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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced a grant of $150,000, spread over the next three years, to the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley (HRIPV). The grant represents a significant contribution to the initiative’s capital drive to raise $1 million in commitments now to support and build capacity for the organization over the next three years.

The multi-year, strategic grant is part of CFWM’s ongoing commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in workplaces and promote equitable growth in the region. The funding will support HRIPV’s capacity in engaging communities across the state of Massachusetts in its signature two-day training. HRIPV has been in existence since 2012, and more than 1,000 community members have participated in its programming.

Funds from the capital drive have also allowed HRIPV to develop a comprehensive online and virtual series of trainings and programming. The Healing Racism initiative will also be resuming in-person training sessions in July. Members of the community interested in participating can learn more and register online at www.healingracismpv.org.

The first $50,000 grant to HRIPV will occur in July 2021. According to the Community Foundation, the multi-year funding approach will guarantee revenue stability while HRIPV meets demands for its services and continues its capital-campaign efforts.

“As an alumna of HRIPV’s two-day anti-racism training, I know what a powerful experience it is,” said Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “I have seen firsthand the transformation in the community that HRIPV has catalyzed. That is why the foundation is investing in them to help expand their capacity for the future. We recognize the critical role HRIPV can play in creating shared understanding, connecting diverse members of our community, and dismantling systems that perpetuate inequalities. I’m optimistic about our partnership with HRIPV and encourage others to join us to work together toward a more equitable region.”

This award will also help HRIPV build its internal infrastructure and capacity to help ensure its sustainability efforts.

“The Healing Racism Institute is a recognized leader in promoting anti-racism within the Pioneer Valley,” said Paul Murphy, chair of the CFWM board of trustees. “We welcome the opportunity to partner with HRIPV in the expansion of its transformative program. We’re delighted to grant this funding as part of our commitment to invest and foster racial equity in our communities.”

The Healing Racism Institute is led by Vanessa Otero, one of the co-founders of HRIPV and an original member of the board until assuming the position of interim director in 2020.

Added Frank Robinson, board chair of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, “we welcome and celebrate this crucial grant for the important work we are doing to create more equitable communities, and see the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts as a critical partner in that work.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the appointment of Denise Hurst as vice president for Community Impact and Partnerships. In this redesigned role meant to deepen community engagement and drive program efficacy and representation, Hurst will oversee community investments, including grants, scholarships, and new efforts to strengthen advocacy, technical assistance, data and research, and evaluation in regional projects and initiatives.

This appointment is the latest example of CFWM’s ongoing commitment to advance equity in the region by elevating community voices, cultivating new coalitions and partnerships, and advancing the organizational effectiveness of nonprofits.

Hurst joins the Foundation after serving Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) as vice president of Advancement & External Affairs, where she led development for the college as the executive director of the STCC Foundation, and later oversaw marketing, communications, and government affairs. Prior to that, she was appointed regional manager of the Massachusetts State Lottery in Western Mass. by state Treasurer Deb Goldberg and has worked as site director for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, as well as an adjunct professor at Cambridge College. She comes to CFWM with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and established networks across Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.

“We are delighted to welcome Denise as a member of our senior leadership team. She brings a strong set of skills and a demonstrated commitment to our community,” said Katie Allan Zobel, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO. “Her background makes her uniquely suited for this role as CFWM evolves to meet the new opportunities and challenges ahead.”

For more than a decade, Hurst served as an elected member of the Springfield School Committee. She led the charge to establish the Minority Caucus for the Massachusetts Assoc. of School Committees (MASC) and served as the former chair of the caucus, as well as the former vice president of MASC.

Hurst has been honored with several awards, including BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of 2014, 2015 100 Women of Color in New England, and 2015 Top 25 Women to Watch in Western Mass., and most recently as the 2019 Woman of the Year by the Professional Women’s Chamber.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the appointments of Briana Wales as vice president for People and Culture, Emma Mesa-Melendez as director of Communications, Keith McKittrick as Development coordinator, and Ullapi Shrestha as program assistant. These appointments are the latest example of CFWM’s ongoing commitment to expand its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts internally and within the nonprofit sector.

