bankESB Earns Recognition for Quality, Community Commitment
EASTHAMPTON — bankESB was recently honored for overall quality and commitment to the community. The bank earned the number-one spot for Overall Quality in Western Mass. in the 2020 New England Banking Choice Awards. The awards are presented annually by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England, and are based on the results of the Rivel Banking Benchmarks, the largest and most comprehensive measure of banking customer experience in the world. The 2020 results are based on more than 11,000 interviews and 300,000 reviews of nearly 300 Massachusetts institutions. The bank also was named an honoree by the Boston Business Journal in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, a recognition of the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to showcase companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. Companies qualify for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year.
Florence Bank Gives $10,000 to Amherst Survival Center
FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently donated $10,000 to the Amherst Survival Center, which connects residents of Hampshire and Franklin counties to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community, primarily through volunteer efforts. Since mid-March, the Amherst Survival Center has focused its resources on food and nutrition programs, ensuring its ability to provide hot meals to go, daily access to fresh produce and bread, and full grocery shops from its food pantry in as safe a manner as possible. This summer, the center established a strategic plan to address the steady rise of food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their plan entails doubling the food provided by the food pantry while also expanding grocery offerings to roughly two weeks each month. Additionally, the center will expand its staff in order to implement evening and weekend hours and integrate deliveries into the schedule with a goal of delivering food to 1,000 to 1,500 area residents per month. These efforts have been fueled by generous donations like the one from Florence Bank.
ValleyBike Share Offers Discount to Area Students
PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share has begun offering a special discount to all area students with an .edu e-mail address. The pass costs $60 for an annual membership that includes unlimited 45-minute rides. ValleyBike Share is the all-electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley, which includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus. Students can use ValleyBike Share to explore the Pioneer Valley without a car. The electric-assist bikes can go from one town to another with ease within the system, which makes them perfect to use if a student has classes at any of the other colleges in the service area. To join, visit www.valleybike.org. ValleyBike is open from approximately April 1 to Nov. 30, weather permitting.
UMass Donahue Institute Wins $14 Million Contract
HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded a five-year, $14 million contract to provide training and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs for all six New England states. The grants allows the institute to continue to work with local Head Start programs on their educational, health, and family services as well as management systems to strengthen their ability to serve children and their families. Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide comprehensive services that support the development of children from birth to age 5, and their families, in centers, childcare partner locations, and their own homes. Early Head Start also provides services to pregnant women. Head Start and Early Head Start services include early learning, health, and family well-being. The contract was awarded by the Office of Head Start in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nationally, Head Start/Early Head Start is divided into 12 regions. UMass Donahue Institute will be the sole provider of training and technical assistance to Region 1, which includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The institute was first awarded the New England training and technical assistance grant in 2003.
Country Bank Recognized for Charitable Giving
WARE — The Boston Business Journal has once again named Country Bank an honoree in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to highlight companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. During this year’s virtual celebration held on Sept. 10, 107 companies — a record number — qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. This year’s honorees include companies from healthcare, technology, financial and professional services, retail, professional sports, and more. Country Bank, which ranked 60th, employs 209 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. In 2019, staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering more than 1,100 hours of community service.
AIC Receives High Marks for Teaching and Education Degrees
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is ranked 17th among the top 50 colleges and universities for teaching and education degrees, as ranked by learn.org for academic year 2020-21. Established in 2003, learn.org provides free resources for students and working professionals to research potential schools and degrees by providing information on career opportunities and institutions of higher education that help individuals reach their goals, including school connections, scholarships, and online college planning for quality and affordable education. Citing AIC, learn.org highlights the college’s master’s programs, including its master of education in early childhood education and a master of education in middle or secondary education. The organization additionally notes that AIC offers a doctoral program with multiple tracks, the doctor of education in teaching and learning, and called attention to students’ ability to take part in a practicum or field-based research to ensure preparedness for future careers. The organization also credits the School of Education with employing “top-notch staff and faculty members, many of whom hold terminal degrees in their field.”
