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Class of 2022 Special Coverage

View the Video of 2022 Celebration Here

Presenting Sponsors:

It’s been well over a decade since the first Difference Maker award was presented by BusinessWest.

Much has happened since then, but the Difference Maker award remains a constant — and a symbol of excellence and dedication to improving quality of life in this region.

Since the very beginning, this recognition program has shown conclusively that there are a great many ways to make a difference. And the class of 2022, the program’s 14th, makes this even more abundantly clear, as the stories clearly show.

The 2022 Difference Makers

Click on each NAME to read their story!

Tara Brewster

Vice President of Business Development, Greenfield Savings Bank


The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts


Heriberto Flores

President, New England Farm Workers’ Council


John Greaney

Retired State Supreme Court Justice; Senior Counsel, Bulkley Richardson

Ruth Griggs

President, Northampton Jazz Festival; Principal, RC Communications


Ted Hebert

Founder and Owner, Teddy Bear Pools and Spas


I Found Light Against All Odds and Its Founder and CEO, Stefan Davis


Roca Holyoke and Springfield

Click on each NAME to watch their Video!

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers. The 14th annual Difference Makers celebration will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke tomorrow, March 24. More than 300 guests are expected, but tickets are still available. Tickets cost $75 and can be ordered online by clicking here.

The event will begin with a VIP reception for honorees and sponsors from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The doors will open to all other guests at 5:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The 2022 Difference Makers include Tara Brewster, vice president of Business Development at Greenfield Savings Bank; the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers’ Council; John Greaney, retired State Supreme Court justice and senior counsel at Bulkley Richardson; Ruth Griggs, president of the Northampton Jazz Festival and principal at RC Communications; Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools and Spas; I Found Light Against All Odds and Its Founder and CEO, Stefan Davis; and Roca Holyoke and Springfield. Their stories are told in the Feb. 16 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the New England Farm Workers’ Council, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and Westfield Bank.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers. The 14th annual Difference Makers celebration will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on Thursday, March 24 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $75 and can be ordered online by clicking here.

The 2022 Difference Makers include Tara Brewster, vice president of Business Development at Greenfield Savings Bank; the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers’ Council; John Greaney, retired State Supreme Court justice and senior counsel at Bulkley Richardson; Ruth Griggs, president of the Northampton Jazz Festival and principal at RC Communications; Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools and Spas; I Found Light Against All Odds and Its Founder and CEO, Stefan Davis; and Roca Holyoke and Springfield. Their stories are told in the Feb. 16 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the New England Farm Workers’ Council, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and Westfield Bank.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Since 2009, BusinessWest has been recognizing the work of individuals, groups, businesses, and institutions through a program called Difference Makers. The 14th annual Difference Makers celebration will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on Thursday, March 24 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $75 and can be ordered online by clicking here.

The 2022 Difference Makers include Tara Brewster, vice president of Business Development at Greenfield Savings Bank; the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers’ Council; John Greaney, retired State Supreme Court justice and senior counsel at Bulkley Richardson; Ruth Griggs, president of the Northampton Jazz Festival and principal at RC Communications; Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools and Spas; I Found Light Against All Odds and Its Founder and CEO, Stefan Davis; and Roca Holyoke and Springfield. Their stories are told in the Feb. 16 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com.

The sponsors for this year’s program are Burkhart Pizzanelli, the New England Farm Workers’ Council, the Royal Law Firm, TommyCar Auto Group, and Westfield Bank.

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 14th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2022 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Thursday, Dec. 9.

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.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by visiting businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest and celebrated at a gala in the spring.

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 14th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2022 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Thursday, Dec. 9.

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.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by visiting businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest and celebrated at a gala in the spring.

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 14th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2022 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Thursday, Dec. 9.

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.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by visiting businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest and celebrated at a gala in the spring.

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 14th annual Difference Makers program. Nominations for the class of 2022 must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Thursday, Dec. 9.

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.

So, let us know who you think deserves to be recognized as a Difference Maker in our upcoming class by visiting businesswest.com/difference-makers-nomination-form to complete the nomination form. Honorees will be profiled in an upcoming issue of BusinessWest and celebrated at a gala in the spring.

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 Event Galleries

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!

View the 2021 Difference Maker Honoree Videos:

The 2021 Difference Makers

Kristin Carlson
President, Peerless Precision

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

EforAll Holyoke

Presented by:

Non-profit Partner:

Media Partner:

Sponsor Videos

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.

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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.

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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].

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