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Daily News

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank announced appointments of two key associates. Christopher Scott was appointed assistant vice president, portfolio manager, while Michael Pike was appointed Hadley branch manager.

Scott has more than six years of banking experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in corporate finance, from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. He is also a graduate of the Springfield Leadership Institute.

Pike has more than 12 years of banking and financial-services experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Notre Dame College.

Departments People on the Move
Michelle Chase

Michelle Chase

United Bank announced the hiring of Michelle Chase, a local banker with 16 years of banking and financial experience throughout Western Mass. and North Central Conn., as its new vice president/branch manager of the Ludlow branch at 528 Center St. Chase brings extensive banking experience and financial expertise to United Bank, holding key roles throughout her career in commercial lending, consumer lending, operations, loan servicing, and retail banking. Most recently, Chase spent more than six years with PeoplesBank, where she managed its Westfield branch and led a team that turned it into one of the bank’s top-producing banking offices. Prior to PeoplesBank, Chase was a small-business lender with the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund from 2008 to 2011 and a Loan Operations manager with New England Bank, formerly Enfield Savings Bank. Her 16-year career in banking started in 2001 as a lending specialist with Southbridge Savings Bank. Chase earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and went on to receive an MBA from Bay Path University. She also studied at the Center for Financial Training. Her reputation in the banking industry spans beyond her professional and educational successes. In addition to winning internal company awards, Chase was selected to BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of 2017, which recognizes young civic leaders in Western Mass. She also received the Young Professional Society’s (YPS) Excellence in Leadership Award in 2014 for excellence in leadership skills and initiative and for her mentorship of other YPS members.

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Jennifer Plassmann

Jennifer Plassmann

North Brookfield Savings Bank (NBSB) announced the recent promotion of Jennifer Plassmann to the role of branch manager at the 1051 Thorndike St. branch in Palmer. In her new role, she will supervise and oversee all aspect of banking within the Palmer branch, including managing the teller line, scheduling, opening accounts, taking loan applications, and assisting customers with their banking needs. “Jennifer’s promotion is very well-deserved. She has proven herself to be a very valuable asset to the community and customers of Palmer, to the staff at her branch, and to the entire team at North Brookfield Savings Bank,” said Donna Boulanger, NBSB President and CEO. “We are confident she will continue to deliver many great benefits by sharing her experience, product knowledge, excellent customer-service skills, and her dedication to the community.” Plassmann most recently served as assistant branch manager and acting branch manager at North Brookfield Savings Bank’s Palmer location, where she excelled at being a leader for the branch staff and providing customers with exceptional care and attention, Boulanger said. In addition, she is a strong community supporter, often volunteering her time and efforts for various local community events, including but not limited to the Palmer 300th Anniversary Parade, the Palmer Historical and Cultural Center Tree and Wreath Festival, the Ware Flair Parade, the West Brookfield Asparagus Festival, and annual financial-aid nights at local high schools. “I am so pleased to continue my banking career with North Brookfield Savings Bank and within the community of Palmer,” Plassmann said. “I know and appreciate this neighborhood and all of the wonderful people and businesses who call this home. I am very excited to develop my existing relationships, expand to make some new relationships, and to increase my community involvement.”

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John Gannon

John Gannon

Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that attorney John Gannon was named a partner in the firm on Jan. 1. Gannon, who has been with the firm since 2011, focuses his practice on employment litigation, workplace-safety laws and OSHA compliance, enforcing non-competition and confidentiality agreements, and wage-and-hour compliance. He also provides day-to-day advice to businesses with questions about workplace-related issues. “We are thrilled that John has accepted partnership in the firm,” said attorney Marylou Fabbo, a partner at Skoler Abbott. “John has demonstrated the expertise and leadership necessary to provide our clients with the best possible legal service, whether that means taking a case to trial or helping businesses protect their rights and assets.” Gannon is a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations, and was selected by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2016. He is a member of the Massachusetts, Hampden County, Connecticut, and American bar associations. He also sits on the board of directors for Riverside Industries, a not-for-profit human-services agency that serves people with perceived limitations and disabilities, and Educational Resources for Children, an Enfield nonprofit that provides out-of-school-time programs for children. “I am excited to enter this next phase in my career, and am honored to be a partner in one of the leading labor and employment law firms in the country,” Gannon said. “I look forward to helping the firm further expand its expertise on behalf of our current and future clients, and I’m privileged to be a contributing member to the Pioneer Valley business community for the foreseeable future.”

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Susan Hillis

Susan Hillis

Susan Hillis has been promoted from treatment director to vice president of Clinical Services at AdCare Hospital. “Ms. Hillis has been a vital component of the clinical team at AdCare Hospital for many years,” said Patrice Muchowski, senior vice president of Clinical Services. “As vice president of Clinical Services, Ms. Hillis will be able to redesign existing treatment programming and develop new modalities to ensure that AdCare remains a leader in substance-use treatment.” A licensed independent clinical social worker, Hillis has served as treatment director since 2006. Prior positions include director of Rehabilitation Services at AdCare Hospital and director of AdCare Outpatient Services offices in Worcester and Boston. She received the 2015 Massachusetts Assoc. of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors’ Robert Logue President’s Award for her long-standing support of membership and her dedication to substance-use treatment, recovery, and professional credentialing in Massachusetts. A former board member and chair of the Massachusetts Professional Recovery System, she currently oversees clinical practicums for students in the Addiction Counselor Education program at AdCare, and provides clinical supervision for students in MSW programs at a number of schools. Hillis presents frequently on substance-use related topics such as “Addiction 101,” “Co-occurring Disorders,” “Motivational Interviewing,” and “Designer Drugs” to community, school, and professional organizations locally, regionally, and nationally. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Boston College and an undergraduate degree in music therapy from Anna Maria College in Paxton.

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Kailee Wilson

Kailee Wilson

Robinson Donovan, P.C. promoted former law clerk Kailee Wilson to the role of associate attorney following her admission to both the Massachusetts and Connecticut bars. Wilson is a 2017 graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law. While attending law school, she also interned with the school’s Tax Clinic, gaining skills and insights that have proven invaluable to her current business practice. In addition, she is now a member of the Massachusetts Bar Assoc., the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and the Connecticut Bar Assoc. “Kailee had a very successful year at Robinson Donovan, P.C., and we are thrilled that she is expanding her role at our firm,” said Partner James Martin. “Kailee has been a real asset to our firm, and we look forward to her having a successful career here.” Wilson assists clients in the areas of business and corporate counseling, commercial real estate, and estate planning. Outside of work, she channels her passion for advocacy into her role as a volunteer coach with the Special Olympics and in the Alumni in Admissions program for her alma mater, Bates College.

