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HOLYOKE — Citing the financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Holyoke Community College (HCC) board of trustees voted to freeze student fees for the upcoming academic year. The vote was 8-0.

“This unanimous vote to freeze fees demonstrates our concern for the success of our students,” said Robert Gilbert, board chair. “They depend on us, and freezing costs when they’re facing grave economic uncertainty is the right thing to do. We’re trying to do everything we can to make it easier for students to come here, stay here, and succeed here.”

The vote locks HCC’s educational service fee at $188 per credit and the student service fee at $145 per semester for fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1.

Over the past five years, HCC has raised fees by about 5% annually. Tuition for all community colleges in Massachusetts is set by the state. At HCC, tuition is $24 per credit, a number that has not changed in more than 10 years.

“Holyoke Community College is fortunate to have a board of trustees that recognizes the financial hardships brought on by this pandemic and understands that many of our students have been disproportionately impacted,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “The decision to freeze fees, as well as greater investments in student supports that address food insecurity, mental health, and digital equity, mean that students will have more resources and financial support to attend HCC now and in the future.”

Since the pandemic began, HCC has received more than $3.7 million in higher-education relief funds for direct student financial support. That has enabled HCC to provide $550 block grants to every student enrolled for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Those grants, and other incentives, are likely to be available again for the fall 2021 semester. In addition, HCC has received more than $7 million in stimulus money to cover additional expenses incurred during the pandemic.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Professionals from throughout Western Mass. will gather virtually as Western New England University (WNEU) convenes its 38th annual Social Work Conference on Wednesday, May 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. This year’s conference is being presented virtually in accordance with CDC recommendations at the time of planning.

Risa Silverman, director of the UMass School of Public Health and Health Sciences Office for Public Health Practice and Outreach, will be the keynote speaker for this event. Silverman’s presentation, “Bridge the Gap: Look at Race and Health Through an Intergenerational Lens,” will describe the work of the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network and its latest project, creating a film with community members young and old, on conversations about racism and health in our communities.

“We will discuss what health equity looks like during and post-pandemic for our community members and how to move forward together by learning and identifying action steps,” said Silverman. The presentation will discuss working together to address racism as a public-health crisis and ways in which conversations can be productive in this space. Members of the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network will join Silverman in the conversation.

Rosa Espinosa will be honored with the annual Jim Quinn Human Service Award at the conference. Espinosa is the director of family-based services at New North Citizens’ Council (NNCC), which provides advocacy, public, and human services to Hampden County residents with an emphasis on the Hispanic/Latino community.

“Human services saved my life,” said Espinosa, who describes her younger self, as a young mother with two children, the literal definition of the population NNCC serves. “After 30 years, I can honestly say that not only is this work fulfilling, but no matter how much I’ve done, I know I can do more because I will always remember what the agency did for me and my family.”

The daylong conference is sponsored by Western New England University’s Bachelor of Social Work program, the Social Work Advisory Council, and the Office of Enrollment Management, as well as more than 30 virtual sponsors.

Registration for this event is now open. If received before May 12, the registration fee is $120 and includes seven credit hours for full (100%) attendance. The conference fee after May 12 will be $135. Lower student rates are also available. Visit wne.edu/prodev to register online, or call (413) 796-2173.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that Lauren Duffy, executive vice president and chief operating officer, was recently appointed board chair of the Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) Member Advantage Mortgage LLC (MAM), a company owned and operated by credit unions across the country to provide major-lender options for home financing.

Understanding that home ownership can be a critical component to building wealth for any individual or family, UMassFive has built and sustained a purposeful partnership with MAM after investing in CUSO in 2009 to bring better home loan and refinancing options to its members. In fact, UMassFive is the single largest-volume loan producer of all MAM credit-union investors, making up more than half their volume year over year.

“The credit union is thrilled to have Lauren assume this role and further our relationship with MAM,” UMassFive President and CEO Rich Kump said. “Over her nearly 16-year career here at UMassFive, Lauren’s wealth of knowledge in so many areas of the credit union has granted her a valuable and unique perspective that she continues to use to serve our members. Having her expertise now overseeing MAM allows us greater input on the strategic direction for an organization already serving so many of our members, and it helps ensure accountability to our members’ needs and long-term success.”

The MAM board’s official charge is to set the strategic direction and execute its fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the credit union members’ investment in the company, including oversight of compliance policies and financial audits. As board chair, Duffy will help set the agenda for the board’s focus and work closely on strategy and business development with MAM CEO Jeff Leep.

“Member service is our top priority,” Leep said. “Today’s homebuyers demand easy and convenient access to information at all times, but also want the confidence of a trusted advisor to help them make the best decision. Our relationship with UMassFive has been instrumental in guiding our innovation roadmap and creating an overall lending platform capable of helping credit unions be the go-to source for their members’ home financing needs.”

Duffy was one of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty honorees in 2019.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will celebrate the class of 2021 with a drive-through parade on Thursday, June 3 at 4 p.m.

Because campus access is restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic, graduates must register in advance to join the parade. Visit stcc.edu/commencement to find a link to register.

All graduates and their guests must ride in a car. STCC will provide transportation for students who do not have access to a vehicle. Faculty and staff from STCC will line Mary Killeen Bennett Way, which is the main road on campus, to cheer on graduates.

“We are delighted to host a drive-through parade to honor our graduates,” STCC President John Cook said. “As students, they have faced tough obstacles over the past year. The faculty, staff, and I are proud of them. They deserve to be celebrated.”

Andrea Tarpey, coordinator of Student Activities at STCC, proposed the idea for a parade. “We know how important it is to celebrate graduation, and a parade is a wonderful and safe way to honor the achievement,” she said. “I think our graduates will love the experience, and we can’t wait to cheer them on.”

Graduates can wear their cap and gown and decorate their car. Only one car per graduate is permitted to participate in the parade. The parade will start at the Federal Street entrance to campus. If it rains, the parade will be rescheduled to Friday, June 4.

Separately, STCC is planning a virtual commencement on Friday, June 18 at 6 p.m. Graduates and their friends and family can watch the streaming event on the STCC YouTube channel, youtube.com/springfieldtechcc.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — The board of trustees at Westfield State University (WSU) selected higher-education and public-policy leader Linda Thompson to serve as the university’s 21st president. Pending Board of Higher Education approval, Thompson is slated to begin her presidency this summer.

“Based on Dr. Thompson’s credentials and wealth of experience in influential leadership and collaboration, paired with her highly engaging campus visit with Westfield State’s varied constituents, the board voted to recommend her as the university’s next leader,” said Kevin Queenin, who chairs the WSU board of trustees.

Thompson has served as dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UMass Boston since 2017 and previously held a similar position at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. At both institutions, she developed and implemented a comprehensive, five-year strategic plan to increase enrollment, expand partnerships and academic programs, secure funding, and increase diversity among students and faculty.

She has taught nursing and public health throughout her career at 10 different colleges and universities. Her administrative experience includes appointments as provost and vice chancellor at North Carolina A&T State University, dean of Nursing at Oakland University in Michigan, and associate dean at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Her extensive experience in public service includes serving as director of Occupational Medicine and Safety in Baltimore, where she developed programs and policies to promote the health of the city’s workforce. At the state level, she served as special secretary for Children, Youth, and Families in Maryland. There, she developed programs and policies to improve the quality of care for vulnerable populations of children. Many of these programs have been duplicated through her advisory and consulting roles in Brazil, China, India, Korea, and the Caribbean. She was the chief policy advisor to the governor of Maryland on all children and youth matters, managing an interagency budget of more than $350 million.

