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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — On April 1, BusinessWest celebrated its Difference Makers class of 2021 with a virtual presentation and lively online networking event. The main event featured videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves. The entire presentation is now available for viewing by clicking here.

The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers.

The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC.

The 13th annual Difference Makers celebration will be a virtual event taking place today, April 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. This event, like our hugely successful Women of Impact celebration in January, be presented using the REMO platform, and will feature networking, videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers.

The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC.

The 13th annual Difference Makers celebration will be a virtual event taking place on Thursday, April 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. This event, like our hugely successful Women of Impact celebration in January, be presented using the REMO platform, and will feature networking, videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves.

RSVP before March 30 by clicking here. For a helpful tutorial on working with REMO, click here. For more information and links to the stories about our honorees, click here.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers.

The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC.

The 13th annual Difference Makers celebration will be a virtual event taking place on Thursday, April 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. This event, like our hugely successful Women of Impact celebration in January, be presented using the REMO platform, and will feature networking, videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves.

RSVP before March 30 by clicking here. For a helpful tutorial on working with REMO, click here. For more information and links to the stories about our honorees, click here.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers.

The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC.

The 13th annual Difference Makers celebration will be a virtual event taking place on Thursday, April 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. This event, like our hugely successful Women of Impact celebration in January, be presented using the REMO platform, and will feature networking, videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves.

RSVP before March 30 by clicking here. For a helpful tutorial on working with REMO, click here. For more information and links to the stories about our honorees, click here.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers.

The 2021 Difference Makers include Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision; EforAll Holyoke; Janine Fondon, founder of UnityFirst.com and professor at Bay Path University; Harold Grinspoon, philanthropist and founder of Aspen Square Management; Chad Moir, founder and owner of DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center; Bill Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield; and Pete Westover, founder and partner at Conservation Works, LLC.

The 13th annual Difference Makers celebration will be a virtual event taking place on Thursday, April 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. This event, like our hugely successful Women of Impact celebration in January, be presented using the REMO platform, and will feature networking, videos of the event sponsors, introductions of the honorees, and comments from the Difference Makers themselves.

RSVP before March 30 by clicking here. For a helpful tutorial on working with REMO, click here. For more information and links to the stories about our honorees, click here.

This year’s event includes a new, exciting, interactive wrinkle. Since the inception of this program, one of the goals in selecting our honorees has been to show the many ways one can make a difference within their community. The 2021 Difference Makers stories are all different, but the common thread is a passion exhibited by each honoree to improve the quality of life for those in this region and make it a better place to live, work, and conduct business. As we move toward celebrating our seven amazing honorees, we encourage you to submit a 20- to 30-second video of yourself, your organization, or others in our community that are making a difference.

Submit the video by posting it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, tagging BusinessWest (@BusinessWest413 on Facebook and Twitter or @BusinessWest_HCNews413 on Instagram), and using the hashtag #EverydayDifferenceMakers. Upon submitting your video on social media, e-mail the video to [email protected]. Your video will be reviewed by the associate publishers of BusinessWest and the Healthcare News, and could be one of five videos chosen by them to be aired during the Difference Makers virtual event. All videos must be submitted by Sunday, March 21 at 5 p.m. Tune in on April 1 to see if your video is featured.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. The Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament is a nonprofit partner.

Class of 2021 Cover Story Difference Makers

Did you miss our 2021 Difference Makers event?

View the virtual event recording!

Congratulations to the Class of 2021 Difference Makers! Thank you to our sponsors and everyone who helped to make this event possible. We appreciate you all!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the #EverydayDifferenceMakers social media campaign. We had an overwhelming number of submissions and are extremely excited to share the good work being done in #the413 during our Difference Makers event!

The 2021 Difference Makers

Kristin Carlson
President, Peerless Precision

EforAll Holyoke

Janine Fondon
Founder, UnityFirst.com; Professor, Bay Path University

Harold Grinspoon
Philanthropist; Founder, Aspen Square Management

 

Chad Moir
Founder and Owner, DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center

Bill Parks
CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield

Pete Westover
Founder and Partner, Conservation Works, LLC

Presented by:

Non-profit Partner:

Media Partner:

Opinion

They’re All Making a Difference

Since BusinessWest started its Difference Makers recognition program in 2009, we’ve told dozens of stories involving individuals, groups, and institutions that are positively impacting life in the 413.
Each one is different, although there are some common threads, and each one is inspiring. And this is the point of this exercise, if you will — to tell these amazing stories, because they need to be told, and to inspire others to find their own way to make a difference in their community.
The Difference Makers class of 2021 certainly continues this tradition. The stories beginning on page 22 convey, in a single word, the passion that these individuals and groups have for helping those in their communities and improving quality of life here. And they all go about it in a different way:

• Kristin Carlson, by becoming the face, or the new face, of manufacturing in this region. And a new voice as well, one that works overtime (that’s an industry phrase) to educate people, and especially young people, about the many opportunities in this field. Her efforts are already reaping dividends, as evidenced by her own shop floor, which now boasts a number of women in machining positions;

• EforAll Holyoke, by becoming another powerful force in the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Through its accelerator programs, mentorship initiatives, and other ongoing forms of support, this nonprofit is helping many people, especially those in the minority community, realize their dreams of owning their own business;

• Janine Fondon, by being a constant source of energy and ideas, through initiatives ranging from UnityFirst.com, a national distributor of diversity-related e-news, to programs like On the Move, which bring women, and especially women of color, together for forums that are designed to engage, educate, and inspire;

• Harold Grinspoon, by being a successful business person, but especially by being a philanthropist who has never stopped asking about how he can help. Over the years, he has launched initiatives to support entrepreneurship at area colleges and universities, assist the region’s farmers, celebrate excellent teachers, and improve Jewish life and culture;

• Chad Moir, by creating the DopaFit Parkinson’s Movement Center, inspired by the experience of his late mother, to help those suffering from this dreaded disease live healthier, more confident lives through various forms of exercise that have proven to slow the progression of symptoms;

• Bill Parks, by not only helping young people and their families access critical programs through the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield, but by using his own experiences to show them that their dreams and goals really are possible. His club’s programs not only impact young people’s lives today, but help them take charge of their future; and

• Pete Westover, for working tirelessly to help preserve and protect this region’s open spaces through a remarkable, decades-long career that featured a lengthy stint as conservation director in Amherst and ongoing work as managing partner of Conservation Works, which is involved in a wide range of preservation, trail-building, and other types of projects across the Northeast.

We salute these members of the class of 2021, and encourage others to read their stories and become inspired to find new and different ways to make a difference here in Western Massachusetts.

Class of 2021 Difference Makers
DifferenceMakers-Logo-2020-11

Our 2021 Difference Makers will be announced in the February 17, 2021 issue of BusinessWest

Save the Date!

We will be virtually celebrating the 2021 Difference Makers on April 1, 2021.

The event will be 100% virtual and streaming using the REMO platform. Wondering what the REMO platform is like? Click HERE for this awesome tutorial video to help you learn about it!

Stay tuned for more details about our awesome and engaging virtual event that will take place on April 1, 2021.

Presenting Sponsors

Nonprofit Partner

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region?

BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its 13th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2021 will be accepted through the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region. Past honorees have come from dozens of business and nonprofit sectors, proving there’s no limit to the ways people can impact their communities — and the ongoing pandemic has no doubt shed a spotlight on other ways to make a difference.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by clicking here to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region?

BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its 13th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2021, originally due on Dec. 23, will now be accepted through the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region. Past honorees have come from dozens of business and nonprofit sectors, proving there’s no limit to the ways people can impact their communities — and the ongoing pandemic has no doubt shed a spotlight on other ways to make a difference.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by clicking here to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region?

BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its 13th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2021 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region. Past honorees have come from dozens of business and nonprofit sectors, proving there’s no limit to the ways people can impact their communities — and the ongoing pandemic has no doubt shed a spotlight on other ways to make a difference.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by clicking here to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in the Western Mass. region?

BusinessWest invites you to nominate an individual or group for its 13th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2021 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Difference Makers was launched in 2009 as a way to recognize the contributions of agencies and individuals who are contributing to quality of life in this region. Past honorees have come from dozens of business and nonprofit sectors, proving there’s no limit to the ways people can impact their communities — and the ongoing pandemic has no doubt shed a spotlight on other ways to make a difference.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by clicking here to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest.

Class of 2020 Event Galleries Special Coverage

It was a different kind of event, to be sure, but BusinessWest’s Difference Makers class of 2020 was celebrated in style on Sept. 24 at the Upper Vista at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. Honorees, their guests, and sponsors were in attendance at an event where safety and social distancing were paramount, while hundreds more took in the ceremonies remotely. Download the Program Guide HERE

Difference Makers is sponsored by Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center, The Royal Law Firm, and TommyCar Auto Group, while the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, MHA, and United Way of Pioneer Valley are partners.

The 2020 Virtual Event

Scenes from the 2020 Event

2020 Difference Makers

Christopher ‘Monte’ Belmonte

DJ at WRSI the River Radio

His March is Changing
The Conversation
on Food Insecurity

Ira Bryck

Consultant and Former Executive Director of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley

He’s Helped Create
Fun, Imaginative
Learning Experiences

Sandy Cassanelli

CEO of Greeno Supply

She’s Fighting to Find a Cure for Metastatic Breast Cancer

Dianne
Fuller Doherty

Retired Director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center

She’s Retired … but Not from Her Role as a Difference Maker

Ronn Johnson

President and CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services Inc.

