Country Bank Donates $50,000 to First Responder Recovery Home
LUDLOW — To help the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department successfully operate the First Responder Recovery Home for COVID-19-diagnosed first responders, Country Bank announced it will contribute $50,000 to the efforts. The contribution from the Ware-based financial institution comes with the aim of inspiring other similar organizations to do what they can to assist the department’s effort to help the people who typically help others. The donation, which brings the overall community contributions above $87,000, will help ensure that every COVID-19-positive first responder who comes to stay at the facility has the food and comforts necessary for recovery. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department opened the First Responder Recovery Home this week to fill an unmet need in the Commonwealth of providing a safe haven for our doctors, nurses, EMTs, police, firefighters, and corrections professionals who are diagnosed with COVID-19, but can’t safely go home to recover without jeopardizing the health of a vulnerable family member. Located at the department’s Pre-Release Center on its campus in Ludlow, the refuge is provided free of charge, thanks to the department’s community supporters and partners. Cocchi and staff started accepting guests this week, with 84 single-occupancy rooms available. Anyone coming to stay must be healthy enough to care for themselves; however, a pool of voluntary medical professionals from the community, led by Ludlow physician Dr. Shaukat Matin, will be making rounds, and if someone needs more comprehensive medical care, the Sheriff’s Department will help coordinate transportation. Any doctor, nurse, police, firefighter, EMT, correctional professional, or military member can call (413) 858-0801 or (413) 858-0819 to request a room or ask questions. The facility needs the person’s full name, gender, and expected length of stay, among other information, and all correspondence will be kept confidential. Community partners include Country Bank, Anthony Ravosa and the 91 Supper Club, Charlie D’Amour and Guy McFarlane of Big Y Foods, Bob Bolduc and Pride Stores, Cesar Ruiz Jr. and Golden Years Home Care, Jim Brennan on behalf of the Edward J. Brennan Jr. Family Foundation, Anthony Cignoli of A.L. Cignoli Co., Jeff Polep of J. Polep Distribution Services, Jay Caron of Bee-Line Corp., Larry Katz of Arnold’s Meats, Andy Yee and Peter Picknelly, and Matin. Anyone wishing to contribute to the First Responder Recovery Home initiative can send tax-deductible donations to Criminal Justice Organization, 627 Randall Road, Ludlow, MA 01056, and write “First Responder Recovery Home” on the memo line.
Ohana School of Performing Arts Looks to Community for Support
CHICOPEE — The future of small businesses hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and despite uncertainty and disruption, one local dance studio stands firm in its mission: to spread peace and positivity through performance. Ohana School of Performing Arts, located at 41 Sheridan St. in Chicopee, had to make significant changes to its business model as social-distancing guidelines and safety initiatives were put into place. The studio transitioned to online classes and continues to support families with an interactive Facebook group for dancers and their families, where instructors share craft ideas, new dance moves, story time, and messages of hope and joy. “We are bringing 50 virtual classes to our studio family each week,” said Ashley Kohl, owner and creative director. She explained that teachers are recording classes from their own homes to ensure that the dancers are staying engaged and active. In addition to moving to virtual programming, Ohana also shifted tuition terms for the studio — pay what you can, if you can. Due to the stay-at-home advisory, which Gov. Charlie Baker has implemented until further notice, it is likely that Ohana will not be hosting its June performance, which is the studio’s only for-profit recital of the year. The funds from this performance are typically used to cover overhead costs in the summer months. In addition to the annual performance, Ohana hosts two charity performances as fundraisers for local nonprofits. To date, Ohana has donated more than $30,000 to various organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Willpower Foundation, Miracle League of Western Massachusetts, We Love Riley Fan Club, Arik(q)ue, in addition to Ohana’s nonprofit, One Ohana Inc., that provides scholarships to dancers across the Pioneer Valley. The impact of lost revenue comes at a particularly challenging time, as the studio was forced to relocate last year, and the business had to secure significant loan funding. Without the consistent tuition and performance revenue, Kohl fears she may have to close Ohana’s doors. With that in mind, two of Kohl’s close friends, Danielle Barone and Tanyelle Duchesne, organized a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000. For more information on how to support Ohana School of Performing Arts, visit gofundme.com/we-are-ohana or ohanaperformingarts.com.
TommyCar Auto Group Donates $10,000 to Support Health Workers
NORTHAMPTON — TommyCar Auto Group — consisting of Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley — announced it has donated a total of $10,000 to local healthcare workers through its “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” initiatives. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on the doctors, nurses, and frontline medical workers at local hospitals, TommyCar Auto Group launched a two-part campaign to help support these local heroes. Members of the TommyCard Rewards loyalty program were able to donate up to 50 points to help the cause, making it easy to support the efforts without having to leave the safety of home to make an in-person donation. The points were then matched in dollars by TommyCar Auto Group. By early April, $5,000 was raised to provide meals to the Emergency Department staff at Baystate Medical Center. As of April 10, another $5,000 was donated to Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which is used to purchase needed equipment such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and more. To learn more and follow the “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” campaigns, visit the Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars of Pioneer Valley Facebook pages.