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Tara Brewster

Tara Brewster

Greenfield Savings Bank promoted Tara Brewster to vice president of Business Development. Her position includes developing long-term strategies for business development and outreach to perspective customers, including small businesses and individuals for lending and account services. She joined GSB as a Business Development specialist in late 2016. “Tara’s efforts to expand the bank’s portfolio of small-business customers and individuals have been very successful,” said John Howland, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “Her more than 20 years of experience in small-business management has given her great insight into the needs of local businesses.” In addition to her duties at the bank, Brewster is active in volunteering on the committees and boards of a wide range of community organizations, including Northampton Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Hampshire Regional YMCA board, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, Downtown Northampton Assoc. board, Northampton Redevelopment Authority committee, North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens development committee, Community Health Center of Franklin County marketing committee, as a Northampton Chamber of Commerce ambassador, and as chair of the Pedalmotion for Locomotion Look Park fund-raising event. Before joining the Bank, Brewster worked for independent small businesses and multi-million-dollar companies, including seven years as owner of Jackson & Connor in downtown Northampton and in a wide range of management positions including manager, promotions director, buyer, regional sales manager, and East Coast account executive. She is a graduate of Smith College.

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Theresa Curry has been named executive director of Planned Giving at UMass Amherst. Curry, an attorney, has extensive experience in business and organizational development, nonprofit giving, and gift administration. “We are delighted that Theresa Curry will be joining UMass Amherst’s development team,” said Vice Chancellor of Development and Alumni Relations Mike Leto. “She brings deep expertise in estate planning to this role, as well as her considerable impact and success in fund-raising for higher education.” Curry comes to UMass Amherst from the University of New Hampshire Foundation, where she held several senior management positions in gift planning since 2012. Most recently, she served as assistant vice president for Gift Planning and Administration at UNH. She established UNH’s gift-planning program and played a major role in its recent $275 million fund-raising campaign. Previously, Curry established gift-planning programs as regional director of Philanthropy at the ALS Assoc. and as the capital campaign manager for Merrimack College. She has worked as an employee, consultant, volunteer, and lawyer in gift planning since 1998. She holds a juris doctor degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minn., and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Minnesota. She is also a triathlete and distance runner.

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Packaging prepress provider CSW Inc. announced a strategic re-shaping of company leadership. Longtime company President Laura Wright has transitioned to a new role as CEO. “My grandfather founded CSW in 1937, and I’m proud to continue moving us forward,” she said. “Although I will continue to actively manage all aspects of the company, I decided to share the day-to-day decision making with someone I trust. This lets me address long-term strategies for company growth.” That trusted advisor is new company President Scott Ellison, formerly CSW’s vice president of Sales. Ellison brings more than 15 years of executive leadership experience, including five years in the packaging industry, to CSW. He will manage sales, marketing, customer service, operations, IT, and R&D. According to Wright, “Scott comes to us with new ideas developed from both inside and outside our industry, and has already identified and pursued new growth opportunities for CSW.” Rounding out the organizational shift is former director of Graphics Marek Skrzynski’s new position as technical director. CSW has a long-standing reputation for producing creative solutions to package printing challenges, Wright said. Ellison noted that “Marek has been instrumental to the development of innovations such as WhiteFX ink transfer, X-Color EG separations, and 3D visualization services. This new role allows him to focus on expanding new initiatives such as Web2Plate, an automated prepress workflow for narrow to wide web flexo printers.” Added Wright, “CSW has thrived for over 80 years, thanks to our ability to creatively adapt to our client’s changing needs. These changes are realigning us once again so we can continue to succeed for another 80 — or longer.”

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Springfield College announced that Brooke Hallowell has been named dean of the School of Health Sciences and Rehabilitation Studies. As dean, Hallowell will collaborate with leadership of other divisions and units of Springfield College to participate in strategic planning and implementation activities that further the overall mission of the institution. She will oversee academic areas within her school, including physical and occupational therapy, physician assistant, health science, emergency medical services management, communication disorders, and rehabilitation counseling and disability studies. She will be responsible for assurance of quality of programming in line with student needs, institutional mission, and the requirements of applicable accreditation bodies. According to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Martha Potvin, “Dr. Hallowell will play a pivotal role in working with faculty to advance education across a broad array of health sciences and professions and to extend the college’s impact on global healthcare issues that we face both in our local and regional communities as well as abroad.” Hallowell has held several academic leadership positions and has a global reputation in advancing research and scholarship and fostering successful interdisciplinary initiatives. Most recently, she served as the founding executive director of the Collaborative on Aging and the coordinator of graduate and undergraduate gerontology certificate programs at Ohio University. She also held several other positions at Ohio University, including associate dean for research and sponsored programs in the College of Health and Human Services; director of the School of Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences; and coordinator of Ph.D. programs for the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences. She also served as director of the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Northern California. Hallowell received a Ph.D in neuropathologies of language and speech from the University of Iowa, a master’s degree in speech language pathology and audiology from Lamar University, and a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science/psycholinguistics from Brown University. She also studied at the Conservatoire National de France in Paris and Rouen.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank promoted Tara Brewster to vice president of Business Development. Her position includes developing long-term strategies for business development and outreach to perspective customers, including small businesses and individuals for lending and account services. She joined GSB as a Business Development specialist in late 2016.

“Tara’s efforts to expand the bank’s portfolio of small-business customers and individuals have been very successful,” said John Howland, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “Her more than 20 years of experience in small-business management has given her great insight into the needs of local businesses.”

In addition to her duties at the bank, Brewster is active in volunteering on the committees and boards of a wide range of community organizations, including Northampton Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Hampshire Regional YMCA board, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, Downtown Northampton Assoc. board, Northampton Redevelopment Authority committee, North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens development committee, Community Health Center of Franklin County marketing committee, as a Northampton Chamber of Commerce ambassador, and as chair of the Pedalmotion for Locomotion Look Park fund-raising event.

Before joining the Bank, Brewster worked for independent small businesses and multi-million-dollar companies, including seven years as owner of Jackson & Connor in downtown Northampton and in a wide range of management positions including manager, promotions director, buyer, regional sales manager, and East Coast account executive. She is a graduate of Smith College.