This Community Leader
Has Tackled Many Roles
With a Sense of Purpose

Steve Lowell

President and CEO of
Monson Savings Bank

Giving Back Has Always Been a Big Part of His Life — and His Work

Rick’s Place

This Unique Nonprofit Provides Support, Light in the Darkest of Times

2020 Sponsor Videos

2020 Sponsors

Pay it Forward Non-Profit Partners


Photography for this special section by Leah Martin Photography

Features

This Nonprofit Is Finding New Ways to Provide a ‘Safe Place’

Kelsey Andrews (third from left, with Therese Ross, program director; Bill Scatolini, board president; and Diane Murray, executive director) calls Rick’s Place “a wonderful support system” — and much more.

Diane Murray says that, like most nonprofits, Rick’s Place is responding to the pandemic in a proactive fashion.

In other words, this agency, founded to provide peer support to grieving families, and especially children, has, out of necessity, changed, pivoted, and in some ways reinvented itself, said Murray, its executive director, noting that much of this involves carrying out its mission in a virtual manner.

“As soon as we became aware that it wasn’t safe to have in-person meetings, we moved to a virtual format for all our peer-support groups,” she told BusinessWest. And that was very successful. We were surprised at how well children made that transition; it’s hard enough to be grieving and talk about it in person with your peers, but looking at a screen can be tricky. But we sent them activities, and they would complete them and bring them to the meeting. It’s worked quite well.”

As she noted, grieving and talking about loss among a group of peers is hard, but it has become a proven method for helping children and families cope with the loss of a loved one. And Rick’s Place has been bringing people together in this way and providing what many call a ‘safe place’ since 2007.

Its mission, and its success in carrying it out — which made the agency the latest of several nonprofits to be named Difference Makers by BusinessWest — was summed up succinctly and effectively by Program Director Therese Ross when we spoke with her back in February.

“It’s a unique grief journey, but it’s also a universal experience,” she noted. “To hear from other people how they manage when their child says this or does that, it’s real boots on the ground, people living it, and it’s really helpful.”

Providing such help was the overarching goal for the many friends of Rick Thorpe, the former football star and 1984 graduate at Minnechaug High School who was among the more than 1,100 people who died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He left behind his wife, Linda, and newborn daughter, Alexis. Searching for ways to memorialize Rick, friends and family members eventually turned to Alexis for inspiration and created a bereavement center in her honor.

In 2020, the work of this agency goes on, but obviously many things have changed, and in the meantime, new and different needs have emerged, said Murray, noting, as just one example, the restrictions placed on funeral services for the first several months of the pandemic.

“Deaths during the COVID era are so much more complicated for kids,” she explained. “Losing a grandparent or parent — and not being able to have the usual services you would have and seeing a large number of family and friends — has impacted the grief and made it more complicated. Also, in many cases, they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, and that makes the process so much more difficult. We’re focusing on these COVID-era issues with families and giving them information on how to start that grief journey.”

Overall, though, a movement to virtual services has been the biggest change brought about by COVID-19, Murray noted, adding that, in addition to virtual peer sessions, the agency is also conducting virtual training sessions with local school systems on the impact of grief on students. Meanwhile, she and others at the agency are talking with area schools about taking the popular eight-week ‘grief groups’ it had been offering to a virtual format now that school has started up again.

“The schools are where we see our most diverse population and students with the greatest economic need,” she explained. “Finding a way to continue those virtually is very important to us. We’re talking to some school counselors who are very invested in getting our programs into the schools virtually.”

Since 2007, Rick’s Place and its loyal supporters — and there are many of them — have been invested in providing much-needed support to those who are grieving. In the COVID-19 era, the word ‘place’ has taken on new meeting. Now, in many cases, it’s not an actual, physical place, but rather … well, a computer screen where people can still gather. And where they can share, cope, and learn together.

As Murray said, the agency has had to pivot and in some cases reinvent. But its vital mission, one that has made it a Difference Maker, remains unchanged.

—George O’Brien

Features

This Advocate and Cheerleader Remains Active on Many Fronts

Photo by Leah Martin Photography

When we first introduced Dianne Fuller Doherty back in February, we used the term ‘semi-retired’ to describe her status — and it’s the appropriate phrase to use.

Indeed, while she has stepped down from her role as director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network’s Western Mass. office, she remains heavily involved in this region, and on a number of fronts — everything from mentoring young people, especially women, to serving on several boards and being part of a few prominent search committees, such as the one that eventually chose Robert Johnson to be the sixth president of Western New England University (see story, page 29).

And most, if not all, of her work has been in some way impacted by COVID-19, including that search at WNEU, and another at Tech Foundry.

“We never met any of the candidates — only the winner after he had been given the position,” she said of the WNEU search, noting that all interviews were conducted remotely, a process she didn’t think would be very effective, but ultimately proved to be. “When we started both these searches, I said, ‘how can we not meet these people?’ It turned out it was incredibly effective — you really got to know these candidates.”

Fuller Doherty’s commitment to remain involved in this region and be, in some respects, a cheerleader for it comes naturally. She’s been doing this she came to Western Mass. in the early ’70s after marrying attorney Paul Doherty, a community leader himself, who passed away several years ago. And she become involved with everything from the creation of the Women’s Fund — she was one of the original founders — to the growth and maturation and the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Over the course of her lengthy career, she was a business owner — she and partner Marsha Tzoumas started a marketing firm that bore their last names — and, as director of the Small Business Development Center, one who helped countless small businesses get off the ground and to that proverbial next level.

She has a great deal of experience in all matters of launching and operating a business, and she’s never been shy about sharing it with others.

As she told us in February, her MO has always been to provide a kind of tough love to entrepreneurs — in other words, be supportive whenever possible, but also honest and realistic, telling people what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear.

“The best advice I give to people is to ask enough questions so that they can come to the right conclusion on whether this is the right time, or the right place, or the right financial backing to go forward,” she said when we first spoke with her. “You let them come to the decision about whether it’s a ‘no.’ And if it’s a ‘yes,’ then you just try to be as supportive as possible and it them know that there are going to be highs and lows in any business, and the challenges will come. But the rewards will come also.”

For Fuller Doherty, the biggest reward has been to see the region continue to grow, prosper, and meet the enormous potential she has always thought it possessed. Progress has come on a number of fronts, she said, listing everything from the advancement of women, thanks to groups like the Women’s Fund, to that entrepreneurial ecosystem, to the capital of the region, the city of Springfield.

She told BusinessWest she has always been focused on ‘what’s next’ for the region, and especially Springfield, and believes the answer may lie in housing.

“Education requirements dictate housing investment,” she explained. “And I think we can do a lot with housing; Springfield used to be the City of Homes, and I think it can come back to that.”

But there is work still to do on all these fronts, she acknowledged, and she wants to continue playing a meaningful role in all of it.

In other words, she has no intention of slowing down, even in the era of COVID-19, and this attitude, this mindset, certainly explains why she is a member of the Difference Makers class of 2020.

—George O’Brien

Features

COVID Has Brought New Challenges to an Already-intense Cancer Fight

Photo by Leah Martin Photography

Sandy Cassanelli has always been a fighter.

Which is good, because these first nine months of 2020, the year of COVID, have tested her in every way imaginable.

Let’s start with her health. As most know, she was diagnosed with stage-4 breast cancer four years ago, and has been not only fighting that fight, but helping others fight it as well through the Breast Friends Fund, a charity that raises funds that go directly to metastatic breast-cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Having a terminal illness in the middle of a pandemic, though, brings even more challenges to the fore.

“There was the realization that this virus could kill me,” she said, noting that, for obvious reasons, she began working at home back in March. “And my husband, Craig, had to be careful to make sure he wasn’t bringing anything home to me; he would take off his clothes in the garage and run up to the shower every day. He jokes that I would spray Lysol on him before I would let him in the house.”

Meanwhile, as she started a new treatment regimen and underwent tests and biopsies, the protocols were much different.

“At Dana-Farber, my husband always comes with me — he’s never missed an appointment,” she explained. “But once everyone started locking down, only the patients could go, so I had to go from my first scans to see if my new treatment was working by myself. And since March, I’ve had to go to every appointment by myself. It’s been very challenging not to have the support of my husband.”

Let’s move on to her business that she manages with Craig — Greeno Supply. Near the top of the list of the products it supplies to a wide range of customers are a number of items in high demand but short supply during the pandemic — paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies … all those things. Getting them — and meeting the needs of customers — has been daunting, to say the least.

“It was very challenging — it was hard to get these things from our suppliers,” she said of products that ranged from those paper goods to gloves, masks, and other PPE. “We had to reinvent the wheel and go out to different suppliers just to get these items. And we’re still struggling — we’re still reinventing the wheel.”

And then, there’s family, or life at home, a phrase that has certainly taken on new meaning during this pandemic.

Cassanelli, like many parents, and especially many women, has been working at home and helping her children with school at home. In this case, the children were in eighth and 12th grade, respectively — big years, graduation years. Not a year one would want to spend confined at home.

“I’ve been battling for seven years, so my daughters are used to adversity and things not going the way normal life goes,” she explained. “They’ve been dealing with a lot, and they actually did really well because they know how to deal with adversity. But I’d have to say that when the final announcement came that they wouldn’t be going back to school and there was no graduation — that was probably the only time that tears flowed in my house.

“When I was first diagnosed with stage-4 cancer, the doctor set a goal for me and my older daughter Samantha — that I would get to see her graduate and walk across the stage” she went on. “So it was a double whammy — but we moved on.”

Overall, Cassanelli’s ability to meet all these challenges head on helps explain why she’s a Difference Maker in this memorable year.

It’s a mindset summed up perfectly by something she said to BusinessWest back in February while discussing her diagnosis and her approach to life.

“Does it suck? Yeah, it totally sucks. But me crawling up in a ball and putting the sheets up over my head is not going to fix anything, so I might as well just get up and go,” she said. “I try not to sweat the small stuff. I believe that every day is a gift, and I’m going to make the best of that day, and I’m going to be positive, because if I’m positive, then everyone around me is going to be positive.”

COVID-19 — and all that has thrown at her — isn’t small stuff. But she doesn’t seem to be sweating it, either.

