Forest Park Zoo Wins Award for Education Programming
SPRINGFIELD — For the third time in as many years, the Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center has been nationally recognized for its innovative education programs. On Oct. 19, the zoo received the Educational Award of Excellence from the Zoological Assoc. of America for its zookeeper internship program. The program combines classroom and hands-on learning in a way that creates a well-rounded internship experience for college-aged students. In addition to providing basic care for the 225-plus animals that call the zoo their home, interns also participate in a 12-week professional-development curriculum and complete a capstone project. Weekly topics are selected by the zoo’s education and animal-care teams and cover a wide range of themes in the field of zoological studies. The program culminates with the enrichment capstone project, in which participants research a species to create an enrichment item based on the animal’s individual needs. Enrichment is an important component of an animal’s daily care and aims to provide mental or physical stimulation by encouraging natural behaviors. In December 2021, the zoo won the same award for its creation and implementation of the Kids Go Wild program, and in August 2021, Adams received the Janet McCoy Excellence in Public Education Award from the American Assoc. of Zookeepers for her work on Kids Go Wild.
Big Y Again Named a Best-in-State Employer
SPRINGFIELD — For the fifth year in a row, Big Y has been named a Forbes Best-in-state Employer. Honorees have been identified across all industries based upon an independent survey of employees who anonymously recommend their employers for this award. Employers, such as Big Y, neither have the knowledge of which employees are polled, nor do they have the ability to influence the results in any way. According to Forbes, employees are asked to rate their willingness to recommend their own employers to friends and family. Employees are also asked to give their opinions on a series of statements surrounding topics such as working conditions, salary, potential for development, and company image. Big Y’s award spans 25 different industries.
LightHouse Holyoke to Acquire Sons of Zion Building
HOLYOKE — LightHouse Holyoke is in the process of acquiring the Sons of Zion building at 378 Maple St. to become its permanent home. LightHouse Holyoke is a 501(c)(3), accredited school founded in 2015. It began a partnership with Holyoke Public Schools in 2017 and now works with four public districts along with private-pay families on a sliding scale. With a foundation in social justice, LightHouse offers a transformational educational experience for students in grades 6-12 who are seeking a new way to experience school. Over the past eight years, LightHouse has supported nearly 150 students to not just graduate high school, but to redefine their relationship to learning. More than half were either already dropped out of high school or at high risk to not graduate. LightHouse’s vision is to be a reflection of a world where young people are celebrated for their individual gifts and identities and where all people are invited to learn with each other, from each other, and for each other, guided by a shared goal of connection and responsibility. It believes that transformative education is a key to this future. Current enrollment is 75 students; in the new building, LightHouse aims to increase enrollment to 100-120 students. With the support of Mass Development, it has completed a robust feasibility study, including multiple environmental reports. It has initial drawings from an architect and is prepared to close on the four-lot parcel in January 2024. The current vision for two of the currently vacant lots is to create an urban food forest, open to the community. The cost estimate for the total project is approximately $4 million. Occupancy is expected by September 2025.
Greater Westfield Chamber Announces 2023 Awards
WESTFIELD — The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce announced its annual award winners for 2023. The Business of the Year Award is being presented jointly to Westfield Barnes Regional Airport and the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Kimberley Betts of Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply. Westfield On Weekends earned the Nonprofit of the Year Award, and the Member of the Year Award is being presented to Rick Rheault of Integrity Merchant Solutions. The awards were presented at the chamber’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Shaker Farms Country Club.
Chamber of Greater Easthampton Receives WorkHub on Union Grant
EASTHAMPTON — The Chamber of Greater Easthampton announced that its new entrepreneurial initiative, WorkHub on Union, received a significant boost with a recent award: a $50,000 Collaborative Workspace Program Fit-Out Grant. This is the second grant the chamber has received for this project from the Executive Office of Economic Development, MassDevelopment, and the Collaborative Workspace Grant Program. This latest grant is an addition to the $100,000 in state funding, bringing the total of local and state funds raised to date to $230,000.
Country Bank Donates $42,000 to 21 Area Senior Centers
WARE — Country Bank recently announced donations to 21 local senior centers throughout the region, totaling $42,000. These donations are made without restriction for necessary items that may not be met within the centers’ annual budgets. “We are so fortunate to have a community partner like Country Bank,” said John Zienowicz, executive director of Ware Senior Center. “Countless members of their staff have volunteered at our events and special projects that have ranged from holiday parties at the senior center to personally delivering boxes of food items to seniors in need. This donation helps to sustain our meal program, which, over the past five years, has provided in excess of 38,000 home-cooked meals for the seniors. Their commitment to service, volunteerism, and community is what makes Country Bank the gold standard when it comes to being true difference makers.” In addition to its annual monetary support, Country Bank also sends teams of employees to volunteer at local senior centers on a monthly basis.
