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MBK Announces Expansion with J.M. O’Brien & Co.

HOLYOKE — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. (MBK) announced a significant expansion of its practice through the inclusion of J.M. O’Brien & Co., P.C. (JOB), a firm with three decades of service in the region. This expansion occurs as MBK celebrates its 75th anniversary. Bringing J.M. O’Brien & Co. to MBK signifies a strategic move toward MBK’s growth and expansion in the accounting industry of Western Mass. MBK stands to benefit from the influx of new talent and a broader resource pool, enriching the firm’s already-substantial depth of resources. The merger is particularly advantageous for MBK’s tax services, which will be able to leverage J.M. O’Brien’s extensive expertise to enhance its range of tax-related services. With the added depth of knowledge and resources, MBK is well-positioned to offer a broader range of specialized services, including advanced tax planning and compliance, audit and assurance services, and business consulting. This strategic move signifies MBK’s largest scale of expansion since the pivotal merger of 2004, marking a significant milestone in the firm’s trajectory.


Theory Wellness Becomes Employee-owned Company

STONEHAM — Massachusetts-based cannabis company Theory Wellness is transitioning its ownership entirely over to its employees, in what is known as an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). By doing so, Theory has become the first employee-owned cannabis company in the Commonwealth and the largest of its kind in the country. Established in 2015 by co-founders Brandon Pollock and Nick Friedman, Theory Wellness has grown to include four dispensaries, production and cultivation facilities, and more than 200 employees, and has served more than 3 million customers since its inception. This change in ownership is not expected to disrupt the company’s day-to-day operations.


bankESB Named a Top Place to Work

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB has been named one of the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work in Massachusetts. The Globe’s list recognizes the most admired workplaces in the state, according to the people who know them best — their employees. Rankings are based on a confidential survey of more than 137,000 employees at 347 Massachusetts-based organizations, administered by employee engagement and retention firm Energage. Winners are selected based on employees’ opinions of their company’s direction, execution, connection, management, work, pay and benefits, and engagement. Earlier this year, bankESB also was named a Top Financial Services Industry Workplace by Energage for the second year in a row, as well as a Top Charitable Contributor and Corporate Citizenship Award winner by Boston Business Journal for the ninth consecutive year.


HCC Receives $600,000 for Free Child Watch Program

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation to expand its Itsy Bitsy Child Watch program to serve more student-parents. Itsy Bitsy Child Watch is a free center on HCC’s main campus for parents in need of short-term childcare while they attend class, study, or meet with tutors and advisers. It opened as a pilot program for the fall 2022 semester with a $100,000 state allocation. At the time, HCC was only the second community college in Massachusetts, and the only one in Western Mass., to offer a free campus child-watch service. The center is open to HCC student-parents with children 3 months to 12 years old. The $600,000 grant will enable HCC to relocate the center to a larger, fully renovated new space; hire additional staff; and extend its hours of operation to accommodate more children, especially during public school vacations, which do not always align with the college calendar. Sometime in 2024, the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch center, now located on the first floor of the Marieb Science Building, will move to a renovated space on the second floor of the Frost Building, closer to other student service and support programs, such as the Thrive Student Resource Center and Food Pantry; Homestead Market, which accepts SNAP benefits; CHD Mental Health Services; Financial Aid; and the new Elaine Marieb Adult Learner Success Center (also scheduled to open in 2024).


Bright Nights Named Among ‘Best of the Best’

SPRINGFIELD — For the fourth straight year, Bright Nights at Forest Park has been recognized by the American Bus Assoc. (ABA) as one of the “Best of the Best for 2023.” The ABA acknowledges destinations and attractions from the U.S. and Canada that offer the “highest quality of group tour experience and amenities in the motorcoach, travel, and tourism industry.” Prior to receiving “Best of the Best” honors in 2023, 2022, 2021, and 2020, Bright Nights at Forest Park was recognized by the American Bus Assoc. as one of the Top 100 Destinations in North America. It features more than 700,000 lights along a three-mile drive that winds its way through the historic park.


STCC Secures Funding for Decarbonization Efforts

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) received $791,694 from the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to support projects to advance decarbonization efforts, address deferred maintenance, and increase climate resilience. STCC will use the funding for energy-efficiency projects that lessen the consumption of on-site fossil fuels or increase efficiency. STCC also will make repairs to campus buildings to increase efficiency, including but not limited to window replacements, door replacements, insulation, and weatherization. DCAMM provided $11,875,404 to be divided among the 15 community colleges, including STCC, to assist with meeting Massachusetts’ decarbonization goals and focus on energy-efficient measures where decarbonization is not possible. Each community college received $791,694.


Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Golf Tournament Breaks Record

The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament celebrated its 15th annual golf tournament on Sept. 26, marking a significant milestone in its ongoing support for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as this year’s tournament raised a record-breaking $160,000. For more than a decade and a half, the charity golf tournament has stood as a beacon of hope in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s fundraising initiatives. The charity golf tournament was held at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow. The tournament featured a raffle, silent and live auctions, hole-in-one contests, on-the-course pop-ups, live music by Noah Lis, and illusionist Yoel Spielman.


Elms MSN Program Nationally Ranked by Forbes Advisor

CHICOPEE — The master of science in nursing (MSN) program at Elms College has been ranked by Forbes Advisor as one of the most affordable, high-quality online MSN programs in the U.S. The MSN program at Elms was one of nine programs ranked by Forbes Advisor and the only one located in Massachusetts. Forbes Advisor is part of the Forbes organization and is dedicated to helping consumers make the best financial choices. A portion of its editorial content includes the ranking of higher-education institutions and programs. The MSN program at Elms is fully online and allows students to pursue one of four tracks, including nursing & health services management, nursing education, and an MSN/MBA dual-degree option. The fourth track, school nursing, is the only MSN school nursing program in the U.S. For the online MSN rankings, Forbes Advisor rated data from several sources in the categories of affordability, credibility, student outcomes, student experience, and the application process.


Springfield College Awarded $240,000 for Mental-health Needs

SPRINGFIELD — In partnership with the city of Springfield, Springfield College was awarded $240,000 to help assist in combating the growing mental-health needs among college students and the local community. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Chief Development Officer Tim Sheehan announced the partnership as part of the Sarno administration’s Higher Education ARPA Fund at City Hall on Dec. 6. Sarno had previously announced the creation of the $750,000 Higher Education ARPA Fund as part of his 13th round of ARPA awards in July, as Springfield College was joined by American International College and Western New England University as recipients of the funding. The $240,000 allocation that Springfield College received will create additional opportunities to further support youth and families in the city of Springfield and provide collaboration between Springfield College students and Springfield Public Schools to enhance their learning and simultaneously support the community. With the funding, Springfield College intends to hire case managers to provide support and advocacy for both college students and children and families in Springfield Public Schools who have difficulty navigating the often-complex web of available resources, hire a psychiatric nurse practitioner to support critical needs within area colleges and the community, and strengthen relationships between school counseling and clinical mental-health counseling student interns at Springfield College and Springfield Public Schools to provide additional community-based mental-health services and support.