the subject will be panelists Joel Feldman, attorney and shareholder at Heisler, Feldman, & McCormick, P.C.; Michael Doherty, clerk magistrate for the Western Division Housing Court; David Leveillee, attorney at the Rhode Island Legal Services Housing Law Center; and Rose Webster-Smith, program coordinator for Springfield No One Leaves.

Serving as moderator will be Alexander Cerbo, a third-year Western New England University law student and editor in chief of Lex Brevis.

Of particular interest to legal professionals, fair-housing advocates, and members of the higher-education community, the one-hour event is free and open to the public. Contact Cerbo with questions at [email protected]. To register, visit www.fhcrconference.com.

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SPRINGFIELD — As working parents continue to navigate the unchartered territory surrounding remote education, Square One is answering the call for help.

The agency is now providing full-day remote-learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to expanded offerings for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Enrollment is available at three Square One early-learning centers in Springfield, as well as the agency’s network of home-based child-care providers who operate throughout the region.

Through the generosity of funders, including the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and Square One’s corporate and individual donors, all locations are outfitted with the technology and staffing needed to accommodate each student’s remote-learning needs. All guidelines surrounding social distancing, cleanliness, and personal protective equipment will be strictly enforced. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided.

“It is our mission and our responsibility to do everything we can to support families during this very challenging time,” said Dawn DiStefano, executive vice president. “We hope that, by expanding our services, we are offering parents peace of mind and confidence that their children are learning and cared for in a safe, healthy environment.”

For more information, parents are urged to contact the Square One enrollment office at (413) 732-5183.

“We are thankful to have the support of our state officials, foundations, corporations, and individual donors who make it possible for us to provide the resources our staff and children need to ensure success,” said Joan Kagan, president and CEO. “But with the growing demand for our programs and services comes a great need for additional financial support. It is critical that we expand our donor base in correlation with our expanded offerings.”

Donors are asked to support the Campaign for Healthy Kids by texting ABC123 to 4432, visiting www.startatsquareone.org, or e-mailing Kristine Allard, vice president of Development & Communication, at [email protected]uareone.org.

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BOSTON — MassDevelopment awarded $86,415 for 10 projects, three of them in Western Mass., through the Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places, a program made available specifically to assist local economic recovery efforts as community partners prepare public spaces and commercial districts to serve residents and visitors. Projects receiving awards include the creation of outdoor dining spaces, sidewalk retail venues, and partitions to support social distancing.

“The Commonwealth Places program is a tool to help drive foot traffic to downtowns and commercial districts by providing opportunities for safe dining and recreation,” Gov. Charlie Baker said, “and we look forward to continuing to work with municipalities to support local communities across the state.”

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce will receive a $10,000 grant for the Amherst Resilience Initiative – A Play in Three Acts, a project in which the organization will reopen an outdoor version of the Downtown Amherst Visitor Information Center and install COVID-19 public-health and wayfinding signage and landscaping in downtown Amherst.

The Chicopee Chamber of Commerce will receive a $10,000 grant for Chicopee Center Public Spaces, to transform a remediated lot in the city’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) district at 181 Center St. into a mixed-use public space for outdoor programming, including farmers’ markets, food trucks, performances, community gatherings, and more.

The Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives will receive a $7,200 grant for A Path to Reopening: Repurposing Public Space in Stockbridge, a project in which the organization will host three monthly pop-up events featuring artist shows and presentations on the library’s front lawn.

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SPRINGFIELD — Beginning a business at any time is taking a leap of faith, but for Christina Raschi, starting a business during a pandemic could be considered something much bigger.

Her journey toward owning her own bakery — a new business in downtown Springfield called 413 Café — began when she attended Longmeadow High School and the Lower Pioneer Valley Career and Technical Education Center in West Springfield and studied culinary arts. She graduated in June 2010 and decided to take a gap year following graduation.

In anticipation of wanting to own her own business, Raschi selected Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) for her postsecondary education, majoring in business administration.

ACC Professor James Wilkinson noted that “Christina always expressed herself with an exceptional business thought process. She understood business courses and terminology. She will be a success.”

After graduating from Asnuntuck in 2012, Raschi spent the next few years gaining skills by working in food service and most recently working in Alzheimer’s caregiving. Charlie Johnson, whose family owned the iconic Johnson’s Bookstore in Springfield, became her business mentor — and the location of the former bookstore is the location of the 413 Café that Christina opened this summer. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno led a ribbon cutting for the bakery on Aug. 11, five months after Raschi had hoped to open her doors. “I chose 413 Café as my business name,” she said, “because 413 is and always will be home.”

Raschi has brought personal touches to the business. As a granddaughter of a Boston police officer, she is offering law enforcement and veterans a 10% discount at her shop. She serves Cape Cod Coffee, an homage to the location where her parents met. And she supports a local business by serving Tandem bagels, cookies, and cream cheese. She will also be offering classes that will change seasonally.

“ACC is very proud of Christina, and we wish 413 Café future success,” Asnuntuck CEO Michelle Coach said. “We love seeing her business degree being put into action.”

413 Café is located at the rear of 1383 Main St. in Springfield, at the Shops at Marketplace, directly behind FedEx.

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SPRINGFIELD — Mychal Connolly’s connection to the subject of suicide is all too personal.

“I was talking with my friend Nate about ways to teach our kids about entrepreneurship,” he explained. “He had moved to Florida with his family and was back for a visit. We were talking about his business and how it was doing well. I was taking my family to Florida on vacation soon and thought we could connect, but with my family focused on theme parks, it never happened.”

After he got home, Connolly saw a post on Facebook alluding to a friend who had died, but it wasn’t clear who. When he reached out to learn more, he received a shock: Nate had taken his own life, in front of his wife.