In her new role, Wales will focus on a wide scope of DEI initiatives to guide both the foundation’s external and internal DEI work, training, and development of best practices. She has an extensive career in workforce development for youth and adults and has provided leadership in both nonprofit and quasi-public settings. In her efforts to serve communities, she has fostered partnerships and programming to increase equity and access for underrepresented or marginalized groups. She received her bachelor’s degree in social justice education from UMass Amherst and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Mount Holyoke College.

Mesa-Melendez will be responsible for CFWM’s communications strategy and will assist with DEI initiatives. In recent work, she has consulted in marketing and graphic design, and previously served as vice president for Community Relations, Human Resources, and Marketing Management for New Valley Bank & Trust. She received her MBA from Southern New Hampshire University and her bachelor’s degree in critical social thought from Mount Holyoke College. She has worked with several nonprofits as both a board member and volunteer, including the Minority Inclusion Project, Farmington Valley YMCA, Vet Air, and the Performance Project.

McKittrick comes to the foundation with 25 years of experience in philanthropy. He has held positions at UMass Amherst, Western New England University, and Holyoke Community College, where he has worked with donors to establish scholarships and fundraise for educational initiatives. He received his master’s degree in public administration from Framingham State University and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Westfield State University.

Shrestha has worked as an interpreter at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and as an intern at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She has volunteered with the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. She received her master’s degree in management from Saint Joseph College and her bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the Institute of Technology in Carlow, Ireland.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — LifePath received $40,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM). The grant, from the CFWM COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley, will offer continuing support to LifePath in its response to the COVID-19 crisis and in its role assisting residents of the Pioneer Valley with food insecurity and mental-health issues.

This is in addition to the $121,000 CFWM granted to LifePath in 2020 to provide pandemic relief and budget stabilization. Those monies were used at the beginning of the pandemic to help LifePath move quickly to adapt its programs, such as in-home assistance, meal delivery, and social support, to meet the changing needs of its consumers in the safest way possible. As the pandemic continued, LifePath utilized the funds to quickly purchase and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to home health aides and personal-care attendants who spend hours inside the homes of consumers, as well as to distribute PPE to the 1,700 consumers themselves.

The funds from CFWM also enabled LifePath to begin contacting consumers to gauge their interest in receiving meals through a special program. This funding allowed LifePath to provide frozen meals to more than 200 consumers under age 60 who did not qualify for LifePath’s Meals on Wheels program. These consumers were going without proper nutrition due to the loss of some of their workers or loss of access to the grocery store due to COVID-19.

In addition, CFWM funds were used to cover the costs of critically needed technology, groceries, personal-care items, and to support LifePath’s operating budget.

“Working with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts has been a positive and meaningful experience as we’ve navigated and addressed the COVID crisis and related inequalities primarily created by age, geography, and health status,” said Barbara Bodzin, LifePath’s executive director. “I have a profound appreciation for CFWM’s efforts to put resources in the hands of those making the biggest difference in our communities. It’s not lost on us that there are hundreds of worthy nonprofit organizations in the Pioneer Valley. For LifePath to be viewed as one carrying out a mission that matches the goals of CFWM’s donors, we feel valued.

“The pandemic has put those we serve at higher risk for isolation, malnutrition, and reduced access to supports, making a vulnerable population even more so,” she added. “Funding received through the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts allows LifePath consumers to live a better life than they might without the support CFWM so generously helps us to provide.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced two new Trustees: Nikki Burnett, executive director of Educare Springfield, and Gillian Hinkson, victim witness advocate for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office. In addition, CFWM also elected a new trustee chair, Paul Murphy, and vice chair, Karin George.

Burnett began her role as executive director of Educare Springfield in August 2019. For more than 20 years, she has pursued her passion of empowering her community and building equity. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts and on its race and equity subcommittee; on national committees for the Educare Learning Network, including its educare policy work group and collaborative fundraising advisory board; and on the Baystate Community Benefits Advisory Council. She is also one of the founders of the Faith Based Health Advocates Alliance.

