Home Posts tagged Difference Makers (Page 2)
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].

Agenda Departments

Women’s Fund Mentor Match
Jan. 13: January is National Mentoring Month, and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced its second annual Mentor Match, a networking event that aims to engage emerging leaders with seasoned professionals. The event will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the UMass Center at Springfield, and is open to the public. Featuring Bay Path University Professor Janine Fondon, WFWM board and committee members, participants and alumni of the Women’s Fund’s Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI), and community members, the Mentor Match is designed to connect members of the Women’s Fund family as mentors and mentees to share resources, experiences, and work together in order to achieve professional and personal goals. All members of the Women’s Fund community are invited to attend. RSVP by Jan. 10 by visiting www.mywomensfund.org/event/mentor-match.

Pet CPR, First Aid Course
Jan. 14, 21: Many people remember learning CPR and basic first aid in health class, but have you thought about taking a course which covers this topic as it relates to your pet? Jim Helems of Pet Tech has made it easier for pet owners to understand first aid with his PetSaver Training class. He travels throughout the Pioneer Valley offering this training, and next month he will offer this course at the Good Dog Spot. Pet Tech’s trainings have helped save the lives of thousands of pets. Participants will receive a certificate upon completion of the one-day course. The cost is $120 and will take place at the Chicopee location (35 C Chicopee St.) on Sunday, Jan. 14 and at the Northampton location (139 King St.) on Sunday, Jan. 21. Interested participants can register by visiting www.gooddogspot.net.

Caregiver Options Workshop
Jan. 17: Linda Manor Assisted Living in Leeds will host a seminar on caring for an aging relative or spouse, featuring expert advice from Sheryl Fappiano, a professional geriatric care manager. The session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and will include dinner. To RSVP, call Linda Manor Assisted Living at (413) 588-3301. Fappiano is a licensed social worker specializing in gerontology. She has worked for more than 35 years in a variety of settings all relating to geriatrics. Her team’s specialty is to help seniors age in place, with dignity and peace of mind for the elder and their family. She is affiliated with Elder Care Access, LLC in Florence and owns Golden Moments Adult Day Health Spa in Florence.

Equal Pay Act Roundtable
Jan. 18: The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act has been amended, and new provisions will begin on July 1. Attorney Timothy Netkovick will discuss the new provisions, its impact on employers, and discuss how employers can take advantage of the safe-harbor provisions from 8 to 9 a.m. at Royal, P.C., 270 Pleasant St., Northampton. The amendments present several substantive changes to multiple definitions in the Equal Pay Act, such as employer defenses, comparable work, statute of limitations, and salary-history inquiries. The new provisions provide employers with safe-harbor provisions if the employer takes affirmative steps within the previous three years and prior to the filing of a lawsuit. The cost is $30 per person. Checks may be made payable to Royal, P.C. and mailed to 270 Pleasant Street, Northampton, MA 01060. Advance registration is required, and seating is limited. Contact Heather Loges at [email protected] to register, or if you have any questions about this workshop.

40 Under Forty Nomination Deadline
Feb. 16: BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2017 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 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.

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 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 tends to sell out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected].

Agenda Departments

Elms College MBA Classes

Starting Jan. 8: Elms College has opened registration for the spring 2018 start dates in its master of business administration (MBA) program. Classes will begin Jan. 8, and a second session of classes will begin on March 26. Elms College offers six MBA specialty tracks: accounting, management, entrepreneurship, financial planning, healthcare leadership, and the new healthcare innovation track. In each track, MBA students work with and learn from experts in these fields, and with experts in other industries, for a well-rounded learning experience. Elms’ MBA program offers a flexible, hybrid model of delivery, allowing students to participate in live classes both in the classroom and online. For students who did not major in business, Elms offers a Foundations program and an Excel for Business program. Another feature is the Pathways to Leadership program, an extension of the MBA curriculum that leads participants on a journey of self-discovery. The MBA program offers a strong understanding of business principles, plus the ability to apply those principles and create change. It was designed to give students the skills to navigate a global economy and contribute to their local communities.

Women’s Fund Mentor Match

Jan. 13: January is National Mentoring Month, and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced its second annual Mentor Match, a networking event that aims to engage emerging leaders with seasoned professionals. The event will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the UMass Center at Springfield, and is open to the public. Featuring Bay Path University Professor Janine Fondon, WFWM board and committee members, participants and alumni of the Women’s Fund’s Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI), and community members, as well as members and supporters of the Young Women’s Initiative (YMI), the Mentor Match is designed to connect members of the Women’s Fund family as mentors and mentees to share resources, experiences, and work together in order to achieve professional and personal goals. All members of the Women’s Fund community are invited to attend. RSVP by Jan. 10 by visiting www.mywomensfund.org/event/mentor-match.

EMT Training, CNA Plus Programs at STCC

Starting Jan. 22: Springfield Technical Community College will again offer its popular Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Training Program, as well as the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Plus Program, both starting in January. The EMT program consists of about 171 hours of lectures, 15 to 20 hours of online instruction, an auto-extrication class, and an eight-hour clinical hospital emergency-room observation designed to prepare the student for the Massachusetts State Certification Examination. The program, based on the Department of Transportation curriculum for Basic Emergency Medical Technician, is approved by the Massachusetts Office of Emergency Medical Services. Daytime and evening classes start Jan. 22. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll. The CAN Plus Program at STCC is designed to provide participants with job skills that will allow entry into the healthcare field as well as preparation for the Massachusetts state board examination to become a certified nurse aide. Day classes, which start Jan. 22, will be held Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students will receive clinical experience in a local nursing home under the supervision of registered nurse (RN) instructors. Major topics will include vital signs; moving and turning patients; personal-care basics; bed making; bed, bath, and feeding; record keeping; and responding to emergencies. This course will also include a Home Health Aide Training Certificate and an Enhanced Alzheimer’s Module. Students will attend a job fair scheduled at the conclusion of this program. Evening Classes for BASIC CNA start Jan. 28, and will be held Monday through Friday, 4-9:30 p.m. The Workforce Development Center at STCC offers a wide variety of entry-level health programs. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll.

EMT Training at HCC

Jan. 30 to April 28: Holyoke Community College is now enrolling students for its spring-term Emergency Medical Technician training program. The HCC EMT Training Program consists of 170-plus hours of in-class lectures and additional online study, training, field trips, and workshops that prepare students to take the state certification exam. The majority of the training takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays fom 6 to 10 p.m. at HCC’s new, state-of-the-art Center for Health Education, home to the college’s Nursing and Radiologic Technology programs. Last year, HCC received a $127,741 state Workforce Skills Capital Grant to purchase new equipment to enhance its EMT training program. The course uses equipment identical to that found in modern ambulances. The program makes extensive use of the medical simulation labs in HCC’s Center for Health Education. Some of the grant money was used to purchase a patient simulator specifically designed for EMT and paramedic training that hemorrages and can be hooked up to a defibrillator. The course is taught by instructor Mike Marafuga, an EMT with the Southwick Fire Department. For more information or to register, contact Ken White at (413) 552-2324 or [email protected]

40 Under Forty Nomination Deadline

Feb. 16: BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2017 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 at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-nomination-form, 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.

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. 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 www.businesswest.com. 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: The 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 tends to sell out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Agenda Departments

Freedom Credit Union Gift Drive for Needy Kids

Through Dec. 21: For the 10th year, Freedom Credit Union is partnering with the Department of Children and Families to provide gifts to children in need this holiday season. Every branch of the credit union has a tree filled with tags that show the gift request from area children. Anyone who goes into Freedom branches can choose a tag from the tree, purchase the requested gift, and bring it back to the branch unwrapped by Thursday, Dec. 21.

Santa’s Trains at Look Park

Through Dec. 24: All aboard! Next stop … Santa’s Trains at Look Memorial Park. This holiday season, the park is celebrating with running model trains and locomotives whirling by displays set in a whimsical wonderland of Christmas favorites and village landscapes. The Garden House, transformed into a Victorian-style train station, offers all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. View enchanting, themed holiday trees; say hello to Santa’s helpers; chat with authentic engineers; and share that special visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus before relaxing with a holiday cookie and hot chocolate. Each evening features a special guest conductor and station master from the community greeting visitors. Santa’s Trains at Look Park is open to the public daily through Dec. 23 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Garden House at Look Memorial Park, 300 North Main St., Florence. This special holiday event is free for all ages. Visit www.lookpark.org for more information. Also, join us for a traditional hayride around the park to view more than 50 holiday light displays made by the grounds and maintenance staff. The cost is $5 per rider. Departures are every 20 minutes from 4:20 p.m. until 7:40 p.m., weather permitting. More than 20,000 visitors annually visit the park during the holiday season to visit Santa’s Trains, view the wonderland light displays, and share holiday dreams with Santa.