“Nate was a quiet guy who stayed to himself, but that was his personality,” Connolly recalled. “His friends knew that about him. I knew that. There were no signs he was going through anything difficult in his life. Nothing suggested there was any issue troubling him. He left a wife and three kids.”

Now Connolly, in partnership with MHA and the Pioneer Valley Coalition for Suicide Prevention, is taking a message to the streets: suicide is preventable when people start talking. The message is getting out via Stand Out Truck, a business Connolly created that uses a mobile, digital messaging platform built into a truck that drives wherever a message can make the most impact.

“Our friends at the Pioneer Valley Coalition for Suicide Prevention made a grant to cover half of the cost of the campaign, and Stand Out Truck offered a discount,” said Kimberley Lee, MHA’s vice president of Resource Development & Branding. “All three organizations are working together to get the message out that suicide is preventable, continuing through the second week in October.”

Connolly explained that “Stand Out Truck takes the message directly to the streets where people in motor vehicles, on the sidewalk, or out in their yards can see it. I’ve known Kim Lee for several years, and MHA does a lot to aid suicide prevention, so Kim and I connected to see how we could work together specifically for Suicide Prevention Month. Short story, we made it happen.”

Stand Out Truck is uniquely mobile and, frankly, hard to miss, Lee added. “Silence breeds stigma, and we must take every opportunity to encourage each other to talk about how we’re feeling emotionally and raise awareness about resources for suicide prevention. Stand Out Truck is delivering our message throughout the Pioneer Valley: Springfield, Agawam, West Springfield, Westfield, Tolland, Huntington, Chicopee, Holyoke, South Hadley, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Hampden, Monson, Ludlow, Palmer, Brimfield, and more. It’s traveling daytime hours as well as evening, which is great because the truck is brightly illuminated; it really draws attention after dark.”

Connolly stressed that this issue hits home for him. “Having a conversation with someone may encourage them to talk some more, get some help, and realize life is worth living.”

Stand Out Truck, in business since March, provides mobile digital messaging for business promotions, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and a wide variety of activities and events. What makes it unique is taking a mobile message directly to the community, instead of hoping members of the community happen to pass a fixed billboard and notice a message. That’s especially critical with a message this timely and important, Connolly said.

“People see the truck and say, ‘wow, what’s that’” he noted. “It’s just not something you see every day, a billboard driving by with a message. We use a GPS system that highlights busier routes, and we travel those. We also travel predictable high-traffic routes and times, such as during the morning and evening rush. If the one person who needs to see the message sees it, or if a friend or family member sees it, then it’s made an impact.”

It’s important to reach people who aren’t feeling quite right before they start to feel that killing themselves is their only option,” said Sara Kendall, vice president of Clinical Operations for MHA.

“Through BestLife, MHA’s outpatient center for emotional health and wellness, people who are anxious, depressed, afraid, or at risk of hurting themselves can talk with someone who cares, who listens, and who can help connect them with supports to help them start feeling better,” she added. “BestLife opened right here in Springfield in 2019, and in a little over a year, we have had conversations with more than 500 individuals in this community — people ready to start talking about their anxiety, their depression, their fears … even their thoughts of suicide. And let me be frank: COVID has certainly not helped with any of those things. More than ever, people are feeling distressed, isolated, frustrated and confused.

“So, we invite members of the community to join us for a conversation,” she went on. “Whether that conversation happens in person, with appropriate social distancing, or whether it happens virtually using MHA’s TeleWell app to connect interested persons with a licensed MHA counselor, we are ready to start talking. We are ready to listen. We are ready to help save lives by helping people live their best life.”

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) and its new community partner, Elevate Northeast, are launching a revitalized cannabis careers training program in October for those who want to work in the industry.

The program, offered through the Cannabis Education Center, begins the weekend of Oct. 17-18 with two days of required core curriculum training over Zoom. The cost of the two-day core training session is $595. To register, visit hcc.edu/cannabis-core.

Each day will be broken down into two sessions: 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. Each session will include presentations from cannabis-industry experts followed by a question-and-answer period.

Students who complete the core training will then be eligible to register for spring 2021 classes in one of four cannabis-industry career tracks: cultivation assistant, extraction technician, patient-services associate, or culinary assistant.

Cultivation assistants provide daily care of crops from seed to harvest and may be involved in cracking seeds, soil mixing, potting, defoliation, watering, pest control, and trimming.

Extraction technicians work in labs, assisting production managers in all aspects of extraction, purging, oil manipulation, winterization, distillation, solvent recovery, and quality control.

Patient-service associates work behind the counters at cannabis dispensaries, interacting with the public, answering technical questions, and providing information to registered cannabis patients, caregivers, and recreational customers making purchases.

Culinary assistants are responsible for preparing cannabis or cannabidiol-infused products using a variety of cooking, baking, and infusion techniques.

A previous series of cannabis-industry training courses offered by HCC and the Cannabis Education Center were suspended in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“HCC is proud to partner with Elevate for the sole purpose of helping job seekers get the training they need to successfully enter the cannabis industry,” said Jeffrey Hayden, HCC’s vice president of Business and Community Services. “At the same time, we look forward to enhancing and expanding our relationships with cannabis companies in Holyoke and other communities throughout the region. Our goal is to help individuals gain employment while meeting the demand of area businesses.”

Dates for the spring career-track training sessions have not yet been announced.

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WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced non-stop service to four new destinations from Bradley International Airport on JetBlue. These new destinations include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Cancún, Mexico.

“One of Connecticut’s best competitive assets is its international airport in such close proximity to so many of our communities and employers,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said. “This strengthening of the partnership with JetBlue shows once again how important Bradley International Airport is to our present and our future. More routes and a strong international airport are key to Connecticut’s success.”

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, added that “we are thrilled that JetBlue has taken the step to strengthen their presence and route network at Bradley Airport with this impressive launch of four new cities. JetBlue is an important partner for us, and we are very pleased to see that the airline recognizes the potential of the Bradley Airport market. We are confident that our strengthened partnership will provide major benefits for Connecticut travelers, JetBlue, and Bradley Airport.”