Departments People on the Move
Charlotte Hansen

Charlotte Hansen

Charlotte Hansen joined Polish National Credit Union as senior vice president, chief financial officer. Hansen, a certified public accountant, has an extensive financial background and a broad knowledge of community banking gained in her 27 years in the financial-services industry. Her areas of experience include financial and regulatory reporting, budgeting, strategic and capital planning, interest and liquidity risk management, process improvement, credit management, and product profitability and development. Her background includes senior management, CFO, and treasurer experience and responsibilities. She chairs the Financial Institutions Interest Group of the Connecticut Society for CPAs, an organization comprised of professionals in the banking/credit-granting industry. She is also a member of the Financial Managers Society Boston Chapter and a regular attendee of the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. CFO Forum.

Hansen holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting from the University of Hartford and an associate degree in accounting from Manchester Community College. An active volunteer, she is treasurer and a board member of Connecticut Farmland Trust, secretary of Stafford Grange No. 1, and a member of the Stafford Family Services advisory board, and serves as treasurer of Down to Earth Community Farm in Stafford, Conn. She is also a member of the Danish Society of Massachusetts. “We are pleased to welcome Charlotte to our management team,” said James Kelly, president and CEO of Polish National Credit Union. “Her professional background, experience, and career accomplishments will be extremely beneficial for our continued success going forward.”

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Nancy Garrabrants

Nancy Garrabrants

The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, which serves communities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire through programs, grants, and service, announced the appointment of Nancy Garrabrants to its board of directors. Garrabrants is the former associate dean of the Center for Agriculture at UMass Amherst, where she was responsible for the Nutrition Education and 4-H Youth Development programs. She was previously director and assistant dean of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass. She is an award-winning education professional with 32 years of in-depth expertise in agriculture from the business, academic, and youth-development sectors. “With Nancy’s experience in strategic planning, youth development, and nutrition education, she will bring a fresh perspective to our already robust board, helping us to further define and meet the needs of the communities we serve,” said Eric Schultz, president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and chair of the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation board of directors. Garrabrants holds an associate degree in floriculture from the State University of New York at Cobleskill, and a bachelor’s degree in vocational education and master’s degree in plant and soil sciences, both from UMass.

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PeoplesBank announced the promotions and appointments of several key associates.

Donna Charette was promoted to first vice president, Finance. She previously served as vice president of Finance. She has more than 28 years of banking experience, and earned a Leadership Certificate at the New England School of Banking.

• Christine Phillips was promoted to first vice president, Human Resources. She previously served as vice president, Human Resources. She has more than 15 years of human-resources experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst.

• Tammy Bordeaux was promoted to vice president, regional manager. She previously served as assistant vice president, regional manager. She has more than 20 years of banking experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University and an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College.

• Meghan Parnell-Gregoire was promoted to vice president, Business Lending Center manager. She previously served as assistant vice president, Business Lending Center manager. She has more than 15 years of banking experience, and earned an associate degree in mathematics from Holyoke Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

• Catherine Snow was promoted to vice president, commercial credit officer. She previously served as assistant vice president, commercial credit analyst. She has more than 30 years of banking experience, primarily in credit-related functions, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Westfield State University.

• Paul Hillsburg was appointed assistant vice president, PeoplesWealth Advisory Group. He has more than 30 years of financial, sales, and business-development experience, and earned an associate degree in business management from Springfield Technical Community College. He holds Series 7 and Series 66 licenses.

Xiaolei Hua was promoted to assistant vice president, portfolio manager II. He previously served as assistant vice president, portfolio manager I. He has more than 11 years of banking experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

• Matthew Krokov was promoted to assistant vice president, portfolio manager II. He previously served as assistant vice president, portfolio manager I. He has more than eight years of banking experience, and earned an MBA from American International College, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Westfield State University, and an associate degree in marketing from Holyoke Community College.

• Timothy Wegiel was promoted to assistant vice president, electronic banking officer. He previously served as electronic banking officer. He has more than 12 years of financial-services and banking experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University.

• Cherlynne Mills was promoted to Business Banking officer. She previously served as assistant vice president, Consumer & Business Banking Center manager at the St. James Avenue office in Springfield, and has more than 30 years of banking experience. She attended Holyoke Community College and Elms College and is presently pursuing a degree at UMass through its University Without Walls program.

• Jeffrey Reinke was appointed to operational risk officer. He has more than 16 years of operations and financial-services experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in finance, from Western New England University.

• Victoria Thompson was promoted to internal audit officer. She previously served as internal auditor. She has more than seven years of auditing experience, and earned a master’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in accounting, from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

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Kimberly Santos joined the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV) as membership and meetings coordinator. She joins the association with several years of managerial experience in customer-success roles and training in operations management at Bay Path University. Santos said she is excited to leverage her experience and commitment to strong customer service to support RAPV members and produce a wide roster of events for members to enjoy. She invites prospective members to reach out to her to learn more about joining the association at [email protected] or (413) 785-1328.

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Springfield Rotarian Paul Lambert received a District Governor’s Citation at the Rotary Club of Springfield’s Dec. 8 meeting. Lambert, a Rotarian since 2008, received the citation for his dedication and hard work as the Rotary liaison and Basketball Hall of Fame representative to the committee for the eighth annual Service Above Self award luncheon. The award honors those in the local community and in the world of basketball who exemplify the Rotary’s motto of ‘service above self.’ “If Rotary founder Paul Harris wanted to put together a Rotary dream team, Paul Lambert would absolutely be on it,” said Lamont Clemons, president of the Rotary Club of Springfield. “He is a hardworking, dedicated, and caring Rotarian.” Lambert is vice president, Enshrinement Services & Community Engagement at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He has been with the Hall for 15 years.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank announced the promotions and appointments of several key associates.

Donna Charette was promoted to first vice president, Finance. She previously served as vice president of Finance. She has more than 28 years of banking experience, and earned a Leadership Certificate at the New England School of Banking.

Christine Phillips was promoted to first vice president, Human Resources. She previously served as vice president, Human Resources. She has more than 15 years of human-resources experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst.

Tammy Bordeaux was promoted to vice president, regional manager. She previously served as assistant vice president, regional manager. She has more than 20 years of banking experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University and an associate degree in business administration from Springfield Technical Community College.

Meghan Parnell-Gregoire was promoted to vice president, Business Lending Center manager. She previously served as assistant vice president, Business Lending Center manager. She has more than 15 years of banking experience, and earned an associate degree in mathematics from Holyoke Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

Catherine Snow was promoted to vice president, commercial credit officer. She previously served as assistant vice president, commercial credit analyst. She has more than 30 years of banking experience, primarily in credit-related functions, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Westfield State University.

Paul Hillsburg was appointed assistant vice president, PeoplesWealth Advisory Group. He has more than 30 years of financial, sales, and business-development experience, and earned an associate degree in business management from Springfield Technical Community College. He holds Series 7 and Series 66 licenses.