In addition to her position with the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, Hinkson is an independent business owner of a health and wellness company. She is dedicated to educating the community on the importance of living a balanced life through exercise, well-balanced eating habits, and mindfulness. She is a member of CFWM’s education committee and a CFWM scholarship reviewer; is a Ward Five Democratic Committee member; and serves on the board of directors for the League of Women Voters and Art for the Soul Gallery. She also serves as a Democratic state committeewoman and is the co-chair of the affirmative action and outreach subcommittee, and has also served as campaign manager for local political candidates.

“We are delighted to welcome Nikki and Gillian as trustees,” said Katie Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “Their respective experience and knowledge of current needs and programming in our region, as well as their demonstrated commitment to community building, will be invaluable in informing and supporting the Community Foundation’s work in the coming years.”

The appointments of Murphy and George as trustee chair and vice chair mark the first time these positions are held by black, indiginous, and people of color (BIPOC) community members.

Murphy is retired legal and administrative counsel of Amherst College and serves as a trustee of Baystate Health. He was previously a partner of Foley Hoag LLP, a Boston-based law firm. His previous board work was with the WGBH Educational Foundation, Tufts Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Hillside School, as well as New England Public Media, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Boston Architectural College, and the Partnership Inc. Murphy was appointed as a CFWM trustee in 2015, served as chair of the distribution committee for two years, and is a member of the committee on trustees and executive committee.

George is a principal and co-owner of Washburn & McGoldrick Inc., a global consulting firm focused on fundraising, communications, strategic planning, alumni engagement, training, and board development in education and educationally related nonprofits. She previously served as vice president for Advancement at Smith College and vice president for Development at Vassar College. George was appointed as a CFWM trustee in 2013, served as a member and the former chair of the CFWM education committee, has volunteered as a scholarship reviewer since 2009, and is a member of the committee on trustees and executive committee.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Davis family has established the Joseph F. and Helen C. McGovern Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in honor of the Irene E. & George A Davis Foundation’s recently retired Executive Director Mary Walachy.

Walachy retired in June after serving 23 years as executive director of the family foundation, and the fund is named after Walachy’s parents, both strong advocates for education. Walachy’s father, Joseph McGovern, was an entrepreneur who owned and operated Notion Thread, a manufacturing company in West Springfield. Walachy’s mother, Helen, also worked with her husband at the company.

“We are establishing the Joseph F. and Helen C. McGovern Scholarship Fund to recognize Mary’s tireless work on behalf of the Davis Foundation and to celebrate her work in the community to advance education in the region,” Davis family representative Laurel Ferretti said. “Her efforts to make the lives of children and their families better through educational advancement is a lasting legacy she leaves for both the foundation and the community at large.”

The scholarship fund will provide resources for successful applicants studying education or social work. It will be awarded through the Community Foundation’s scholarship program, which awards approximately 1,000 scholarships to 800 students annually. The program considers academic merit and financial need in its applicant reviews. Walachy earned a master’s degree in social work and, prior to joining the Davis Foundation, served as CEO of the Mental Health Assoc.

“I am so honored by the establishment of this scholarship that lovingly will be named after my parents, for whom education was of utmost importance,” Walachy said. “In my family, our parents made it clear how important education was and that going to college was non-negotiable. They had the largest impact on my life, and I am thankful to the Davis family for recognizing me, and them, through the establishment of this scholarship.”

Walachy was hired in 1997 as the first executive director of the foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation created several signature programs, including Cherish Every Child, the nationally-recognized Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative, and the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success, as well as the establishment of Springfield Business Leaders for Education and the launch of Educare Springfield.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced four new staff members, filling philanthropic and program support roles at the organization. Bianca Walker has been hired as philanthropic officer, Nikai Fondon has been hired as donor engagement coordinator, Anastasia Dildin has been hired as grants assistant, and Sophie Kanetani has been hired as scholarship program associate.