Strategic Alliances Webinar on ‘Impostor Syndrome’

Dec. 14: Strategic Alliances at Bay Path University will present a free online webinar, “Confident or Impostor?” on Thursday, Dec. 14 from noon to 1 p.m. Registration is strongly encouraged. For more information and to register, visit bit.ly/2jNcXB3. Research shows that 70% of the U.S. population has experienced ‘impostor syndrome’ at one time or another. Webinar participants will learn how to combat self-doubt and overcome the lack of confidence that results from impostor syndrome. The webinar will feature three panelists, Karen Hinds, Roxanne Kaufman Elliott, and Maureen Zappala, who will share their extensive knowledge and experience with leadership. Hinds is the founder and CEO of Workplace Success Group, an international firm that has been referred to as a training ground for future business leaders. She is also the author of The Leader’s Manual – A Young Adult’s Guide to the Global Workplace, Get Along, Get Ahead: 101 Courtesies for the New Workplace, and Networking for a Better Position & More Profit. She serves as a visiting professor for the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University; is a frequent guest on radio, TV, and podcasts, and is a former board member with the Connecticut chapter of the World Affairs Council. Elliott is a certified leadership development coach and facilitator with more than 30 years of business, strategy, and leadership-development experience across many different industries in both the profit and nonprofit worlds. She is an i3 Leadership Master and holds degrees from Sinclair College and Bowling Green State University, as well as numerous executive and leadership-development certifications from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the American Marketing Assoc., the Leadership Challenge, RAC, LLM Inc., and others. Zappala is an award-winning speaker, author, and presentation-skills coach. She is the founder of High Altitude Strategies and helps propel teams and individuals to peak performance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and spent more than 13 years at NASA’s Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center), conducting aircraft engine research. She became the youngest and first female manager of NASA’s Propulsion Systems Laboratory, a jet-aircraft-engine test facility. Strategic Alliances is recognized by SHRM to offer professional-development credits (PDCs) SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM. The webinar “Confident or Impostor?” is worth 1 PDC.

Boronski to Meet Business, Community Leaders

Dec. 18: Debra Boronski, regional director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD), will  hold office hours for business and community leaders on Monday, Dec. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center office located in Building 101 of the STCC Technology Park, 1 Federal St., Springfield. Meetings will be held in the Peter Pan Room, located on the second floor. MOBD is the state’s one-stop source for businesses seeking to relocate to Massachusetts and businesses wishing to expand their current operations here. It offers a range of expertise and services to help businesses flourish in Massachusetts. Its staff operates in regions across the state, providing businesses with on-the-ground knowledge and viable connections. It works closely with the private and public sectors to coordinate a range of resources. Boronski oversees 117 cities and towns in Western Mass. and the Berkshires. Interested parties mail e-mail [email protected] or call (413) 733-5357 to reserve a time slot.

EMT Training, CNA Plus Programs at STCC

Starting Jan. 22: Springfield Technical Community College will again offer its popular Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Training Program, as well as the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Plus Program, both starting in January. The EMT program consists of about 171 hours of lectures, 15 to 20 hours of online instruction, an auto-extrication class, and an eight-hour clinical hospital emergency-room observation designed to prepare the student for the Massachusetts State Certification Examination. The program, based on the Department of Transportation curriculum for Basic Emergency Medical Technician, is approved by the Massachusetts Office of Emergency Medical Services. “The EMT program gives the student an excellent foundation in Basic Life Support skills and techniques and patient assessment,” said Paul Sheehan, director of the Workforce Development Center at STCC. “This program always fills up long before the start date, and applications are now being accepted. Daytime and evening classes start Jan. 22. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll. Meanwhile, the employment of CNAs is projected to grow by 19%, faster than average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which projects employers will add 279,600 CNA positions during the next decade. The CAN Plus Program at STCC is designed to provide participants with job skills that will allow entry into the healthcare field as well as preparation for the Massachusetts state board examination to become a certified nurse aide. Day classes, which start Jan. 22, will be held Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students will receive clinical experience in a local nursing home under the supervision of registered nurse (RN) instructors. Major topics will include vital signs; moving and turning patients; personal-care basics; bed making; bed, bath, and feeding; record keeping; and responding to emergencies. This course will also include a Home Health Aide Training Certificate and an Enhanced Alzheimer’s Module. Students will attend a job fair scheduled at the conclusion of this program. Evening Classes for BASIC CNA start Jan. 28, and will be held Monday through Friday, 4-9:30 p.m. The Workforce Development Center at STCC offers a wide variety of entry-level health programs. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll.

EMT Training at HCC

Jan. 30 to April 28: Holyoke Community College is now enrolling students for its spring-term Emergency Medical Technician training program. The HCC EMT Training Program consists of 170-plus hours of in-class lectures and additional online study, training, field trips, and workshops that prepare students to take the state certification exam. The majority of the training takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays fom 6 to 10 p.m. at HCC’s new, state-of-the-art Center for Health Education, home to the college’s Nursing and Radiologic Technology programs. Last year, HCC received a $127,741 state Workforce Skills Capital Grant to purchase new equipment to enhance its EMT training program. The course uses equipment identical to that found in modern ambulances. The program makes extensive use of the medical simulation labs in HCC’s Center for Health Education. Some of the grant money was used to purchase a patient simulator specifically designed for EMT and paramedic training that hemorrages and can be hooked up to a defibrillator. The course is taught by instructor Mike Marafuga, an EMT with the Southwick Fire Department. For more information or to register, contact Ken White at (413) 552-2324 or [email protected]c.edu.

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 www.businesswest.com. Sponsors to date include Sunshine Village and Royal, P.C. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly a decade 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, time is running out to nominate candidates for the Class of 2018.

The nomination form can be found on the magazine’s website, www.businesswest.com. Visit ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘Difference Makers.’ Nominations must be submitted by this Friday, Nov. 10.

Over the first nine years of the program, honorees have included a host of individuals and nonprofit agencies focusing on everything from childhood literacy, to combatting homelessness; from reducing gang violence in Springfield, to creating a walk to battle breast cancer.

The Class of 2017 epitomized such diversity. It featured the Community Colleges of Western Mass., Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, Denis Gagnon, president and CEO of Excel Dryer, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, and Joan Kagan, president the CEO of Square One. For a full list of previous winners, visit www.businesswest.com.

Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly a decade 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, time is running out to nominate candidates for the Class of 2018.

The nomination form can be found on the magazine’s website, www.businesswest.com. Visit ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘Difference Makers.’ Nominations must be submitted by Friday, Nov. 10.

Over the first nine years of the program, honorees have included a host of individuals and nonprofit agencies focusing on everything from childhood literacy, to combatting homelessness; from reducing gang violence in Springfield, to creating a walk to battle breast cancer.

The Class of 2017 epitomized such diversity. It featured the Community Colleges of Western Mass., Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, Denis Gagnon, president and CEO of Excel Dryer, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, and Joan Kagan, president the CEO of Square One. For a full list of previous winners, visit www.businesswest.com.

Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker.

Opinion

Editorial

By Alta J. Stark

When BusinessWest launched its Healthcare Heroes initiative, we knew this program would by eye-opening in many respects.

We understood it would identify a number of forward-thinking individuals and institutions, as well as some cutting-edge work. We understood it would generate some stories that needed to be told. And we understood it would identify some real heroes. It did all that, and then some, as the section that begins on page 15 reveals.

We created Healthcare Heroes because, despite the fact that BusinessWest has two other popular recognition programs — Difference Makers and 40 Under Forty — many of the outstanding individuals and stories from the broad realm of healthcare are overlooked, in part because these individuals are simply doing their jobs. The results — and the stories — far exceeded our lofty expectations.

Start with Sister Mary Caritas, winner in the ‘lifetime achievement’ category . The word ‘legend’ doesn’t get used much in Western Mass. We don’t have many legends here, it seems. But it works in this case. Her career in healthcare started when Truman was in the White House, and she’s still writing new chapters.

But it’s not simply the longevity that shapes this story; it is her ability to fight for a good cause, innovate, advocate for the most vulnerable of constituencies, and most importantly, inspire others to do all of the above. She is, as one friend and colleague noted, a remarkable woman.

As for the other heroes, they are all innovators as well, individuals and institutions working on the cutting edge within their fields and, more to the point, determining just what the cutting edge is or should be.

Examples include Dr. Andrew Doben, hero in the ‘innovation’ category, who is saving lives and changing lives with a surgical procedure known as rib fixation, and Genevieve Chandler, our other hero in the ‘innovation’ category, who has become a pioneer in work to help young people become more resilient.

But innovation comes in many forms, and this fact is made clear by some of our other heroes, such as Erin Daley, our winner in the ‘emerging leader’ category, who has orchestrated efforts to make the Mercy Medical Center Emergency Department more efficient and a better ‘front door’ for the hospital and this region. And also Molly Senn-McNally, winner in the ‘community health’ category, who is using powerful poverty-simulation seminars to help medical residents and medical students better understand the many challenges facing the region’s many low-income residents, and, through these efforts, making them better doctors.

‘Innovator’ is a term that could also be applied to Dr. Michael Willers, a pediatric cardiologist and winner in the ‘provider’ category, who works (and plays) hard to make his young patients — not to mention their parents — understand what’s happening with their heart and be at ease as he provides care. And also to Holly Chaffee, president and CEO of Porchlight VNA/Home Care, winner in the ‘administration’ category, who has created a culture of entrepreneurship, innovation, and risk taking — one that has enabled that company to earn the highest ratings in its class.

And ‘innovator’ could also be used to describe all those involved in the Healthy Hill Initiative (HHI) in Springfield, the winner in the ‘collaboration’ category. This multi-faceted effort to improve the health and well-being of residents in the city’s Old Hill neighborhood gives new meaning to that term.

As we said at the top, this inaugural Healthcare Heroes class, and the collection of stories behind their various efforts, is truly eye-opening.

But more than that, it is inspiring, reminding us of what a true hero is — someone who advocates for others and gives of themselves in unselfish ways to improve life for all of us.

In that respect, all of our winners — and all those who were nominated for this award — are true heroes.

Briefcase Departments

Nominations Sought for Difference Makers Award

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly a decade 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 2018. The nomination form can be found at www.buisnesswest.com; click ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘Difference Makers.’ Nominations must be submitted by Nov. 3. Over the first nine years of the program, honorees have included a host of individuals and nonprofit agencies focusing on everything from childhood literacy to combatting homelessness; from reducing gang violence in Springfield to creating a walk to battle breast cancer. For a full list of previous winners, visit www.businesswest.com.

Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker.

VVM Graduates 14 from Collegiate Accelerator

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors announced that it has graduated 14 startups from its inaugural Collegiate Accelerator Program. After nine weeks of intensive training, more than $20,000 in cash prizes was distributed to the entrepreneurs by accredited investors. Additionally, a $5,000 award was given to the startup that showed the most grit. Here is a rundown of the teams and the prize distribution:

• The Travel Unicorn, the LGBTQ+ travel guide that works to connect travelers to safe destinations based on their recommendations: $6,000, plus the $5,000 Grit Award;

• lymph + honey, which provides access to healthful, wholesome, and sustainable natural hair- and body-care products: $6,000;

• Vidvision, which helps marketers convert their video viewers into customers: $2,700;

• Zirui, offering innovative and stylish solutions for traveling with beauty and care products: $2,700;

• Mt. Mitho, bringing flavors from the highest peak on Earth: $1,350;

• redflowers, an online media platform that fosters community and dismantles societal stereotypes surrounding black identities and black women: $700;

• STEAMporio, training the makers of tomorrow by creating a passion for learning: $700;

• Boman, where a shipping container plus agricultural system equals a turn-key platform for growing any crop, anytime, anywhere;

• El Cherufe Chile Paste, an artisanal chile paste that offers a new flavor experience to lovers of spicy heat;

• INDI10.com, where you bid to wear it first;

• Lighthouse, which helps students with projects, no matter the size;

• Shesabelle Chandeliears, helping those with limited earring options experience the full range of expression earrings have to offer;

• Studio 26, a promotional service that offers underground musicians in Massachusetts tools and resources to help expand and build their brand; and

• The Black Enterprise Business Resource Center, which cultivates the empowerment and collaboration of black entrepreneurs in the Western Mass. area through quality business education and business services.

Leadership Holyoke 2017-18 Series to Begin

HOLYOKE — Leadership Holyoke is a comprehensive community-leadership and board-development program of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. The series utilizes a combination of classes and practical experiences to help local business people develop their leadership skills, increase their knowledge of the community, and acquire the skills needed to serve as board members and community leaders. The 2017-18 Leadership series begins on Sept. 22, consists of a weekly series of eight seven-hour sessions, and concludes on May 2 with a graduation ceremony at Holyoke Community College (HCC) with a specialty luncheon prepared by the college’s culinary program students. All sessions will be held on Fridays (except for the Boston State House trip) and take place at HCC as well as other locations throughout the city. Each session will include a segment on organization and leadership skills, and a segment on community needs and resources. Faculty members from HCC will participate as instructors and facilitators, and community leaders will participate as speakers and discussion leaders in areas of their expertise. The Leadership Holyoke series is made possible by PeoplesBank. Tuition of $600 per participant is due at the start of the course and includes a continental breakfast each week, a bus trip to Boston, and the graduation luncheon. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com or call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 with any questions.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly a decade 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 2018.

The nomination form can be found at www.businesswest.com; click ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘Difference Makers.’ Nominations must be submitted by Nov. 3. Over the first nine years of the program, honorees have included a host of individuals and nonprofit agencies focusing on everything from childhood literacy to combatting homelessness; from reducing gang violence in Springfield to creating a walk to battle breast cancer. For a full list of previous winners, visit www.businesswest.com.

Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker.

Daily News

Nearly a decade 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 2018.

The nomination form can be found on the magazine’s website, www.buisnesswest.com. Visit ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘Difference Makers.

Nominations must be submitted by Nov. 3.

Over the first nine years of the program, honorees have included a host of individuals and nonprofit agencies focusing on everything from childhood literacy, to combatting homelessness; from reducing gang violence in Springfield, to creating a walk to battle breast cancer.

The Class of 2017 epitomized such diversity. It featured the Community Colleges of Western Mass., Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, Denis Gagnon, president and CEO of Excel Dryer, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, and Joan Kagan, president the CEO of Square One.

For a full list of previous winners, visit www.businesswest.com.

Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker.

Class of 2017 Difference Makers Event Galleries Features

Scenes From the Ninth Annual Event

The 2017 Difference Makers

The 2017 Difference Makers

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More than 450 people turned out at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on March 30 for a celebration of the 2017 Difference Makers, the ninth annual class of individuals and organizations honored by BusinessWest for making an impact in their Western Mass. communities. The photos on the next few pages capture the essence of the event, which featured musical entertainment by the Taylor Street Jazz Band, fine food, and thoughtful comments from the honorees. This year’s class, chosen by the editor and publishers of BusinessWest from dozens of nominations, include the: 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; and Joan Kagan, President & CEO of Square One.

Sponsored by:

RoyalPC SunshineVillage first-american-logo nortwestern-mutual
mbk-300x141 jgs-lifecare oconnell-care-at-home hne_logo_cmyk_stack-page-001

Go HERE to view the sponsor’s videos

For reprints contact: Leah Martin Photography

From left, Dajah Gordon, Sabrina Roberts, and Johnalie Gomez

From left, Dajah Gordon, Sabrina Roberts, and Johnalie Gomez, teenagers involved in Junior Achievement of Western Mass., a 2017 Difference Maker.

Susan Jaye-Kaplan, a 2009 Difference Maker, and Bob Perry, a 2011 Difference Maker.

Susan Jaye-Kaplan, a 2009 Difference Maker, and Bob Perry, a 2011 Difference Maker.

Bob Pura, president of 2017 Difference Maker Greenfield Community College (left), chats with Ted Hebert of Teddy Bear Pools & Spas.

Bob Pura, president of 2017 Difference Maker Greenfield Community College (left), chats with Ted Hebert of Teddy Bear Pools & Spas.

Joe Marois of Marois Construction (left) chats with Ed Murphy and Molly Murphy of event sponsor First American Insurance.

Joe Marois of Marois Construction (left) chats with Ed Murphy and Molly Murphy of event sponsor First American Insurance.

From left, Darlene Francis of event sponsor JGS Lifecare, Ethel Griffin and Colleen Loveless of Revitalize CDC, Kathleen Plante of BusinessWest, and Mary-Anne Schelb of JGS Lifecare.

From left, Darlene Francis of event sponsor JGS Lifecare, Ethel Griffin and Colleen Loveless of Revitalize CDC, Kathleen Plante of BusinessWest, and Mary-Anne Schelb of JGS Lifecare.

From left, Noni Moran, Dennis Murphy, and Amber Letendre of event sponsor First American Insurance.

From left, Noni Moran, Dennis Murphy, and Amber Letendre of event sponsor First American Insurance.

Al Kasper of Savage Arms with Jennifer Connolly, president of 2017 Difference Maker Junior Achievement of Western Mass.

Al Kasper of Savage Arms with Jennifer Connolly, president of 2017 Difference Maker Junior Achievement of Western Mass.

The community colleges of Western Mass., honored collectively as 2017 Difference Makers, were represented by their presidents, from left, Bob Pura of Greenfield Community College, Ellen Kennedy of Berkshire Community College, Christina Royal of Holyoke Community College, and John Cook of Springfield Technical Community College.

The community colleges of Western Mass., honored collectively as 2017 Difference Makers, were represented by their presidents, from left, Bob Pura of Greenfield Community College, Ellen Kennedy of Berkshire Community College, Christina Royal of Holyoke Community College, and John Cook of Springfield Technical Community College.

From left, Shawna Biscone of event sponsor Royal P.C., Julie Cowan of MassDevelopment, Tara Brewster of Greenfield Savings Bank, and Amy Royal of Royal P.C.

From left, Shawna Biscone of event sponsor Royal P.C., Julie Cowan of MassDevelopment, Tara Brewster of Greenfield Savings Bank, and Amy Royal of Royal P.C.

From left, Patricia Faginski of St. Germain Investment Management, Amanda Huston of Elms College, Jennifer Connolly of 2017 Difference Maker Junior Achievement of Western Mass., and Rebecca Connolly (Jennifer’s daughter) of Moriarty & Primack, P.C.

From left, Patricia Faginski of St. Germain Investment Management, Amanda Huston of Elms College, Jennifer Connolly of 2017 Difference Maker Junior Achievement of Western Mass., and Rebecca Connolly (Jennifer’s daughter) of Moriarty & Primack, P.C.

From left, from Square One, Dawn DiStefano, Bonnie Katusich, Kristine Allard, Karen Smith, 2017 Difference Maker Joan Kagan, and Andrea Cincotta.

From left, from Square One, Dawn DiStefano, Bonnie Katusich, Kristine Allard, Karen Smith, 2017 Difference Maker Joan Kagan, and Andrea Cincotta.

From left, Brigit Shea-O’Connell, Fran O’Connell, and Rachel Normantowicz of event sponsor O’Connell Care at Home.

From left, Brigit Shea-O’Connell, Fran O’Connell, and Rachel Normantowicz of event sponsor O’Connell Care at Home.

Michael Curran of the Taylor Street Jazz Band.

Michael Curran of the Taylor Street Jazz Band.

2017 Difference Maker Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer, with his wife, Nancy.

2017 Difference Maker Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer, with his wife, Nancy.

From event sponsor Northwestern Mutual, from left, Adey Thomas, Darren James, Cara Cole, Kate Kane, Donald Mitchell, and Craig Knowlton.

From event sponsor Northwestern Mutual, from left, Adey Thomas, Darren James, Cara Cole, Kate Kane, Donald Mitchell, and Craig Knowlton.

From event sponsor Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., from left, Howard Cheney, James Krupienski, John Veit, Brenda Olesuk, and Donna Roundy.

From event sponsor Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., from left, Howard Cheney, James Krupienski, John Veit, Brenda Olesuk, and Donna Roundy.