Thompson has published more than 100 articles, books, book chapters, and abstracts. She has received numerous awards, including induction into the American Academy of Nursing, Phi Kappa Alpha, and Sigma Xi, and was an invited participant in the White House Conference on Childcare and as the White House delegate to Brazil.

She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at Wayne State University in Michigan and master’s and doctoral degrees in public health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“In addition to looking forward to welcoming Dr. Thompson as Westfield State’s next leader, I offer sincere thanks to the hardworking and thoughtful members of the presidential search committee for their invaluable role in this important selection process,” said Robert Martin, Westfield State University trustee and chair of the presidential search committee.

Thompson will succeed interim President Roy Saigo, who has led Westfield State through the 2020-21 academic year.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley (HRIPV) announced it has received a $300,000 grant from the MassMutual Foundation, serving as lead gift for the launch of a $1 million, three-year capital fund drive for the institute.

The Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley was formed in 2012; since then, more than 1,000 people from Western Mass. and throughout Massachusetts have participated in its signature, two-day Healing Racism program. HRIPV was formed as a result of the City2City of Pioneer Valley visit to Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2011, where area leaders discovered a similar model embedded in the Greater Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

With the announcement of the MassMutual Foundation grant, HRIPV has reached $450,000 in commitments over the next three years, with substantial contributions coming from the Beveridge Foundation and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation. The campaign is designed to help the institute become self-sustaining as it works toward its stated goal of “building a racism-free Pioneer Valley.”

“I speak for the board and for the larger Healing Racism community in expressing our thanks to the MassMutual Foundation for their critical support of our work,” said Frank Robinson, board chair of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley. “We often speak of the toxic nature of racism; our approach of healing and understanding is making a difference in the communities and organizations where we are engaged.”

Robinson added that “racism is overcome by changing hearts and recognizing our common humanity. We expect that this lead gift from the MassMutual Foundation, and their demonstrated commitment to help build stronger, more vibrant communities, will inspire others to contribute. This lead gift will help HRIPV to build the critical infrastructure necessary to move toward a racism-free region.”

HRIPV recently established itself as a standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and has also expanded its board, reflecting the diversity of the region. The United Way of Pioneer Valley serves as fiscal agent for the institute.

In addition to HRIPV’s signature two-day training seminars, HRIPV offers half- and full-day board and staff training and cohort development whereby the institute provides tools and training, allowing organizations to continue the internal process of examining racism and its impact on organizations and the larger community. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HRIPV has developed a completely online curriculum to sustain and grow its reach and impact.

Funding from the capital campaign will help the institute identify a permanent home, add critical staff, expand facilitator training, and provide scholarships for individuals unable to afford participation in the two-day signature session and related programming. Holyoke Community College has served as a critical partner by hosting most of the two-day trainings over the past eight years of operation.

“The institute’s focus on delivering specialized education as a means to help eradicate racism is truly one of its strengths and why it has been such an effective partner for organizations in our community,” said Dennis Duquette, president of the MassMutual Foundation. “We are proud to support the capital campaign as a means to help scale the great work and positive impact of HRIPV throughout Greater Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.”

HRIPV is led by Vanessa Otero, one of its co-founders and an original member of the board until assuming the position of interim director in 2020.

“We have arrived at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history — a moment in which more people than ever before are willing to acknowledge, confront, and challenge the systematic oppression of people of color,” Otero said. “Race prejudice and racism are corrosive to people and to communities and deny the fullness of opportunity to people of color. We can, however, accelerate systemic change and create a more just society by building successive cohorts of change agents equipped to understand and eliminate the root causes and other elements of racism that characterize so many of our institutions today.”

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Gary Mullett

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Professor Gary Mullett was named a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the highest grade for the professional organization for electrical and electronic engineers.

IEEE senior membership is an honor bestowed only to those who have made significant contributions to the profession. The grade reflects professional maturity.

Senior members have been engineers, scientists, educators, technical executives, or originators in IEEE-designated fields for 10 years and have demonstrated five years of significant performance.

Mullett is a professor of Electrical, Energy, Optics, and Mechanical Technology at STCC. He has been with the college since the 1970s.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to the generosity of a number of local businesses, Chikmedia is now offering four scholarships as part of its Chiks of the Future annual scholarship initiative. The application deadline is Saturday, May 1.

Chikmedia, a boutique firm offering strategic marketing planning and creative PR, has launched its annual scholarship to support future generations of marketing professionals. Chikmedia will now be offering four $500 scholarships in 2021 as Summerlin Floors, Ryan McCollum of RMC Strategies, and the Springfield Thunderbirds have decided to match this scholarship amount. These scholarships will be awarded to four deserving female high-school seniors or college students of color pursuing a degree in marketing, public relations, communications, or business.

In order to see individuals succeed, the community needs to help them grow from the beginning. Last year, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Chikmedia did a little digging into scholarship opportunities and found that Caucasian students received 72% of all scholarships, while minority students received only 28%. Although a $500 scholarship doesn’t close the large gap, the company wanted to do its part in expanding available opportunities. The community involvement from local businesses has been welcomed with open arms. Four recipients will now be awarded a scholarship thanks to these partners.

Completed scholarship applications and all support materials must be submitted to Chikmedia by May 1. Scholarship recipients will be notified by e-mail and then announced publicly during the first week of August. Applicants can find the guidelines and application form by clicking here.

“This is something we as a team are very passionate about,” said Meghan Rothschild, president of Chikmedia. “We started the scholarship to combat the racial injustices we saw in 2020 and plan to honor it every year. We cannot thank our partners enough; their generosity is humbling and overwhelming.”

Nathan Costa, president of the Springfield Thunderbirds, added that “it’s been our mission these past few months to stay connected with our community and to participate in meaningful programs that will have a positive impact. This scholarship fits perfectly into our foundation’s mission, and we couldn’t be happier to help support Chikmedia and Meghan, who has worked tirelessly to give back and help support the next generation of women-led businesses.”

Daily News

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced that Massachusetts will reopen some outdoor phase 4, step 2 industries effective May 10 and put plans in place for further reopening on May 29 and Aug. 1, while relaxing the face-coverings order in some settings on April 30.

The administration continues to take steps to reopen the Commonwealth’s economy with public-health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction. This includes drops in average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Massachusetts remains first in the nation for first vaccine doses and total doses administered per capita, among states with more than 5 million people.

Effective Monday, May 10:

• Large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas, and ballparks currently open as part of phase 4, step 1 at 12% will be permitted to increase capacity to 25%.

• The Commonwealth will reopen some outdoor phase 4, step 2 industries, including amusement parks, theme parks, and outdoor water parks, that will be permitted to operate at a 50% capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health (DPH).

• Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.

• Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate- and high-risk sports.

• Singing will also be permitted indoors, with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues, and other businesses.

Effective Saturday, May 29:

• Subject to public-health and vaccination data, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings, and private settings.

• Subject to public-health and vaccination data, additional phase 4, step 2 industries will be permitted to open, including street festivals, parades, and agricultural festivals, at 50% of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health.

• Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries, and distilleries will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit, and no dance floors.

• Subject to public-health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.

Effective Sunday, Aug. 1:

• Subject to public-health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open, including dance clubs and nightclubs; saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs, and other facilities; indoor water parks; and ball pits.

• All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time, and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices. The gathering limit will be rescinded.