—George O’Brien

Features

Former Family Business Center Leader Is Still Delivering Frank Talk

Ira Bryck spent 25 years as the executive director of the Family Business Center of the Pioneer Valley. And over that quarter-century, he left an indelible mark on those he helped through his rather unique style and ability to create impactful learning experiences.

These included plays he authored, dinner meetings with provocative speakers, and, quite often, frank talks about family businesses and whether people should be part of them or not.

And he continues to make a mark, even though he’s retired from the FBC, as it was called, and the center itself has gone out of business. He does it through a radio show with WHMP called The Western Mass. Business Show a variety of consulting work, and even his work in the COVID-19 era to help keep the residents of Amherst, where he has lived for some time, safe as college students return to campuses.

In all these settings and circumstances, Bryck speaks his mind, creates dialogue, and helps to generate progress in many forms. And that, in a nutshell — and he wrote a play called A Tough Nut to Crack — is why he is a member of the Difference Makers class of 2020.

He has decided not to join his fellow classmates for the ceremony on Sept. 24 due to a strong desire to help keep his family safe during this pandemic — two adult children and their families with New York addresses have moved in with him as they seek what amounts to higher ground during the pandemic — but he has definitely earned his place on the podium, even if he’ll be addressing his audience remotely.

That’s because, since being named director of the fledgling FBC in 1994, he has done things his way — and in an ultimately effective way. And he has helped educate and inspire an important, if often unrecognized, segment of the local economy — its family businesses.

They come in various shapes and sizes and cross a variety of sectors, but they share common issues and challenges. When we talked with Bryck in February, he compared small businesses to snowflakes in that no two are alike, and summoned that famous opening line from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Bryck has addressed these issues and challenges in a manner that had members of the FBC describe him, alternately, as ‘communicator,’ ‘connector,’ ‘facilitator,’ and even ‘entertainer.’

One long-time member described his style and his approach this way: “He can take things that are very theoretical and make them realistic. It’s one thing to read a paper from a professor who deals in theory, but it that reality? Can that be applied to the everyday businessperson? Ira was able to translate those kinds of things.”

And he’s still doing all that, just in different settings and with different audiences. With his radio show, he just passed a milestone — his 300th interview.

“It’s a nice exercise to meet and interview someone every week,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun and a tremendous learning experience.”

Meanwhile, he’s also working with Giombetti Associates as a senior advisor working on personality assessments, coaching, and organizational development. He’s involved in several projects, including one with a private school in Springfield that is undergoing a change in leadership.

“We’re restructuring and creating much more of an idea system within their leadership team,” he explained, adding that he’s working on another project involving a Connecticut grower of plants and trees that is seeking to make structural changes and increase self-awareness and self-management.

He’s also coordinating a roundtable for area business owners. “We meet monthly and just explore people’s challenges and help each other think things through, and that also involves coaching,” he said, adding that he’s also involved with the family business center at Cornell University, participating in what he called a “speed-dating event involving mentors and mentees.”

“All this keeps me busy, but I’m only working about half as much as I used to,” he explained. “Which leaves me plenty of time of walk five to 10 miles a day, so I’ve lost 45 pounds.”

Overall, he’s still finding ways to educate — and also entertain, in some cases — while also making a mark on those he’s working with.

In short, he’s still very much making a difference in this region — and well beyond it.

—George O’Brien

Features

He Has Plans to Retire, but No Plans to Scale Back His Involvement

Photo by Leah Martin Photography

When we talked with Steve Lowell back in January, he related just how familiar he became with the commute from Cape Cod to Upton in the middle of the state, where he lived, earlier in his career.

That’s because, while he was working for a bank on the Cape, he also became heavily involved in the community there — as part of his work, but mostly because giving back is his MO. He recalled that he was on the Cape so much, many people thought he lived there.

When we reconnected several days ago, Lowell was again talking about this commute, but from a different perspective.

Indeed, only days after he was introduced as a member of the Difference Makers class of 2020 in February, Lowell announced he would be retiring as president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank, effective early next year, and stepping into a role new for this institution — chairman of the board. He and his wife, Anne, are in the process of relocating to the Cape, but he now keeps a small apartment in Brookfield and is there three or four nights a week, because he’s not only neck-deep in the transition of leadership at the bank (Dan Moriarty, the long-time CFO at the bank, has been named his successor), he’s still active in this region. Make that very active.

And he intends to remain involved with a number of organizations in this region, which means he’ll doing that commuting thing again.

“I’ll be around,” he said with conviction, he said, noting that’s not certain how long he will continue those living arrangements in Brookfield. “One way or another, I’ll be around.”

And while his work and that of his team at MSB has been somewhat different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as handling PPP loan applications, the basic formula hasn’t changed, he said, meaning Monson continues to fill the many roles of a community bank — and continues to search for new growth opportunities in a heavily banked region.

“In spite of COVID, we’ve moving forward, and we’re looking to the future,” he told BusinessWest, noting that the institution recently opened a new branch in East Longmeadow. “We’re trying to build an organization that is resilient enough to withstand not only this but anything else that might happen.”

While working to build this organization, Lowell is transitioning into his new role as chairman, one that will translate into a good deal of mentoring and also helping to guide the bank through a period that will likely be much more difficult than the one it just went through.

“I think 2021 is going to be an extremely challenging year, so I’m happy to stay involved and lend whatever expertise I can to them to make sure we keep things going in a really positive way,” he said. “I’m excited about that; I’m honored that they thought that this would be helpful, and I’m looking forward to it; I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Meanwhile, as noted earlier, he will continue a career-long pattern of being heavily involved in the community, work that has involved nonprofits and institutions ranging from the United Way of Pioneer Valley to Link to Libraries; Baystate Health’s Eastern Region (Wing Memorial and Mary Lane hospitals) to the Western Mass. Economic Development Council (EDC).

“They’ve asked me to stay on for another year as chairman of the board of the Baystate Health Eastern Region,” he said. “And I just got asked by Rick Sullivan [president and CEO of the EDC] to continue on as treasurer — he said, ‘even though you’re going to be down on the Cape, can you stay on as treasurer?’ And I said, ‘as long as you’ll have me.’”

That request, and his answer in the affirmative, both speak to why Lowell is a member of this Difference Makers class of 2020. He’s almost always said ‘yes’ when asked to serve, and, more importantly, he usually didn’t wait to be asked.

He noted that, as he was arriving in this region in the late spring of 2011, the region — and Main Street in Monson — were hit, and hit hard, by a tornado. And as he’s retiring — at least from his role as president and CEO — the world, and Main Street in Monson, are being hit, and hit hard, by a pandemic.

“People might be happy to see me go,” he joked.

That’s certainly not the case. Even more to the point, he won’t be going anywhere soon, except for that commute he knows all too well.

—George O’Brien

Features

Meeting Community Needs Has Become Even More Critical During a Difficult Year

Ronn Johnson has spent a lifetime improving the neighborhood of his youth — and impacting lives far beyond it.
(Photo by Leah Martin Photography)

When times got tougher for struggling families back in March, they appreciated any resources they could access, from emergency food supplies to educational assistance to … lotion?

“With children being home every day, parents were super stressed, and they needed a way to manage it all,” said Ronn Johnson, president and CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services Inc. in Springfield.

“We said, ‘let’s deliver pampering products to these women — lotions, bath oils, shower gels, facial scrubs — things they can use to pamper themselves with on occasion, once the children are down,” he told BusinessWest earlier this month. “With the response we got, it was like we’d given them a pot of gold — they said, ‘these are things I’ve never been able to get for myself.’”

Those items were complemented by deliveries of hard-to-find cleaning supplies and paper products. But they certainly didn’t replace the bread-and-butter services of the organization, from educational resources to healthy-food access.

The pandemic, in fact, only laid bare a growing need for such services — and new ways of delivering them.

“It was a tremendous challenge to pivot on a dime. We’ve had to restructure ourselves from being an after-school resource to being a remote-learning center,” Johnson said, noting that the organization serves many economically disadvantaged families that need extracurricular support and don’t want to have to choose between their kids and making a living. “Work is important to them, but their child’s education is also important. We’re one of the resources in the community trying to be responsive to the needs of children.”

The center has also expanded its emergency-food program, serving up to 400 people weekly. Even so, pantry volunteers weren’t seeing some of the faces they expected to see — mainly older people — and learned these regulars were staying at home because of fears for their health.

So Johnson talked to community partners, in particular Baystate Health, which helped procure a cargo van to deliver food to homes. The volunteer-driven delivery program began with about 10 recipients and now visits some 65 elderly, sick, and shut-in individuals every week.

Johnson’s work with MLK Family Services — the latest stop in a career dedicated to his community — is one reason he was chosen as a Difference Maker, along with his work with the Brianna Fund, named for his daughter, which has raised more than $750,000 over 22 years and helped 50 children with physical limitations access tools to improve their lives.

But he stresses that he can’t do his job alone. To serve 750 different people each week with after-school programs, college courses, family support, public-health outreach, sports programs, cultural activities, and more — with only about $1.6 million in annual funding — he relies not only on his team, but more than 100 volunteers.

They worked together to open summer camp this year, he noted. “That was well-thought-out; we assured we had all the safe distancing and PPE, and we made it work, with no incidents of the virus spreading. It was a real benefit to both children and their parents, to provide meaningful activities for them eight hours a day.”

Community members stepped up this spring and summer in other ways as well. For example, a woman came by in late March to donate a new laptop to the center, along with funds to distribute items like coloring books, flash cards, notebooks, crayons, and markers so kids could occupy themselves when holing up at home became the new normal.

Johnson also credited the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts for its financial support of the center, as well as donations that came in after Common Wealth Murals and Art for the Soul Gallery drew attention to the center in June with a mural, called “Say Their Names,” honoring individuals killed by police violence.

He’s equally gratified that people are talking.