Xiaolei Hua was promoted to assistant vice president, portfolio manager II. He previously served as assistant vice president, portfolio manager I. He has more than 11 years of banking experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

Matthew Krokov was promoted to assistant vice president, portfolio manager II. He previously served as assistant vice president, portfolio manager I. He has more than eight years of banking experience, and earned an MBA from American International College, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Westfield State University, and an associate degree in marketing from Holyoke Community College.

Timothy Wegiel was promoted to assistant vice president, electronic banking officer. He previously served as electronic banking officer. He has more than 12 years of financial-services and banking experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University.

Cherlynne Mills was promoted to Business Banking officer. She previously served as assistant vice president, Consumer & Business Banking Center manager at the St. James Avenue office in Springfield, and has more than 30 years of banking experience. She attended Holyoke Community College and Elms College and is presently pursuing a degree at UMass through its University Without Walls program.

Jeffrey Reinke was appointed to operational risk officer. He has more than 16 years of operations and financial-services experience, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in finance, from Western New England University.

Victoria Thompson was promoted to internal audit officer. She previously served as internal auditor. She has more than seven years of auditing experience, and earned a master’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in accounting, from Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

Business of Aging

Fresh Ideas

Pat Roach

Pat Roach says the plan to improve culinary service in Springfield’s schools could eventually be a model replicated nationwide.

Pat Roach likes to share an anecdote that speaks to the occasional absurdity of school lunch. It involves the community gardens that dozens of Springfield schools have planted and maintain.

“Take Kennedy Middle School, which has a beautiful garden, where kids grow their own vegetables,” said Roach, chief financial officer of Springfield Public Schools. “If they want to serve them in the cafeteria, we have to ship the vegetables to Rhode Island, where they’re washed, cut, processed, and shipped back to Kennedy.”

But what if the city didn’t have to rely on an out-of-state partner to prepare its meals? What if everything served in the schools was cooked fresh, from scratch, on site?

That’s the goal of the Culinary and Nutrition Center, a 62,000-square-foot facility to be built on Cadwell Drive in Springfield, just two addresses from the school system’s current, 18,000-square-foot, food-storage warehouse.

The new facility will be much more than a warehouse, however. It will include all the resources necessary to prepare fresh ingredients for breakfast and lunch at every public, parochial, and charter school in Springfield, and to train staff to prepare meals from scratch right in the school kitchens.

“We’re renting space in Chicopee for cold storage. Our bakery is based in Rhode Island,” Roach said. “Here, we’ll cook all the food fresh on site — egg sandwiches, fresh muffins, local blueberries, as opposed to getting stuff packaged out in California and shipped to us. And it will bring down the cost of using local produce.”

The city broke ground on the center on Dec. 13, and the facility should be fully operational before the start of the 2019-20 school year, Roach said, and will include several components:

• A production and catering kitchen aimed at increasing product quality and consistency and reducing the use of processed foods;

• A produce cutting and processing room where fresh fruit and vegetables sourced from local farms will be washed, cut, and packaged for use by the schools, and waste will be composted;

• A bakery to prepare fresh muffins and breads, which will also incorporate local produce;

• Cold and dry food storage, which will centralize product purchasing and receiving and inventory control; and

• A training and test kitchen, where culinary staff from the city’s schools, and their ‘chef managers,’ will be trained in preparing from-scratch meals in their own cafeterias. The potential also exists to use the facility to train students interested in the culinary arts as a career.

“They want to serve much higher-quality food to students, with more locally sourced products and fresh-baked goods,” said Jessica Collins, executive director of Partners for a Healthier Community, one of the school system’s foundation partners on the project. “For the schools, it means quality food, and for some students, it’s a career path.”

Speaking of careers, the district plans to add 50 to 60 jobs for cooks, bakers, vegetable cutters, warehouse personnel, and other roles. It will take that many, Roach said, to bring food production and preparation in house for the second-largest school food program in New England, one that serves 43,000 meals served daily.

Considering the nutrition needs of those students, many of whom live in poverty, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Dawn of a New Day

The Culinary and Nutrition Center is hardly a standalone project. Instead, its the culmination of several years of efforts to improve food quality in the schools. Among those programs was an initiative, now in its third year, to move breakfast service — a requirement for districts that serve high numbers of children from poor families — from a strictly before-school program to one that creeps into actual class time.

As a result, Roach said, the schools are serving more than 2 million more breakfasts per year than they were several years ago.

“By law, because of the poverty level, breakfast in school is mandated, but logistically it causes all sorts of problems. If the kids don’t get to school early enough, they don’t get breakfast, or they get to class late.”

It has been an adjustment for teachers in that first period, who have fine-tuned how they craft the first few minutes of class while students are eating. But the impact of fewer kids taking on the day hungry more than makes up for that challenge, he argued. Much fewer, actually, as participation in breakfast has risen from 20%, district-wide, to almost 80%, with much of the remainder likely students who ate something at home.

“It’s been a huge success. Nurse visits for hunger pains are down 30%, and more students are getting to class on time and having breakfast.”

But putting breakfast — and lunch, for that matter — in front of students is one thing; serving healthy food is another. And that concern was the germ of an idea that will soon become the Culinary and Nutrition Center.

“One of the biggest challenges is getting healthy produce, real egg sandwiches, freesh muffins,” Roach said, noting that pre-packaged egg sandwiches, the kind that convenience stores sell, and heavily processed muffins aren’t ideal.

bowles

“We want to be feeding the kids — this is better than nothing — but we want to give them something fresh,” he said. “Instead of buying crappy egg sandwiches that cost a lot of money, we know we can do things in-house cheaper and better. They want real eggs, better muffins — not fake, microwaved stuff.”

Instead of a central kitchen that prepares all the meals and sends them to schools for reheating, the vision is for the school kitchens to actually prepare the meals from scratch using fresh ingredients sent from Cadwell Drive. For instance, “they’ll be making their own sauces using fresh tomatoes and fresh basil,” he noted. “We want to have the best food around. We want kids to want to eat breakfast and lunch at school.”

He also wants students to learn about nutrition and food delivery through their own experiences. “Kids are starting to get it. There’s a whole educational component, and kids understand this stuff is being sourced locally from local farms.”

That gives them a sense of ownership of the nutritional changes. For instance, when Michelle Obama led a change in school lunches, emphasizing whole grains, lower sodium, lower sugar, and other improvements, Roach noted, many schools made the shift all at once, and students rejected what suddenly started appearing on their plates.