Depending on vaccine distribution and public-health data, the administration may consider re-evaluating the Aug. 1 date. The DPH will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including guidance to continue requiring masks indoors.

Also, on Friday, April 30, the face-coverings order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings. Face coverings will be required outside in public only when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.

Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors, and whether held in a public space or private home, except for when eating or drinking.

At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity is on the rise, fueled by attractive market conditions and economic necessities. Buyers looking to increase their market share may see the pandemic as an opportunity to acquire a competitor and have access to record-low interest rates for bank-financed transactions. For businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic, selling is a more attractive option than insolvency, bankruptcy, or dissolution, and a properly structured deal can allow the sellers to benefit from any post-pandemic growth.

On Wednesday, May 12, attorneys David Parke and Ryan Barry from Bulkley Richardson’s M&A team will present a virtual seminar, “Buying or Selling a Business During COVID-19: Unique Opportunities and Challenges,” in which they will discuss the unique challenges for M&A transactions during the pandemic, including:

• Achieving an accurate valuation of a business impacted by the pandemic;

• Structuring compensation and earn-outs in a way that fairly allocates the risks of current conditions and the benefits of a post-pandemic recovery;

• Issues posed by unforgiven PPP loans;

• Loss carryback refunds and deferred payroll taxes under the CARES Act;

• Impacts on material customers and supply chains;

• Addressing the risks of pandemic-related changes on the target business prior to closing; and

• Impacts on traditional representations and warranties.

The webinar will be held from noon to 1 p.m., and pre-registration is required at www.bulkley.com/ma-invitation.

Daily News

ENFIELD, Conn. — Common Grounds, located on property behind the Enfield Senior Center, was created in 2006 by the Enfield Rotary Club, with support from local businesses and the University of Connecticut’s master gardener program. The garden was donated to the town, and a board of directors established in 2007 has been responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the one-acre plot.

Now, 14 years later, thousands of pounds of food have been harvested and donated to local food-relief agencies. Pat Bleakney is the one remaining board member after one additional board member who led the group passed away in February from COVID-19. A volunteer since the group’s inception, Bleakney says she needs help in order to keep the garden alive. Volunteers have been the lifeblood of this effort.

The group needs donations of plants, along with individuals who are willing to give their time to planting, weeding, maintaining, and harvesting the crop. The group also needs community members willing to pick up the harvest at the garden and deliver to local agencies.

“We historically have picked on Tuesday nights, and the harvest has been delivered on Wednesday,” Bleakney explained. “It takes a couple of hours to pick. Most of the garden is black mat, so weeding is minimal, but it would be nice to have help. The biggest need is help kicking off the year by getting plant donations and gathering volunteers to help get the plants in the ground. We normally plant the first week of June but need to get requests into growers now.”

Those wishing to help or learn more can e-mail Bleakney at [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — To facilitate this past season of giving food to those in need, Big Y converted its Sack Hunger campaign from a $10 bag of groceries to a streamlined $5 donation to the five food banks within its marketing area. These regional food banks support local soup kitchens, food pantries, senior food programs, children’s programs, and more for the 2,100 member agencies they serve every day.

During November and December, Big Y customers and employees contributed almost $300,000 to help their friends and neighbors in their communities. In order to expand their support, Big Y matched this contribution bringing the total up to $600,000 or 2.4 million meals.

According to Big Y president and CEO Charles D’Amour, “we appreciate the generosity of our customers and employees in helping us to support our friends and neighbors in need. And we are grateful to our partnerships with our five area food banks for their heroic efforts in serving those most vulnerable in our communities. Being able to provide another 2.4 million meals through our Sack Hunger program helps us to fulfill our mission to feed families.”

This past year has seen dramatic increases in food insecurity throughout the region. Big Y’s Sack Hunger donation is part of its ongoing support throughout the year, including almost daily donations of meat, fresh produce, and bakery items, along with grocery, frozen, and dairy items. And based the pandemic challenges of the past year, Big Y had already contributed another $250,000 in support of the food banks for their work with vulnerable populations.

The five regional food banks are the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Worcester County Food Bank, and the Greater Boston Food Bank in Massachusetts, as well as Foodshare and the Connecticut Food Bank in Connecticut. This year’s virtual Sack Hunger bags were purchased from 71 Big Y supermarkets, Fresh Acres Specialty Market, and Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors.

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SPRINGFIELD — The African Hall Committee of the Springfield Museums announced its annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award winners. Now in its 30th year of celebrating leadership by people of African heritage, the 2021 Ubora Award honors Robert Cee Jackson as an exemplary philanthropist and humanitarian. The 12th Ahadi Youth Award honors the remarkable energy and intent of Tigist Dawit Terefe, a junior at the High School of Science & Technology.

Robert Cee Jackson

As president of Jackson Security and Jackson Transportation, Jackson employs many community members and negotiates fees to help make his services affordable to all. As vice president of the African-American philanthropic organization the Brethren Community Foundation, he helps neighborhood youth with projects such as staging a celebration of Juneteenth that showcased remarkable community talent and providing college scholarships for youth.

Jackson’s community-minded leadership also includes the Urban League board of directors and the Springfield Partners for Community Action board of directors. In addition, he is an active member and distinguished leader of the Masonic Order.

For decades, Jackson has helped at the Stone Soul Festival, which is recognized as one of New England’s largest African-American festivals. He was a co-founder of the 5A football program, which is now called Springfield Youth Athletics. Its mission is to provide activities and opportunities for young people, regardless of race, religion, or economic status, in the urban Springfield community and surrounding area.

He volunteers with the Old Hill Neighborhood Council, which is dedicated to serving the needs and concerns of community members. And he was appointed in 2008 by Mayor Domenic Sarno to serve as a commissioner of the Community Police Hearing Board.

“This is such an unexpected surprise,” Jackson said. “I am honored to be the recipient of the 30th Ubora Award. The volunteer service that I do is because of my commitment to and love for my community. This is a prestigious award, and I am humbled and grateful to the African Hall Committee, Springfield Museums, and all involved in this honor.”

Tigist Dawit Terefe

Terefe maintains top grades while also pursuing difficult coursework, including advanced-placement classes. She has taken advantage of dual-enrollment opportunities with Springfield Technical Community College to earn college credits as well as the After Dark Vocational Program with Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, which allows her to graduate with both her high-school diploma and as a certified nurse assistant.

Terefe also works part-time at Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, as an intern in the cancer-research lab, and looks forward to going into cancer biomedical research in the future. She participates in the Baystate Educational Partnership to expand her insight into the medical world. She is also one of the founders of the first-ever Springfield Leadership Advisory Council, which will work to connect students of Springfield public schools with district leaders.

Terefe is a member of District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s Youth Advisory Board, which addresses issues facing today’s teens, researches effective prevention strategies, and works to give youth and residents in the City of Springfield a more powerful voice to make positive change. She is a tutor to other Youth Advisory Board members and leads the inclusion committee, which has created a series of podcasts to give insight on how people could be more inclusive, and what they have experienced as students in Hampden County.

“I am overjoyed to have received the Ahadi Award,” Terefe said. “I have always found people with an interest in their community impressive, and have worked in my academic ventures to do the same. I love working on topics of equity and inclusivity in the Springfield community and generally. I thank the committee for selecting me, and I thank my guidance counselor, Ms. [Amy] Quinlan, for nominating me. I hope I represent the award well throughout and after my high-school career.”

The Ubora Award and the Ahadi Youth Award are awarded to African-Americans from Greater Springfield who have demonstrated commitment, above and beyond, to the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the appointment of two staff members: Charlene Holmes, director of Diversity and Engagement; and Jennifer Leon, director of Residence Life.