The new service to Cancún, Mexico is slated to commence on Nov. 19, while service to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are all slated to begin on Dec. 18. This new service will compliment JetBlue’s existing non-stop routes from Bradley to numerous Florida destinations as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Big E is returning in 2021 with a headline performance by Brad Paisley, one of country music’s most decorated male solo artists, on Friday, Sept. 24 at the Big E Arena. Next year’s concert marks the 20th anniversary of the first time Paisley played the Big E. Special guests and the ticket on-sale date will be announced in the spring.

Over the past 20 years, Paisley’s songwriting and showmanship have won him numerous honors, including three Grammys, two American Music Awards, 14 Country Music Assoc. Awards (including Entertainer of the Year), and 15 Academy of Country Music Awards, among many others. A member of the Grand Ole Opry since 2001, Paisley has written 21 of his 24 number-one hits and amassed more than 3.9 billion on-demand streams so far.

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SPRINGFIELD — Chris St. Martin, an associate at Bulkley Richardson, was named a 2021 up-and-coming lawyer by Best Lawyers in its new “Ones to Watch” category. This honor is given to attorneys who are earlier in their careers, recognizing them for outstanding professional excellence in private practice.

St. Martin joined Bulkley Richardson in 2019 and is an associate in the firm’s litigation department.

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PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Bank Foundation announced that, due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has contributed more than $1 million to collaborative efforts supporting nonprofit organizations responding to community-based needs. Guided by the foundation’s mission of investing in those living and working in its local communities, the total relief provided represents an additional $1 million over the foundation’s $3 million total annual grant budget.

The organizations supported in the Pioneer Valley through Berkshire Bank Foundation’s contributions include the Mental Health Assoc. Inc., YMCA of Greater Springfield, the SCORE Foundation – Western Massachusetts SCORE, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, among others.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our local communities in ways that no one could have predicted, and the economic impact has created significant challenges for organizations who help so many every day,” said Jim Hickson, Berkshire Bank’s Pioneer Valley regional president. “All of us at Berkshire Bank are proud that our foundation can provide philanthropic support to help struggling families and businesses, not only here in Massachusetts, but across our entire footprint.”

The foundation’s grants this year have supported community-based organizations to help local families in the areas of affordable and safe housing, food security, health supplies, students in distress, and assistance to small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The foundation has also allowed nonprofits to utilize funds given for specific programs to help cover general operating costs and extended requirements and/or reporting deadlines where needed.

“At Berkshire, we understand our responsibility to do our part to help the most vulnerable that are being economically impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sean Gray, the bank’s acting president and CEO, who also serves as president of the foundation board. “Our response has been guided by our ‘be first’ values and by our caring for those families and small businesses in the communities where we work and live who need help now.”

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month during this pandemic year with a series of online events that includes cooking demonstrations, lectures on the ethnic and political history of Holyoke, exhibits and conversations on public art, and a student panel examining the shared heritage of black and Latinx people.

Beginning Friday, Sept. 25, four members of the HCC community will share favorite recipes highlighting their ethnic heritage, followed by question-and-answer sessions with the chefs. Raúl Gutiérrez, associate professor of Spanish and coordinator of HCC’s Latinx Studies program, will kick off the cooking series on Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. He will be followed by Harold Santiago, special program coordinator in HCC’s Admissions office, on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m.; HCC student Liuginsa Rosa on Monday, Oct. 5 at 1:30 p.m.; and HCC Math instructor Aida Medianero on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 11 a.m.

“Each of the four cooks represents a different nationality,” said Derek Estrella, an HCC Financial Aid counselor and secretary for the college’s Hispanic Leadership Committee, which organized the Heritage Month events. “Raúl is Mexican, Harold is Puerto Rican, Liuginsa is Dominican, and Aida Perúvian. I’m also asking them to share a signature song they grew up with while cooking.”

Also on Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 6 to 8 p.m., the public is invited to share their ideas for “El Corazón de Holyoke: Comenzamos!” (“The Heart of Holyoke: Let’s Begin”), kicking off a new phase of public art installations that celebrate Latinx and Puerto Rican artists and culture in the city.

On Wednesday, Sept 30 from 11 a.m. to noon, Holyoke resident and HCC alumna Maria Cartagena, Five College Community Partnerships coordinator, will present “History of Holyoke: Political Landscape,” focusing on the ethnic, cultural, and political influence of Hispanics in the city.

The “El Corazón de Holyoke” conversation continues on Thursday, Oct. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. with “Cultural Place-keeping and the ‘Salsa’ of Public Art,” a presentation and Q & A with Cultural Districts Program manager Luis Cotto from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Springfield Poet Laureate Magdalena Gómez, and interdisciplinary artist Shey Rivera Rios.

HCC’s Hispanic leadership committee, a newly formed group of HCC staff and faculty involved in campus and community engagement activities, will hold an online session on Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 2 to 3 p.m. introducing themselves to the college and wider Holyoke community.

The college’s Hispanic Heritage Month’s activities will conclude with “Anti-blackness in the Hispanic Community” on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a student panel discussion examining racial bias as well as the shared heritage of black and Latinx people. The panel will consist of members from two HCC student clubs, the Black Student Alliance and the Latinx Empowerment Assoc., and moderated by Rockell Bartoli, a Miami-based author and student-success coach.

All events will be held on Zoom. They are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/hhm.

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NORTH ADAMS — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Division of Graduate and Continuing Education (DGCE) will hold virtual information sessions on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. for community members interested in the following academic programs:

• Master of Business Administration/Graduate Certificate in Business Administration;

• Master of Education/Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study/Leadership Academy; and

• Degree Completion.