LiftTruck Launches Fundraiser to Benefit Head Start
WEST SPRINGFIELD — LiftTruck Parts & Service Inc., a local, family-owned business, launched its 2023 Fill a Forklift fundraiser to benefit Head Start Brockton and Holyoke Chicopee Springfield (HCS) Head Start. For 35 years, LiftTruck has been a family-owned business providing forklift sales, rentals, parts, and service to the Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Connecticut, and Rhode Island areas. LiftTruck invites the community to help it raise funds throughout November and December, as it will be collecting monetary donations at its Brockton and West Springfield locations and accepting donations online. Head Start Brockton and HCS Head Start aim to provide family and parent support and opportunities for families to engage in a child’s education. Since its inception in 1965, Head Start has improved the lives of more than 32 million children and their families.
Country Bank, Bank Director Announce Fully Certified Board
WARE — James Phaneuf, Country Bank board chair, announced that the bank’s board of directors recently became the first fully certified board through Bank Director’s certification program. The certification provides participants with a thorough grounding in corporate governance and important industry issues that enhance the performance of individual directors. The board completed the comprehensive training program this past year and was certified in September. Participants must complete 31 designated online training videos and board briefs focused on the role of the board, audit and risk, compensation, governance, and fiduciary responsibilities. In addition to Bank Director’s online training series, participants must attend a day-long corporate-governance workshop in the Bank Director certification program or, alternatively, complete a virtual version of the program. Completing the program and becoming a certified bank director sends a clear message to state and federal regulators that board members take their fiduciary duties seriously and want to be top-performing members of the bank’s board.
Second Chance Animal Services Named a Top-Rated Nonprofit
EAST BROOKFIELD — Second Chance Animal Services has been named a 2023 Top-Rated Nonprofit by GreatNonprofits, a leading website for community recommendations of charities and nonprofits. Second Chance offers programs and services that help more than 44,000 pets a year to live better lives. The Top-Rated Nonprofit award is based on the rating and number of reviews that Second Chance received from volunteers, donors, and aid recipients. In one review, a volunteer shared that “I have been a volunteer with Second Chance for the past couple of years and continue to be impressed with how hard they work to not only help and care for the animals they rescue, but also the resources they give to animal owners in the communities they serve, from veterinary services to vaccine clinics, pet grooming, food banks, and more. They truly are an impressive organization.”
Market Mentors Raises $4,000 for Breast-cancer Programs
SPRINGFIELD — As part of its 20th-anniversary recognition, Market Mentors LLC, a fully integrated marketing, advertising, and public-relations agency, brought back its annual Pink Day campaign to raise funds for Baystate Health Foundation to support breast-cancer research and services. Selling MM Pink Day 2023 T-shirts, the agency raised a total of $4,000. Participating companies included Adams & Ruxton; Allied Flooring, Paint and Design; Belt Technologies Inc.; BusinessWest; Cornerstone Bank; Dowd Insurance Agencies; EffecTV (Comcast); Excel Dryer; Freedom Credit Union; Giombetti Associates; Girard Heating & Air Conditioning; Koopman Lumber; Louis & Clark Pharmacy; Millennium Press; Noonan Energy; Prime Media; PDC Inc.; the Recorder; the Republican; Vlier Inc.; Western Mass News; and Women’s Health Associates.
Skoler Abbott Receives Empowering Women Award
SPRINGFIELD — Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., a labor and employment law firm serving employers in the Greater Springfield area, has been named to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s inaugural Empowering Women list. The award recognizes Skoler Abbott for its strong commitment to hiring and promoting women, providing mentoring and opportunities for professional advancement to women attorneys, and establishing programs and policies to help women attorneys thrive professionally. Skoler Abbott was the only law firm in Western Mass. to receive this honor.
Home City Development Begins Construction on Apartments
PELHAM — Home City Development Inc. (HCDI) has begun construction of 34 new affordable apartments on a previously developed site in Pelham. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on Nov. 2 at 20 Amherst Road, Pelham. Consisting of one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental apartments in two buildings, Amethyst Brook Apartments provides modern amenities in a quiet, rural setting for households earning up to 60% of area median income. The buildings are designed to meet Energy Star and Passive House energy-performance standards. The property will contain charging stations for electric vehicles and roof-mounted solar panels. Along with local jobs, construction spending, and increased property taxes, this professionally managed property is expected to make significant contributions to the town of Pelham. HCDI was awarded most of the project funding from the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. In addition, HCDI received Community Preservation Act funds from the town of Pelham and construction and permanent loans from Easthampton Savings Bank. Other funders include Community Economic Development Assistance Corp., Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp., and Dorfman Capital. The development team includes Architecture Environment Life; Western Builders; development consultant Gerry Joseph; Tierney Development Services; Berkshire Design Group; Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin, P.C.; Klein-Hornig LLP; O’Reilly, Talbot and Okun; and many other partners.