“It’s been heartwarming and affirming that our white neighbors and other community members have extended their support to us, not only financially, but they’re looking to be engaged in conversations,” he said. “So many families from the suburbs and the hilltowns came to Mason Square to show their children this mural.”

It’s a conversation being held back on the national level by leaders who refuse to engage in these issues and create positive momentum, he added. Yet, he’s encouraged by young people of all races who are energized by fighting for social justice.

“That is very encouraging,” he said. “We need to build bridges to understanding and have it happen in a more global way than just these pockets of support.”

In the meantime, he’ll keep building bridges locally, and making a difference for families whose needs go much deeper than lotion.

But a little pampering never hurt.

—Joseph Bednar

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — After much thought and consideration, and out of an abundance of caution, BusinessWest has made the decision to postpone our 12th annual Difference Makers event, which was scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 19. The event will now take place on Thursday, Sept. 10 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

With the growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, and under the CDC’s recommendations, we felt this was the most appropriate and responsible action to take. We are grateful to our sponsors for making this event possible and are looking forward to celebrating our 2020 Difference Makers with all of you later this year. Thank you for your understanding.

Event sponsors include Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal, P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, while the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, MHA, and United Way of Pioneer Valley are partners.

Class of 2020 Difference Makers

Celebrate with Us!

2020 Difference Makers
Thursday, March 19, 2020
5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
The Log Cabin, Holyoke

This program, initiated in 2009, is a celebration of individuals, groups, organizations, and families that are positively impacting the Pioneer Valley and are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. As previous classes have shown, there are many ways to do this: through work within the community on one or many initiatives to improve quality of life; through success in business, public service, or education; through contributions that inspire others to get involved; through imaginative efforts to help solve one or more societal issues; or through a combination of the above.

Our 2020 Difference Makers will be announced in the Feb. 3, 2020 issue of BusinessWest

Tickets are $75 per person/$750 for a table of 10.

Purchase Tickets Below:

 2020 Difference Makers Sponsors

 

 

 

 

Pay it Forward Non-Profit Partners

 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Eleven years ago, BusinessWest created a new recognition program called Difference Makers. That carefully chosen name sums up what this initiative is all about — identifying and then celebrating individuals, groups, and agencies in this region that are making a difference in our communities. And now, it’s time to nominate candidates for the class of 2020.

Nominations must be submitted by Dec. 6. The nomination form can be found by clicking here.

As previous classes have shown, there are many ways to be a Difference Maker: through work within the community on one or many initiatives to improve quality of life; through success in business, public service, or education; through contributions that inspire others to get involved; through imaginative efforts to help solve one or more societal issues; or through a combination of the above. Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker. For a full list of previous winners, click here.

Opinion

Editorial

Just over a decade ago, BusinessWest launched a new recognition program, Difference Makers. And in many ways, the past 10 years have been a celebration of the many different ways groups and individuals can make a difference in their community, and this region as a whole.

Indeed, those making their way to the podium at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke have included a sheriff of Hampden County, a police chief in Holyoke, the president of UMass Amherst, the founder of Rays of Hope, the director of Junior Achievement, the co-founder of Link to Libraries, the creators of Valley Venture Mentors … the list goes on.

And this year’s additions to that list  provide still more evidence that there are countless ways to make a difference, and they all need to be celebrated:

• Let’s start with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. This Hatfield-based agency, launched in the early ’80s, is a Difference Maker on many levels, from the 11.6 million pounds of food and 9.6 million meals it provides to area shelters and soup kitchens, to its Coalition to End Hunger, which is raising awareness of the problem, attacking the stigma attached to it, and advocating for those in need. For almost 40 years, the Food Bank has been answering the call.

• The same is true of Joe Peters, a businessman who has always had an influence that has extended far beyond the walls of Universal Plastics. It has extended across Chicopee, the city he grew up and still lives in today, with initiatives such as the so-called ‘sandwich ministry,’ a program he helped start to feed the homeless in that city. And it has extended all the way to Guayape, Honduras, where he helped bring a new ambulance to that hurricane-ravaged village. He has always looked for new ways to step in and change lives for the better.

• As has Peter Gagliardi, the long-time president and CEO of Way Finders. He has spent the past 45 years working in the broad realm of housing and the past quarter-century at Way Finders, where he has greatly expanded the mission and, while doing so, has changed lives and helped change the course of entire neighborhoods through the power of collaboration.

• Frederick and Marjorie Hurst have always been catalysts for positive change within their community, especially through the newsmagazine they created called An African American Point of View, a name that speaks volumes about its mission and importance to the community. It blends community news with often-unsparing commentary, and speaks with a powerful voice, just like its founders.

• The Springfield Museums, as a cultural institution, is a different kind of Difference Maker. For more than 160 years, it has helped bring art, science, history, and memories to visitors from across this region and far outside it, a mission that entered a new dimension with the opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in 2017. Collectively, the Museums have helped put Springfield on the map and make it far more of a destination.

• Meanwhile, Carla Cosenzi, co-president of the TommyCar Auto Group, has found her own ways to make a difference. First, as a successful business owner and, therefore, role model and mentor to many young women. But also has a warrior in the battle against cancer, the disease that claimed the life of her father, through the Tommy Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Golf Tournament.

As we said, there are no limits on the ways that an individual or group can make a difference here in Western Massachusetts, or in Guayape, Honduras for that matter. That’s what we’ve been celebrating for the past decade, and the celebration continues with the class of 2019.

Difference Makers

Celebrate with Us!

2019 Difference Makers
Thursday, March 28, 2019
5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
The Log Cabin, Holyoke

This program, initiated in 2009, is a celebration of individuals, groups, organizations, and families that are positively impacting the Pioneer Valley and are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. As previous classes have shown, there are many ways to do this: through work within the community on one or many initiatives to improve quality of life; through success in business, public service, or education; through contributions that inspire others to get involved; through imaginative efforts to help solve one or more societal issues; or through a combination of the above.

Our 2019 Difference Makers will be announced in the Feb. 4, 2019 issue of BusinessWest

Tickets are $75 per person/$750 for a table of 10.

Purchase Tickets Below:

Sponsored by

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber has named Ellen Freyman, an attorney with Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C. in Springfield, its 2018 Richard J. Moriarty Citizen of the Year. The award is given annually to honor the memory of Moriarty, a long-time active participant in the chamber who gave of his time, talent, and personal and professional resources to the local community.

Since 2007, said chamber President Nancy Creed, “the award has been given to someone in the business community who — like Ellen — selflessly gives of their time, talent, and personal and professional resources to the community and encourages those who work with them and for them to do the same.”

Freyman concentrates her practice in all aspects of commercial real estate: acquisitions and sales, development, leasing, and financing. She has an extensive land-use practice that includes zoning, subdivision, project permitting, and environmental matters.

A graduate of the Western New England University School of Law and Pennsylvania State University, Freyman has been recognized or awarded by the National Conference for Community and Justice for Excellence in Law, the Professional Women’s Chamber as Woman of the Year, the Ad Club of Western Massachusetts as a recipient of its annual Pynchon Award, the Springfield Leadership Institute with its Community Service Award, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as a recipient of its Top Women in Law Award, and Reminder Publications with its Hometown Hero Award. She was also chosen as one of BusinessWest’s Difference Makers in 2010.

Freyman is active on many nonprofit boards and currently serves as a member on the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce board of directors, which she has also chaired; the boards of the Community Music School of Springfield, the Center for Human Development, New England Public Radio, the Springfield Museum Assoc., the World Affairs Council, the YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Springfield Technical Community College Foundation, and the Springfield Technical Community College Acceptance Corp., and on the Elms College board of trustees. She is also an active member of the Longmeadow Zoning Board of Appeals, the Jewish Family Service board of directors, and the National Conference for Community and Justice board of directors. She is the founder and president of On Board Inc., a past president of the Springfield Rotary Club, and has been honored as a Paul Harris Fellow.

The breakfast honoring Freyman will be held on Wednesday, June 6 from 7:15 to 9 a.m. at the Flynn Campus Union at Springfield College, 263 Alden St., Springfield, and is sponsored by presenting sponsor MGM Springfield and breakfast series sponsor United Personnel.

In addition to honoring Freyman, the breakfast will feature, as keynote speaker, entrepreneur and author Nataly Kogan, CEO of Happier Inc. and author of the recently released Happier Now: How to Stop Striving for Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones).

Reservations for the breakfast cost $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), and $35 for general admission ($40 at the door). Reservations may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or by e-mailing Jessica Hill at [email protected].

Class of 2018 Difference Makers Event Galleries

A Look at the March 22 Event

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More than 375 people turned out at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House on March 22 to honor BusinessWest’s 2018 Difference Makers. Launched in 2009, the program recognizes groups and individuals across the region that are making a difference in their community. The honorees this year were: Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores; Bob ‘the Bike Man’ Charland, founder of Pedal Thru Youth; Girls Inc. of Holyoke; Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin; Crystal Senter-Brown, author and adjunct faculty member at Bay Path University; and the WillPower Foundation.

Our 2018 Difference Makers:
Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores
Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin
Crystal Senter-Brown, Author & Adjunct Faculty at Bay Path University
WillPower Foundation

     

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

From event sponsor Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., from

From event sponsor Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., from left: Adam Kuzdzal, Deborah Penzias, Josh Messer, Julie Quink, Tom Pratt, Carol LaCour, Rebecca Connolly, Stephanie Tobin, and Sarah Lapolice.

From event sponsor Health New England

From event sponsor Health New England, from left: Peggy Garand, Vivian Williams, Brendaliz Torres, Sandra Ruiz, Ashley Allen, Matt Sturgis (guest of HNE), and Jessica Dupont.

Gina Kos (left) and Michelle Depelteau from event sponsor Sunshine Village.

Gina Kos (left) and Michelle Depelteau from event sponsor Sunshine Village.

Sr. Kathleen Popko (left) and Sr. Mary Caritas from the Sisters of Providence, a 2013 Difference Maker.

