40 Under 40 Class of 2008

Stephen Huntley

Age 32: Executive Director, Valley Opportunity Council

Stephen Huntley has a number of passions — that’s his word — competing for his time and energy these days.

One of them is making maple syrup, a process that is now a family affair also involving his wife, Christine, and children, Camren and Shea. It started as a hobby for Huntley when he was an accountant earlier in his career and needed a release during tax season. “I worked long hours and needed something besides work and sleep,” he told BusinessWest.

“I’d come home from work at 9 a.m. and boil sap for an hour.”

Today, there is plenty besides work and sleep to account for the hours in the day, but Huntley was still hard at work earlier this spring making syrup — his goal was 10 gallons, which requires 400 gallons of sap.

By day, Huntley is executive director of the Valley Opportunity Council (VOC), the Holyoke-based nonprofit agency with a $26 million budget and a broad mission to help the 25,000 people it serves to achieve measures of self-sufficiency.

It does so through a wide range of programming that involves literacy, GED, the Women, Infants and Children Program, the RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), a senior companion program, adult day health, child care, transportation, case management, and more.

Huntley recently steered the VOC through a trying yet satisfying $2.7 million project to rehab the former Mount Carmel School in Chicopee into a home for those services, a move that provides the council with more room and better visibility.

While rescuing that project, Huntley has also helped salvage more than 100 acres of farmland in his hometown of Deerfield from commercial or residential development. “That’s another of my passions,” he explained, referring to his work as part of the Deerfield Agriculture Commission. “I enjoy helping to preserve rural characteristics of suburban communities; there’s nothing like driving down country roads and seeing corn fields and open land.”

Huntley’s involvement in the community takes other forms. He represents Chicopee and Mayor Michael Bissonnette on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Board, for example, and also chairs the Emergency Food and Shelter Committee for the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Looking over his resume, and that list of passions, one could say that Huntley specializes in getting out of — or into — some sticky situations.

Laura DeMars

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