Walker and Fondon will help deepen and broaden the organization’s fundraising and connection with donors. Walker has worked in the nonprofit field for the past 15 years, most recently as senior Development officer at the regional Alzheimer’s Assoc. office. She developed a strong sense of devotion to, and appreciation for, the nonprofit field through her experiences as an annual youth employee with a summer work program at Data Institute. She is currently attending Bay Path University, pursuing a degree in nonprofit management.

Fondon previously served the Community Foundation for three years in the role of scholarship associate, and is bringing her knowledge of the younger community to her new role. A recent graduate of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Fondon has a strong passion for women’s empowerment, leadership, and education, and, in her words, chooses to use her position in society “to uplift and encourage others of all backgrounds to become better versions of themselves.”

Dildin will support the foundation’s programs team with database management and other administrative support. After graduating in 2018 from Central Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in statistics, she served one year with AmeriCorps as a data analyst and mentor program manager at Grace Academy, a Hartford school dedicated to fighting poverty through education. She is currently enrolled in Central Connecticut State University’s geography graduate program.

Kanetani, who will support CFWM’s scholarship program as the new scholarship associate, is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts announced new grants to 36 local nonprofits through the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley totaling $785,000, targeting food insecurity, homelessness, those with disabilities, and summer programs, as well as addressing immediate needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Including this latest round, the Response Fund has awarded nearly $4.8 million in grants to nonprofits in Western Mass. that are on the front lines of serving vulnerable populations affected by the crisis. The statewide Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund has provided $2.8 million in funding to support the Community Foundation’s response to the region’s pandemic crisis.

Girls Inc. of the Valley, based in Holyoke, is one recipient in the latest grant round, using funds to transition to virtual summer programming due to COVID-19. Girls Inc. serves 5- to 18-year-old girls from the Greater Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee areas and other surrounding towns through after-school and summer programs at little or no cost to families.

According to Suzanne Parker, Girls Inc. executive director, “staying connected to girls is more important than ever. Responding to the need, Girls Inc. of the Valley has transitioned its summer programming to an online, virtual format. This generous grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts will help us to provide supplies in at-home activity packets to further enrich girls’ experiences. We are grateful to the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts for their commitment to supporting girls in the Valley.”

The 36 nonprofits that received grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund from the Pioneer Valley are: Berkshire County Arc, Bethlehem House, Boy Scouts of America – Western Massachusetts Council, Boys and Girls Club Family Center, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Christina’s House, Community Adolescent Resource and Education Center, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, the Community Survival Center, Dakin Human Society, Ellie Fund, Easthampton Community Center, Girls Inc. of the Valley, Hampshire Regional YMCA, Health Law Advocates, Holyoke YMCA, Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts, Ludlow Boys & Girls Club, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, Massachusetts Military Support Foundation, New North Citizens’ Council, Open Pantry Community Services, Providence Ministries for the Needy, Rachel’s Table, South End Community Center, Somali Bantu Community of Springfield, Springfield Boys and Girls Club, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army – Greenfield Corps, the Salvation Army – Holyoke Corps, the Salvation Army – Springfield Corps, Urban League of Springfield, West Springfield Boys & Girls Club, YMCA of Greater Springfield, and YMCA of Greater Westfield.

The Response Fund has raised $6.9 million from 630 donors, including foundations, businesses, and individuals, and resources from the statewide Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced two new staff members, filling key development and finance roles at the organization. Daisy Pereira-Tosado joins CFWM as director of Philanthropy, and Didi de Almeida has been hired as account manager.

Pereira-Tosado is responsible for bolstering and diversifying the foundation’s development strategy. She brings 25 years of experience in the nonprofit arena and has led and served in leadership roles for community-based organizations, most recently as senior director of Philanthropy at New England Public Media.

Pereira-Tosado has developed many valuable resources for the local community as an active volunteer for local organizations such as Girls Inc. of Holyoke, Link to Libraries, and the Springfield Puerto Rican Day Parade Committee. She is a graduate of Boston University.

Meanwhile, de Almeida brings seven years of experience in nonprofit accounting management for local nonprofit organizations, and recently earned her MBA from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

Prior to her graduate studies, de Almeida was fiscal manager for the Center for New Americans, business manager for the Brick House Community Resource Center, and staff accountant for the MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center. Her experience includes budgeting, compliance, financial reporting, expense tracking, tax filing, and audit preparation.