Top row, from left: Glenda DeBarge of event sponsor Health New England (HNE); Jen Stone of USI Insurance Services; Mark Keroack of Baystate Health; Ashley Allen, Jody Gross, and Jessica Dupont of HNE. Bottom row: Michelle Martone of USI (left) and Yvonne Diaz of HNE.

Top row, from left: Glenda DeBarge of event sponsor Health New England (HNE); Jen Stone of USI Insurance Services; Mark Keroack of Baystate Health; Ashley Allen, Jody Gross, and Jessica Dupont of HNE. Bottom row: Michelle Martone of USI (left) and Yvonne Diaz of HNE.

Back row, from left: from event sponsor Sunshine Village, Teri Szlosek, Amie Miarecki, Michelle Depelteau, Peter Benton, and Jeff Pollier. Front row, from left: Colleen Brosnan and Gina Golash Kos from Sunshine Village, and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.

Back row, from left: from event sponsor Sunshine Village, Teri Szlosek, Amie Miarecki, Michelle Depelteau, Peter Benton, and Jeff Pollier. Front row, from left: Colleen Brosnan and Gina Golash Kos from Sunshine Village, and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.

Back row, from left: from TD Bank, Gregg Desmarais, Peter Simko, Dave Danker, and Tracey Alves-Lear. Front row, from left: from TD Bank, Christina Sousa, Bela Blake, Jana Seiler, and Claudia Pereira.

Back row, from left: from TD Bank, Gregg Desmarais, Peter Simko, Dave Danker, and Tracey Alves-Lear. Front row, from left: from TD Bank, Christina Sousa, Bela Blake, Jana Seiler, and Claudia Pereira.

BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti welcomes attendees to the Log Cabin.

BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti welcomes attendees to the Log Cabin.

Back row, from left: from event sponsor JGS Lifecare, Karen Petruccelli, Christina Tuohey, and Susan Halpern. Front row, from left: from JGS Lifecare, Darlene Francis, Mary-Anne Schelb, and Martin Baecker, with George Sachs from Acme Metals & Recycling.

Back row, from left: from event sponsor JGS Lifecare, Karen Petruccelli, Christina Tuohey, and Susan Halpern. Front row, from left: from JGS Lifecare, Darlene Francis, Mary-Anne Schelb, and Martin Baecker, with George Sachs from Acme Metals & Recycling.

BusinessWest Publisher John Gormally (left) with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

BusinessWest Publisher John Gormally (left) with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

From left, Monica Borgatti and Ellen Moorhouse of the Women’s Fund of Western Mass., a 2012 Difference Maker, and Elizabeth Fisk and Danielle LeTourneau-Therrien of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, a 2016 Difference Maker.

From left, Monica Borgatti and Ellen Moorhouse of the Women’s Fund of Western Mass., a 2012 Difference Maker, and Elizabeth Fisk and Danielle LeTourneau-Therrien of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, a 2016 Difference Maker.

Steve Levine applauds 2017 Difference Maker Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Steve Levine applauds 2017 Difference Maker Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien congratulates 2017 Difference Maker Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer.

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien congratulates 2017 Difference Maker Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer.

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held tonight, March 30, at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Opinion

Editorial

The Springfield Thunderbirds didn’t win that contest against Lehigh Valley on March 3. But only real diehard fans could have been disappointed with the way the evening turned out.

That’s because the night didn’t belong to the T-Birds and their long-shot efforts to make the AHL playoffs. No, it belonged to Bruce Landon, and therefore, there was cause for celebration. Lots of it.

Landon, or ‘Mr. Hockey,’ as he’s known in Springfield, says he will officially retire next month after nearly 50 years of close association to hockey in this town. Most are taking a ‘we’ll believe it when we see it’ approach to that word ‘retirement,’ but Landon, now 67, says this time, he means it.

The Thunderbirds threw a night in his honor Friday, complete with a bobble-head that Landon says bears a resemblance to Lex Luthor. Maybe, but Lex Luthor is a villain, and Landon has always been a hero when it comes to hockey, Springfield, and hockey in Springfield.

He lived it, he breathed it, he promoted it, he championed it. To say that there wouldn’t be hockey in Springfield without him is an understatement. The current ownership team and management personnel are on record as saying they were motivated to launch the T-Birds because of the legacy Landon created and a strong desire not to see it come to an end.

Landon’s career had come to an end, sort of, when the owners of the Springfield Falcons, citing poor attendance, decided nearly a year ago to move the team to Arizona.

Landon didn’t actually retire, though, essentially because the future of hockey in Springfield was anything but secure. Now, it is, and therefore he believes the time is right to step aside.

He leaves with high praise for the new owners and team chief executive Nate Costa, saying that they have the commitment and the passion to keep the game here.

Those are the very same words that defined his work for nearly a half century.

In 2013, BusinessWest presented Landon with its Difference Makers award, citing his work to keep hockey alive in Springfield as one of the many not so obvious ways that people can make a difference in this region.

As he was being honored that night, the audience was told that hockey, although certainly not appreciated by all, was certainly part of the fabric of the city and the region.

We can still say that in March 2017, and Bruce Landon is a big reason why. And that’s why that Friday night, and the last few weeks of Landon’s career (again, we’ll believe it when we see it), are cause for celebration.

Features

Honoring Excellence, Innovation

healthcareheroeslogo0217finalHealthcare Heroes.

Over the past decade or so, those two words have become a national brand — a brand that symbolizes many things, including excellence, dedication, compassion, commitment, and much more.

Indeed, Healthcare Heroes has become the name attached to recognition programs created by business magazines, healthcare publications, health- and wellness-related organizations across the country, and other entities, to honor individuals and institutions that stand out for the work they do. The name has become part of the landscape in New York, California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Utah, and many other states. And now, it is coming to Western Mass.

Indeed, BusinessWest and its sister publication, HCN, have launched Healthcare Heroes of Western Mass., a program to recognize excellence and innovation across the broad spectrum of the region’s healthcare sector.

The program will culminate in the Healthcare Heroes gala on Oct. 19 at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden.

Details concerning the program and the gala will be revealed on the pages of the two magazines — and their on-line daily news blasts — over the next several weeks. The editors recently convened a meeting of an advisory committee to discuss the program. That session generated a robust dialogue and several suggestions regarding everything from the categories in which individuals and institutions will compete to the judges who will evaluate those who are nominated.

“Over the past several years, BusinessWest has created a number of recognition programs to honor individuals, groups, and institutions across this region,” said BusinessWest and HCN Associate Publisher Kate Campiti, citing, specifically, the 40 Under Forty program launched in 2007 and Difference Makers, initiated in 2009. “But after considerable discussion, it was decided that this region’s large, diverse, and critically important healthcare sector deserved a recognition program of its own.

“Indeed, while we have had several honorees from the healthcare sector in 40 Under Forty, and a few from that realm in Difference Makers, excellence and innovation in healthcare are sometimes difficult to assess and measure,” Campiti added. “Healthcare Heroes will provide us with a needed vehicle for identifying and then recognizing those who stand out in very crowded fields.”

The program will be designed to recognize both those on the front lines of healthcare and those in administration; those who focus on treating individuals, and those involved with prevention and wellness.

“Healthcare involves many types of professionals working in different ways to create a healthier region and improve the overall quality of life for people living and working in Western Massachusetts,” said Campiti. “This Healthcare Heroes program will be crafted to recognize this great diversity of care and the many ways people and individuals are making a difference.”

Nominations for the various categories will be gathered in the coming months, and they will then be evaluated by a carefully chosen team of judges. The winners will be profiled in both publications prior to the gala.

“This will be a welcome recognition program for the four counties of Western Mass.,” said Campiti. “The healthcare sector has been a vital source of everything from high-quality care for our residents to jobs for area communities, to inspiration for those looking to bring innovation and higher levels of quality to their businesses. These individuals and institutions deserve to be recognized for the work they do.”

Agenda Departments

Understanding Gender Identity in the Workplace

March 22: HRMA of Western New England will present a half-day symposium event on understanding gender identity and supporting transgender and gender non-binary individuals in the workplace. This important topic is impacting local employers across the region. This program will help attendees understand the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, learn ways to foster respectful work environments for all employees, and gain an understanding of the legal protections for the transgender community. Speakers will include Dr. Eunice Aviles, gender specialist and clinical psychologist; Erica Tabias, public speaker, transgender advocate, and life coach; and Jonathan Miller, chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau for the state Attorney General’s Office. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m., with a buffet lunch included. Tickets are $75. For more information, contact Allison Ebner at (413) 789-6400 or [email protected], or visit www.hrmawne.org.

Mini Medical School

March 23 to May 11: Itching to get out of the house as the winter draws to an end? Consider signing up for a little dose of continuing education as part of Baystate Medical Center’s Mini Medical School, where you can broaden your knowledge of the field of medicine with professors from the teaching hospital. Mini Medical School, which begins its spring session on Thursday, March 23, offers area residents an inside look at the expanding field of medicine, minus the tests, homework, interviews, and admission formalities. The program continues through May 11. Baystate’s Mini Medical School program is an eight-week health-education series featuring a different aspect of medicine each week. Classes this spring will include sessions on various medical topics such as surgery, deep-brain stimulation, emergency medicine, dementia, pathology, and several others. For a full list of topics and instructors, visit www.baystatehealth.org/minimed. While it is not difficult to be accepted into the program, slots are limited, and early registration is recommended. Many of the students, who often range in age from 20 to 70, participate due to a general interest in medicine and later find that many of the things they learned over the semester are relevant to their own lives. The goal of the program, offered in the hospital’s Chestnut Conference Center, is to help members of the public make more informed decisions about their healthcare while receiving insight on what it might be like to be a medical student. Baystate Medical Center is the region’s only teaching hospital, and each course is taught by medical center faculty, who explain the science of medicine without resorting to complex terms. All classes are held Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. and run until 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the night’s topic. No basic science knowledge is needed to participate. Each participant is required to attend a minimum of six out of eight classes in order to receive a certificate of completion. Tuition costs $95 per person and $80 for Senior Class and Spirit of Women members. To register, call (413) 794-7630 or visit www.baystatehealth.org/minimed.

