Opinion

Editorial

The Power of Passion Makes a Difference

When State Trooper Michael Cutone talks about the so-called C3P, or Counter Criminal Continuum Policing Program, now being implemented in Springfield’s Brightwood neighborhood, there is an unmistakable passion in his voice.

And it’s understandable.

Cutone, fellow State Trooper Tom Sarrouf, and John Barbieri, deputy chief of police in Springfield, are the three main architects of this program, which has enjoyed considerable success with the daunting task of taking neighborhood residents, once relegated to the role of spectators by fear and apathy, and making them a major force in a counter-insurgency effort that has gang members reportedly throwing their cell phones in the Connecticut River because they believe they’re bugged by police.

“Gang members and drug dealers are very savvy — they exploit the fact that people don’t want to engage with the police; they exploit that passive support,” Cutone told BusinessWest, adding that, while the program has a long way to go, it is succeeding with its broad goal of turning that base of support on its ear. And it is because of his passion for the program and its tactics — borrowed from work Cutone and Sarrouf employed with the Green Berets in Iraq — that it is enjoying solid results and bringing news media from across the country to see how it works.

This passion might be considered the prevailing common denominator among this year’s class of Difference Makers.

Indeed, there is passion in Bruce Landon’s voice when he talks about not only how, but why he has fought so hard to keep professional hockey in Springfield, assembling three different ownership groups. That same emotion is there as Sisters Kathleen Popko and Mary Caritas talk about the Sisters of Providence and their incredibly inspiring 140-year track record of finding new and much-needed ways to assist underserved segments of the population.

The passion is palpable as the remarkable John Downing talks about Soldier On and how it never stops working to find ways to improve the lives of those who have served their country. And it bubbles over when Jim Vinick talks about the Jimmy Fund, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the myriad other causes and institutions he has attached his name to.

Thus, we may well attach the subtitle ‘the power of passion’ to this year’s stories, because it certainly sums things up. There are, indeed, many ways to effectively make a difference in a community, but the process of doing so begins with the requisite passion for a cause or a problem. And there is a lesson there for all of us — find something, or some things, we’re passionate about, and then use that emotion to change people’s lives.

Landon is often called ‘Mr. Hockey’ in Springfield, a fitting title for someone who played the game here and has held about every title in the front office. But there’s a big difference between liking a sport and devoting your life to keeping a team playing in downtown Springfield. The difference is the level of passion.

The same can be said of Vinick. Many people sit on multiple boards and donate time and money to causes. Vinick goes beyond, giving himself to those causes. That means he gives his love of his hometown and the game with which it is identified, and he gives his desire, born from great personal tragedy, to help all those who have seen their lives turned upside down by cancer.

Downing has a simple passion for helping any individual who would go fight and die for his or her country, and this is seen clearly in a career-long quest to help those who discovered that their fight wasn’t over when they returned home from service. And the Sisters of Providence have made a passion for caring service the trait that defines the congregation.

The stories of this year’s Difference Makers vary in some ways, but they all convey the same message: there really is no limit to what you can accomplish when you’re passionate about something, and when you find ways to channel that passion into solutions for others.

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