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley has topped $3 million in donations and is still growing, with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) reporting the latest donations to the fund. The foundation also announced another $255,000 in emergency grants, bringing the total to $1 million awarded from the Response Fund to local nonprofits serving the immediate needs of the most vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic in Western Mass.

The most recent donations to the fund include $250,000 from the Barr Foundation in Boston; $107,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; $100,000 from the Vertex Foundation, affiliated with Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. located in Boston; $75,000 from an anonymous foundation based in Boston; $25,000 from Delta Dental of Massachusetts; and $25,000 from Berkshire Bank Foundation.

This week’s grants to nonprofits support health and other urgent services for vulnerable and underserved populations, including limited-English speakers, at Gándara Center, ServiceNet, Behavioral Health Network, Clinical and Support Options, Center for New Americans, New North Citizen Council, and Enlace de Familias. Clinical Support Options (for Springfield) and ServiceNet (for Greenfield and Northampton) also received grants to cover costs associated with social distancing in shelters they manage. Also, Grow Food Northampton received a grant for food distribution in Greater Northampton.

“I am awed that $3 million has been donated in the mere three weeks that the fund has been in existence,” said Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “This outpouring of generosity from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a testimony to the goodness and generosity of our people. These donations go directly into the Response Fund and are quickly deployed into the community. Donors can feel confident that their gifts are supporting the critical work in our region of helping those most impacted by the crisis. Together, and working in collaboration with so many on the ground doing the work, we will get through this historic period of need.”

Zobel said the funding is targeted where resources have emerged and are desperately needed, including in the area of food security, where elderly individuals and others are not able to leave home to access food pantries; organizations challenged with obtaining masks and gloves in serving their constituencies; and lack of translation of critical information about safety measures during the pandemic. Resources are also being deployed to address diaper shortages for families with infants and those serving the disabled, and increased requests for mental-health supports.

Zobel also stressed that donors are encouraged to make donations directly to nonprofit organizations working to support populations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing that this fund is not a replacement for direct donations to nonprofits.

In addition to donations from business and philanthropic organizations, more than 120 individuals have made donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund. The Community Foundation welcomes additional donations to the fund online at www.communityfoundation.org/covid19.

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the release of its first grants, totaling $700,000, to community organizations and nonprofits from its recently-established COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley.

The fund has raised $2,480,000 from local philanthropic and business organizations and over 50 individuals. The first round of funding to support local response to the crisis includes $190,000 to distribute food through the region’s system of food pantries; $120,000 to address the needs of vulnerable elders, including home-delivered meals; $120,000 to provide critical health services and outreach through the Valley’s federally designated Community Health Centers; $150,000 to provide shelter for those without homes and those impacted by domestic violence; and $120,000 to provide flexible supports to the region’s lowest-income families and individuals.

Organizations receiving funding include Caring Health Center, Catholic Charities Agency – Diocese of Springfield, Center for Human Development, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Health Center of Franklin County, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of the Homeless (Clinical & Support Options), Greater Springfield Senior Services, Highland Valley Elder Services, Hilltown Community Health Center, Holyoke Health Center, LifePath, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, Safe Passage, ServiceNet, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Springfield Rescue Mission, Valley Opportunity Council, WestMass ElderCare, Womanshelter Companeras, and YWCA of Western Massachusetts.

According to Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, more grants are expected to be announced and released this week to respond to emerging needs.

“These initial grants will support urgent and immediate needs of those most vulnerable and adversely affected by this unprecedented crisis and those who have been most impacted by inequity,” she said. “Through the generosity of our community and the establishment of this response fund, we are helping those in need living in the 69 cities and towns that make up Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.”

Zobel said next week’s round of grants will likely include health services to organizations serving those with particular health vulnerabilities due to factors such as mental illness, compromised immune systems, or addiction. 

Given the long-term impact of the crisis and the evolving community needs, CFWM and its partners will continue to raise funds and make grants over the next several months. “We are encouraging our business community and individuals to consider contributing to the fund as the urgent needs for support continues to grow,” Zobel said.