“But we had already started increasing whole grains in food, reducing sodium levels — it was a huge success with us,” he said. “We think we’re training kids in lifelong dietary habits. If they get accustomed to eating this way, three meals a day, they’ll continue to do so for the rest of their lives.”

Back to School

Roach said the $21 million project, funded through government and private sources, is being supported by several partners with an interest in food policy, such as Trinity Health, Partners for a Healthier Community, EOS Foundation, and Kendall Foundation.

“Everyone knows how big and important this is, and a lot of people see this as potentially a model for Boston or Worcester, even across the whole country,” he told BusinessWest. “They do see us as pioneers on this project, and a lot of people are excited for us to get this project off the ground. Whether it’s improving student nutrition, decreasing obesity, or reducing hunger, all these organizations share our mission in this center.”

Collins said the city’s support — the project was part of a recent $14.3 million bond approval — is encouraging to those, like her, with a keen interest in community health.

“That’s really exciting, because here you have policymakers investing in what we have been pushing for years, which is higher-quality food for kids,” she said. “When you think about nutrition and higher-quality food and food insecurity, the schools are critical, because that’s where they are every day.”

Roach said the potential exists to broaden the center’s reach to serve other districts, but that’s not in the plans right now. “We don’t want to expand it beyond Springfield until we’re sure we’re serving 100% of our kids.”

That begins with a better egg sandwich, a better muffin — and a better school day.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Departments People on the Move
Marie Lafortune

Marie Lafortune

Natalya Riberdy

Natalya Riberdy

Haley Pedruczny

Haley Pedruczny

Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. recently welcomed Marie Lafortune, Natalya Riberdy, and Haley Pedruczny to the firm. Lafortune comes to MBK as a first-year audit associate. She is currently focused on pension and 401(k) plans, HUD engagements, and compliance testing for nonprofits. She also assists with tax preparation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and healthcare management from Elms College and is pursuing her master’s of accountancy at Westfield State University. Riberdy is a new associate focusing on the service and construction industries. Before joining MBK, she gained experience as intern at a regional firm and as a billing, AR, and AP associate in private accounting. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Bridgewater State University and is on track to complete her MSA, with a concentration in forensic accounting, from Western New England University. She will then begin studying for the CPA exams. Pedruczny comes to the firm with accounting experience across the real estate, manufacturing, and consumer-product fields. As an associate at MBK, she works primarily on nonprofit clients and employee benefit plans, from small companies and schools to large corporations. She graduated from the Isenberg School of Management with a BBA in accounting and is currently pursuing her CPA license. “Each of these women represent the wellspring of young business and accounting talent we have right here in Western Massachusetts,” said MBK Partner Howard Cheney. “At MBK, we consider ourselves fortunate to tap into the vital resources of the next generation and bring them into the fold to grow and thrive along with the firm and our clients.”

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Jeremy Lajoie

Jeremy Lajoie

Charmaine Ramirez

Charmaine Ramirez

Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Co-operative Bank, announced the promotions of Jeremy Lajoie and Charmaine Ramirez to assistant vice president. Lajoie works in mortgage operations. He started with the bank in July 2015 and has been working as the loan processing supervisor, and is responsible for managing the loan-processing workflow within the bank. Prior to joining Greenfield Co-operative Bank, he worked for five years at another financial institution in the loan servicing/processing area. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from UMass Amherst. Ramirez works in mortgage operations. She started at Northampton Cooperative Bank in 2012 as a teller/customer service representative and was promoted to loan underwriter and processor in 2013. After Northampton Cooperative merged into Greenfield Co-operative Bank, she became lead underwriter and was most recently mortgage operations supervisor. She is a 2017 graduate from the New England School for Financial Studies and is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in business management from Western Governor’s University.

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Howard Sienkiewicz

Howard Sienkiewicz

Zasco Productions, LLC, an event-planning and production company, hired Howard Sienkiewicz as its new vice president and general manager, according to Zasco founder, president, and owner, Michael Zaskey. Sienkiewicz returns to Western Mass. after spending two decades as technical director for the international event-planning and production company Ellen Michaels Presents. “We’re so pleased that Howard Sienkiewicz agreed to return to Western Massachusetts to join the Zasco team,” Zaskey said. “His experience working globally in theatres, concert halls, convention centers, hotels, and non-traditional venues will help Zasco Productions and our other brand, Big Video Screen, to enhance the level of service we provide our customers throughout the region.” Sienkiewicz began his career in Springfield as production stage manager of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, coordinating production for its classical and pop-music series, operas, and dance programs at Springfield Symphony Hall, at the Summer Pops at Stanley Park, the Berkshire Choral Festival, and Springfield Symphony New England Tours, under the auspices of New England Presentors. He became technical director for Springfield Civic Center and Symphony Hall and general manager for Snow Sound, as well as owner of HCS Productions. At Ellen Michaels Presents, he traveled the globe working on events for CA Technologies, Oracle, Intuit, and many others. “Years ago, when Michael has getting Zasco started, we had crossed paths while I worked at Springfield Symphony Hall,” Sienkiewicz said. “Years later, when I needed a company to support a large corporate event in Boston, I was given his name. He and the company really impressed me. Going forward, I would use Zasco Productions for all our shows in the Northeast. I even brought them to Las Vegas, Chicago, and North Carolina to support various shows. When I decided to get off the road, Michael offered me this position, and I am thrilled to be returning to my hometown and have the opportunity to work with a great company like Zasco locally and nationally.”

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Jessica Picard

Jessica Picard

The Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce bestowed its Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award to Jessica Picard, marketing director at Loomis House Retirement Community, a position she has held since 2012. Previous to that, she was the marketing and admissions liaison for Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing in Springfield. She graduated from Westfield State University with a degree in business management and a minor in marketing. “Our ambassadors play a pivotal role in allowing the Greater Holyoke Chamber to be able to execute on our programs and events. Jessica Picard has been a champion of the Greater Holyoke Chamber for several years, and her service as an ambassador to our chamber members is irreplaceable,” said Wanda Zabawa, events manager and ambassador leader. Chamber ambassadors are volunteers who make a commitment to help new members feel welcome and demonstrate to all members how to make the most of their chamber benefits. They also gather feedback from members to help the chamber improve its services. Other members of the chamber ambassador committee include Wendy Palmer of PeoplesBank, Julie Rochefort of United Personnel, Paula Auclair and Harry Montalvo of bankESB, Kate Buckley of Goss & McLain Insurance, Susan Concepcion of Homewood Suites, Molly Desrocher of United Personnel, Pauline Gove of deRenzy Document Solutions, James Brunault of Massachusetts Rehabilitation, Daniel Couchon of Fairfield Inn, and Tom Thacher of CareerPoint. “Jessica truly deserves the Ambassador of the Year award. Jessica has gone above and beyond her responsibilities as an ambassador toward our members and has demonstrated extraordinary dedication, involvement, and initiative to enhancing the partnership between the chamber and our members,” said Kathleen Anderson, chamber president. Picard was chosen for the award after receiving the most ambassador points in 2017. Ambassadors earn points by calling and visiting chamber members, attending monthly meetings and ribbon cuttings, recruiting other ambassadors, and participating in chamber events. Picard and her manager, Margaret Mantoni, will be honored at the chamber’s holiday business breakfast and pop-up retail event on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the Log Cabin. The public is welcome to attend.