Sr. Kathleen Popko (left) and Sr. Mary Caritas from the Sisters of Providence, a 2013 Difference Maker.

Bob Bolduc, founder of Pride Stores and a 2018 Difference Maker.

Bob Bolduc, founder of Pride Stores and a 2018 Difference Maker.

From 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation, from left: Sabrina Aasheim, Jeff Palm, and Maria Burke.

From 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation, from left: Sabrina Aasheim, Jeff Palm, and Maria Burke.

From left: Kate Kane of Northwestern Mutual, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Nick LaPier, CPA and BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti.

From left: Kate Kane of Northwestern Mutual, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Nick LaPier, CPA and BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti.

Bill Ward, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Joanne Lyons

Bill Ward, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Joanne Lyons of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County.

Carol Leary, a 2016 Difference Maker, with 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin

Bay Path University President Carol Leary, a 2016 Difference Maker, with 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin.

Tricia Canavan of United Personnel with Scott Foster of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas and also Valley Venture Mentors, a 2016 Difference Maker.

Tricia Canavan of United Personnel with Scott Foster of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas and also Valley Venture Mentors, a 2016 Difference Maker.

Sandra Ruiz, left, and Brendaliz Torres, from event sponsor Health New England.

Sandra Ruiz, left, and Brendaliz Torres, from event sponsor Health New England.

Bob Bolduc, left, with Bob ‘the Bike Man’ Charland, two of 2018’s Difference Makers.

Bob Bolduc, left, with Bob ‘the Bike Man’ Charland, two of 2018’s Difference Makers.

Representing event sponsor Sunshine Village

Representing event sponsor Sunshine Village, front row: Gina Kos (left) and Michelle Depelteau; back row: Peter Benton, Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos, Kelly Chmura, Maria Laflamme, Amie Miarecki, Colleen Brosnan, and Michael Siddal.

Tanzania Cannon-Ecklerle from event sponsor Royal, P.C. with Joe Ecklerle of Pelican Products and Brew Practitioners.

Tanzania Cannon-Ecklerle from event sponsor Royal, P.C. with Joe Ecklerle of Pelican Products and Brew Practitioners.

From 2018 Difference Maker Girls Inc. of Holyoke

From 2018 Difference Maker Girls Inc. of Holyoke, from left: Johana (Stella’s mother), Stella, Haley, Kylie (Haley’s mother), Emhanie, Brandy Wilson, Becky Bouchard, and Suzanne Parker.

Staff from NAI Plotkin turn out to celebrate 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin.

Staff from NAI Plotkin turn out to celebrate 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin.

Patrick O’Neil and Katie O’Neil from 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation.

Patrick O’Neil and Katie O’Neil from 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.

Crystal Senter-Brown, left, and Suzanne Parker

Crystal Senter-Brown, left, and Suzanne Parker of Girls Inc. in Holyoke, both 2018 Difference Makers.

Bob Perry, retired CPA, a 2011 Difference Maker.

Bob Perry, retired CPA, a 2011 Difference Maker.

Kim Lee of the Center for Human Development.

Kim Lee of the Center for Human Development.

Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, accepts his award as a 2018 Difference Maker.

Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, accepts his award as a 2018 Difference Maker.

Will Burke, the namesake and inspiration for the WillPower Foundation, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Will Burke, the namesake and inspiration for the WillPower Foundation, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Stella and Emhanie, two of the girls from Girls Inc. of Holyoke, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Stella and Emhanie, two of the girls from Girls Inc. of Holyoke, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Bob Charland celebrates his 2018 Difference Maker award with fiancée Joanne Hansmann.

Bob Charland celebrates his 2018 Difference Maker award with fiancée Joanne Hansmann.

George O’Brien hands the 2018 Difference Maker award to Crystal Senter-Brown

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien hands the 2018 Difference Maker award to Crystal Senter-Brown.

The WillPower Foundation

The WillPower Foundation’s Jeff Palm, Maria Burke, Sarah Aasheim, Will Burke, and Craig Burke accept their 2018 Difference Maker award from BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien (right).

 

Agenda Departments

Gray House
Spaghetti Supper
March 19: The Gray House will hold its 27th annual spaghetti supper from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greek Cultural Center, 8 Plainfield St. in Springfield. All proceeds from the family-friendly event will help the Gray House provide food, educational services, and youth programming to neighbors living in poverty. This year’s event sponsor is Freedom Credit Union, and platinum sponsors include PeoplesBank and the Springfield Chapter of UNICO National.
Tickets for the event are a minimum donation of $5. Children 6 and under are free, and all tickets can be purchased at the door. Supper, dessert, and children’s activities are available, as well as the opportunity to win raffle prizes such as Okemo Mountain lift tickets, a Tree House Brewing Co. basket, and many others. The grand-prize raffle includes a foursome to the Ranch Golf Club, tickets to a Boston Red Sox game, and a 32-inch smart TV. Winners do not need to be present to win the grand-prize raffle, and entry tickets can be purchased in advance by calling (413) 734-6696. This year, the Gray House will honor St. Michael’s Parish and Knights of Columbus Council #9960 of East Longmeadow. The event would not be possible without the support of the St. Michael’s Knights of Columbus and parishioners, said Teresa Liberti, executive director of the Gray House. “For over 20 years, they have been an integral part of making the spaghetti supper such a success. They are the ones who are cooking and serving the food for over 400 guests we have every year.”

Difference Makers
March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners were announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit www.businesswest.com. Sponsors include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., Health New England, and Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

Caritas Gala
April 21: Plans are underway for Mercy Medical Center’s second annual Caritas Gala at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The gala, with its Motown-inspired theme “Reach Out,” will raise funds to support Mercy Behavioral Health Care and the Mercy Emergency Department’s Opioid Community Outreach for education, intervention, and treatment. Dr. Mohamed and Kimberly Hamdani, along with Paul and Anna Mancinone, are honorary chairpersons for the Caritas Gala. Longtime supporters of Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Hamdani has served as chairman of Surgery, chairman of Credentials, and president of the medical staff at Mercy, and Paul Mancinone serves on the board for Trinity Health Of New England. The Caritas Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, live entertainment from the band Motor City Magic, and a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 8 p.m., following by a live auction and dancing until midnight with music from the band Radiance. Preregistration is required by Friday, March 23. For more information or to purchase tickets to the Caritas Gala, visit www.mercycares.com/caritas-gala.

Mayors’ Economic Forum
April 26: “Mayors Meet Millennials” is the title of the 2018 New England Knowledge Corridor Mayors’ Economic Forum at Goodwin College in East Hartford, Conn. The program begins with coffee and conversation from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., followed by the conference program from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Participating mayors include Domenic Sarno (Springfield), Richard Kos (Chicopee), Marcia Leclerc (East Hartford), Erin Stewart (New Britain), and Luke Bronin (Hartford). Registration options and more information will be available soon.

40 Under Forty Gala
June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018, which will be unveiled in the April 30 issue of BusinessWest. Also, the fourth Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. The 40 Under Forty sponsors include PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), Isenberg School of Management, Health New England, and the MP Group. Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available), and the event always sells out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on Thursday, March 22. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region.

This year’s honorees, which were announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue, include Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores; Bob “the Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth; Girls Inc. of Holyoke; Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin; Crystal Senter-Brown, author and adjunct faculty at Bay Path University; and WillPower Foundation.

The Difference Makers Gala will begin at 5 p.m. with networking and opportunities to meet this year’s honorees. There will be live entertainment, butlered hors d’oeuvres, a plated dinner, and more networking opportunities. Sponsors include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., Health New England, and Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit www.businesswest.com.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on Thursday, March 22. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region.

This year’s honorees, which were announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue, include Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores; Bob “the Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth; Girls Inc. of Holyoke; Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin; Crystal Senter-Brown, author and adjunct faculty at Bay Path University; and WillPower Foundation.

The Difference Makers Gala will begin at 5 p.m. with networking and opportunities to meet this year’s honorees. There will be live entertainment, butlered hors d’oeuvres, a plated dinner, and more networking opportunities. Sponsors include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., Health New England, and Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit www.businesswest.com.

Agenda Departments

WGBY Wine & Food Lovers Weekend

March 9-10: The WGBY Wine & Food Lovers Weekend returns for its 33rd year with an Irish theme, featuring PBS chef Kevin Dundon, host of the popular cooking show Modern Irish Food. The weekend kicks off March 9 with the region’s largest benefit tasting event, featuring more than 300 wines, craft beers, and specialty food vendors, taking up three large function halls inside Springfield’s Tower Square Hotel. The tasting is followed on March 10 by the WGBY Wine Lovers Dinner at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Dundon has created a seven-course menu of Irish cuisine and will be on hand to explain each featured dish. The meal will be executed by Log Cabin Executive Chef Mick Corduff, and each course will feature two wines, matched by Table & Vine Wine Sales Manager Michael Quinlan and his team. For a sneak peek at the WGBY Wine Lovers Dinner menu, visit wgby.org/wine/menu. Tickets to the March 9 tasting event in downtown Springfield are $49 each; tickets to the seven-course gourmet dinner on March 10 in Holyoke are $175 each. Both are available online at wgby.org/wine or at Table & Vine in West Springfield. Proceeds benefit public television and PBS station WGBY. The event is sponsored by Big Y World Class Markets, Table & Vine, the Dennis Group, and AM Lithography. Media sponsors include BusinessWest, the Healthcare News, and the Republican.