Charlene Holmes

Holmes has a decade of experience in student engagement, student support, and programmatic development to ensure college access and success for under-represented groups. She has spent most of her career working with nonprofit organizations serving low-income, first-generation student athletes achieving post-secondary success, such as the East Harlem Tutorial Program, the Harlem Children’s Zone, and Door-A Center for Alternatives.

Most recently, she was president and CEO of Imana Borena in New York, where she oversaw the organization’s executive leadership programs, including diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in health science from Mercy College and a master’s degree of professional studies in sports management from St. John’s University.

Jennifer Leon

Leon has six years of experience in higher education, serving in a variety of roles within student affairs, residential life, student activities, orientation, and parent programs. Most recently, she was assistant director of student life at SUNY Adirondack and was responsible for student-engagement opportunities, orientation, and leadership programming.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Oneonta and a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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PITTSFIELD — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $842,522 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) to develop and implement an economic recovery and resiliency plan and provide technical assistance to bolster the region’s ability to withstand future economic disruptions.

The two-year project will fund expansion of Berkshire County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to include regional resiliency planning, and will also help identify and support recovery projects; rebuild the region’s online data and economic-indicator tracking capabilities; provide technical assistance and capacity-building opportunities to local businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities; and support workforce and industry-building efforts to facilitate meaningful work toward economic recovery, growth, and resiliency in the long term.

“Positioning Berkshire County for the best possible recovery from impacts of the pandemic is a top priority for Berkshire Regional Planning Commission,” BRPC Executive Director Thomas Matuszko said. “This funding supports a wide range of efforts on behalf of our region, each critical to our future economic well-being.”

Work to overhaul an online data clearinghouse, www.berkshirebenchmarks.org, is already underway, with a focus on improving user experience and encouraging a broader range of agencies to access the site for a better understanding of existing conditions in the county and to support their own grant-writing efforts. Advisory teams from around the county are providing guidance on the most important indicators to measure progress in economic recovery as well as various quality-of-life factors.

BRPC staff will expand upon the county’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to address long-term economic resiliency, working with members of the CEDS committee and additional stakeholders to develop new protocols for coordination during future disruptions. Staff will facilitate significant recovery-oriented projects from the CEDS priority project list, assisting municipal leaders and project managers in bringing projects to fruition, and will also seek to identity additional grant-eligible projects.

“We’re grateful to receive this investment in Berkshire County,” said Laura Brennan, Economic Development program manager at BRPC. “It allows us to take stock of how the region was impacted over the past year and play an important role in strategizing for the future.”

Local businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities will benefit from access to technical assistance through the EDA-funded initiative. These efforts will provide tools for businesses and organizations to better operate virtually if needed, as well as guidance on accessing state and federal assistance. Technical assistance for municipalities will support improvements to policies and operations for increased responsiveness to business community needs at the local level, including online permitting, revisions to zoning and other regulations, and improved communications with business owners.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will work with 1Berkshire as the primary partner in coordinating technical assistance to local businesses. 1Berkshire will also take the lead role in industry-specific capacity-building efforts, primarily focusing on industry clusters identified in the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0. Additional partners will be identified for the delivery of specialized technical assistance to businesses and municipalities after needs are assessed through online surveys and other outreach.

“This is a fantastic opportunity,” said Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire. “This level of federal investment into the nuts-and-bolts technical assistance our regional economy needs is critical, and we are excited to play our part to maximize the impact of this effort for businesses and organizations across the Berkshires.”

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ENFIELD, Conn. — Asnuntuck Community College will offer six- and eight-week online summer sessions beginning in June. Asnuntuck’s six-week session will run June 2 through July 14, while the eight-week session will begin June 2 and run through July 28. Medical, health, and manufacturing courses will begin on May 24, with most classes completed no later than July 19.

Students who are on summer break from their four-year institution should consider taking a course and then transferring the credits back to their institution. Prior to registering, students are advised to check with their home institution to determine whether the courses transfer. Course topics include many disciplines, including art, accounting, biology, business, chemistry, communications, early childhood, computer information systems technology, economics, English, history, human development, human services, manufacturing, medical assisting, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Asnuntuck continues to offer admissions and financial-aid virtual information sessions to assist students interested in learning about the college’s affordable fall-semester opportunities. The fall semester begins on Aug. 26.

Upcoming sessions include Thursday, May 6 at 5 p.m.; Tuesday, May 18 at 3 p.m.; and Thursday, May 27 at 3 p.m. Potential students need to attend only one of the sessions. Participants will be able to learn about the admissions and financial-aid process during the 60-minute sessions. The sessions will include a question-and-answer time as well.

Register for the session and learn more about summer and fall options by visiting asnuntuck.edu/admissions/how-to-enroll. For information regarding academic advising, visit www.asnuntuck.edu/advising. To view the summer and fall course bulletins, visit asnuntuck.edu/moreinfo.

Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. E-mail Asnuntuck’s Financial Aid office at [email protected] for more information.

Visit asnuntuck.edu and click on the ‘make an appointment’ button to reach a specific department or make an appointment with a specific area.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) is studying the feasibility of offering high-speed internet service to residential customers in Holyoke.

This potential new service, called Fiber to the Home (FTTH), uses fiber-optic cables to bring internet into residential dwellings. While HG&E is capable of providing residential FTTH service, there must be sufficient interest and demand for the service in order for the venture to be economically viable and not have an adverse impact on utility rates. Preliminary estimates indicate that a citywide fiber internet build-out could cost upwards of $30 million.

HG&E would not offer television services as part of the FTTH service. Customers would be required to either ‘cut the cord’ — terminate traditional cable television service and subscribe to streaming services — or keep their current TV provider.

“As we continue to study and research the feasibility of this project, we want to hear from HG&E customers,” said Kate Sullivan Craven, manager of Marketing and Communications at HG&E. “Customers can go to our website and fill out a survey detailing their interest in potentially subscribing to a local, residential fiber internet service. The survey will also be included as an insert with their upcoming bill.”

Customers should visit www.hged.com/ftth to learn more about this potential new service or express their interest.

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SPRINGFIELD — Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C. hired former law clerk Patrick Huse to fill the role of associate attorney following his admission to the Massachusetts bar.

Huse is a 2020 graduate of Suffolk University Law School. While pursuing his graduate studies, he was a member of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity, the Business Law Assoc., and the Suffolk Prosecutors Clinic. His career-focused extracurricular activities, coupled with his time interning at the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, have prepared him for a career rooted in the law.

Huse assists clients in the areas of business transactions, real-estate transactions, and bankruptcy matters.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, May 3, the Hampden County Bar Assoc. (HCBA) will participate in a local Law Day event.

The theme of this year’s event is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now,” and it will be hosted by attorney and HCBA President Thomas Wilson, with the help and support of the master of ceremonies, Springfield District Court Judge Kevin Maltby. Paula Carey, chief justice of the Trial Court, will also be in attendance to offer remarks. The event will be held outside the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse at 50 State St., Springfield.

The program will include the annual presentation of the John M. Greaney Award to an attorney and non-attorney for their contributions to the Hampden County legal community. The HCBA will have Rose Boyle present the award to Springfield District Court Officer Luis Ramos, and Regional Administrative Justice Maureen Walsh present the award to Springfield District Court First Justice John Payne.

The event will also be livestreamed via Zoom. Contact the HCBA office at (413) 732-4660 or [email protected] for more information.