Cultivate & Nest Open House

March 25: Cultivate & Nest, a collaborative workspace for businesspeople with children, will host Bloom, its annual open house, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in its Hadley office center. Terra Missildine, founder and owner of Cultivate & Nest, said the event will offer talks on the topic of entrepreneurship and parenting. A highlight of the day will be a flower-hat-making craft and a hat parade around the grounds. Face painting, puzzles, and other activities will also be offered. Tours of the workspace will be offered to parents hourly, while children will enjoy story time. In addition, a drawing will be held for a one-month Cultivate & Nest membership, valued at $99. All Pioneer Valley families are invited to take part in the event and bring their children. Registration is not required, and the event is free. Cultivate & Nest is the first membership-based collaborative workspace in the Valley to incorporate a childcare component. Located on the first floor in the Hadley Crossing business park, Cultivate & Nest offers roughly 3,400 square feet of work and community space. Members of Cultivate & Nest pay in cost tiers that range from $100 to $600 per month, depending on amenities and level of office access. Event and workshop space is also available for members and the community at large to host family friendly events. To learn more about Cultivate & Nest, visit cultivateandnest.com or call Missildine at (413) 345-2400.

Mass. Restaurant Day for No Kid Hungry

March 27: Eight Massachusetts Restaurant Assoc. restaurants across the state will participate in Massachusetts Restaurant Day for No Kid Hungry. Inspired by Chef Andy Husbands of Tremont 647, who has hosted a dinner for this cause for the past 20 years, the MRA announced the program’s expansion across Massachusetts. Last year, participating Boston restaurants raised more than $60,000 to end childhood hunger in Massachusetts. This year, Hotel Northampton is hosting the Western Mass. branch of the event, a multi-course meal with wine pairings. The hotel’s culinary team is working alongside and co-sponsoring with four well-known restaurants in town, including Sierra Grille, Spoleto’s, Packard’s, and Union Station. Attendance at this event will not only help to curb childhood hunger in Massachusetts, but will also help local programs that feed children of all ages at school and in the home. The goal is to ensure all children get the healthy food they need, every day. To purchase tickets or provide sponsorship for the event, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/massachusetts-restaurant-day-for-no-kid-hungry-the-hotel-northampton-tickets-31735014282.

Regional Career Fair

March 29: The College Career Centers of Western Massachusetts will hold a career fair from noon to 3 p.m. in the Alumni Healthful Living Center on the campus of Western New England University. Nearly 100 companies will be recruiting college students for paid and unpaid internships, as well as full-time and part-time employment opportunities. This annual event is a unique opportunity for employers and graduate-school representatives to connect with motivated students and alumni who are looking to launch and advance their careers. The College Career Centers of Western Massachusetts is a consortium of career-center professionals representing the eight colleges in Hampden County, including American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, Western New England University, and Westfield State University. These eight institutions of higher education enroll more than 27,000 students from diverse backgrounds, and graduate approximately 5,000 students each year with a wide range of academic degrees.

‘Stay in the Game’

March 29: The community is invited to join staff from the Baystate Wing Hospital Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation team for an education session about staying active and injury-free. The program, “Stay in the Game,” will be held in the Snow Conference Room from 6 to 7 p.m. Participants will learn about the most effective types of stretching, nutrition, and hydration that will help to avoid injury when working out. Physical therapist Dena Plante and physical therapist assistant Karen Kiernan will be on hand to answer questions and offer educational materials. The program is open to student athletes and adults interested in staying active and exercising without injury. The Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation team at Baystate Wing Hospital provides a full range of rehabilitation services to help patients regain function and achieve recovery. For more information or to register, call (413) 370-5254.

Difference Makers

March 30: The ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One. Tickets to the event, which is nearly sold out, cost $65 per person. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100. 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. Sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Education Fair & Expo

April 4: Jared James, a national real-estate speaker and trainer, will be the featured speaker at the 24th annual Education Fair & Expo taking place at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The event is sponsored by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. The program features a day of educational presentations including two breakout sessions from James, three continuing-education classes, and two technology classes. A sellout trade show with more than 50 vendors is anticipated. Anyone who is interested in attending as a trade-show vendor should contact Kim Harrison, membership and meetings coordinator at the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, at (413) 785-1328 or [email protected]

Art Show Reception

April 5: The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Massachusetts (NAMI Western Mass.) will hold an opening reception for its sixth annual art show featuring the work of artists living with mental illness from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Chicopee Public Library, 449 Front St. The reception and parking adjacent to the library are free. The exhibit runs through the end of April. The art show, originated by Karen West, an artist and art teacher at Westfield High School, will feature works for sale to the public, with proceeds going to the artists. Complimentary refreshments will be served and the public is welcome. Headquartered in Agawam, NAMI Western Mass. is an affiliate of the nation’s largest grass-roots mental-health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans who are affected by mental illness.

EANE Management Conference

April 6: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced its 13th annual Management Conference will be held at the Springfield Marriott. With a focus on the power of passion in leadership, the full-day conference will address how managers and supervisors can motivate themselves and their teams to create a culture of high performance. The program will feature keynote speakers Rick Barrera and Bruce Christopher. Barrera, the head of faculty for the Center for Heart Led Leadership, works with Fortune 500 CEOs, world-class mountain climbers, astronauts, professional actors, and SEAL Team Six leaders teaching them how to build high-performance teams. Christopher, a psychologist and humorist, offers cutting-edge content with a mix of comedy, showing audiences how to embrace change and giving them practical skills to apply for success. The cost for the program is $350 per person with discounts for three or more. Register at www.eane.org/management17 or by calling (877) 662-6444. It will offer 6.25 credits from the HR Certification Institute and SHRM. Sponsoring the program are Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and the HR Certification Institute.

‘Mini Golf in the Library’

April 7-8: Friends of the Holyoke Public Library will host its second annual “Mini Golf in the Library” fund-raiser on the weekend of April 7-8. Hole sponsors and event sponsors are now being recruited. At last spring’s event, more than 250 players putted their way through five levels of the Holyoke Public Library building, laughing and enjoying unique obstacles added by enterprising hole sponsors. Funds raised help the Friends of the Library support library programs and resources, especially those for children and youth. Sponsors will be publicized and thanked in local media, social media, and the library’s website in connection with this event. Logos of sponsors will be printed on the scorecard given to each player. Names of sponsors will be displayed in the library, ranked by level of sponsorship. Sponsors will be invited as guests to the Friday-evening cocktail party, with the opportunity to preview (and play through) the course. In addition to event sponsors and hole sponsors, the event planning committee, chaired by Sandy Ward, is seeking donors of in-kind services and items for a silent auction to be held during the Friday cocktail party. Hole sponsorships start at $250. Those who wish to sponsor (and decorate) one of the 18 holes are encouraged to act quickly, as holes are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Event sponsorships are available at five levels ranging from $250 to $1,000. An exclusive title sponsorship is possible at $2,500. For more information, visit www.holyokelibrary.org/aboutfriendsgolf.asp or e-mail Sandy Ward at [email protected]

Walk of Champions

May 7: The 12th annual Walk of Champions to benefit the Baystate Regional Cancer Program at Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center in Ware will step off at the Quabbin Reservoir. Since 2006, the Walk of Champions, founded by field-hockey coach John O’Neill of Quaboag Regional Middle High School, has served as a tribute to the compassionate care his mother received at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program in Ware during her cancer journey. Over the years, the walk has grown into a collection of teams and individuals, each walking for their own reason. There are friends and family members celebrating victory over cancer. Others are encouraging their loved ones in their personal fight over cancer, while others walk in memory of those who have lost their battle with cancer. The Baystate Regional Cancer Program at Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center provides the majority of outpatient cancer services in the Baystate Health Eastern Region, which includes Ware, Palmer, and surrounding communities. Since its inception, the Walk of Champions has raised more than $740,000 to assist, support, and instill hope in those facing cancer. All funds raised remain local to support those cared for in the Baystate Health Eastern Region at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program located at Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center in Ware. The route offers a one-mile loop that allows walkers to choose the number of miles they walk among the comfortable walking terrain of the Goodnough Dike. Along the way, walkers will enjoy entertainment and refreshments. Pledge forms, fund-raising resources, giving opportunities, and more are now available at www.baystatehealth.org/woc for businesses, community organizations, and individuals who wish to participate.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Seats are still available for the ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, to be held on Thursday, March 30 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Agenda Departments

‘Sport and Diplomacy’

March 8: Retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer Hugh Dugan will present “Sport and Diplomacy” at the Center for International Sport Business (CISB) program series, “For the Love of the Games.” The presentation will take place at 7 p.m. in the Lyman and Leslie Wood Auditorium in Sleith Hall at Western New England University. Dugan currently serves as a distinguished visiting scholar and fellow at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. The intersection of sports and diplomacy can be difficult, but rewarding. Dugan will talk about his diplomatic career spanning 32 years, including serving as senior adviser to 11 U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, and his work to secure adoption of the ancient tradition of the Olympic Truce by the UN General Assembly. This event is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by the Western New England University Alumni Assoc. Established in 2007, the CISB is a forum for the study of the business of sport with an international focus. In addition to the distinguished-speaker program that brings prominent personalities from sport and business to the university community, the CISB organizes a summer seminar-abroad program that takes students to the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup.