Hockey ‘N Heels

March 10: Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts will host its second annual Hockey ‘N Heels night before the Springfield Thunderbirds game against the Utica Comets from 4 to 6 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Baystate Health and Health New England will sponsor “Pink in the Rink” as part of the game. Attendees are invited to put on their best heels and join a fun ladies’ night. A donation of $50 buys entrance to the pre-game reception, as well as admission to the Thunderbirds game, starting at 7:05 p.m. The $50 also includes a $20 donation to Dress for Success Western Massachusetts to support its programming in 2018. During the reception, Amber Cox, vice president of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and the New England Black Wolves (a professional box lacrosse team), will share her experiences as a woman working in a male-dominated industry. The event will also feature samplings offered by Commercial Distributing, appetizers, and pictures with Boomer, the Thunderbirds’ mascot. Visit springfieldthunderbirds.formstack.com/forms/hockeynheels2018 to purchase tickets.

‘Pricing and Positioning Your Business for Sale’

March 16: Attention all business owners: if you plan to retire, or think you might someday want to change gears in your life, you will eventually be faced with the task of selling or transferring ownership of your business. With this in mind, Philip Steckler and Eric Lineback of Country Business Inc. (CBI) will present a workshop titled “Maximize the Value of Your Business: Properly Pricing and Positioning Your Business For Sale” from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Holyoke Public Library. CBI, a business-brokerage and merger-and-acquisition firm, has managed the sales of more than 1,200 businesses since 1976, with sale prices ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to $30 million, including local businesses Quabbin Industries, New England Wetland Plants, Danco Modern, Bart’s Ice Cream, and Graphic Printing. Steckler and Lineback will introduce business owners to topics such as maximizing the value of a business, properly pricing and positioning a business for sale, attracting qualified buyers, minimizing taxes, and maintaining confidentiality. Additional topics covered will include analyzing a business’ strengths and weaknesses, understanding the marketplace, valuing a business and properly setting the purchase price and terms, and more. To register, contact Ira Bryck at the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley at [email protected] or (413) 835-0810.

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners will be announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit HERE. Sponsors include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., Health New England, and Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held June 21starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018. Also, the fourth Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. The 40 Under Forty sponsors include PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), Isenberg School of Management, Mercedes Benz of Springfield, and the MP Group. Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available). For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on Thursday, March 22. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region.

This year’s honorees, which were announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue, include Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores; Bob “the Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth; Girls Inc. of Holyoke; Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin; Crystal Senter-Brown, author and adjunct faculty at Bay Path University; and WillPower Foundation.

The Difference Makers Gala will begin at 5 p.m. with networking and opportunities to meet this year’s honorees. There will be live entertainment, butlered hors d’oeuvres, a plated dinner, and more networking opportunities. Sponsors include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., Health New England, and Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit www.businesswest.com.

Difference Makers

Honorees since the first class of 2009

2018:

Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores
Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin
Crystal Senter-Brown, Author & Adjunct Faculty at Bay Path University
WillPower Foundation

2017:

The Community Colleges of Western Massachusetts; Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield Technical Community College
•    Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round
•    Denis Gagnon Sr., President & CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.
•    Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts
•    Joan Kagan, President & CEO of Square One.

2016:

•    Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr.
•    Mike Balise, Balise Motor Sales, Philanthropist (1965-2015)
•    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties
•    Bay Path University President Carol Leary
•    John Robison, president, J.E. Robison Service

2015:

•    Katelynn’s Ride
•    Judy Matt, president of Spirit of Springfield
•    MassMutual Financial Group
•    The ownership group of the Student Prince and the Fort
•    Valley Venture Mentors

2014:

•    The Gray House
•    Colleen Loveless, executive director of the Springfield chapter of Rebuilding Together
•    The Melha Shriners
•    Paula Moore, founder of YSET Academy and a teacher at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Training Academy
•    Michael Moriarty, attorney, director of Olde Holyoke Development Corp., and supporter of childhood literacy programs

2013:

•    Michael Cutone, John Barbieri, and Thomas Sarrouf, organizers of Springfield’s C3 Policing program
•    John Downing, president of Soldier On
•    Bruce Landon, president and general manager of the Springfield Falcons
•    The Sisters of Providence
•    Jim Vinick, managing director of Investments for Moors & Cabot Inc.

2012:

•   Charlie and Donald D’Amour, president/COO and chairman/CEO of Big Y Foods
•   William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College
•   Majors Tom and Linda-Jo Perks, officers of the Springfield Corps of the Salvation Army
•   Bob Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines
•   The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts

2011:

•    Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
•    Lucia Giuggio Carvalho, founder of Rays of Hope
•    Don Kozera, president of Human Resources Unlimited
•    Robert Perry, retired partner/consultant at Meyers Brothers Kalicka
•    Anthony Scott, Holyoke police chief

2010:

•    The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
•    Ellen Freyman, attorney and shareholder at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.
•    James Goodwin, president and CEO of the Center for Human Development
•    Carol Katz, CEO of the Loomis Communities
•    UMass Amherst and its chancellor, Robert Holub

2009:

•    Doug Bowen, president and CEO of PeoplesBank
•    Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of Northwestern Mutual Financial/the Zuzolo Group
•    Susan Jaye-Kaplan, founder of GoFIT and co-founder of Link to Libraries
•    William Ward, executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
•   The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield

Difference Makers

Honorees since the first class of 2009

2018:

Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores
Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin
Crystal Senter-Brown, Author & Adjunct Faculty at Bay Path University
WillPower Foundation

2017:

The Community Colleges of Western Massachusetts; Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield Technical Community College
•    Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round
•    Denis Gagnon Sr., President & CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.
•    Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts
•    Joan Kagan, President & CEO of Square One.

2016:

•    Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr.
•    Mike Balise, Balise Motor Sales, Philanthropist (1965-2015)
•    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties
•    Bay Path University President Carol Leary
•    John Robison, president, J.E. Robison Service

2015:

•    Katelynn’s Ride
•    Judy Matt, president of Spirit of Springfield
•    MassMutual Financial Group
•    The ownership group of the Student Prince and the Fort
•    Valley Venture Mentors

2014:

•    The Gray House
•    Colleen Loveless, executive director of the Springfield chapter of Rebuilding Together
•    The Melha Shriners
•    Paula Moore, founder of YSET Academy and a teacher at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Training Academy
•    Michael Moriarty, attorney, director of Olde Holyoke Development Corp., and supporter of childhood literacy programs

2013:

•    Michael Cutone, John Barbieri, and Thomas Sarrouf, organizers of Springfield’s C3 Policing program
•    John Downing, president of Soldier On
•    Bruce Landon, president and general manager of the Springfield Falcons
•    The Sisters of Providence
•    Jim Vinick, managing director of Investments for Moors & Cabot Inc.

2012:

•   Charlie and Donald D’Amour, president/COO and chairman/CEO of Big Y Foods
•   William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College
•   Majors Tom and Linda-Jo Perks, officers of the Springfield Corps of the Salvation Army
•   Bob Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines
•   The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts

2011:

•    Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
•    Lucia Giuggio Carvalho, founder of Rays of Hope
•    Don Kozera, president of Human Resources Unlimited
•    Robert Perry, retired partner/consultant at Meyers Brothers Kalicka
•    Anthony Scott, Holyoke police chief

2010:

•    The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
•    Ellen Freyman, attorney and shareholder at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.
•    James Goodwin, president and CEO of the Center for Human Development
•    Carol Katz, CEO of the Loomis Communities
•    UMass Amherst and its chancellor, Robert Holub

2009:

•    Doug Bowen, president and CEO of PeoplesBank
•    Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of Northwestern Mutual Financial/the Zuzolo Group
•    Susan Jaye-Kaplan, founder of GoFIT and co-founder of Link to Libraries
•    William Ward, executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
•   The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield

Agenda Departments

Bar Talk for Isenberg Alumni

Feb. 20: No matter the establishment, bar talk can be engaging and insightful. That’s why Vinnie Daboul of Sage Benefits started hosting Bar Talk events for Isenberg School of Management alumni in Western Mass. These informal events are ideal for cultivating formal connections and alumni networks. The next Bar Talk session will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Max’s Tavern in Springfield. Attendees will be able to meet two Isenberg representatives: Jennifer Winkelman, executive director of Constituent Relations, and Thomas Moliterno, associate dean of Faculty & Engagement and overseer for the construction of the new Isenberg Innovation Hub. Appetizers will be served. Each attendee will receive one drink ticket. RSVP by e-mailing [email protected]

Lecture on Chronic Pain

Feb. 22: Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) will host a free discussion, “Living with Chronic Pain,” at 5:30 p.m. in the HMC Auxiliary Conference Center. Chronic pain can impact both one’s personal and professional life. HMC’s new Pain Management Center can help individuals manage that pain and get back to enjoying life. Dr. Joseph Strebel, director of the Pain Management Center, will discuss the comprehensive, multi-disciplinary treatment approach that HMC now offers, and what that can mean for one’s quality of life. This program is free and open to the public, and is part of Holyoke Medical Center’s community education programming, one in a series of workshops held throughout the year to help people learn about specific health issues, wellness, prevention, and treatment. To register for this event, visit www.holyokehealth.com/events or call (413) 534-2789.

Melha Shriners Last Dance

Feb. 24: As the Melha Shriners prepare to move from its current location, the Melha Shrine Center at 133 Longhill St. in Springfield, it will host a last hurrah of sorts: a Last Dance event. Beginning with a social hour at 6 p.m., attendees will enjoy a dinner of pasta and meatballs, salad, and rolls at 7 p.m. The evening will culminate with dancing to tunes presented by D.J. Rene Vadnais until midnight with chances to win 50/50 raffle prizes throughout the evening. The cost to attend the Last Dance is $15 per person. The Melha Shriners have been in their current location since 1959. “We have had such great support from the public and from our Shriners at so many events in our facility for the past 59 years, and we’re looking forward to being able to thank everyone for that support, which we hope will continue as we move into a new era,” said Glenn Suprenant, 2018 potentate of the Melha Shriners. Added Michael White, Shriners public relations chairman, “we want to have this special night for everyone to be able to celebrate our continued commitment to all that we represent as Shriners.” While the Shriners will be moving to a new facility within the next several months, its leadership team has continued to stress that the only change being made is the location of their facility, not their commitment to all that they represent. Those interested in purchasing tickets may do so by contacting the Shrine office at (413) 736-3647 or visiting melhashriners.com. Tickets will be sold at the door based on availability. For further information, contact Al Zippin at (413) 219-8655.