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Tony Sanches

Tony Sanches

Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union, announced the promotion of Tony Sanches from branch manager and Business Development officer to assistant vice president of Retail Operations. “We are so pleased to promote Tony, who has always gone above and beyond the call of duty of taking care of his members and staff,” Ostrowski said. “He will continue to be located at the West Springfield branch location at 63 Park Ave. He will also continue to look for ways to serve our members and communities so we may provide additional conveniences and help people reach their financial goals in a meaningful way.” Sanches has more than 15 years of experience in the local financial industry and 10 years in residential lending. He began his banking career as a teller at Westbank, then moved to Country Bank as a head teller and worked his way up to customer service manager, assistant branch manager, and loan originator. He then moved to Florence Savings Bank as a loan originator at its multiple offices. He finished his career at Florence as assistant vice president of Lending before moving to Freedom Credit Union as a loan officer. Sanches has extensive knowledge of portfolio lending and secondary-market lending, including conventional loans, MHP, USDA, FHA, and MassHousing loans. He is fluent in Portuguese and English, a member of the Rotary Club of Ludlow, corporator at the Ludlow Boys and Girls Club, and a member of the Ludlow Youth Soccer Assoc., where he coaches youth soccer.

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Jamie Convery

Jamie Convery

Stacey Pinardi

Stacey Pinardi

Glenn Welch, president and CEO of Freedom Credit Union, announced the promotion of Jamie Convery to branch officer of Freedom’s Sixteen Acres Branch, and the appointment of Stacey Pinardi as mortgage loan originator in Franklin and Hampshire counties. In her new position, Convery oversees the financial and lending operations of the branch, develops new business opportunities with individuals and businesses, and promotes financial literacy at area schools. She has been employed at Freedom for seven years and has 15 years of experience in the banking and financial-services industries. Prior to joining Freedom, she was a teller supervisor at PeoplesBank. Convery earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Westfield State University, and she currently serves on the membership committee of the Professional Women’s Chamber. Pinardi is responsible for real-estate origination throughout Franklin and Hampshire counties. As she helps expand Freedom’s mortgage services throughout that region, she will offer her expertise in conventional, MassHousing, MHP ONE Mortgage, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. She has more than 22 years of experience in the finance industry, including expertise in residential mortgage origination, first-time-homebuyer assistance, and secondary market sales. Most recently, she was a mortgage planner at Regency Mortgage. Currently, Pinardi is an affiliate member of the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. She works at the Freedom branch at 191 Ave. A in Turners Falls.

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Allison Gearing-Kalill, a fund-raiser and development professional, has been named vice president for Development and Planned Giving at Bay Path University, as announced by President Carol Leary. “I am delighted that Allison Gearing-Kalill is joining our leadership team,” Leary said. “She brings tremendous development and planned-giving experience to the position, and as vice president she will partner with areas across the university to support and advance our philanthropic culture that has been an important driver to the success of our students and academic programs. I look forward to working closely with Allison in the coming months.” At Bay Path, Gearing-Kalill will serve as a member of the executive staff. In this new role, she will manage a comprehensive planned-giving program, and also provide leadership in the areas of annual giving, alumni relations, stewardship, special events, advancement services, and major gifts. “It will be a privilege to work alongside the academic and staff leadership, as well as the alumni and friends of the university, to continue the fund-raising momentum that is already in place,” she said. “President Leary has brought Bay Path to new heights with her remarkable vision and energy, and I am thrilled to be part of that transformation.” Prior to joining Bay Path, Gearing-Kalill served as vice president of Fund Development at Sisters of Providence Health System and Mercy Medical Center, where she oversaw the areas of fund-raising and special events. Previously, she was the vice president of Community Development at Baystate Noble Hospital. Widely recognized for her fund-raising expertise, she received the 2017 Assoc. for Healthcare Philanthropy Higher Performers Award. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business with a specialization in marketing from UMass Amherst.

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Frances Gomes Marthone

Frances Gomes Marthone

Frances Gomes Marthone has been named chief Nursing officer (vice president of Patient Care Services) for Mercy Medical Center. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring compliance with patient-care quality standards and ensuring that clinical and staffing standards are met, promoting best practices in nursing and patient care, and serving as a liaison for communication between leadership and the nursing staff. With more than 25 years of nursing-leadership experience, Marthone most recently served as chief Nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Piedmont Henry Hospital, a 215-bed facility in Stockbridge, Ga., where she was responsible for the coordination and monitoring of all nursing standards. Prior to that role, she served as vice president of Medical Services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga., where she provided leadership in recruitment, retention, development, and continuing education for all units within the medical division. She also has experience as an administrative supervisor, as well as a background in the management of oncology-nursing services. Marthone holds a Ph.D. in nursing philosophy from Georgia State University in Atlanta, a master’s degree in nursing administration from Albany State University in Albany, Ga., and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Simmons College in Boston. She also holds a quality and process improvement certification in Black Belt from the Stetson School of Business and Economics at Mercer University in Georgia. She is a member the American Organization of Nurse Executives, the American Nurses Assoc., the Georgia Nurses Assoc., and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

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The Markens Group Inc., a Springfield-based association-management and business-consulting firm, recently welcomed Wil Rodriguez as director of Sales and Business Development. Rodriguez has more than 15 years of experience building relationships, cultivating target audiences, and managing accounts. He has worked for firms in Florida, Connecticut, and Western Mass., serving most recently as an account executive for Full Power Radio. He also has sales experience in the energy, job-placement, and graphic-arts industries. A longtime community steward, Rodriguez served as president of the Westfield Spanish American Assoc. from 2011 to 2016, leading the organization’s efforts to empower Latinos in the Greater Westfield area to create a visible presence in their local community. Under his leadership, the organization spearheaded several community projects, including the construction of a $50,000 playscape at Westfield’s Whitney Playground. He has also served on the board of directors of the Amelia Park Children’s Museum and has volunteered as a diversity consultant for the Massachusetts chapter of the Alzheimer’s Assoc. “I’m thrilled to begin my work with the Markens Group,” said Rodriguez. “I’m already getting a feel for the trade-association industry, and I have some great ideas for moving forward.” In his new role, Rodriguez will lead efforts to grow the Markens Group’s association-management business. The firm provides outsourced management services like strategic planning, marketing, and administration to national, regional, and local trade associations and professional societies. “Wil is an excellent addition to the team,” said Ben Markens, president and CEO of the Markens Group. “He not only has the right experience, he also champions community. At the end of the day, that’s what we foster in our association clients. We help communities of like-minded individuals make a real difference in their industries and broader society.”