DGCE’s academic programs embrace MCLA’s mission of access and affordability, and are designed for those looking to advance their careers through higher education no matter what stage of life they are in. These sessions are free and open to all interested community members.

MCLA’s MBA program is among the most affordable in the Northeast. Its most recent cohort scored in the 89th percentile on Peregrine’s national examination, which is taken by all graduates at accredited business schools. MCLA invites non-matriculated students to enroll in MBA courses and see if they are ready for graduate work.

The 45-credit MBA program offers a broad-based, multi-disciplinary education that combines the strengths of the business faculty with those of practicing managers actively involved in day-to-day decision making in the field. Courses include a blend of classroom experience and practical, hands-on field work.

The graduate certificate in business administration is an option for those who hold bachelor’s degrees in areas outside of business administration. The five-course certificate provides either a standalone advanced certificate in business administration or fulfills the first 15 credits toward an MBA at MCLA.

To register, visit mcla.edu/graduate.

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WEST NEWBURY — The Beveridge Family Foundation provides support to nonprofits within Hampden and Hampshire counties. While continuing that critical work, it has started investing directly into social-impact projects and ventures. By leveraging its endowment, the Beveridge Foundation is significantly increasing the amount of funding it can deploy.

Local organizations with proposals for economically sustainable programs can now apply for investments of up to $250,000. These proposals must be at the pilot stage or later and already have significant evidence of demand and viability.

At a recent Human Service Forum event, Ward Caswell, the foundation’s president, noted that “Western Massachusetts has one of the most developed nonprofit sectors in the country. We’ve invented techniques that are the envy of the rest of the country. If we can package those techniques right, they can create impact for millions of people and bring significantly more funding to our region.

“Funders like us have trained nonprofits to be very good at writing grants, and not at how to build sustainable business models,” Caswell said. “That is why we’re working with Innovation Accelerator. We’ve watched them help nonprofits come up with ideas and turn them into things that have real potential. We cover up to 50% of the tuition for participating organizations and provide direct feedback to help teams qualify for an impact investment.”

Innovation Accelerator trains nonprofits to develop high-impact social ventures. Alumni have gone from sticky notes on a whiteboard to live programs that have raised more than $1 million in seed funding. Each team that participates in the flagship accelerator program generates mission-aligned ideas, gathers concrete evidence, and receives direct feedback from the Beveridge Foundation and other funders.

Organizations seeking to qualify for one of the foundation’s investments should learn more about the accelerator and apply before the deadline on Monday, Sept. 28 at 11:59 p.m. Those fitting the foundation’s criteria can apply directly at beveridge.org.

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WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) will host a virtual information session for its master of Public Administration and master of science in Criminal Justice programs on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. on Zoom.

The two programs — and all of Westfield State University’s graduate programs — offer students an affordable, flexible experience. The ability to attend full- or part-time — while taking courses in the late afternoon, evening, and online during fall, spring, and summer sessions — is responsive to the needs of today’s adult learner.

Westfield State’s master of Public Administration (MPA) — sponsored by the departments of Political Science; Criminal Justice; Geography, Planning, and Sustainability; and Economics and Management — prepares students to develop as professional administrators in public, nonprofit, and criminal-justice settings.

“Our students are public-service-minded and are seeking to enhance their leadership and management skills,” said MPA Program Director Charles DiStefano. “The MPA program offers a collaborative learning experience, where you will learn from professors and fellow students who have a wide range of public-sector experience and expertise.”

The Criminal Justice graduate program focuses on theoretical and applied issues in law enforcement, corrections, administration, and public law. Its goal is to further critical thinking about significant issues in crime and criminal justice. Judges, lawyers, managers, and criminal-justice researchers supplement the faculty, bringing many practical considerations to the study of the discipline.

“The master of Criminal Justice provides a great opportunity for those who work in the criminal-justice field to advance their education and, potentially, their career,” said Program Director Christopher Kudlac. “It also provides a way for those interested in entering the field to earn a master’s degree to make themselves more marketable.”

Information-session attendees will have the opportunity to speak with outreach-team members and faculty about the programs and application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

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BOSTON — The state’s August total unemployment rate is down 4.9 percentage points at 11.3% following a revision to the July rate at 16.2%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 51,600 jobs in August. This follows last month’s revised gain of 70,900 jobs. Over the month, the private sector added 51,200 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; manufacturing; other services; information; and construction. The one loss occurred in financial activities. Government added jobs over the month.

From August 2019 to August 2020, BLS estimates Massachusetts lost 403,200 jobs. Losses occurred in each of the private sectors, with the largest-percentage losses in leisure and hospitality; other services; construction; and trade, transportation, and utilities.

The August unemployment rate was 2.9% above the national rate of 8.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force decreased by 127,600 from 3,673,400 in July, as 65,400 more residents were employed and 193,100 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 8.5 percentage points.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped to 62.6%. Compared to August 2019, the labor-force participation rate is down by 5.2%.

 

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BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration and MassDevelopment announced the availability of $3 million in funding through the fifth round of the Site Readiness Program, which provides resources to cities, towns, and other entities to help overcome obstacles to developing otherwise prime sites. Municipalities, nonprofit economic-development entities, and private-sector businesses can apply for grants to finance land acquisition, feasibility studies, master planning, environmental permitting, site improvements, and other related work.

“The Site Readiness Program is an important part of the state toolkit available to cities and towns, as well as nonprofits and businesses, to help them to achieve their economic-development goals,” Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said. “As we move from reopening to economic recovery, the Baker-Polito administration is committed to continuing to collaborate with communities and other partners to spur investment, development, and growth.”

The Site Readiness Program, administered by MassDevelopment, aims to boost the Commonwealth’s inventory of large, development-ready sites; accelerate private-sector investment in industrial and commercial projects; and support the conversion of abandoned sites and facilities into clean, actively used, tax-generating properties. Through its first four rounds of grants, the Site Readiness Program has awarded approximately $10.4 million to 48 projects in almost every region, furthering the development potential for nearly 3,600 acres across the Commonwealth.