Springfield College Fit Fest

Feb. 26: The annual Springfield College Fit Fest will take place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Springfield College Field House inside the Wellness and Recreation Complex. Fit Fest is free and open to the public. More than 40 exhibits and activities representing Springfield College groups and area businesses will address wellness topics including mental health, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, financial literacy, social programs for kids and adults with disabilities, and physical-fitness testing. Attendees will have the opportunity to receive a free chair massage, have their body fat measured, participate in a functional movement screening, and learn about self-defense. Exhibitors in attendance will include the YWCA of Western Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Better Life Whole Foods, Tapestry Health, the Center for Human Development, and more.

MS Excel Skill Training

Feb. 26 to March 1: In conversations with area employers, Tech Foundry has learned that MS Excel is a pressing skill need for current workforce across Western Mass. Hundreds of workers in the Pioneer Valley alone use Excel on a daily basis, and only a small fraction have the training and skill needed to maximize job success and productivity. To meet this need, Tech Foundry is offering a four-day training class on Excel at its offices on the ninth floor of 1391 Main St., Springfield. The class will run each day from 9 a.m. to noon and cover the following skills: advanced formulas; tables and formatting; conditional formatting; advanced charting; pivot tables and pivot reporting; VBA and macros; using Excel productively; data tables, simulations, and Solver; Excel integration; and optimizing Excel. The cost per student is $750. However, employers with fewer than 100 employees are eligible for a 50% tuition reimbursement from Commonwealth Corp. To register, e-mail [email protected], or call Jonathan Edwards with questions at (413) 276-0609, ext. 100.

EMT Training Program

March 5 to June 20: Holyoke Community College, in collaboration with the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. and Emergency Medical Training Solutions, is offering an EMT training program at the E2E: Quaboag Region Workforce Training and Community College Center at 79 Main St., Ware. The EMT-B Emergency Medical Technician Basic course meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 10 p.m. and on select Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The 13-week program consists of more than 170 hours of in-class lectures and additional online study, training, field trips, and workshops designed to prepare students for the state EMT certification exam. The course covers all aspects of emergency care, including patient handling, extrication, communication, working with law enforcement, legal issues, ethics, medical equipment, and safe transportation of patients. The course fee is $1,099 plus $200 for texts. For more information or to register, contact Ken White at (413) 552-2324 or [email protected], or visit www.hcc.edu/workforce.

Pricing and Positioning a Business for Sale

March 16: Attention all business owners: if you plan to retire, or think you might someday want to change gears in your life, you will eventually be faced with the task of selling or transferring ownership of your business.With this in mind, Philip Steckler and Eric Lineback of Country Business Inc. (CBI) will present a workshop titled “Maximize the Value of Your Business: Properly Pricing and Positioning Your Business For Sale” on Friday, March 16 from 9 to 11:30 
a.m. at Holyoke Public Library. CBI, a business-brokerage and merger-and-acquisition firm, has managed the sales of more than 1,200 businesses since 1976. Steckler and Lineback will introduce business owners to topics such as maximizing the value of a business, properly pricing and positioning a business for sale, attracting qualified buyers, minimizing taxes, and maintaining confidentiality. Additional topics covered will include analyzing a business’ strengths and weaknesses, understanding the marketplace, valuing a business and properly setting the purchase price and terms, and more.

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners were announced and profiled in the Feb. 5 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit www.businesswest.com. Sponsors to date include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., and Health New England. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Caritas Gala

April 21: Plans are underway for Mercy Medical Center’s second annual Caritas Gala at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The gala, with its Motown-inspired theme “Reach Out,” will raise funds to support Mercy Behavioral Health Care and the Mercy Emergency Department’s Opioid Community Outreach for education, intervention, and treatment. Dr. Mohamed and Kimberly Hamdani, along with Paul and Anna Mancinone, are honorary chairpersons for the Caritas Gala. Longtime supporters of Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Hamdani has served as chairman of Surgery, chairman of Credentials, and president of the medical staff at Mercy, and Paul Mancinone serves on the board for Trinity Health Of New England. “Today, we are challenged by the opioid epidemic and its impact on individuals of all ages, races, and economic levels,” Dr. Hamdani said. “Mercy Behavioral Health Care looks beyond the stigma of addiction and provides treatment that supports people in their efforts to recover.” The Caritas Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, live entertainment from the band Motor City Magic, and a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 8 p.m., following by a live auction and dancing until midnight with music from the band Radiance. Preregistration is required by Friday, March 23. For more information or to purchase tickets to the Caritas Gala, visit www.mercycares.com/caritas-gala.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018. Also, the fourth Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. Presenting sponsors are PeoplesBank and Northwestern Mutual. Additional sponsors include Isenberg School of Management and the MP Group. Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available). For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Class of 2018 Cover Story Difference Makers

difference-makers-logoBack in late 2008, the management team at BusinessWest conceived a new recognition program.

It was called Difference Makers because this would be a trait shared by those who would be honored — they were all making a difference in the community. The goal was, and is, to show the many ways in which an individual or group can make a difference, and suffice to say this goal has been met.

And the class of 2018, the program’s 10th, makes this even more abundantly clear, as the stories below show.

This year’s sponsors are Health New England, Royal, P.C., and Sunshine Village.

The six members of the Class of 2018 will be honored on Thursday, March 22 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. For information about that event, sponsorship opportunities, or to purchase tickets, go HERE or call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

 

005_bolducbob-diff2017Community Pride

Bob Bolduc Cooks Up New Ways to Better the Lives of Young People

032_charlandbobmain-diff2017Pedal to the Mettle

‘Bike Man’ Bob Charland’s Story Has Been a Truly Inspirational Ride

022_girlsincmain-diff2017A Force to Be Reckoned With

Girls Inc. Inspires Members to be Strong, Smart, and Bold

017_plotkinevan-diff2017Portrait of the Artist

Evan Plotkin Works to Fill in the Canvas Known as Springfield

008_crystalcenterbrown-diff2017Write On

Crystal Senter-Brown Enlightens and Empowers Those She Touches

020_willpowermainuse-diff2017Where There’s a Will

The Unique Nonprofit Known as WillPower Meets Some Very Special Needs

 

Sponsored by

PrintRoyalPCSunshineVillage

Opinion

Editorial

‘Empower’ is a word with a very specific, somewhat technical definition. To empower means to essentially grant someone or some entity the official authority, or legal power, to do something.

But that’s not how most people deploy that verb these days. They use it to describe how individuals and groups provide others with, well, whatever it takes to do something they couldn’t do before. To ‘empower’ means, generally speaking, to enable someone to overcome obstacles, reach higher, dream bigger, and accomplish more than they thought they could.

Again, that’s not the definition you’ll find in the dictionary. But it’s the one that works in most cases, and especially BusinessWest’s Difference Makers Class of 2018.

All of this year’s six honorees — both individuals and groups — are empowering others to essentially recalibrate and find a higher quality of life (See stories HERE). That’s a somewhat poetic way to knit these impressive stories together, but it works. Let’s take a closer look:

• Through his deep involvement in almost all things Springfield, Evan Plotkin is essentially empowering the City of Homes to reclaim some of its past glory and position itself for a better future as Millennials and Baby Boomers alike rediscover urban living. Plotkin likes to say his collective efforts are aimed at ‘activating’ facilities and attractions ranging from Court Square to the riverfront to the ill-fated Pynchon Park. And his success with projects like the annual Jazz & Roots Festival downtown are bringing people to Springfield and creating much-needed momentum.

• Girls Inc., a nonprofit that serves individuals in low-income neighborhoods, essentially empowers girls to rise above the many challenges they face and set the bar for their lives and careers much higher than they probably would otherwise. It does this through programming that introduces girls to careers in many realms, but especially the STEM fields, but also gives them the confidence to pursue them. As it says on the Girls Inc. letterhead, it inspires members to be strong, smart, and bold.

• Similarly, Crystal Senter-Brown, an author and educator, empowers many constituencies, but especially girls and women, to reach higher, overcome adversity, and give back to their community. She does this through children’s books, novels, a course she teaches at Bay Path University called “Leadership in Practice,” and talks to groups of women looking for direction and the inspiration to do what’s necessary to turn their lives around.

• The WillPower Foundation empowers individuals with different abilities and their families to find a higher quality life by filling gaps in the coverage of care for such individuals. A unique nonprofit, it provides grants rather than services, and many of these grants are for only a few hundred dollars. But what they lack in size they make up for in true meaning. Indeed, these grants fund equipment and forms of therapy (like horseback riding) that are not covered by insurance and thus often beyond the reach of families.

• Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores, empowers area nonprofits to do the important work they do by consistently supporting them not only with gifts of money, but, in many cases, with contributions of time, energy, and imagination. He received press coverage across the country and even around the world when he donated his share of that record lottery payout last summer to charities, but he’s been giving back quietly and effectively for decades now.

• As for Bob Charland, a.k.a. ‘the Bike Man’ and ‘the Bike Guy,’ he’s empowering young people to take a ride on a bicycle — in many cases, the first one they’ve ever owned. But that’s understating his impact on those he touches. Indeed, as he carries out his work in the community, he does so knowing that he has a terminal illness — and not knowing just how much time he has. His determination to make the very most of that time and find new ways to give back is inspiring and, yes, empowering others to do the same.

So there you have it, the Class of 2018, what you might call an ‘empowerful’ group of Difference Makers.