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The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) named database expert Jorene Lomenzo as the foundation’s new development associate. Lomenzo comes to WFWM with more than 13 years of experience in nonprofit and higher-education development-database management. She has extensive knowledge around reconciling finances, assigning gift-crediting protocols, analyzing data for finance reports, preparing donor campaigns, supporting internal data evaluation, and more. Her most recent position was Advancement Services manager for American International College. Previous roles include Development and Marketing coordinator at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Conn. “I am very excited to join the Women’s Fund in the new role of Development associate,” Lomenzo said. “I look forward to working with the staff and volunteers to expand fund-raising efforts and broaden connections with supporters.” Prior to working in development, she worked with local communities in Georgia to preserve historic properties by writing grant applications, training volunteers, assessing historic resources, and advocating for preservation. She has a master’s degree in historic preservation. Lomenzo will work closely with WFWM Director of Philanthropy Monica Borgatti, maintaining donor and gift information, identifying new donor prospects, cultivating and stewarding WFWM program alumnae, and helping the fund analyze and manage next steps in successful fund-raising campaigns.

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Lisa Palumbo, a Realtor in the Valley since March 2005, joined Delap Real Estate on Nov. 20 and will work as a buyer’s and seller’s agent, covering Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties. A resident of Northampton for 25 years, Palumbo most recently worked as the top-selling agent at the Coldwell Banker office in Northampton from 2006 to 2017. In the past year, she sold more than $15 million in real-estate transactions in the tri-county region. In 2017, she was ranked among the top 10 Realtors for sales in Hampshire County. From 2006 to 2017, she has been presented annually with the President’s Platinum and Gold Awards from the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley in recognition of superior sales and service. “I work with clients ranging from first-time home buyers to those who are looking to downsize following retirement,” Palumbo said. “Some of my clients come from out of state and are relocating to the Pioneer Valley. I work to make the process smooth and stress-free. Giving honest advice for making sound real-estate choices is what I strive to do.” Palumbo holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a concentration in philosophy, religion, and Asian studies from Colgate University and a master’s degree in music and music education from Columbia University. Before working as a realtor, she was a music teacher at Granby High School in Connecticut and White Brook Middle School in Easthampton. Fascinated with homes and interested in working with people, she became a Realtor after poring over the real-estate study guide while on a maternity leave. “Being a realtor is being part lawyer, part negotiator and strategist, part photographer, part copy editor, part marketing manager, part teacher, and even, sometimes, part therapist,” she said. “Every day is different and challenging.”

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At Freedom Credit Union’s annual holiday dinner at the Log Cabin, David Chase, vice president of Business Lending, was presented with this year’s President’s Award. A colleague nominated Chase for the award, which recognizes a Freedom employee for his or her commitment to professional excellence. The employee said Chase “has reinvented our Commercial Lending department to what it is today and is continuing to grow this sector of our business.” During the evening, several employees were recognized for their years of service. In addition, 11 employees were recognized for receiving a GEM Award as part of Freedom’s new GEM (Going the Extra Mile) program. C. Melin Menas and Lynne Wallace were honored for being named Credit Union Heroes by Banker and Tradesman magazine.

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Enchanted Circle, a multi-service arts organization dedicated to engaging, enhancing, and inspiring learning through the arts, announced the appointment of Andrea Spak as director of Development. “We are absolutely thrilled to have Andrea join our creative education team,” said Priscilla Kane Hellweg, executive director of Enchanted Circle. “Her expertise and professionalism will enable us to expand our reach and deepen our impact as we serve the most vulnerable children and youth in the region.” Spak has dedicated the past 30 years of her professional life and volunteerism to the non-profit sector, supporting education, civil rights, and social-justice issues to improve the lives of children and families. She has raised millions of dollars from individuals, corporations, foundations, and public funding sources to support children’s rights, educational programs, historic preservation, legal advocacy, training and services, community development, and affordable housing. Most recently, she was director of Development at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Conn., where she successfully created, directed, and implemented multi-faceted strategies for comprehensive programs of philanthropy, sponsorship, special events, and membership to foster donor engagement and support mission delivery, resulting in organizational transformation. “I am excited to join Enchanted Circle and contribute to their work to improve the lives of children and families throughout the greater community,” Spak said. “Enchanted Circle offers the perfect opportunity to address ongoing community challenges and to apply my experience to expand Enchanted’s impact and support organizational growth.” Enchanted Circle works in partnership with public schools, on the professional stage, and with social-service agencies, providing programs that bridge arts, education, and human services for people of all ages and abilities.

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Caroline Gear, executive director of the Northampton-based International Language Institute (ILI) of Massachusetts, was recently elected to the Greenfield Community College Foundation Inc. board of directors. Gear has been at ILI since 1986 as a Spanish teacher, ESOL teacher, teacher trainer, and administrator. She has published articles in the field of assessment and evaluation and presents on teacher training and the administration of programs both regionally and nationally. “Caroline’s passion for the mission of access to education is evident, and she brings a wealth of knowledge about the challenges facing those who struggle to change their lives through education,” said Michael Davey, GCC Foundation board president and vice president/commercial loan officer at Florence Bank. “As Greenfield Community College expands its programming into Hampshire County, we welcome the addition of this outstanding new member to our board.” Added Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura, “Caroline Gear is a longtime partner of the college. She has shared GCC’s passion for access and excellence in education. Her commitment to economic and social mobility for all in our community is a perfect fit for the work of the GCC Foundation. I welcome her heart, intelligence, and fierce courage to an outstanding board in service to students, college, and community.” The following individuals were elected as officers of the GCC Foundation board of directors for the coming year: Michael Davey, president, Leigh Rae, vice president, Nancy Fournier, treasurer, Katherine Cole, secretary, and Marina Goldman, member at large. Other members of the board are Carmen Bassett, Sharon Meyers, Mitch Anthony, Patricia Coffin, Charles Conant, Rich Fahey, Michael Smith, faculty representative Mary Phillips, student representative Maya Kazinskas, and GCC trustee representative Dylan Korpita. Board members emeriti are Robert Cohn, William Freeman, Lorna Peterson, and Robert Mugar Yacubian.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Co-operative Bank, announced the promotions of Jeremy Lajoie and Charmaine Ramirez to assistant vice president.