Daily News

SOUTH HADLEY — Since 2007, Environmental Integrity has provided eco-friendly electronic recycling solutions for area businesses. Founder Steve Czepiel has always stayed true to the mission of creating a sustainable, forward-thinking company that can adapt to an ever-changing industry. As his daughter Kristina took on a larger role, they decided it was time for a brand that represented the future.

“When the time came to rebrand, we wanted a fresh, bold name that reflected the progressive, woman-owned company we have evolved into over the years,” said Kristina Czepiel Dearborn, CEO of ZEEP Technology. “ZEEP also drives home the fact that we are a family business. Because of our last name, my father and I have been nicknamed ‘Zeep’ all our lives. Now the whole company answers to it.”

Added Steve Czepiel, “as the industry continues to evolve, our strong capabilities and ability to grow, adapt, and deliver allow us to do the same. ZEEP Technology is committed to providing innovative solutions and services that meet our clients’ needs, and offering the highest level of service and care.”

ZEEP Technology maximizes product reutilization through repair, remarketing, and recycled materials. In an age of high security risks and data breaches, ZEEP also provides peace of mind through complete data destruction.

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

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

To nominate someone for this award, visit HERE. Only nominations submitted to BusinessWest on this form will be considered. The deadline is today at 5 p.m., no exceptions. The 2020 honoree will be announced at the 40 Under Forty gala in June.

Candidates must be from 40 Under Forty classes prior to the year of the award — in this case, classes 2007 to 2020. For your convenience, a list of 40 Under Forty Alumni can be found at the bottom of this page.

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

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HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank has announced the planned April 26, 2021 opening of its newest banking center, located at the corner of Newton St. and Lyman St., South Hadley, along with two adjacent drive-thru VideoBankerITM’s (Interactive Teller Machines), bringing the newest banking technology and seven-days-a-week banking convenience into the community.

The newly constructed banking center, measuring 1,900 square feet, is a modern, aesthetically pleasing addition to the neighborhood, offering a combination of in-person service using the Universal Banker system, where each associate is specially trained to assist with almost all banking transactions, enabling shorter wait times and more efficient servicing, as well as offering the latest in banking technology, the VideoBankerITM.

The two VideoBankerITMs at the location will be open seven days a week, and provide an opportunity for customers to interact with a PeoplesBank associate via video from a remote location. VideoBankers can perform virtually all banking transactions, including cashing checks down to the penny, accepting loan payments or any other common transaction.

The two existing locations in close proximity in South Hadley (at Village Commons, 7 College St., and at 494 Newton St.), will both be closed, with the locations now combined into this one new, state-of-the-art banking center. The 494 Newton St. banking center will be permanently closed at the end of business on April 24 while the Village Commons location will be shuttered on May 24. However, PeoplesBank will retain a retail banking presence at the Village Commons, with the conversion of the ATM into a VideoBankerITM, which will also offer real-time video banking with a PeoplesBank associate, 7 days a week.

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WESTFIELD — Westfield State University continues planning for its fall 2021 semester, aiming to welcome more than 2,000 residential students and return to its standard amount (75 %) of classes on-ground. Westfield State leadership indicates the university’s plans to return to normal are synchronous with the growing availability and administering of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“New and returning students can expect an on-campus population and activity level in the fall that is more indicative of Westfield State’s normal campus culture,” said Interim President Roy H. Saigo.

Saigo said the university is strongly encouraging all students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated as Westfield State awaits release of the Massachusetts Higher Education Control Plan. Once announced, the control plan’s guidance will help the University finalize the finer points of its Fall 2021 semester, prioritizing the health and safety of its full campus community.

“Westfield State University looks forward to offering the majority of academic and student-life experiences on campus, as we realize the important role those play in our students’ overall experience and growth here,” he noted.

As it prepares for fall 2021, the University anticipates the gradual return to a more robust on-campus workforce, beginning in May and carrying through to the end of August.

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WEST SPRINGFIELD — Visiting Angels, the West Springfield-based provider of home care and other services for the elderly, is supporting the West Springfield Council on Aging in an initiative it calls Parking Lot Bingo.

As that name suggests, this is Bingo in a parking lot. Staged every Wednesday at 1 p.m., the program was created for individuals over the age of 60. Seniors receive disposable Bingo cards and pens and are able to participate from their car by listening to the numbers called on the radio. When someone gets Bingo, they honk their horn and receive a prize. The program allows people to get out of their homes to retain some of their normal daily activities while still adhering to safety protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, Visiting Angels provided the prizes for the Bingo program. The Visiting Angels bags included a puzzle, nostalgic candy, and other assorted Visiting Angels goodies with information about the company’s services.

“Visiting Angels of West Springfield and West Springfield Council on Aging share a common love for helping the elder community, and we were excited to be a part of such an enjoyable event for our seniors during these difficult times,” said company president Michele Anstett.

Parking Lot Bingo is a free event that typically lasts an hour consisting of 10 games. To register, call (413) 263-3264 or do so online at https://www.townofwestspringfield.org/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/5809/556?backlist=%2Fgovernment%2Fdepartments%2Fcouncil-on-aging.

Visiting Angels offers senior in-home care, elderly care, and care for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. It serves towns across the Pioneer Valley, including Springfield, West Springfield, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Agawam, Ludlow, Westfield, Southwick, Chicopee, Feeding Hills, Indian Orchard, Holyoke, Southampton, and Montgomery.

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SPRINGFIELD — With scam artists aggressively targeting utility customers, Eversource is warning people to be on the lookout for new tactics being used so they don’t fall victim. Scammers continue finetuning their techniques, including using phony caller IDs that display ‘Eversource’ and scripts that sound like a legitimate company representative threatening to disconnect their electric or gas service because of an unpaid bill.
“Unfortunately, these scammers sound legitimate and with a phony caller ID they’re even more convincing — so we all need to have our ‘guard up’ more than ever,” said Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner. “These scam artists sound sophisticated and are ruthless. That’s why we’re reminding customers to beware — if they get a call and the caller’s message doesn’t look or sound right, don’t panic and don’t pay. Remember, we will never threaten to disconnect service or demand instant payment over the phone.”
The energy company offers the following tips to help avoid becoming a victim:
• Eversource representatives never demand instant payment over the phone, require the use of pre-paid debit cards, or request customers meet at a “payment center” to make the payment;
• Never provide personal financial or account information to any unsolicited person on the phone, at the door or online, even if they seem legitimate;
• Beware — some sophisticated scammers can manipulate their caller ID to say the caller is with Eversource;
• Customers who are scheduled for disconnection due to nonpayment receive a written notice that includes information on how to maintain their service; and
• Customers can verify they are speaking with an Eversource representative by asking for some basic information about their account – like the name on the account, the account address, and the exact past due balance.

Eversource urges anyone who believes they are a target of improper solicitation to immediately contact their local law enforcement. Customers are also encouraged to contact the energy company at l-877-659-6326 if they receive a call, text, email or if someone shows up at your door to verify it’s Eversource.

For more information on how to protect personal information and avoid becoming a victim of utility scams, visit Eversource.com.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has announced that its current executive director, Susan Beaudry, will be leaving the SSO effective April 23, to pursue entrepreneurial interests.

John Anz, currently development director, will step in as interim executive director, according to SSO Board President Robyn Newhouse.

“We appreciate all that Susan Beaudry has done on behalf of the symphony and for the arts in our region. Susan has made valuable contributions during her six years leading the symphony, first as development director and then as executive director. She is a strong leader and will be sorely missed,” Newhouse said.