“The Site Readiness Program continues to be an important resource for helping communities prepare key sites and attract development,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss said. “MassDevelopment is proud to oversee this economic-development program on behalf of the Commonwealth, and we encourage cities, towns, and other partners to apply for funding.”

The full request for proposals is available at massdevelopment.com/srp. Responses are due by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12.

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WESTFIELD — The College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) at Westfield State University (WSU) will host a virtual information session for its master of education and master of arts in English programs on Monday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. on Zoom.

These graduate programs are designed to accommodate both working teachers seeking professional licensure and new educators seeking initial licensure. The master of education programs include early childhood education, elementary education, biology, mathematics, history, moderate disabilities, and reading specialist. The non-licensure master of education has concentrations in history and vocational-technical.

WSU also offers graduate English programs with initial or professional licensure, as well as a non-licensure track.

“Our master of arts in English program is designed for those students who want middle and secondary teaching licensure, initial and professional, and who want to pursue doctoral study or other professional goals. Most of our students work full-time, so we organize our courses and do individual advising to fit with those schedules,” program Director Glen Brewster said. “We offer small courses and seminars so that students work closely with full-time faculty to do research in areas that will help them in their professional lives and prepare them for further graduate study.”

Many graduate students have familial and career responsibilities that must be prioritized when it comes to furthering their education, and the CGCE at Westfield State is sensitive to these challenges. WSU offers afternoon and evening courses during the fall, spring, and summer sessions as well as full-time or part-time matriculation options.

Information session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with Outreach Team members and faculty about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for information-session attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

 

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HOLYOKE — When Holyoke Community College (HCC) unveiled its four-year strategic plan in 2018, one of its top priorities was increasing success rates of students of color. That aligned with goals established by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), which in the same year made equity the top policy and performance objective for the entire state public higher-education system.

To support those ongoing efforts, the Lumina Foundation recently awarded the Massachusetts DHE grants worth $1.2 million, with half the money earmarked for six state colleges and universities, including HCC.

HCC’s $100,000 award will be used to further the work of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion task force and expand mentorship programs that focus on students of color.

“We have the distinct pleasure of residing in a diverse community where 50% of the residents are Latinx,” President Christina Royal said during a virtual panel discussion that coincided with the announcement of the Lumina grants. “At Holyoke Community College, our mission to educate, inspire, and connect is grounded in the idea that we are of and exist for the communities we serve. Leveraging that cultural wealth is pivotal to moving the equity agenda forward.”

Through its Talent, Innovation, Equity, and Equity Institution grants, the Lumina Foundation seeks to dismantle systemic barriers to student success and degree attainment, particularly for black and Latinx students. Massachusetts was only the fifth state to receive grants from the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Indianapolis.

“Access to quality higher education can help set students up for a lifetime of success, but systemic inequities in our higher-education system prevent far too many black and brown students from achieving their full potential,” said U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who joined the Sept. 10 virtual gathering along with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “It’s critical that our campuses reflect the diversity of our communities and that our colleges and universities are equipped with the resources, data, and cultural competency to support students of every background.”

During the panel discussion, Royal noted that Latinx students participating in HCC’s ALANA Men in Motion program show a fall-to-fall retention rate of 75%, compared to 45% for Latinx students not participating in ALANA, an academic support, mentoring, and counseling program for African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American men.

“There’s a great deal of research to show that mentorship has positive academic benefits for students of color,” she said, “so we want to build on the successes of HCC programs like ALANA to provide students of color more vehicles to be connected with students, alumni, and others like them.”

HCC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion group focuses on making sure students of color succeed at the same rate as their white peers, using benchmarks such as retention and college completion rates.

“Through the EDI group, we will be training a team of professionals on campus who know how to talk about equity, preach its importance, and execute changes so that equity comes embedded in our culture,” Royal said, “so it is what we live and breathe.”

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CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the promotion of Teresa Kuta Reske to the position of associate dean of Graduate and Doctoral Studies for the School of Nursing.

“There is no doubt that Teresa, who is well-known throughout the college for her enthusiasm and commitment to students, will brilliantly lead nursing graduate and doctoral studies for continued growth and program improvement,” said Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing.

Reske was on the leadership team that developed the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program and has served as director since its inception in the fall of 2014. She will continue to lead the program in this new role.

Among her accomplishments, Reske co-authored a chapter in DNP Education, Practice, and Policy: Redesigning Advanced Practice Roles for the 21st Century (2012) and is a journal reviewer for the Journal of Professional Nursing. In addition, she has presented locally, nationally, and internationally on DNP practice-related topics, patient-experience-related topics, nurse telephone triage, and nursing informatics.

Reske holds a BS in nursing from Saint Anselm College, a MPA from the University of New Haven, an MSN in health systems from Vanderbilt University, and a DNP degree in executive nurse leadership from the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

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SPRINGFIELD — You can take the fair away from the community, but you can’t take the community away from the fare. Throughout the month of September, the Student Prince and the Fort will serve ‘Fort fair food’ for lunch and dinner outdoors under its Fort Street big top. The menu will be similar to the Wurst Haus at the Big E, but served in a different location, and there’s live music every Tuesday through Saturday throughout September.

“We wanted to come up with a creative way to bring our delicious fair foods to our patrons who are missing them during the month of September,” Managing Partner Andy Yee said. “We decided to serve our delicious Wurst Haus menu on Fort Street for all those craving a taste of big fair food.”

Reservations are suggested. Masks and social distancing are necessary. Guests can also dine indoors or order Fort fair food to go online at www.studentprince.com.

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SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will hold its annual fall open house on two dates: Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Thursday, Oct. 15 from 1 to 3:30 p.m., in a virtual format.