Caritas Gala

March 11: Mercy Medical Center will present the first annual Caritas Gala at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Themed “All You Need Is Love,” the inaugural gala will raise funds to expand and enhance Mercy Behavioral Health Care’s Opioid Treatment and Addiction Recovery programs. The major goal of the project is to create a new inpatient step-down treatment program for post-detox services, giving individuals a better chance at long-term recovery. John Sjoberg and Brenda Garton-Sjoberg are the Caritas Gala honorary chairpersons. Sjoberg serves as chairman of the board for Mercy and as vice chairman of the board for Trinity Health New England. Garton-Sjoberg has served as honorary chairperson of Mercy Gift of Light. The Caritas Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, live entertainment from the band Beantown, and a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 8 p.m., followed by a live auction and dancing until midnight. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.mercycares.com/caritasgala.

Difference Makers

March 30: The ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at BusinessWest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One. Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100. 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. Details on the event will be published in upcoming issues of the magazine. Sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

‘Mini Golf in the Library’

April 7-8: Friends of the Holyoke Public Library will host its second annual “Mini Golf in the Library” fund-raiser on the weekend of April 7-8. Hole sponsors and event sponsors are now being recruited. At last spring’s event, more than 250 players putted their way through five levels of the Holyoke Public Library building, laughing and enjoying unique obstacles added by enterprising hole sponsors. Funds raised help the Friends of the Library support library programs and resources, especially those for children and youth. Sponsors will be publicized and thanked in local media, social media, and the library’s website in connection with this event. Logos of sponsors will be printed on the scorecard given to each player. Names of sponsors will be displayed in the library, ranked by level of sponsorship. Sponsors will be invited as guests to the Friday-evening cocktail party, with the opportunity to preview (and play through) the course. In addition to event sponsors and hole sponsors, the event planning committee, chaired by Sandy Ward, is seeking donors of in-kind services and items for a silent auction to be held during the Friday cocktail party. Hole sponsorships start at $250. Those who wish to sponsor (and decorate) one of the 18 holes are encouraged to act quickly, as holes are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Event sponsorships are available at five levels ranging from $250 to $1,000. An exclusive title sponsorship is possible at $2,500. For more information, visit www.holyokelibrary.org/aboutfriendsgolf.asp or e-mail Sandy Ward at [email protected].

Daily News
Bruce Landon

Bruce Landon

The Springfield Thunderbirds didn’t win Friday night’s game against Lehigh Valley. But only real diehard fans could have been disappointed with the way the evening turned out.

That’s because the night didn’t belong to the T-Birds and their long-shot efforts to make the AHL playoffs. No, it belonged to Bruce Landon, and, therefore, there was cause for celebration. Lots of it.

Landon, or ‘Mr. Hockey,’ as he’s known in Springfield, says he will officially retire next month after nearly 50 years of close association to hockey in this town. Most are taking a ‘we’ll believe it when we see it’ approach to that word ‘retirement,’ but Landon, now 67, says this time, he means it.

The Thunderbirds threw a night in his honor Friday, complete with a bobblehead that Landon says bears a resemblance to Lex Luthor. Maybe, but Lex Luthor is a villain, and Landon has always been a hero when it comes to hockey, Springfield, and hockey in Springfield.

He lived, he breathed it, he promoted it, he championed it. To say that there wouldn’t be hockey in Springfield without him is an understatement. The current ownership team and management personnel are on record as saying they were motivated to launch the T-Birds because of the legacy Landon created and a strong desire not to see it come to an end.

Landon’s career had come to an end, sort of, when the owners of the Springfield Falcons, citing poor attendance, decided nearly a year ago to move the team to Arizona.

Landon didn’t actually retire, though, essentially because the future of hockey in Springfield was anything but secure. Now, it is, and therefore he believes the time is right to step aside.

He leaves with high praise for the new owners and the team’s chief executive, Nate Costa, saying they have the commitment and the passion to keep the game here.

Those are the very same words that defined Landon’s work for nearly a half-century.

In 2013, BusinessWest presented Landon with its Difference Makers award, citing his work to keep hockey alive in Springfield as one of the many not-so-obvious ways that people can make a difference in this region.

As he was being honored that night, the audience was told that hockey, although certainly not appreciated by all, was certainly part of the fabric of the city and the region.

We can still say that in March 2017, and Bruce Landon is a big reason why. And that’s why last Friday night, and the last few weeks of Landon’s career — again, we’ll believe it when we see it — are cause for celebration.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Seats are still available for the ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, to be held on Thursday, March 30 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Seats are still available for the ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, to be held on Thursday, March 30 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Agenda Departments

Wheelchair-basketball Clinic

Feb. 20: CDH Disability Resources will offer a free wheelchair-basketball clinic from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at CHD’s gymnasium at 69 Capital Dr., West Springfield. There is no cost to attend, and all participants qualify for raffles, prizes, and giveaways. The clinic will be led by Paul Weiland, a certified health and physical education teacher with an adaptive physical education certification. Weiland, Adapted Sports Program coordinator for Chapter 126 Sports & Fitness, has coached wheelchair basketball at the high-school and college levels and was part of the USA Paralympics wheelchair-basketball selection committee in 2008. He will be supported by volunteer staff, including therapeutic recreation students from Springfield College and varsity basketball players from Springfield College and American International College. For people interested in getting more involved with wheelchair basketball, in addition to the Feb. 20 clinic, Disability Resources is offering a 10-week program on Friday evenings from March 3 through May 5, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Pace Gym, 69 Capital Dr., West Springfield. Players will be taught fundamental skills and game-related strategies while focusing on the values of teamwork and respect. To learn more about wheelchair basketball or to sign up for programs, contact Levine at (413) 788-9695.

Real-estate Licensing Course

Feb. 22: Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 22, the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40-hour, 14-class sales-licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. The course will be completed on March 23. Tuition costs $359 and includes the book and materials. For an application, call the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley at (413) 785-1328.

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Feb. 23: Linda Manor Assisted Living will host a discussion at 5:30 p.m. about meeting the estate-planning challenges of blended families. The event is free and open to the public, but those wishing to attend are asked to register by calling (413) 588-3316. A light dinner will be served. Attorney Valerie Vignaux of the law firm Bacon Wilson is a specialist in estate planning and elder law. Her discussion will focus on the unique challenges blended families can face. Common concerns are asset division, guardianship, long-term-care planning, and future decision making.

‘Create at the Carle!’

Feb. 27 to March 20: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art will offer adult art classes for people 55 and over thanks to a new grant from Aroha Philanthropies. “Create at the Carle!” is a new program for adults interested in expressing themselves through visual art. The first of a series of three workshops, this one on printmaking, begins Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon, and runs for eight weeks. The cost is $90, or $76.50 for members. Teaching artist Lynn Peterfreund, who concentrates on printmaking, painting, and drawing, is offering this class for beginners or more experienced students. The goals are to learn processes, become more aware of different art styles, and learn to identify and tell one’s own stories with visual tools. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants. The workshop includes a visit from artist Lyell Castonguay, who will share his woodcut technique and experiences as director of BIG INK, and concludes with an art show for friends, family, guests, and the general public to enjoy. “Create at the Carle!” is presented in partnership with Aroha Philanthropies to support the development and expansion of Artful Aging programs. The Carle was selected as one of only 15 nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. to receive a grant from Aroha Philanthropies through its new national initiative, Seeding Artful Aging. Following printmaking, additional classes in 2017 will include guest artists teaching collage and bookmaking. For more information about the classes or to sign up, visit www.carlemuseum.org.

Whiskey & Cigar Night

March 2: It’s official: whiskey passed vodka as the number-one spirit of choice in the U.S. back in 2014, and the trend is more than a passing one. The Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s Whiskey & Cigar Night, slated for 6 p.m. at Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill, provides novice and connoisseur whiskey drinkers with a chance to savor a variety of vodkas, while raising funds for the SSO’s artistic, education, and community programs. For a $75 admission ticket, attendees will enjoy a variety of cigars on an outdoor patio, food-pairing stations to accompany the drink, and several stations to taste a wide variety of whiskey, from Scotch and Irish whiskey to bourbon and rye. Expert representatives from local distributors and distilleries will be on hand to answer questions and provide tasting notes. In addition to the whiskey, food, and cigars, a silent auction will be running throughout the event, featuring sports memorabilia, high-end experiences, and trips. Participation is limited to ensure the highest quality experience for all attendees. Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill is located at 1390 Main St., Springfield. To learn more or purchase a ticket, call (413) 733-0636, ext. 118, or e-mail [email protected]

Caritas Gala

March 11: Plans are underway for Mercy Medical Center’s first annual Caritas Gala at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Themed “All You Need Is Love,” the inaugural gala will raise funds to expand and enhance Mercy Behavioral Health Care’s Opioid Treatment and Addiction Recovery programs. The major goal of the project is to create a new inpatient step-down treatment program for post-detox services, giving individuals a better chance at long-term recovery. John Sjoberg and Brenda Garton-Sjoberg are the Caritas Gala honorary chairpersons. Sjoberg serves as chairman of the board for Mercy and as vice chairman of the board for Trinity Health New England. Garton-Sjoberg has served as honorary chairperson of Mercy Gift of Light. “Brenda and I are inspired by the selfless work of the Sisters of Providence, and our family has made their legacy our personal mission,” said Sjoberg. The Caritas Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, live entertainment from the band Beantown, and a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 8 p.m., followed by a live auction and dancing until midnight. Pre-registration is required by Feb. 17. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.mercycares.com/caritasgala.