Agenda Departments

Book Discussion with Judge Michael Ponsor

Feb. 5: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. invites the public to a reading and book talk with New York Times bestselling author Judge Michael Ponsor from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Fort, 8 Fort St., Springfield. Ponsor will discuss his first novel, The Hanging Judge, released in 2013, and his new novel, The One-Eyed Judge, a fast-paced and thought-provoking legal fiction. This event is a fund-raiser for the newly established Hampden County Bar Foundation. There is no fee for attending this event; however, a donation for the foundation is encouraged. Ponsor will be donating a portion of the sales of his books at the event to the foundation.

Heart Health Symposium

Feb. 6: Springfield College will welcome health experts from Baystate Medical Center, the New England Center for Functional Medicine, and the Springfield College Nutrional Sciences Program for a Heart Health Symposium in the Cleveland E. and Phyllis B. Dodge Room inside the Flynn Campus Union starting at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Led by Springfield College Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies Chair Dr. Sue Guyer, a panel of experts, including Baystate Medical Center Cardiac Rehab and Wellness Manager Heidi Szalai, New England Center for Functional Medicine Medical Director Dr. Christopher Keroack, and Springfield College Nutritional Sciences Associate Professor Donna Chapman, will discuss topics ranging from risk factors for heart disease to the benefits of healthy living, and stressing the importance of good nutrition for a healthy heart. The symposium is a continuation of the Springfield College Exercise Is Medicine Speaker Series that is part of Guyer’s on-campus initiative while serving as the 2017-18 Springfield College Distinguished Professor of Humanics. Earlier this academic year, as part of the humanics project, Springfield College was officially registered as an Exercise Is Medicine on Campus institution. The mission of this is to foster collaborative relationships and leadership on campus between exercise, health, and other disciplines. The vision is to see all campus and community members across multiple disciplines discover, share, and adopt principles that will change the culture of chronic disease prevention and management. If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation to fully participate in this event, contact Laura Feeley as soon as possible at [email protected] or (413) 748-3178 to discuss your accessibility needs. Springfield College is a smoke- and tobacco-free campus.

Free Legal Help Hotline

Feb. 8: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will hold a Legal Help Hotline in conjunction with Western New England University School of Law from 4 to 7 p.m. at Western New England University School of Law, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. The volunteers will provide legal advice on a variety of topics, including divorce and family law, bankruptcy, business, landlord/tenant, and real estate. Additionally, in light of recent immigration developments, attorneys with immigration-law experience will be available to answer questions. Spanish-speaking attorneys will also be available. Individuals needing advice should call (413) 796-2057 to speak to a volunteer.

‘Ethan at 21’ to Screen at Film Festival

Feb. 10-11: A film 12 years in the making features an Amherst family dealing with autism. Ethan at 21 is the showcase film at a film festival hosted by Pathlight, Whole Children, and Five College Realtors, with two showings and locations. The festival also features three short documentaries from the renowned Sprout Film Festival. All of the films feature individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Ethan at 21 is a challenging film that explores whether society is equipped to care for the growing population of young adults with disabilities, including autism. Shot over 12 years, it is also a funny, poignant, truthful, portrait of one family. “I began making this film when I was 26 and single,” said filmmaker Josephine Sittenfeld. “Over the past 11 years, I met my husband, married, and became a mother of two. I was always inspired by Ethan and his family, but making this film gained additional importance for me after I became a parent. Ethan’s parents are my heroes. Through their example, I’ve continually been reminded what good parenting is — and that, above all, it includes letting your child carve his own path.” This is a sneak peek screening of a film in progress, and will be shown on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2 to 4 p.m. at Mills Theater in Carr Hall at Bay Path University in Longmeadow; and on Sunday, Feb. 11, (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) at Hadley Farms Meeting House in Hadley. The filmmaker is eager for audience feedback as she looks toward festival distribution and broadcast later this year. Sittenfeld, Ethan, and his family will be on hand for a question-and-answer period after each screening. The film festival also includes three short films from New York-based Sprout Film Festival, whose mission is “to inspire audiences, promote inclusion, and support transformative filmmaking as an integral part of social change.” Admission to either showing is $10 and includes a post-film reception as well as a panel discussion with the Ethan at 21 filmmaker. To learn more about Pathlight and Whole Children or to register for the film festival, visit www.wholechildren.org.

Talk with Journalist Linda Greenhouse

Feb. 11: Kimball Farms Life Care in Lenox will host Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse at 2 p.m. Greenhouse covered the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times for 30 years, and her talk will focus on current issues facing the court. Greenhouse is the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, and writes a biweekly op-ed column for the New York Times as a contributing columnist. Her latest book, “Just a Journalist,” an autobiographical essay on the practice of journalism, was published this fall by Harvard University Press. Greenhouse was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism (Beat Reporting) in 1998 “for her consistently illuminating coverage of the United States Supreme Court.” In 2004, she received the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism and the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. She was a Radcliffe Institute Medal winner in 2006. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to (413) 637-7043. Seating is limited. Kimball Farms Life Care, located at 235 Walker St. in Lenox, provides a continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, short-term rehabilitation, and long-term skilled-nursing care.

40 Under Forty Nomination Deadline

Feb. 16: BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2018 through the end of the work day (5 p.m.) on Friday, Feb 16. The annual program, now in its 12th year, recognizes rising stars within the Western Mass. community, which includes Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. This year’s group of 40 will be profiled in the magazine’s April 30 edition, then toasted at the June 21 gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke (see below). The nomination form, which can be found online HERE, requests basic information and can be supported with other material, such as a résumé, testimonials, and even press clippings highlighting an individual’s achievements in their profession or service to their community.

Inclusive Sports Sampler for Young Adults with an IDD

Feb. 17: For parents of young adults who have an IDD (intellectual or developmental disability), there is one challenge shared by all: identifying inclusive and accessible recreational experiences in their local community that offer opportunities for peer connections and fun, at low cost. Best Buddies, CHD Disability Resources, and Extra Innings understand this challenge firsthand and have combined resources to offer a solution. These organizations are teaming up to present the Young Adult Sports Sampler. This event gives members of the community who have an IDD, ages 14-22, an opportunity to sample several activities at once, in one location. The Young Adult Sampler takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Extra Innings, 340 McKinstry Ave., #250, Chicopee. A wide range of accessible and inclusive activities will be offered, including dance and movement, martial arts, intro to sled hockey, Wiffle ball, baseball simulator, and intro to adaptive bikes. There is no cost to attend, but an RSVP is appreciated. Contact Jessica Levine at [email protected] by Saturday, Feb. 10. The snow date is March 3.

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners will be announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or go HERE. Sponsors to date include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., and Health New England. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018. Also, the third Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available), and the event always sells out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Agenda Departments

Retirement and Elder-care Planning Seminar

Feb. 3: A retirement and elder-care planning seminar will take place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Church in the Acres, 1383 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. Presenters include David Fedor, certified financial planner, practitioner, and chartered retirement planning counselor from Commonwealth Financial Network; Sharon Connor from Choices Elder Support; Mary-Anne Schelb from JGS Lifecare; Jennifer Kinsman from Acti-Kare; and Lisa Beauvais, estate-planning attorney. This event is free and open to the public. Call (413) 726-9044 to RSVP.

Free Legal Help Hotline

Feb. 8: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will hold a Legal Help Hotline in conjunction with Western New England University School of Law from 4 to 7 p.m. at Western New England University School of Law, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. The volunteers will provide legal advice on a variety of topics, including divorce and family law, bankruptcy, business, landlord/tenant, and real estate. Additionally, in light of recent immigration developments, attorneys with immigration-law experience will be available to answer questions. Spanish-speaking attorneys will also be available. Individuals needing advice should call (413) 796-2057 to speak to a volunteer.

40 Under Forty Nomination Deadline

Feb. 16: BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2018 through the end of the work day (5 p.m.) on Friday, Feb 16. The annual program, now in its 12th year, recognizes rising stars within the Western Mass. community, which includes Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. This year’s group of 40 will be profiled in the magazine’s April 30 edition, then toasted at the June 21 gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke (see below). The nomination form, which can be found online HERE, requests basic information and can be supported with other material, such as a résumé, testimonials, and even press clippings highlighting an individual’s achievements in their profession or service to their community.

Inclusive Sports Sampler

Feb. 17: For parents of young adults who have an IDD (intellectual or developmental disability), there is one challenge shared by all: identifying inclusive and accessible recreational experiences in their local community that offer opportunities for peer connections and fun, at low cost. Best Buddies, CHD Disability Resources, and Extra Innings understand this challenge firsthand and have combined resources to offer a solution. These organizations are teaming up to present the Young Adult Sports Sampler. This event gives members of the community who have an IDD, ages 14-22, an opportunity to sample several activities at once, in one location. The Young Adult Sampler takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Extra Innings, 340 McKinstry Ave., #250, Chicopee. A wide range of accessible and inclusive activities will be offered, including dance and movement, martial arts, intro to sled hockey, Wiffle ball, baseball simulator, and intro to adaptive bikes. There is no cost to attend, but an RSVP is appreciated. Contact Jessica Levine at [email protected] by Saturday, Feb. 10.

EMT Training Program

March 5 to June 20: Holyoke Community College, in collaboration with the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. and Emergency Medical Training Solutions, is offering an EMT training program at the E2E: Quaboag Region Workforce Training and Community College Center at 79 Main St., Ware. The EMT-B Emergency Medical Technician Basic course meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 10 p.m. and on select Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The 13-week program consists of more than 170 hours of in-class lectures and additional online study, training, field trips, and workshops designed to prepare students for the state EMT certification exam. The course covers all aspects of emergency care, including patient handling, extrication, communication, working with law enforcement, legal issues, ethics, medical equipment, and safe transportation of patients. The course fee is $1,099 plus $200 for texts. For more information or to register, contact Ken White at (413) 552-2324 or [email protected], or visit www.hcc.edu/workforce.

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners will be announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit HERE. Sponsors to date include Sunshine Village and Royal, P.C. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2017. Also, the third Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available), and the event always sells out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected].

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