High-school students, adult learners, and their family members can log into Zoom and meet virtually with representatives from the college’s degree and certificate programs and departments. For information about registering to attend the virtual event, visit stcc.edu/apply/open-house.

Open to the public, STCC’s open house is an opportunity for anyone thinking about becoming a student to learn more about what the college has to offer, including associate-degree and certificate programs, transfer opportunities, financial aid, athletics and student life, online learning, workforce-training options, high-school equivalency exam (HiSET), and classes for English language learners. Representatives from specific programs and departments will hold breakout sessions to speak with anyone who joins.

Dean of Admissions Louisa Davis-Freeman said the open house at STCC is an excellent opportunity to find out about programs and speak with instructors and professors. In past semesters, the event has been held on campus, but it will be offered virtually this time to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to safety concerns, STCC offers online classes with a mix of low-density on-campus labs for health, science, and technical programs.

“I encourage all prospective students — whether you’re in high school or a returning adult — to log into Zoom and learn more about STCC,” Davis-Freeman said. “We’re affordable and accessible, and our career programs will prepare you to join the workforce upon graduation. We also have many transfer programs, and our graduates continue their educational journeys at colleges and universities throughout the United States.”

For more information, contact the STCC Admissions Office at (413) 755-3333 or [email protected]. To apply to STCC, visit stcc.edu/apply. STCC is accepting applications for Fall Flex Term 2, which starts Oct. 28, and for the spring term, which begins in January.

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded two grants worth more than $1 million to continue educating and training early-childhood educators and supporting the programs they work for in Western Mass.

Both the Career Pathways Grant, for $680,000, and the Strong Start Training and Technical Assistance Grant, for $360,000, come from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), which licenses public and private childcare programs in the state.

“These grants come at a very important time as childcare programs reopen and adjust to new guidelines instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kimm Quinlan, director of HCC’s Early Childhood Grant Initiatives.

HCC is the lead agent on a six-month Career Pathways Grant that will allow the college to continue its free Childhood Development Associate Plus (CDA-Plus) certificate program. The program was created to help early-childhood educators already working in the field attain their national CDA credential or enhance their certification level, and is offered at no cost to participants.

Greenfield Community College and Berkshire Community College are HCC’s partners in the Western Mass. consortium. The three colleges each have their own CDA-Plus programs and collaborate on implementation and support.

“The $680,000 is a six-month allocation for the three colleges in the consortium,” Quinlan said. “We’re hoping to get an additional $680,000 for the following six months.”

HCC launched its CDA-Plus program in 2019 after an initial, year-long grant of $2 million to the consortium from the EEC. Students who complete the program are awarded a CDA-Plus certificate and can apply the credits they earn toward an associate degree in early childhood education from HCC.

The two-semester course of study includes four sequential, seven-week courses in subjects such as childhood behavior and development; early-childhood programs; and health, safety, and nutrition. The grant covers all tuition, fees, books, and a $425 CDA credentialing fee, and includes a stipend of about $500 for unexpected costs.

HCC graduated its first class of CDA-Plus students in June. A second group started in January 2020 and will complete their program in November. The new funding will pay for a third class set to begin their studies this month. All the classes were originally designed as hybrid courses, with both online and face-to-face components, but shifted to completely remote in mid-March due to the pandemic.

“All of our students are supposed to be working in the field, and they all found themselves not working in the field very quickly, so it has been quite a transition for them,” Quinlan said. “Some of them have gone back to work. Some of their programs did not reopen. Some of them will be going back to work very soon, and there were some whose businesses did continue to operate as emergency childcare facilities for essential workers.”

The $360,000 Strong Start Training and Technical Assistance Grant follows an initial award in 2019, establishing HCC as the EEC’s professional-development center for Western Mass.

Last year, HCC, working with UMass Boston as the lead agent, offered a series of workshops on and off campus to provide training, coaching, and technical assistance to early-childhood programs. This time, the program was completely revamped due to the pandemic.

“Instead of doing universal trainings, our work this year is focused on supporting programs that are going through the reopening process,” Quinlan said. “So our focus this year is to help them reopen and then to help them successfully implement the new guidelines related to COVID-19.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank hired Jessica Wales to the position of vice president and branch manager of the Granby and Belchertown offices.

Wales studied at Ashworth College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in management, and is currently pursuing an MBA in marketing there. She is also a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies.

She is a recipient of Florence Bank’s Community Support Award, an annual tradition established by the bank in 1997 that formally recognizes employees who are active participants in community events and donate their personal and professional time to local not-for-profit organizations. She was also recognized by BusinessWest in 2014 as a member of the 40 Under Forty, which celebrates young business and civic leaders in Western Mass.

Wales serves her community as a board member of the United Way of Hampshire County and is an active member of its finance and investment committee. She also serves as a committee member of both the Western Massachusetts Women’s Business Network and Cooley Dickinson’s Golf FORE Health.

“We are thrilled to have Jessica back with our Florence Bank family,” President and CEO Kevin Day. “Jessica is a hard worker who has not only impressed her peers but has also made a lasting impression on our customers. I know we will see excellent contributions from her in the years to come.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) Admissions office is offering virtual information sessions for prospective undergraduate and graduate degree program applicants.

Information sessions are available Monday through Friday and provide an opportunity for attendees to speak with admissions counselors virtually to learn more about the admissions process, available programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, financial aid, and more.

This month, in addition to the weekday information sessions, there will be an athletic information session for undergraduates on Saturday, Sept. 26 for individuals interested in learning more about AIC’s athletic programs.

Specialized graduate information sessions will also be available during September for the doctorate in physical therapy, master’s degree in cannabis science and commerce, master’s degree in occupational therapy, and advanced degree programs in the School of Education.

Interested participants are invited to visit aic.askadmissions.net/portal/ei/search for a complete list of dates and times, and to register.

