First-ever Improv Theater in Region to Open in Hadley
HADLEY — Happier Valley Comedy announced the opening of the first-ever improv theater in Western Mass., to be located at 1 Mill Valley Road in Hadley. The local improv company will provide regular shows, classes, and professional and personal development services. It will be the only improv theater in the state outside of the Boston region. Happier Valley Comedy’s recent fundraising effort raised close to $27,000, making it possible to begin immediate construction of a 70-seat theater and classroom space in the new complex along Route 9 in Hadley. Pam Victor, Happier Valley founder and president, and General Manager Braidman plan to open the theater by June 25 in time to hold their weekly summer classes. When the stage is complete later this fall, Happier Valley live shows will move to the new space. By the end of the year, the calendar will expand to include shows every Saturday night. The Happier FAMILY Comedy Show will remain at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Starbucks Opens at Monarch Place
SPRINGFIELD — The latest edition to Springfield’s downtown, a full-service Starbucks on the corner of Main Street and Boland Way, opened on May 30. Starbucks at Monarch Place donated all proceeds from its first week of business to the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center to assist in the creation and installation of a new educational exhibit, bringing two exotic African cats to the city. The opening of Starbucks represents the final phase of the newly renovated plaza at Monarch Place and follows the grand opening of a United Bank branch next door on the ground floor of Monarch Place. Starbucks now occupies the front corner of the plaza, facing Main Street, with 30-foot-tall ceilings, and featuring a commissioned piece of artwork by renowned artist Llew Majia, a 400-pound, 10-foot medallion that celebrates the diversity of Latin American coffee-growing countries. Patrons can also enjoy outdoor music and café seating on the plaza while overlooking the newly restored water wall.
United Bank Announces Purchase of Six Branches
HARTFORD, Conn. — United Bank announced it has entered into an agreement with Webster Bank, N.A. of Waterbury, Conn. to purchase six branches located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. United Bank will assume approximately $120 million of branch deposits in the transaction, which is expected to close in the fall of 2018, pending regulatory approval. Under the terms of the agreement, the following six Webster Bank branches will be purchased by United Bank, and employees at those branches are expected to join the United Bank team: 50 Elm St., West Springfield; 1355 Boston Road, Springfield; 62 Center Square, East Longmeadow; 124B Boston Post Road, Waterford, Conn.; 654 Long Hill Road, Groton, Conn.; and 48 Franklin St., Westerly. Due to the close proximity of three branches in the Springfield market as a result of this transaction, United Bank will take the following actions at the time of the closing of the agreement, pending regulatory approval: United’s branch at 95 Elm St., West Springfield will close. All banking activity in that branch will consolidate into the Webster branch across the street at 50 Elm St. Also, customers will continue to have access to the separate drive-up branch at 52 Van Deene Ave., West Springfield. United’s branch at 459 Main St. in Indian Orchard will close. All banking activity in that branch will consolidate into the Webster branch at 1355 Boston Road, which is only one mile away from the Indian Orchard branch. United Bank’s branch at 94 Shaker Road in East Longmeadow will close. All banking activity in that branch will consolidate into the Webster branch at nearby 62 Center Square. United Bank emphasizes that customers from the six branches included in this transaction do not need to do anything at this time. United will mail a package of information to the homes and/or businesses of all Webster customers from these branches in advance of the account and branch conversions, which are expected to occur in the fall of 2018.
WGBY Earns Emmy Nod for Opioid Special
SPRINGFIELD — WGBY’s The Opioid Crisis: A Community Dialogue, which aired live on May 11, 2017, has been recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) Boston/New England Chapter, which nominated The Opioid Crisis: A Community Dialogue for a regional 2018 Emmy Award in the category of Health/Science Program or Special. Executive Producer Tony Dunne and Carrie Saldo, the program’s host and producer, were both named in the nomination. Moderated by then-Berkshire Eagle reporter Saldo (now host of WGBY’s weekday public-affairs series Connecting Point), The Opioid Crisis: A Community Dialogue was developed in partnership with the Center for Human Development (CHD) and featured a panel of Western New England locals, including Dr. Robert Roose of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital; Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni; Chantal Silloway, Adolescent Recovery Program director at Goodwin House; Danyel Zerella, a mother in addiction recovery; Jennifer Kimball, manager of the Public Health Program at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission; and Liz Whynott of Tapestry Health’s needle-exchange program. With a town-hall-style discussion, the program was broadcast live from the WGBY studio in Springfield. Panelists fielded questions and comments from in-person audience members as well as Twitter and Facebook users.