Mini Medical School

March 23 to May 11: Itching to get out of the house as the winter draws to an end? Consider signing up for a little dose of continuing education as part of Baystate Medical Center’s Mini Medical School, where you can broaden your knowledge of the field of medicine with professors from the teaching hospital. Mini Medical School, which begins its spring session on Thursday, March 23, offers area residents an inside look at the expanding field of medicine, minus the tests, homework, interviews, and admission formalities. The program continues through May 11. Baystate’s Mini Medical School program is an eight-week health-education series featuring a different aspect of medicine each week. Classes this spring will include sessions on various medical topics such as surgery, deep-brain stimulation, emergency medicine, dementia, pathology, and several others. For a full list of topics and instructors, visit www.baystatehealth.org/minimed. While it is not difficult to be accepted into the program, slots are limited, and early registration is recommended. Many of the students, who often range in age from 20 to 70, participate due to a general interest in medicine and later find that many of the things they learned over the semester are relevant to their own lives. The goal of the program, offered in the hospital’s Chestnut Conference Center, is to help members of the public make more informed decisions about their healthcare while receiving insight on what it might be like to be a medical student. Baystate Medical Center is the region’s only teaching hospital, and each course is taught by medical center faculty, who explain the science of medicine without resorting to complex terms. All classes are held Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. and run until 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the night’s topic. No basic science knowledge is needed to participate. Each participant is required to attend a minimum of six out of eight classes in order to receive a certificate of completion. Tuition costs $95 per person and $80 for Senior Class and Spirit of Women members. To register, call (413) 794-7630 or visit www.baystatehealth.org/minimed.

Difference Makers

March 30: The ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One. Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100. 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. Details on the event will be published in upcoming issues of the magazine. Sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Education Fair & Expo

April 4: Jared James, a national real-estate speaker and trainer, will be the featured speaker at the 24th annual Education Fair & Expo taking place at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The event is sponsored by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. The program features a day of educational presentations including two breakout sessions from James, three continuing-education classes, and two technology classes. A sellout trade show with more than 50 vendors is anticipated. Anyone interested in attending as a trade-show vendor should contact Kim Harrison, membership and meetings coordinator at the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, at (413) 785-1328 or [email protected] by March 10.

‘Mini Golf in the Library’

April 7-8: Friends of the Holyoke Public Library will host its second annual “Mini Golf in the Library” fund-raiser on the weekend of April 7-8. Hole sponsors and event sponsors are now being recruited. Funds raised help the Friends of the Library support library programs and resources, especially those for children and youth. Sponsors will be publicized and thanked in local media, social media, and the library’s website in connection with this event. Logos of sponsors will be printed on the scorecard given to each player. Names of sponsors will be displayed in the library, ranked by level of sponsorship. Sponsors will be invited as guests to the Friday-evening cocktail party, with the opportunity to preview (and play through) the course. In addition to event sponsors and hole sponsors, the event planning committee, chaired by Sandy Ward, is seeking donors of in-kind services and items for a silent auction to be held during the Friday cocktail party. Hole sponsorships start at $250. Those who wish to sponsor (and decorate) one of the 18 holes are encouraged to act quickly, as holes are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Event sponsorships are available at five levels ranging from $250 to $1,000. An exclusive title sponsorship is possible at $2,500. For more information, visit www.holyokelibrary.org/aboutfriendsgolf.asp or e-mail Sandy Ward at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Plenty of good seats are available for the ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, to be held on Thursday, March 30 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Plenty of good seats are available for the ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, to be held on Thursday, March 30 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Agenda Departments

Supper for Six

Feb. 7: Supper for Six, hosted by Women’s Way, a program of the United Way of Franklin County, will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 8 Church St., Greenfield. Attendees are requested to bring $5 and one or more Supper for Six bags. Light refreshments will be offered. A Supper for Six bag is a reusable grocery bag filled with non-perishable items for dinner (and, in many cases, breakfast and lunch, too) for a family of six. “Due to the generous support of our community, hundreds of families in Franklin County will receive food donations through United Way partner agencies, to help during February school vacation week, when the need for food at home is higher than usual,” said Stephanie Gale, director of Resource Development & Community Engagement at the United Way. Agencies receiving donations include Franklin County Community Meals, the Center for Self-Reliance, the United Arc, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, and the Salvation Army. In 2016, the Supper for Six food drive gathered more than 600 reusable grocery bags filled with more than 7,000 pounds of non-perishable food items that were subsequently distributed to needy families across Franklin County. RSVP is requested for the event by e-mailing [email protected] or calling (413) 772-2168.  If you cannot attend the event, you may drop off grocery bags at the United Way office, 51 Davis St., Suite 2, Greenfield on or before Feb. 9, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Heart-health Lecture

Feb. 9: Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) will host a free discussion, “Heart Health: Congestive Heart Failure,” at 5:30 p.m. in the HMC Auxiliary Conference Center. February is American Heart Month. There are more than 200,000 cases of congestive heart failure (CHF) each year in the U.S. Dr. Nirav Sheth, HMC cardiovascular specialist, will cover signs and symptoms, as well as how to help prevent CHF. This program is free and open to the public, and is part of the hospital’s community-education programming, one in a series of dozens 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.

Dress for Success Tag Sale

Feb. 10-12: In keeping with its mission to empower women to be more confident in their personal and professional lives, Dress for Success is hosting a tag sale at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield to raise funds and awareness, while also working to meet the needs of women throughout the community. Customers may peruse the racks of new and gently used donated items, including suits, dresses, pants, blouses, skirts, shoes, accessories, and more. Items may be purchased by filling a shopping bag for only $25. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12. It will be staged in a temporary location two doors down from the Western Mass. Dress for Success Boutique. All proceeds will benefit Dress for Success. Volunteers are needed to staff the event. If interested, e-mail [email protected] This event follows two years of successful tag sales, each raising thousands of dollars and engaging the help of hundreds of community volunteers.

‘I Love Wine’ at Wistariahurst

Feb. 10: “I Love Wine,” the popular annual wine-tasting event, returns to Wistariahurst from 6 to 8 p.m. Attendees can sample fine wines from around the world in the elegant atmosphere of Wistariahurst. Light refreshments will be served. Admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Tickets are limited, so advance purchase is strongly encouraged. Tickets may be purchased online at www.wistariahurst.org. The event is sponsored by Historic Holyoke at Wistariahurst, and fine wines are provided courtesy of Liquors 44.

Nonprofit Board Fair

Feb. 16: The Franklin County Young Professionals Group (FCYPG), a program of the United Way of Franklin County, will host its first annual Nonprofit Board Fair in partnership with Leadership Pioneer Valley’s Leaders OnBoard program. The event will be held at Terrazza at the Country Club of Greenfield. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the fair runs until 8 p.m. Sponsored by Ramon Financial Services, Greenfield Cooperative Bank, and Franklin First Credit Union, the event is free and open to the public. RSVP is requested by visiting [email protected] or calling (413) 772-2168. “FCYPG’s first annual Nonprofit Board Fair has been at the top of our young professionals group’s list for quite some time. We are pleased to finally make it happen and support the work of exceptional local organizations here in Franklin County by helping them recruit volunteers and committee and board members,” said Stephanie Gale, director of Resource Development and Community Engagement at United Way. Currently, 15 organizations will be represented: Leadership Pioneer Valley, Friends of the Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter, YMCA in Greenfield, Franklin County Community Meals Program, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, Stone Soup Café, Stavros Center for Independent Living, Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, LifePath Inc., Franklin County Young Professionals, Center for New Americans, Children’s Advocacy Center, Friends of Children, and Montague Catholic Social Ministries. There’s still time to sign up for a table at the event by e-mailing [email protected] or calling the United Way at (413) 772-2168. “We are looking forward to this event and working with individuals and organizations to expand and strengthen their pool of volunteers, which is essential to a nonprofit’s success,” said Amy Proietti, program coordinator, Leadership Pioneer Valley, Leaders OnBoard Program. “Local residents looking for opportunities to give back to their community or make connections with area nonprofits are highly encouraged to attend the fair.”

40 Under Forty Nomination Deadline

Feb. 17: BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2017 through the end of the work day (5 p.m.) on Friday, Feb 17. The annual program, now in its 11th 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 17 edition, then toasted at the June 22 gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. 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.

Wheelchair-basketball Clinic

Feb. 20: CDH Disability Resources will offer a free wheelchair-basketball clinic from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at CHD’s gymnasium at 69 Capital Dr., West Springfield. There is no cost to attend, and all participants qualify for raffles, prizes, and giveaways. The clinic will be led by Paul Weiland, a certified health and physical education teacher with an adaptive physical education certification. Weiland, Adapted Sports Program coordinator for Chapter 126 Sports & Fitness, has coached wheelchair basketball at the high-school and college levels and was part of the USA Paralympics wheelchair-basketball selection committee in 2008. He will be supported by volunteer staff, including therapeutic recreation students from Springfield College and varsity basketball players from Springfield College and American International College. “We’re thrilled to have Paul Weiland running our wheelchair-basketball clinic,” said Jessica Levine, program manager for CHD Disability Resources. “He is passionate about helping individuals of all abilities realize their full potential on the field of play and in life. Like every Disability Resources program, this wheelchair-basketball clinic enables people to focus on what they can do, as individuals and as teammates. Especially for people who are new to wheelchair basketball, this clinic will provide a great introduction along with opportunities to meet other interested players and families and to learn more about Disability Resources in general. We’re all about access and ability for kids, adults, and families in Western Mass.” For people interested in getting more involved with wheelchair basketball, in addition to the Feb. 12 clinic, Disability Resources is offering a 10-week program on Friday evenings from March 3 through May 5, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Pace Gym, 69 Capital Dr., West Springfield. Players will be taught fundamental skills and game-related strategies while focusing on the values of teamwork and respect. To learn more about wheelchair basketball or to sign up for programs, contact Levine at (413) 788-9695.