Beaudry said she will pursue a passion in the wine industry. “I will be leaving my position with the symphony in the good hands of the board and John Anz. I was pleased to be a part of the most recent strategic planning process that I believe will lead to the re-emergence of the SSO and the goal of providing classical music in the region. As the arts and live performances re-emerge from the pandemic, I am optimistic the SSO will continue to fulfill its mission.”

Anz joined the SSO as development director in 2019 and has a 20-year career in development that includes independent schools, the YMCA and in music and the arts. Prior to joining the SSO, Anz worked as director of Development at Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley, and is a former board member of the Northampton Community Music Center.

“These are challenging and exciting times for live music and symphony orchestras everywhere,” said Anz. “So, it is both an honor and privilege to be asked to serve the SSO in this capacity at this moment. I look forward to working with all of our community leaders, cultural and business partners, and other key players to continue to move this cherished institution forward as we look toward a bright future, and beyond.”

According to Newhouse, the strategic planning process and the choosing of a new executive director will figure largely in how and when the symphony meets its mission of engaging the public around classical music performances. No time frame has been finalized on the selection of a new leader, she said.

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AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce has been awarded a Mass. Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) Marketing Travel & Tourism Recovery Grant totaling $116,655, in a very competitive application process, to leverage a comprehensive marketing campaign to attract visitors to the Amherst area.

Tourism, the third largest economic sector in the Amherst region, has been decimated by COVID, said Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, adding, “this grant instills hope and will allow us to highlight the best of Massachusetts, showcasing the Amherst area as a hub for culture, education, global dining, agriculture, and local business. We have long been a destination for tourists to experience Western Massachusetts, and these funds will allow us to deploy tourism assets we would not otherwise have the means to do, and will enhance our region’s tourism recovery, amplify our ‘destination Amherst’ focus in tandem with the State’s MyLocalMa and ‘Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is’ campaigns.

“The comprehensive marketing campaign will leverage and focus on our regional assets — the natural beauty and outdoor recreational points of interest in our region, our iconic and internationally known art and cultural institutions including museums and historical sites, and our rich gastronomy culture where local farm-to-table sourcing meets global flavor in order to draw visitors to Western Mass and enhance visitor’s experience once they arrive,” she went on. “We will use photography, video production, and the creative content to tell the story of the Amherst area and the local businesses, institutions, and people that call it home.”

Tigerweb, a local marketing firm, will be responsible for the marketing collateral and deliverables, and has been chosen due to its ties to the Amherst area and for its prior work on the chamber’s nationally recognized #IAMherst COVID recovery campaign.

“With 59 awardees, eight being Western Mass., we see this as another vote of confidence in Western Mass from our Eastern Mass counterparts to put our region’s assets on the map,” said Pazmany. “We all know why we live and work here, but this allows us to tell that story to attract visitors and to also amplify our pride to all those who have now moved here as a result of the urban flight of the pandemic, and to instill true value in the quality of life we hold dear here.”

The grant was awarded on April 20, and the marketing campaign will run through Sept 1.

Daily News

This week, state Sen. Eric Lesser attended the inaugural meeting of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission in his new role as Senate vice-chair. The commission was established in the FY21 budget, and as Senate chair of the Committee on Economic Development, Lesser was appointed Senate Vice-chair.

The commission is tasked with investigating cost, availability, and other concerns surrounding early education and childcare, a growing issue for the Commonwealth’s working families. Since the pandemic hit, the issues of childcare and working life have grown in urgency, with approximately 750,000 children in Massachusetts living in households where both parents work full time and a state childcare system with the capacity for approximately 230,000 children.

“The first forum on the state of childcare in Massachusetts was eye-opening. As noted in the hearing, childcare is a critical enabler of employment and economic growth across our Commonwealth, especially as we recover from the pandemic,” said Lesser. “I am looking forward to working to address these issues with co-chairs Peisch and Lewis as well as other commission members to invest in our childcare workforce, improve funding models, increase pathways to the childcare workforce, and increase equity for families and providers.”

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NORTH ADAMS — As part of the Berkshire Compact for Education, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, MassHire and other community partners will help showcase careers in the Berkshires the week of April 26-30 through Berkshire Virtual Career Week. The event aims to engage high school students, mainly in grades 10-12, in career awareness and exploration through a blend of live Zoom sessions with local professionals and scheduled broadcasts on Pittsfield Community Television.

Career Week programming is also open to Berkshire residents of all ages who are interested in learning more about the current labor market landscape in the Berkshires. Via PCTV, portions of the live sessions will be broadcast, and career-related content will air when there is not a live Zoom meeting. All videos will be available after the week-long event in PCTV’s online educational library. A full schedule with all programming will be available prior to April 26 at www.masshireberkshire.com

The MassHire Berkshire Career Center will also host a virtual job fair from noon to 4 p.m. on April 27. This event is for those ages 14-21 seeking jobs in the Berkshires. To register for the job fair, visit www.MasshireBerkshireCC.com and then “Calendar of Events.”

Career Week will also feature daily, live Zoom sessions focused on different careers in the Berkshires including a STEM session organized by MCLA and the Berkshire STEM Network, plus sessions on Health Care and Human Services, Hospitality and Tourism, Communications, Building Trades, and Advanced Manufacturing.

“It’s great to see these opportunities for students to learn more about what they want to pursue in their future,” said Berkshire Workforce Board high school intern Nick Lopenzina. “Workshops like this really give kids a chance to start finding their direction.”

Said MCLA Director of Corporate and Strategic Partnerships Dr. Joshua Mendel, “MCLA is proud to partner on this program with MassHire. Through MCLA representation on the Berkshire Compact’s Aspiration Committee and the Berkshire STEM Network, the College is able to contribute to these kinds of opportunities for students throughout the Berkshires, another part of our mission of public education, and another aspect of the work we do toward maintaining a thriving economy in Berkshire County.”

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HOLYOKE — The arrival of spring means sunshine, warmer weather and, of course, the annual Earth Day tomato plants and garden seeds giveaways hosted by PeoplesBank at four of its banking centers today. Gardening enthusiasts can also register to win one of five $50 gift certificates to Dickinson Farms in Granby.

The bank will give away tomato plants and garden seed packets starting at 10 a.m. at the following locations:

• 300 King St., Northampton;

• 547 Memorial Ave., West Springfield;

• 1936 Memorial Dr., Chicopee; and

• 1 Turkey Hills Road, East Granby Connecticut

The events are open to the public. Seed and plant quantities are limited, will be distributed only while supplies last and only at the designated PeoplesBank offices.

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LUDLOW — PV Financial Group recently welcomed two new members to its team — Antonio Bastos as retirement plan coordinator and Andrea Santos as digital marketing specialist. Both will be working in PV’s main office located in Ludlow.

Upon graduating from Nichols College in Dudley with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, Bastos accepted a job with MassMutual Retirement Services. During his five years with the company, he represented and sold MassMutual’s qualified retirement plan platform to small and mid-sized businesses. Bastos also obtained his Series 6 and Series 63 licenses while gaining beneficial knowledge and experience with qualified retirement plans.

At PV Financial, Bastos’s role is to manage all the qualified retirement plan clients, from day-to-day servicing to fielding all inquiries from retirement plan participants and plan trustees. He will also maintain relationships with retirement-plan providers in the industry. Other responsibilities will include staying connected and up-to-date on new products, services, and ERISA compliance regulations so he can properly and confidently serve PV Financial’s retirement plan clients and participants.