Square One Responds to Need for Remote-learning Support
SPRINGFIELD — As working parents continue to navigate the unchartered territory surrounding remote education, Square One is answering the call for help. The agency is now providing full-day remote-learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to expanded offerings for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Enrollment is available at three Square One early-learning centers in Springfield, as well as the agency’s network of home-based child-care providers who operate throughout the region. Through the generosity of funders, including the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and Square One’s corporate and individual donors, all locations are outfitted with the technology and staffing needed to accommodate each student’s remote-learning needs. All guidelines surrounding social distancing, cleanliness, and personal protective equipment will be strictly enforced. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided. For more information, parents are urged to contact the Square One enrollment office at (413) 732-5183. With the growing demand for programs and services at Square One comes a greater need for additional financial support. Donors are asked to support the Campaign for Healthy Kids by texting ABC123 to 4432, visiting www.startatsquareone.org, or e-mailing Kristine Allard, vice president of Development & Communication, at [email protected].
Berkshire Bank Foundation Contributes More Than $1 Million in COVID-19 Relief
PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Bank Foundation announced that, due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has contributed more than $1 million to collaborative efforts supporting nonprofit organizations responding to community-based needs. Guided by the foundation’s mission of investing in those living and working in its local communities, the total relief provided represents an additional $1 million over the foundation’s $3 million total annual grant budget. The organizations supported in the Pioneer Valley through Berkshire Bank Foundation’s contributions include the Mental Health Assoc. Inc., YMCA of Greater Springfield, the SCORE Foundation – Western Massachusetts SCORE, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, among others. The foundation’s grants this year have supported community-based organizations to help local families in the areas of affordable and safe housing, food security, health supplies, students in distress, and assistance to small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The foundation has also allowed nonprofits to utilize funds given for specific programs to help cover general operating costs and extended requirements and/or reporting deadlines where needed.
Beveridge Family Foundation Partners with Innovation Accelerator
WEST NEWBURY — The Beveridge Family Foundation provides support to nonprofits within Hampden and Hampshire counties. While continuing that critical work, it has started investing directly into social-impact projects and ventures. By leveraging its endowment, the Beveridge Foundation is significantly increasing the amount of funding it can deploy. Local organizations with proposals for economically sustainable programs can now apply for investments of up to $250,000. These proposals must be at the pilot stage or later and already have significant evidence of demand and viability. Innovation Accelerator trains nonprofits to develop high-impact social ventures. Alumni have gone from sticky notes on a whiteboard to live programs that have raised more than $1 million in seed funding. Each team that participates in the flagship accelerator program generates mission-aligned ideas, gathers concrete evidence, and receives direct feedback from the Beveridge Foundation and other funders.
Education Equity Focus of Grant to Holyoke Community College
HOLYOKE — When Holyoke Community College (HCC) unveiled its four-year strategic plan in 2018, one of its top priorities was increasing success rates of students of color. That aligned with goals established by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), which in the same year made equity the top policy and performance objective for the entire state public higher-education system. To support those ongoing efforts, the Lumina Foundation recently awarded the Massachusetts DHE grants worth $1.2 million, with half the money earmarked for six state colleges and universities, including HCC. HCC’s $100,000 award will be used to further the work of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion task force and expand mentorship programs that focus on students of color. Through its Talent, Innovation, Equity, and Equity Institution grants, the Lumina Foundation seeks to dismantle systemic barriers to student success and degree attainment, particularly for black and Latinx students. Massachusetts was only the fifth state to receive grants from the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Indianapolis. Latinx students participating in HCC’s ALANA Men in Motion program show a fall-to-fall retention rate of 75%, compared to 45% for Latinx students not participating in ALANA, an academic support, mentoring, and counseling program for African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American men. HCC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion group focuses on making sure students of color succeed at the same rate as their white peers, using benchmarks such as retention and college completion rates.
United Way Distributes PPE to Area Nonprofits, Municipalities
SPRINGFIELD — As part of its COVID-19 response efforts, United Way of Pioneer Valley has distributed a round of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19-related items to multiple area nonprofits and municipalities. Recipients of PPE to date include the Agawam Department of Public Health, Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee, Chicopee Food Force, Granville Fire Department, Granville Police Department, Granville Public Library, Link to Libraries, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Ludlow Senior Center, Ministry en Motion, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, One Holyoke CDC, Quarry Hill Community School in Monson, Southwick Senior Center, Tolland Fire Department, and Westfield Senior Center. Distributions include various sizes of hand-sanitizer bottles, hand-sanitizing stations, disposable masks, gloves, face masks, face shields, cleaning wipes, and countertop sneeze guards. Donations also included hula hoops and pool noodles to help young children learn about social distancing.