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BusinessWest Will Celebrate the Difference Makers at March 26 Gala

Mark your calendar!

BusinessWest recently chose its first class of Difference Makers — four individuals and one group of young people who are all improving the quality of life in Western Mass. — and will celebrate their accomplishments at a gala set for March 26 at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House in Holyoke.

Details of the event are falling into place, and the gala is shaping up as a not-to-be-missed gathering that will blend networking with some well-deserved recognition for people who are making a difference in the community.

“Our first Difference Makers have different roles, different backgrounds, and different ways to channel their generous donations of time, energy, and imagination to the community,” said Kate Campiti, associate publisher of BusinessWest. “But there are many common denominators, starting with a desire to connect people and businesses with resources.

“These resources vary,” she continued, “and include everything from library books to outfits women can wear to a job interview; from capital for sustainable energy projects to programs designed to help make individuals workforce-ready. In each case, these connections make the region a better place in which to live, work, and play, and they create a ripple effect that can be felt across the Valley.”

And this focus on the Western Mass. region has generated a theme, if you will, for the March 26 gala. Indeed, this will be a celebration of not only the Difference Makers, but the Pioneer Valley itself, with food and beverages produced locally and entertainment music provided by area artists.

“There is going to be an incredible amount of energy in the room that night,” said Campiti. “BusinessWest wants to invite all its readers to attend, celebrate excellence, and recognize all that is special about this region.”

Tickets for the inaugural Difference Makers Gala are $50 per person, and may be ordered by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 10, or via E-mail at[email protected].

The Difference Makers for 2009, as profiled in the Feb. 2 edition of BusinessWest, are:

  • Doug Bowen, president and CEO of PeoplesBank, emphasizes a strong philanthropic platform — the bank ranks among the leading charitable contributors among Massachusetts businesses, giving well over $3 million over the past five years — as well as a solid leadership position in lending to ‘green’ businesses and sustainable-energy-related ventures. He has also steered the bank to strong profitability, while balancing his own time with service to a number of civic and charitable organizations.
  • Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, has used her platform in a variety of service roles, from mentoring young entrepreneurs to helping steer the Sisters of Providence Health System through a time of uncertainty for health care providers, to serving on the board of Friends for the Homeless. She co-wrote the original business plan for the Western Mass. chapter of Dress for Success, an organization that has become an international phenomenon.
  • Susan Jaye Kaplan founded GoFIT, which introduces young people to the importance of fitness and provides them with not only running shoes but a game plan to stay in shape. Later, she co-founded Linked to Libraries, which collects new books and donates them to elementary schools across the region that serve children of low-income families. In both roles, she has started kids on the path to good habits, both physical and intellectual, that will hopefully last a lifetime.
  • Bill Ward, as executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, has worked to create access to employment, especially for minorities, young people, and underskilled individuals. The REB’s latest project, Building a Better Workforce — Closing the Skills Gap on the Road to Economic Resurgence, brings together businesses and colleges in an effort to establish universal kindergarten, improve young education proficiency and career awareness, increase adult literacy, and boost technical training in high-growth industry sectors.
  • The Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield, in just two years, has grown to include more than 200 members. YPS creates professional-development programs, educates members on economic and other issues of the day, and provides reasons for young professionals to plant roots in the Pioneer Valley and become valuable contributors to its long-term progress. It also conducts events intended to connect young people with the arts, promote mentoring, and facilitate efforts to give back to the community.
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