“By having Tony join the team at PV Financial, we have committed to the qualified retirement plan marketplace,” said Edward Sokolowski, PV’s managing partner. “As many local financial firms have been exiting this business, Tony will be able to fill the void and offer professional guidance to companies looking for quality advice for their retirement plans.”

Santos graduated from Holyoke Community College with an associate’s degree in Business Administration, as well as from Elms College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing. Upon graduating from Elms, Santos accepted a job at Northwestern Mutual. During her four years with the company, she held the position of director of Client Services, where she was responsible for the oversight of new business insurance applications and investment accounts, as well as insurance underwriting correspondence. She also worked with clients directly on account inquiries and led the office’s marketing efforts.

At PV Financial, Santos will be the digital marketing specialist. She will be the first point of contact for new and current clients who are a part of PV Financial’s new program, PV Navigator. Other responsibilities include maintaining the program’s website and social media accounts, staying up to date with the services provided within the program, maintaining relationships with the program’s clients, and assisting the advisors with outreach.

“Having Andrea join our team is a major step in the future success of PV Financial,” said Sokolowski. “Andrea’s talents in social media and client relationships will be a cornerstone to our newly launched investment program, PV Navigator.  I look forward to the energy and focus Andrea will bring to our firm and the positive impact she will have on our clients.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced its support of Western New England University’s proposed project entitled “Interdisciplinary Ethics Training for Students in the Biosciences.” The grant provides $35,000 in funding through its Humanities Connections grant program, an initiative designed to expand the role of the humanities in undergraduate education.

Under the direction of Assistant Professor of Philosophy Valerie Racine and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Devina Jaiswal, the grant funds will be used to develop a certificate program in Ethics of Scientific Research and Technological Innovation, with a focus on creating experiential learning opportunities for students, and fostering cross-college faculty collaborations in teaching and research.

“We believe this initiative will help break down disciplinary silos and establish a flourishing partnership between the humanities and science and engineering at Western New England University; one that will better equip our students to face the complex challenges of tomorrow,” said Racine.

The NEH Humanities Connections awards support innovative curricular approaches that foster productive partnerships among humanities faculty and their counterparts in the social and natural sciences and in pre-service or professional programs (such as business, engineering, health sciences, law, computer science, and other technology-driven fields), in order to encourage and develop new integrative learning opportunities for students.

“By providing coursework in the Liberal Arts and Humanities for all undergraduates, the Western New England University College of Arts and Sciences plays an important role in holistic student development. A foundation in the liberal arts and humanities provides context for ethical decision-making, social responsibility, and the role humanity must play in harnessing technology and science for good,” said WNE University Interim Provost Dr. Curt Hamakawa.

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HOLYOKE — People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, N.A., announced that it has awarded a $5,000 grant to the Community Adolescent Resource and Education Center Inc. (The Care Center), which provides, innovational, educational support programs for low income, pregnant and young mothers (ages 16 – 24) in Holyoke. The grant will help bolster its Bridge to College program, which provides young mothers with in-house college courses for students preparing to take the high school equivalency exam, in addition to support services to promote college access and retention. 

Through the Bridge to College program, approximately 85 women will prepare to take The High School Equivalency Test (Hi-Set) while also gaining exposure to college-level work and receiving support in the college application process. 

“We are so grateful for the important investment People’s United Community Foundation has made in the lives of the young women in this community. With their support, young women have the opportunity to begin their path to college and on to a brighter future,” said Anne Teschner, executive director of The Care Center.

The Bridge to College program helps young mothers traverse the arduous path from high school dropout to college graduate. Similar to college preparatory schools, The Care Center program provides an ideal learning environment including small class sizes, lively academics, and a commitment to their students. Additionally, supportive services such as transportation, daycare, counseling, meals, and a staff nurse practitioner allow them to concentrate on their studies. Each year, approximately 70-80% of The Care Center’s graduates continue to higher education. 

“The Bridge to College program is giving young mothers a second chance and the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” said Patrick Sullivan, Massachusetts president, EVP of People’s United Bank and officer of the Foundation. “We are proud to be able to support them in their mission supporting young women at a time in their lives when that little bit of extra help and support can make all the difference.”

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, 42% of the Care Center’s 2020 graduates have already matriculated to college. Since 2016, graduates have had the opportunity to attend Bard Microcollege Holyoke, the nation’s first college designed for young mothers and low-income women. This program has a 74% graduation rate, with graduates going onto pursue Bachelor’s degrees at Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Trinity Colleges.

In total, People’s United Community Foundation and People’s United Community Foundation of Eastern Massachusetts collectively awarded more the $325,000 to 57 Massachusetts nonprofits as part of its first grant cycle of 2021.

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GREENFIELD — Phillip Ringwood ’99, ’03, was awarded the GCC 2021 Distinguished Alumni award at the college’s recent board of trustees meeting.

“Phil is an extraordinary leader and graduate who has accomplished so much since leaving GCC,” said GCC President Yves Salomon-Fernández at the event. “We are just so proud to honor him as this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.”

The annual Distinguished Alumni Award was established by the Greenfield Community College Alumni Association to recognize and honor an alumni of GCC who has achieved substantial public recognition for their accomplishments or success.

Ringwood has worked at DIAL/SELF Youth and Community Services, a community-based non-profit agency that has been serving the youth and communities of Western Mass. since 1977, for more than 20 years and served as the executive director since 2012. The organization provides a wide array of services that foster youth empowerment and community service. Over the course of the last four decades, more than 40,000 area youth have been served by the agency in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties and the North Quabbin region.

In this role, he is especially proud of his experience advocating for the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Bill in the MA Legislature, informed by his own experience as a 15-year-old homeless youth. He actively included the community in developing the case for support to present to the delegation in support of the initiative.

“Phil is a leader within the community, always stepping up to the next challenge. He is collaborative and has helped form a solid network of community service organizations within the region” said Alexandria Green-Atchley, one of his DIAL/SELF colleagues who submitted a nomination for him.

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SPRINGFIELD — Longtime ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton will headline the Springfield Regional Chamber’s virtual Outlook on April 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Presented by Baystate Health, Outlook generally brings together more than 500 business leaders to network and hear from expert speakers on local, state, and federal issues.

 

Keynote speaker Compton has 41 years of on-air experience for ABC News. Her tenure spanned seven presidents and 10 presidential campaigns. Assigned to the White House in 1974, she reported for ABC News broadcasts from Washington and around the globe, traveling with presidents, vice presidents, and first ladies. Notably, Compton was the first woman assigned to cover the White House on network television. Compton received special recognition onboard Air Force One during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the awards bestowed on ABC’s coverage which included an Emmy, a Peabody, and a SilverBaton from the DuPont awards at Columbia University.

“This year’s Outlook program will look a little different, but it’s important to note that the content will be just as informative,” said Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber. “It has been a challenging year for our business community, our region, our Commonwealth and our country, but we do have a path forward and are making strides in our recovery. We’re thrilled to be able to discuss what lies ahead with key leaders who are helping our communities rebuild a sustainable future.”

 

The Outlook event will once again be hosted by Congressman Richard E. Neal, who will provide insights on what is happening on Capitol Hill, the American Rescue Plan stimulus package, and what is on the horizon relative to a major infrastructure spending bill. The event will include remarks from recently elected speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Ronald Mariano, who has represented the third Norfolk District, comprised of Quincy, Weymouth, and Holbrook in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 1991.