Lajoie works in mortgage operations. He started with the bank in July 2015 and has been working as the loan processing supervisor, and is responsible for managing the loan-processing workflow within the bank. Prior to joining Greenfield Co-operative Bank, he worked for five years at another financial institution in the loan servicing/processing area. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from UMass Amherst.

Ramirez works in mortgage operations. She started at Northampton Cooperative Bank in 2012 as a teller/customer service representative and was promoted to loan underwriter and processor in 2013. After Northampton Cooperative merged into Greenfield Co-operative Bank, she became lead underwriter and was most recently mortgage operations supervisor. She is a 2017 graduate from the New England School for Financial Studies and is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in business management from Western Governor’s University.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce bestowed its Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award to Jessica Picard, marketing director at Loomis House Retirement Community, a position she has held since 2012.

Previous to that, she was the marketing and admissions liaison for Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing in Springfield. She graduated from Westfield State University with a degree in business management and a minor in marketing.

“Our ambassadors play a pivotal role in allowing the Greater Holyoke Chamber to be able to execute on our programs and events. Jessica Picard has been a champion of the Greater Holyoke Chamber for several years, and her service as an ambassador to our chamber members is irreplaceable,” said Wanda Zabawa, events manager and ambassador leader.

Chamber ambassadors are volunteers who make a commitment to help new members feel welcome and demonstrate to all members how to make the most of their chamber benefits. They also gather feedback from members to help the chamber improve its services. Other members of the chamber ambassador committee include Wendy Palmer of PeoplesBank, Julie Rochefort of United Personnel, Paula Auclair and Harry Montalvo of bankESB, Kate Buckley of Goss & McLain Insurance, Susan Concepcion of Homewood Suites, Molly Desrocher of United Personnel, Pauline Gove of deRenzy Document Solutions, James Brunault of Massachusetts Rehabilitation, Daniel Couchon of Fairfield Inn, and Tom Thacher of CareerPoint.

“Jessica truly deserves the Ambassador of the Year award. Jessica has gone above and beyond her responsibilities as an ambassador toward our members and has demonstrated extraordinary dedication, involvement, and initiative to enhancing the partnership between the chamber and our members,” said Kathleen Anderson, chamber president.

Picard was chosen for the award after receiving the most ambassador points in 2017. Ambassadors earn points by calling and visiting chamber members, attending monthly meetings and ribbon cuttings, recruiting other ambassadors, and participating in chamber events.

Picard and her manager, Margaret Mantoni, will be honored at the chamber’s holiday business breakfast and pop-up retail event on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the Log Cabin. The public is welcome to attend.

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Business Valuation

By Brandon Mitchell

Brandon Mitchell

Brandon Mitchell

For business owners looking to sell in the near future, there is plenty to be optimistic about.

Buyers have access to capital at low interest rates through banks. Stocks are at all-time highs, driving individual net worth and access to down payments. The Massachusetts economy is vibrant. Most recent reports show GDP growth and unemployment rates outperforming the national average. There is positivity around MGM coming to Springfield, a new GE headquarters moving to Boston, and the potential for business-friendly legislation coming down the pipeline.

These factors will drive buyers to jump into the market and take the keys to a business, but there is a catch. With more than 1,100 businesses listed for sale across Massachusetts right now, buyers have options and are willing to wait for a value that makes sense.

When figuring the value of their business, owners can fall into the trap of including sentimental value in their estimation. Some are relying on what a similar business sold for in a different market or, worse, have a target number they drew up without any real anchor to reality.

Owners should resist the temptation to ‘pull the parachute’ as they get closer to the finish line.”

For business owners who have dedicated their lives to a business, it can be hard to take a step back and objectively consider what their business is worth. Business owners who are willing to take an objective look at the value of their business can be proactive now instead of reactive when they are ready to retire and list their business for the first time.

The value of a business is dynamic. While there is no way to get a buyer to price sentimental value into a purchase price, there is a potential to make changes to the business that will increase the value over time.

There are three approaches to valuing a business — asset, income, and market approaches. For most privately held companies, valuators rely on either the income approach, market approach, or a combination of the two. The basic formulas for these calculations are widely available online, but what owners can do with this information may be less obvious.

First, it’s important to know that the years leading up to the valuation or sale are the most important. A long history of profits can show stability for a small business; however, only the most recent three to five years are going to be considered in a calculation. Small-business owners with eyes on an exit have a tendency to disconnect from the business during this most important period when they should be pushing in the opposite direction.

Flat revenues or increases in expenses during this period have the potential to erase even decades of growth and profitability. Owners should resist the temptation to ‘pull the parachute’ as they get closer to the finish line. Continue to push for revenue growth, and pay close attention to expense control. This is the time to let the numbers showcase the full potential of the business.

Nobody knows the ins and outs of a small business like the owner. Buyers and valuators weigh heavily on the impact the seller’s exit will have on the future of the business. Owners should focus on replacing themselves in the areas in which they are most intertwined in the business to lessen the impact. To identify these high-dependency areas, owners can interview managers and employees, noting issues that cannot be resolved without them.

Key areas of focus generally depend on the industry or business model but usually include sales generation, relationship management, product development, strategic decision making, or day-to-day business management. If continuity can be achieved through process improvement or process documentation, it should be a key focus. Some results can be found through training current employees and empowering them. Consider restructuring tasks and delegating the current owner’s duties to rising managers.

Finally, clean up the financial statements. For various reasons, including tax motivations, small-business owners have a tendency to let their personal and business lives collide on their company financial statements. Documentation is important for any personal expenses being charged to the business. Owners should be ready to prove which expenses were not necessary for the business so that buyers and valuators exclude the expenses to calculate the value — buyers will not report findings to the IRS.

Performing a financial analysis can also help owners understand how their business compares to the rest of the industry, making them ready to articulate strengths and defend or improve weaknesses.

Overall, the current market is friendly to someone looking to sell their business. It’s also a great time to be proactive in managing an exit strategy, whether it lies around the corner or several years out. Getting realistic about the value of their business enables owners to take steps to improve it and make informed decisions.

Brandon Mitchell is a certified valuation analyst and owner of BLM Valuation Services, LLC, which specializes in certified independent business valuations for SBA lenders and small-business owners; (413) 306-1940.