PVCU Recognized for Promoting Savings
SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union was recognized for its efforts to encourage Americans and support its members to save money during America Saves Week and Military Saves Week. Pioneer Valley Credit Union was one of 15 banks, 17 credit unions, and five military-affiliated organizations recognized around the world. “Year after year, we work with our members to help them to achieve their financial goals and to become more savvy consumers,” said Anabela Grenier, Pioneer Valley Credit Union president and CEO. “America Saves is a wonderful program which works in concert with our philosophy to help members as they make their journey to a better financial future.”
Smith Brothers Insurance Named to President’s Clubs
EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance, with local offices in Easthampton and West Springfield, was recently appointed to the Hanover Insurance Group’s President’s Club, an elite group of independent insurance agencies from across the country. Agencies named to the Hanover President’s Club are recognized for delivering outstanding value to their customers through insurance expertise and responsive service. Smith Brothers was one of only 140 independent agencies recognized with this distinction across the county. The Hanover partners with 2,100 independent agents nationwide. Meanwhile, Smith Brothers was also named to the Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group’s President’s Club. Each year, Jewelers Mutual recognizes top agents nationwide for their expertise in Jewelers Block, a specialized insurance coverage protecting the jewelry trade. Smith Brothers Insurance was one of 25 brokers throughout the nation named to Jewelers Mutual’s President’s Club.
American Benefits Group Recognized with Award
NORTHAMPTON — American Benefits Group (ABG), a provider of solutions in the health-benefits industry, has been recognized by healthcare-benefits payments giant Alegeus as the 2018 APEX Award winner for Operational Efficiency and Excellence. The award was presented at the Alegeus National Conference on May 16 in Orlando, Fla. ABG currently serves more than 1,300 employer plans in all markets, including several Fortune 1000 clients. The company has grown revenues by more than 300% since 2012. ABG was also previously recognized by Alegeus as the National Customer Service Champion in 2015. In conjunction with the award, Alegeus has made a $1,000 donation to the local charity or nonprofit of ABG’s choice. American Benefits selected local nonprofit Safe Passage, an organization that serves victims of domestic abuse. “They are just making a major move into a brand-new facility, so the contribution is well-timed,” ABG CEO and founder Robert Cummings said. “We feel Safe Passage is an organization that is doing life-changing and life-saving work.”
River Valley Counseling Center Opens New Easthampton Location
EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Counseling Center celebrated the opening of its newest office location in Easthampton with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 29. Services available at the Easthampton location include individual, couple, family, and group psychotherapy for adults, adolescents, and children. Clinicians help the client, couple, or family identify the concerns or issues that will become the focus of treatment. Both the client and clinician work together to determine the most effective treatment needed. The frequency and duration of counseling sessions is determined based on individualized treatment plans. River Valley also offers school-based therapy throughout all Easthampton Schools, a partnership formed in the fall of 2017. The Easthampton office is currently accepting new patients without a wait list and is conveniently located along the bike trail. For additional information, visit rvcc-inc.org or call (413) 540-1234.
Shriners Hospitals for Children Named Health Nonprofit Brand of the Year
TAMPA, Fla. — Shriners Hospitals for Children has been named 2018 Health Nonprofit Brand of the Year, based on the Harris Poll EquiTrend Equity Score. In addition, Shriners Hospitals ranked highest in trust in its category. The annual survey of brand equity, now in its 30th year, compares the brand health of thousands of brands from hundreds of categories, including eight for nonprofit organizations, based on consumer responses. Shriners is a leader in pediatric specialty care, especially in the areas of orthopaedics, burns, spinal-cord injury, and cleft lip and palate.