Holyoke Company Tools Up to Manufacture Medical Face Shields
HOLYOKE — Walter Drake Inc., a Holyoke manufacturing company, has responded to the urgent need for medical face shields by healthcare systems. In a matter of days, workers have designed, prototyped, built tooling for, and manufactured a medical face shield of the type that is in desperate demand by hospitals, nursing facilities, and other essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Joseph Feigen, company president, announced that the face shield is called ‘Corona Shield’ for the time being, but will be renamed for permanent use in the healthcare field after the current pandemic ends. Walter Drake staff is now contacting dozens of hospitals around the country to deliver this badly needed personal protective equipment and to help ensure employment opportunities during this extended Massachusetts business shutdown. Established in 1962, Walter Drake Inc. primarily manufactures custom thermoformed packaging in the form of clamshells, trays, and blisters for medical, electronic, consumer, and industrial packaging applications.
MGM Springfield Donates Sleeping Cots, Outdoor Heaters
SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced a donation of 160 portable sleeping cots and 16 outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the city of Springfield. A portion of the cots will provide much-needed overflow support for the hospital, while the other portion of cots and the outdoor heaters will assist the city’s work to help the homeless population amid the COVID-19 crisis. “We are a strong community, but this is a challenging time, and MGM Springfield will continue to do what we can to support those impacted and those on the front line,” said Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield. Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “I want to thank MGM President and COO Chris Kelley and his MGM team for stepping up in support of our city’s ongoing and continued efforts in responding to this coronavirus situation. These much-needed items will go a long way in assisting our city’s coronavirus response.” Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates, added that “we are grateful to MGM Springfield for the generous donation of cots for use during the pandemic. This is another example of the local area’s remarkable community partnerships that assist our efforts to care for patients during this difficult time.”
UMass Amherst Food Scientist Helps Unravel COVID-19 Mysteries
AMHERST — With the rapid onset of smell and taste loss emerging as symptoms of COVID-19, scientists around the world — including a sensory expert at UMass Amherst — have united to investigate the connection between the chemical senses and the novel coronavirus. The wave of reports from patients and clinicians about anosmia, or smell loss, inspired the creation of the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers. Alissa Nolden, UMass Amherst assistant professor of Food Science, is among the 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data and cognitive scientists, sensory researchers, and technicians from 38 countries gathering data in a worldwide survey to unravel how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent its spread. Nolden was invited by a colleague at the National Institutes of Health to help develop strategies around measuring the sensory-related symptoms of the coronavirus. “Smell and/or taste loss may be an early indicator of COVID-19, as individuals appear to report loss of smell or taste prior to other symptoms,” she said. “We also want to better understand the mechanism behind taste and smell loss as a result of this virus.” Nolden noted that some people with COVID-19 who experience sensory losses may not have any other coronavirus symptoms. The researchers hope to learn more about this from the survey, since people with sensory symptoms alone are not likely to qualify for a COVID-19 test. “This has been a tremendous effort from collaborators from around the globe to gain a better understanding of the negative impact of COVID-19 on loss of taste and smell,” she said. “We hope to learn a lot about these symptoms and believe it will have a great impact on our understanding of the virus.”
Log Cabin, Delaney House Launch ‘Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need’
HOLYOKE — Many people and organizations are looking for ways to help others during this trying time. In that spirit, the Delaney House and Log Cabin have created the “Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need” meal-donation program. People can purchase meals at a discounted rate, which will then be distributed to local businesses with essential employees or community members struggling to gain access to fresh food during this difficult time. Some of the organizations that will receive these donations are Baystate Health System, Providence Ministries (Loreto House), Amherst Survival Center, Mercy Medical Center, Springfield first responders, Holyoke first responders, and many others. To donate, visit www.delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.
MassHire Holyoke Career Center Continues to Offer Services Remotely
HOLYOKE — The MassHire Holyoke Career Center is letting the public known it is open for business remotely for new and current customers and members of the career center. Individuals can visit www.masshireholyoke.org to access information and staff contact numbers for career-counseling and job-search services. Staff members are available to answer questions and provide support such as résumé review and career counseling. These services are available in English and Spanish. Job postings are also available on the website. People with questions about job-seeker services can call (413) 532-4900 and leave a message, and a staff member will be in contact as soon as possible. People who need to file an unemployment claim can call (877) 626-6800 or visit www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits. Businesses can call (413) 654-1650, and a business service representative will be in touch.