Entities contributing to the fund thus far include bankESB; Berkshire Bank; Beveridge Family Foundation; Big Y; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation; Dietz & Co. Architects; Greenfield Cooperative Bank/Northampton Cooperative Bank; Keady, Foard, Montemagni, UBS Wealth Management; MassMutual; PeoplesBank; TD Charitable Foundation; and Westfield Bank.

In subsequent phases, grants will be made to address needs of nonprofit organizations that have been financially impacted by the crisis.

The Community Foundation welcomes additional donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. Gifts can be made online at communityfoundation.org/coronavirus-donations.

“The COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley is designed to pool community giving and apply the Community Foundation’s expertise and experience to make grants that help our community effectively respond to the crisis” Zobel said. “During this time, we also encourage our community members to give directly to those nonprofits you know and trust that are being impacted now or that are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ (CFWM) Innovation Grant Program has awarded a total of $341,000 to three change-making nonprofit organizations to continue creating innovative solutions around critical issues facing the region. CFWM’s Innovation Grant Program was launched in 2016 to encourage nonprofits to develop and execute novel ideas in partnership with other entities, as well as allow organizations to construct inventive solutions with measurable impact.

In January 2018, CFWM awarded first-year funding to Five Colleges Inc., the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity to implement innovative projects that were refined and tested during a planning period in 2017. Now entering their third year of funding, these grantees are seeing the tangible impact of their work. Twenty paraprofessionals of color are making their way toward receiving their licensure to become a full-fledged teachers, food-insecure patients are being identified and referred to healthy-food opportunities, and small homes have been built and are being occupied by first-time homebuyers.

Five Colleges Inc. will continue to develop its “Paradigm Shift” initiative and bring in new partners. This initiative is focused on creating a more diverse teacher workforce in Western Mass. by helping para-educators of color overcome obstacles to obtaining licensure to become teachers in area schools. More than 25 member organizations that make up the Paradigm Shift Coalition have laid the groundwork for breaking down barriers that para-educators face, including identifying the steps involved in obtaining licensure and the types of individualized support participants need, helping enroll para-educators in courses in local colleges, and providing mentoring and tutoring for MTEL tests. The coalition has also been able to offset costs associated with these steps to help make it affordable through its partnership with local colleges.

A key success in 2019 was Paradigm Shift’s convening of 113 district and school administrators from Holyoke and Springfield for a day-long professional-development opportunity to gain knowledge and skills for building a diverse teacher workforce, such as recruitment and hiring practices. Paradigm Shift currently has 33 participants enrolled in the program, and it is on target for graduating at least 20 by the end of 2020, and the remaining 13 in 2021.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will spend its third year expanding and analyzing the impact of its Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative that conducts and tracks food insecurity screening and social-service referrals at the Holyoke Health Center and its Chicopee location. Additionally, it will partner with WestMass ElderCare and Springfield Senior Services to address the food needs of patients who screen positive for food insecurity and have a specific medical condition.

With a simple in-person questionnaire, the initiative screens for food insecurity at adult and pediatric practices, and then connects patients with food-assistance resources — and, equally important, referrals to additional resources that patients may need, such as housing, employment, and education. These referrals are tracked in a database which allows for follow-up with patients to identify any changes in behavior and additional needs.

Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity will continue with a third year of its “Big Enough: the Small Home Revolution in Western Mass.” initiative, which aims to launch more individuals and families into the middle class by empowering them to become first-time owners of small, simple, affordable, energy-efficient homes. The organization’s work brings together partners such as local banks to conceive creative financing, cities to implement new zoning regulations, and builders to design small, innovative, energy-efficient housing concepts, as well as to pilot modular construction and alternative land use models.

The first two years of funding allowed for three low-income families to become homeowners in Hampshire County, a dream that likely wouldn’t have been possible within the current housing market. Over this third year, two more sites will be developed in Northampton and Pelham, and Habitat will share what it has learned so other areas can look at adopting these innovative strategies.

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