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SPRINGFIELD — As fall approaches, Freedom Credit Union is once again offering the opportunity for Western Mass. residents to securely purge unwanted paperwork. In cooperation with PROSHRED Springfield, Freedom is offering free Community Shred Days at two of its branches on Saturday, Sept. 19: 9 to 10 a.m. at 296 Cooley St., Springfield; and 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at 645 Center St., Ludlow.

The public is invited to bring old bills, bank statements, tax returns, and other sensitive documents for free, quick, and secure on-site shredding.

Members and non-members alike may bring up to five file boxes or paper bags (per vehicle) to the events. Masks are required, and social-distancing guidelines will be in effect.

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HOLYOKE — Tanisha Arena, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arise for Social Justice, and Pam Victor, owner of Happier Valley Comedy, will be the featured presenters on Wednesday, Sept. 30, during the third session of the 2020 Virtual Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series.

Arena and Victor will present “Comfortable in Your Own Skin, Finding Your Voice” from noon to 1 p.m. over Zoom.

The series, postponed from spring because of COVID-19, is sponsored by Holyoke Community College and Training and Workforce Options, a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College. Each of four lunchtime events features two presenters leading discussions on different topics.

For the final session on Oct. 28, Colleen Loveless, president and CEO of Revitalize Community Development Corp., and Nicole Palange, vice president of V&F Auto, will lead a discussion titled “Women Leaders in Non-traditional Businesses.”

HCC President Christina Royal and Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, led off the reimagined monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series on July 29 with a session on “Leading Through Change.”

“Empowering Women in the Workplace” was the theme of the second session, led by Denise Jordan, executive director of the Springfield Housing Authority, and Julie Quink, managing partner of Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

Each session costs $20, and advance registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.

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BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced an extension of administrative tax-relief measures for local businesses that have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

This includes the extension of the deferral of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room-occupancy taxes for small businesses due from March 2020 through April 2021, so they will instead be due in May 2021. Businesses that collected less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the 12-month period ending Feb. 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and businesses that collected less than $150,000 in room-occupancy taxes in the same 12-month period will be eligible for relief with respect to room-occupancy taxes. For these small businesses, no penalties or interest will accrue during this extension period.

“Our administration is committed to supporting local businesses and Main Street economies recovering from the impact of COVID-19, and we’re glad to work with our legislative colleagues on this additional measure to provide administrative tax relief,” Baker said. “Extending the tax-relief measures we put into place earlier this year will help support companies across Massachusetts, including small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries.”

For businesses with meals tax and room-occupancy tax obligations that do not otherwise qualify for this relief, late-file and late-pay penalties will be waived during this period.

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SPRINGFIELD — In 1936, Paul and Gerry D’Amour were passionate about providing fresh local food to their customers at the Y Cash Market in Chicopee. Today, close to 85 years after its founding, Big Y World Class Markets have more than 500 partnerships with local farmers like Meadowbrook Farms and local food producers like Millie’s Pierogi. The passion of its founders continues with Big Y announcing the Fresh & Local Distribution Center name and logo.

“One of my earliest memories was going around with my uncle to the farms in the summer months and buying peppers and tomatoes and corn,” said Charlie D’Amour, president and CEO of Big Y (see video here). “You could just feel the camaraderie and the connection. I’m proud to say that that connection is still with us today.”

Big Y’s Fresh & Local Distribution Center provides local farmers and food producers with an efficient, one-stop location that saves them the time and cost of delivering to individual stores. It also features state-of-the-art technology and temperature controls to help Big Y maintain and deliver food at the peak of freshness to customers. Corn picked in the fields in the morning can be in Big Y stores by the afternoon. Big Y supplies each of its stores with fresh fish six days a week. Fish may have been swimming in the ocean one day and be in stores by the next morning.

Currently, through Big Y’s Fresh & Local Distribution Center, 70 farmers — accounting for more than 9,000 acres of farmland in the region — supply Big Y’s stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut with 1,200 types of native fruits and vegetables each year. For many farmers, this partnership helps them grow their business and preserve farmland and open space in area communities.

“Big Y has been so instrumental in the local community,” said John Burney of Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow. “They have enabled me to continue to grow my business and put 99% of my profits back into the farm to keep providing customers with locally grown produce.”

More that 3,000 different products from local food producers can be found at a typical Big Y supermarket. Big Y actively searches for new craft-food artisans to bring into their stores and can provide them with support for marketing and packaging, help with barcodes, or even advice on business matters like insurance. “It gives us great pride and honor to be able to help these young businesses, these young farmers, these young producers, to grow their business and become successful,” said D’Amour. “That’s part of the role we can play in the community. I would encourage folks out there who want to explore an opportunity to work with us to contact us through bigy.com.”

The new Fresh & Local Distribution center has close to 425,000 square feet of space and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is located adjacent to Big Y headquarters at 2145 Roosevelt Ave. in Springfield.

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SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University will host high-school students and their parents in a virtual open house on Sunday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is free, but advance reservation is required by clicking here or calling the Admissions Office at (413) 782-1312.

Kerri Jarzabski, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management and Retention and dean of first-year students, will lead guests on a live virtual tour of the campus; introduce them to the university’s new President, Robert Johnson; and show them what life is like as a Golden Bear. Along the way, prospective students and their families will learn about academic opportunities within the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Engineering; the new 4U Advising Program and options for academic support; living on campus and commuting; student activities; athletics; and more.

“I am so excited to have a chance to meet our prospective students at this event,” Jarzabski said. “Even though we are not able to have large numbers of students on campus, I am confident that those that attend will get a true sense of the Golden Bear spirit that exists on our campus.”

To wrap up the event, Jarzabski will host a live panel with student leaders, where guests will be able to ask questions directly to students. After the formal event, prospective families will be able to join academic breakout sessions, watch a video overview, and join a Zoom session for each college.