Additional speakers will include Michael Knapik, vice president of Government and Community Relations at Baystate Health, who will serve as the event’s emcee; Springfield’s Mayor Domenic Sarno, and representative of the 8th Hampden District and assistant majority leader, Joseph Wagner.

This year’s Outlook is supported by platinum sponsors: Comcast, Mercy Medical Center, Health New England, Eversource, and United Personnel along with gold sponsors MGM Springfield and BusinessWest. Print and television media partners include The Republican/MassLive and WWLP-TV 22.

Tickets cost $39.95 for Springfield Regional Chamber members and $49.95 for general admission. Enterprise-level tickets (six access passes) for members are available for $179 and enterprise level tickets (six access passes) for general admission are available for $225. Visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com to register. For additional information, visit [email protected].

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SPRINGFIELD  Throughout the month of March, Freedom Credit Union collected cash donations at its 11 branches throughout Western Mass. to benefit the Foundation for TJO Animals and the Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter, raising a total of $1,736.

“As a member-owned institution, we do our best to support organizations that are near and dear to our members’ hearts, and it’s obvious by this outpouring of support that we have a lot of animal lovers in our community,” said Freedom Credit Union President Glenn Welch. “We were glad to take this opportunity to let our local shelters know how much we appreciate their efforts on behalf of our furry friends.”

Freedom Credit Union provided the opportunity for its employees, members and community to purchase a “paw print” for $1 or more at any Freedom branch.

 “It was gratifying to see our branch windows fill with these paw prints,” said Welch. “We extend a thank you to everyone who participated.”

The Thomas J. O’Connor Adoption Center provides animal shelter and adoption services for the cities of Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke. The Foundation for TJO Animals was formed to allow the group to better serve the shelter animals in their care through medical treatments and rehabilitation. This veterinary care allows pets to be brought to the adoption floor, where they will hopefully find their forever home.

The Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter is a volunteer-led group serving the communities of Franklin County. Their mission is to protect and improve the lives of stray, lost and unwanted dogs by offering a welcoming facility, providing care and finding good homes for each and every animal.

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SPRINGFIELDSpringfield College has partnered with the Springfield Public Schools in providing employee grants to full and part-time employees of Springfield Public Schools, who are enrolled in either undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, or certificate of advanced graduate study programs at Springfield College.

Springfield Public Schools employees are eligible to receive scholarships, which have been established by Springfield College to support its members being educated for leadership in service to others. Students must provide employment information to confirm their eligibility. For more information, visit springfield.edu/partnership.

“We are excited to continue to grow our menu of options for Springfield Public Schools employees interested in furthering their education,” said Springfield Public Schools Senior Administrator of Talent and Diversity Development Matthew J. Grimes. “The synergy that exists between SPS, Springfield College, and other organizations in Western Mass is exactly what is needed to address critical issues impacting education in the region, including the lack of racial diversity that exists in our workforce. Partnerships like this allow us to leverage our resources to provide opportunities for meaningful engagement and retention. Our goal is to not only attract highly qualified, diverse employees to SPS, but also keep and develop them. Being able to support employees on their own learning journeys is critical in strengthening our workforce.”

Employees of Springfield Public Schools can receive the employee grant for each degree pursued at the college, and participants will be awarded potential transfer credits who have completed trainings and certifications as outlined in the college’s experiential learning handbook.

In addition, the college will provide a pathway for Springfield Public Schools employees, once enrolled, to earn additional credits for their degree program through the College’s prior learning assessment portfolio program.

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A new round of funding from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County will help nonprofit organizations respond to the social and emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, families, and communities in Berkshire County.

Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way, and Williamstown Community Chest have shifted their focus from emergency response to recovery. Through a new grant request process, funding will support innovative approaches to addressing emotional well-being for children, youth, and families.

The funding collaborative will award up to $5,000 to programs serving a minimum of 10 participants. Some awards may be higher depending on available funding and demonstrated need. Applications are due by May 15 and grantees will be notified on or before May 31. Funds must be used by Sept. 30. The grant proposal can be found on the Berkshire County COVID-19 Fund page.

“As we pivot to recovery, we see the toll this pandemic has taken on the well-being of our children, youth, and families. We heard from our community partners how tough the year has been and knew we needed to help,” said Candace Winkler, CEO and president of Berkshire United Way. “We want to help our children and youth get back on track with their social and emotional development, and hope to see some fun and innovative grant proposals.”

The new funding builds on the partnership established in March 2020 with the launch of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County. From March 19 to Aug. 3, 2020, the emergency fund awarded more than $2 million through 132 grants to 95 nonprofits supporting low-income families, communities of color and immigrants, and seniors through services such as food pantries, health care, and housing.

Contributions can still be made to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) men’s basketball locker room will enjoy a much-needed makeover with help from friends in the community.

Earlier this year, a group of alumni expressed an interest in doing something meaningful to help AIC men’s basketball in memory of their friend and former teammate, Frank Oppedisano, class of 1967. In addition to their fundraising effort, AIC Athletics engaged alumni and supporters during Athletics Giving Week last month. Donors were asked to consider giving to a general fund or team of their choice, with proceeds from the campaign earmarked to benefit student-athletes and athletic programs at the college.

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Andy Burkholder knew exactly where funds raised for men’s basketball could best be utilized.

“If you have ever been part of a team, you know that the wins are great, and the losses hurt,” he said. “The things you remember most are the times spent with teammates in the dorms, at the dining commons, and in the locker room. For more than 15 years, our team has had the same locker room. Athletics Giving Week success for men’s basketball will not only give our student-athletes much needed equipment and gear to represent AIC while they are on the road, but — in conjunction with funds set aside by friends of Frank ­— it will provide them with a destination of their own when they are home: a place of pride on campus where they can hang out and build important bonds.”

The new locker room will offer additional locker space, new flooring, and Yellow Jacket branding throughout, and will be named in honor of the Springfield native who was a four-year member of the basketball program. Before his passing in March 2020, Oppedisano was a regular at AIC men’s basketball home games and routinely provided congratulations after a win or unconditional support in defeat.

“Frank was truly proud to be a Yellow Jacket and was clearly invested in the success of student-athletes,” Burkholder said. “The new locker room named in his memory will be a place to build memories.”

Due to current health and safety regulations, the official dedication of the Oppedisano Locker Room will take place at a future date when the community can be invited to participate.

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LONGMEADOW — Brenda Cuoco & Associates Real Estate Brokerage announced the addition of a new flagship office location opening soon in the Longmeadow Shops. The office is currently under construction, with a target opening date of May 1, and will be located at 714 Bliss Road, adjacent to Starbucks.

The addition will support the steady and sustained growth that the brokerage has seen in the last several years and will complement the existing office located at 2442 Boston Road in Wilbraham. The brokerage will also actively recruit top-performing agents to help serve this new community.

“We are so excited to be joining the Longmeadow community,” said Brenda Cuoco, broker owner. “In a time when so many businesses have been struggling and even closing, our unwavering commitment to serving the clients has allowed us to continue to excel to new heights. The growth has been incredible, due to our outstanding customer-service skills, strong market knowledge, and the systems and processes that we have put in place to bring our boutique-style approach to new success levels.”

The firm sold 164 properties last year with a volume of $46.8 million.

“People like to shop and buy and engage with business professionals in the communities in which they live and work.” Cuoco said. “We have been serving the buyers and sellers of Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Springfield, Somers, and Enfield for years, and this new, state-of-the-art facility that is located in the heart of this region will afford us the opportunity to serve those clients even better.”