For a complete list of 2020-21 Virtual Open House dates and times, click here.

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SPRINGFIELD — Attorney Amelia Holstrom, a partner at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., has joined the board of directors for the East of the River Five Town Chamber of Commerce (ERC5).

Holstrom has been with Skoler Abbott since 2012 and was named a partner last year. She focuses her practice on labor law and employment litigation, including representing employers before state and federal agencies and in state and federal courts, providing counsel to management regarding litigation-avoidance strategies, reviewing and revising personnel policies and practices, wage-and-hour compliance, and separation and severance agreements.

A seasoned employment-law attorney, Holstrom brings a unique perspective to the ERC5’s board. The mission of the ERC5 is to promote an environment that fosters the economic growth of the towns of East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, and Wilbraham through the creation and expansion of businesses and jobs.

Holstrom’s skills and community involvement have been recognized many times by outside organizations. She was selected to the Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list in 2018 and 2019, and was a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly “Up & Coming” honoree in 2017. In addition, she received the Massachusetts Bar Assoc. Community Service Award in 2016, and was selected by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2015.

In addition to the ERC5, Holstrom is also on the boards of directors for Clinical & Support Options and Girls Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, and is an ad hoc member of the personnel committee for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. She previously served as clerk of the board of directors for Friends of the Homeless. She frequently speaks about employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations and is a regular contributor to the Massachusetts Employment Law Letter.

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NORTH ADAMS — For the third consecutive year, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is ranked as a Top Ten College by U.S. News & World Report. MCLA ranks ninth on the organization’s list of top public colleges and also appears on U.S. News’ list of Top National Liberal Arts Colleges.

The college also is ranked among the top 50 public and private schools on U.S. News’ Top Performers on Social Mobility list, which measures how well schools graduate students who receive federal Pell Grants, typically awarded to students whose families make less than $50,000. Only eight other public colleges are ranked higher than MCLA on this list.

The college has appeared on U.S. News’ list of top public colleges for eight of the last 10 years.

“I am especially proud that MCLA has continued to be ranked among the nation’s top public schools,” MCLA President James Birge said. “This year, during a pandemic, in addition to providing a high-quality education, we were able to distribute more than $257,000 to students who found themselves dire economic circumstances due to COVID-19 through the MCLA Resiliency Fund. MCLA was also awarded a federal TRIO grant, which will provide $1.3 million to enhance our support for under-resourced students for the next five years. These grant activities will enhance MCLA’s commitment to equity for our students by providing support services to help students achieve their academic goals. I am thankful to my colleagues for their ongoing commitment to providing our students an accessible, affordable education that elevates lives.”

U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges based on indicators that reflect a school’s student body, faculty, and financial resources, along with outcome measures that signal how well the institution achieves its mission of educating students. For more information, visit usnews.com/colleges.

“The Commonwealth is lucky to have an institution like MCLA, and we are proud of this achievement and the impact MCLA has on our community,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. “As the Commonwealth’s public liberal-arts college, MCLA has demonstrated enormous commitment to access, equity, and academic excellence. MCLA is a key partner in driving the economy of the Berkshires and sustaining Massachusetts’ national leadership in higher education.”

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WESTFIELD — Westfield State University (WSU) is again one of Massachusetts’ top public universities among its peers, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2021 list. The rankings underscore the university’s commitment to accessibility, affordability, and intentional outcomes.

In this year’s release, Westfield State is ranked 90th among 170 institutions in “Regional Universities – North.” It is ranked ahead of its peer Massachusetts state universities in both that category and U.S. News’ Best Public Schools, where it placed 26th.

Rankings were determined by a number of factors, including a peer assessment, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, class sizes, student/faculty ratio, student selectivity, and alumni-giving rate.

“We are proud to receive this noteworthy recognition,” said Roy Saigo, interim president of WSU. “The university meets students’ needs by providing pathways to an accessible, high-quality, affordable, comprehensive education and experience.”

The rankings are available at www.usnews.com/colleges and on newsstands.

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SPRINGFIELD — John Nordell, assistant professor of Visual and Digital Arts at American International College (AIC), is receiving acclaim for photographs he took at the beginning of the 1980s hip-hop scene in Boston. Today, Sept. 15, the prestigious Sotheby’s will host its first-ever hip-hop auction, where the professor’s photos will be featured.

Among the items to be auctioned are two lots of previously unseen photographs, 42 images in all, taken by Nordell. His images are a peek into the beginnings of hip-hop with Hollywood Talent Night events with young artists including New Kids on the Block, the Almighty RSO, and DJ Rusty the Toe Jammer in the early years of what would become a cultural revolution.

Growing up in Cambridge, Nordell said photography was always his calling, and he began honing his craft as a teenager. Returning to Boston after college, he persevered, ultimately finding work as a photojournalist for Time and other prominent publications.

Nordell said it is an honor to have his previously undiscovered photos featured. “This body of work is a labor of love. These photographs represent the hundreds I shot from 1985 to 1989, documenting hip-hop culture in Boston. I believe the power of the images lies in their focused look at a single community: an exuberant microcosm of a growing worldwide cultural revolution. Many of my subjects never gained much prominence, but they remain important as early, localized representatives of a seismic shift.”

A sampling of images set to appear at Sotheby’s auction can be viewed on Nordell’s blog at createlookenjoy.com.

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SPRINGFIELD — Bulkley Richardson partners Liz Sillin and John Pucci were named 2021 Lawyer of the Year recipients in their respective practice areas by Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News Media Group. Sillin was recognized for trusts and estates, and Pucci was recognized for criminal defense (general practice), an honor he has held for the past 11 years.

Lawyer of the Year rankings are awarded to one lawyer per practice area and region, making it a distinguished accolade. Honorees receive this award based on their high overall peer feedback within specific practice areas and metropolitan regions.