‘Create at the Carle!’

Feb. 27 to March 20: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art will offer adult art classes for people 55 and over thanks to a new grant from Aroha Philanthropies. “Create at the Carle!” is a new program for adults interested in expressing themselves through visual art. The first of a series of three workshops, this one on printmaking, begins Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon, and runs for eight weeks. The cost is $90, or $76.50 for members. Teaching artist Lynn Peterfreund, who concentrates on printmaking, painting, and drawing, is offering this class for beginners or more experienced students. The goals are to learn processes, become more aware of different art styles, and learn to identify and tell one’s own stories with visual tools. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to work in a community of people, sharing stories, efforts, and working spaces. I think our participants will enjoy working in the Carle’s light-filled art studio, and getting a behind-the-scenes look at our collection,” said Courtney Waring, director of education. The workshop includes a visit from artist Lyell Castonguay, who will share his woodcut technique and experiences as director of BIG INK, and concludes with an art show for friends, family, guests, and the general public to enjoy. “Create at the Carle!” is presented in partnership with Aroha Philanthropies to support the development and expansion of Artful Aging programs. The Carle was selected as one of only 15 nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. to receive a grant from Aroha Philanthropies through its new national initiative, Seeding Artful Aging. Following printmaking, additional classes in 2017 will include guest artists teaching collage and bookmaking. For more information about the classes or to sign up, visit www.carlemuseum.org.

Caritas Gala

March 11: Plans are underway for Mercy Medical Center’s first annual Caritas Gala at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Themed “All You Need Is Love,” the inaugural gala will raise funds to expand and enhance Mercy Behavioral Health Care’s Opioid Treatment and Addiction Recovery programs. The major goal of the project is to create a new inpatient step-down treatment program for post-detox services, giving individuals a better chance at long-term recovery. John Sjoberg and Brenda Garton-Sjoberg are the Caritas Gala honorary chairpersons. Sjoberg serves as chairman of the board for Mercy and as vice chairman of the board for Trinity Health New England. Garton-Sjoberg has served as honorary chairperson of Mercy Gift of Light. “Brenda and I are inspired by the selfless work of the Sisters of Providence, and our family has made their legacy our personal mission,” said Sjoberg. “The sisters have responded to the needs of our community for more than 140 years. But today we face a new crisis: the opioid epidemic, a problem that impacts all ages, races, and economic levels. Mercy Behavioral Health Care looks beyond the stigma of addiction and provides treatment that supports and allows people to recover.” The Caritas Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, live entertainment from the band Beantown, and a silent auction. Dinner will be served at 8 p.m., followed by a live auction and dancing until midnight. Pre-registration is required by Feb. 17. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.mercycares.com/caritasgala.

Difference Makers

March 30: The ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at BusinessWest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One. Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100. 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. Details on the event can be found HERE. Sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

‘Mini Golf in the Library’

April 7-8: Friends of the Holyoke Public Library will host its second annual “Mini Golf in the Library” fund-raiser on the weekend of April 7-8. Hole sponsors and event sponsors are now being recruited. At last spring’s event, more than 250 players putted their way through five levels of the Holyoke Public Library building, laughing and enjoying unique obstacles added by enterprising hole sponsors. Funds raised help the Friends of the Library support library programs and resources, especially those for children and youth. Sponsors will be publicized and thanked in local media, social media, and the library’s website in connection with this event. Logos of sponsors will be printed on the scorecard given to each player. Names of sponsors will be displayed in the library, ranked by level of sponsorship. Sponsors will be invited as guests to the Friday-evening cocktail party, with the opportunity to preview (and play through) the course. In addition to event sponsors and hole sponsors, the event planning committee, chaired by Sandy Ward, is seeking donors of in-kind services and items for a silent auction to be held during the Friday cocktail party. Hole sponsorships start at $250. Those who wish to sponsor (and decorate) one of the 18 holes are encouraged to act quickly, as holes are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Event sponsorships are available at five levels ranging from $250 to $1,000. An exclusive title sponsorship is possible at $2,500. For more information, visit www.holyokelibrary.org/aboutfriendsgolf.asp or e-mail Sandy Ward at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Plenty of good seats are available for the ninth annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, to be held on Thursday, March 30 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.

The winners, profiled in the Jan. 23 issue and at businesswest.com, are the Community Colleges of Western Mass. (Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and
Springfield Technical Community College); Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round; Denis Gagnon Sr., president and CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.; Junior Achievement of Western Mass.; and Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One.

Tickets to the event cost $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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. Event sponsors include First American Insurance; Health New England; JGS Lifecare; Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; Northwestern Mutual; O’Connell Care at Home; Royal, P.C.; and Sunshine Village.

Class of 2017 Difference Makers

Seizing the Brass Ring

Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round Are Preserving a Treasure

Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round

Some of the many passionate Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round: from left, Jim Jackowski, Barbara Griffin, Angela Wright, and Joe McGiverin.

The giant scrapbooks, their newspaper clippings turning yellow and their heavy leather covers fraying and kept on with shoelaces, are getting on in years — as are the people who created them.

But the truly inspiring story they tell never gets old.

It’s about how one of the poorest communities in the Commonwealth, then and now, came together, in every sense of that phrase and against very long odds, to raise nearly $2 million during a stubborn recession to keep the historic Mountain Park merry-go-round in Holyoke.

Carefully chronicled in those scrapbooks, this story relates tireless fund-raising efforts — from generous donations given by large corporate players to a fishing derby with a $10 entrance fee that went to the cause; from phone-a-thons and mailed solicitations featuring carefully crafted pleas for support to sales of everything from sweatshirts to Christmas-tree ornaments out of a donated kiosk at the Holyoke Mall.

It also captures work to find, finance, build, staff, open, and operate a home for the merry-go-round in Holyoke’s Heritage State Park in late 1993, an important chapter in this tale and one with many twists and turns.

John Hickey, a.k.a. “Mr. Holyoke,”

John Hickey, a.k.a. “Mr. Holyoke,” rallied the city to seize a “glittering brass ring.”

And those scrapbooks poignantly reflect, through photos, news stories, and his own commentary in the daily Holyoke Transcript Telegram, the passion, commitment, and drive of one John Hickey, known to most as “Mr. Holyoke,” who rallied the city and unified it behind what was, at the time, a most unlikely cause.

“He was determined; he felt like this was an important piece of Holyoke’s history and that there needed to be a way to save it,” Angela Wright, long-time volunteer director of the merry-go-round and one of the leaders of the effort to keep it in the Paper City, said of Hickey, then head of the Holyoke Water Power Co., who passed away in 2008. “He was like a pied piper … he went to every meeting, every organization, every business he could to stress the importance of this. And he got a city behind him.”

Indeed, Hickey ended one of his op-ed contributions (a piece that has become part of Holyoke lore) with a question that doubled as a rallying cry.

“There’s a glittering brass ring out there,” he wrote in reference to the carousel. “Will the people of Holyoke extend themselves to capture it?”

Indeed, they would, as the pages of those scrapbooks make clear, and more than 1.2 million people have gone for a ride.

But the last entry in those volumes is from Dec. 1, 1994 — a short story about upcoming Christmas happenings at the carousel — and, therefore, they don’t tell the whole story.

Indeed, while the efforts to buy the carousel and then begin its next life in downtown Holyoke could be described as ‘heroic’ and ‘monumental,’ what has transpired over the past 23 years or so and continues today is worthy of equal praise, said Jim Jackowski, business liaison for Holyoke Gas & Electric and long-time president of Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round Inc., the organization created to not only buy the treasure, but manage it and preserve it for future generations.

The second part of the equation isn’t captured in the scrapbooks because, for the most part, that hard work doesn’t generate headlines, he said. But the challenges to operating and properly maintaining the carousel — everything from spiraling insurance costs to non-stop maintenance to restoration work on the ornate horses — are many and formidable.

But the same passion that went into raising the money to buy PTC 80 (the 80th carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co.) goes into the work to keep the ride spinning today — and tomorrow, said Jackowski.

“It’s been a labor of love — it was then, when we were raising the money to buy it, and it still is today,” he explained.

One of the many ads designed

One of the many ads designed to emphasize what Holyoke would lose if the merry-go-round went to another buyer.

And that sentiment is perhaps best summed up with words from the Transcript Telegram, which played its own sizable role in the efforts to save the carousel.

Its presses fell silent in January 1993 as the paper succumbed to disastrous losses in the wake of the early-’90s recession. But it still has a voice on this subject (and this Difference Makers award) thanks to an editorial published just a few weeks before the paper closed.

The occasion was a decision of the state Department of Environmental Management to award $300,000 for the construction of a building in Holyoke’s Heritage State Park for the carousel, providing it with a home and, essentially, sealing the deal.

“If one project in recent history had to be chosen to represent the best Holyoke has to offer in community spirit, from the youngest child to the most senior resident,” the paper roared, “then the campaign to save the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round is it.”

More than 24 years later, those words still ring true.

Mane Attraction

Among the many individuals, groups, and businesses that donated in-kind services to the cause of saving the merry-go-round was the Hartford-based marketing and advertising firm Adams & Knight Communication.

The firm had a number of specific assignments — from designing promotional brochures destined for potential donors to crafting copy for print ads that ran in the Transcript Telegram and elsewhere. But one of its very specific tasks, apparently, was finding children with the ability to look sad. Really, really sad.

Children recruited for ads used in the merry-go-round campaign had plenty of practice looking sad.

Children recruited for ads used in the merry-go-round campaign had plenty of practice looking sad.

For example, there’s one young girl displaying that talent in an ad (that appeared in multiple outlets) in which she stands next to one of the carousel’s horses wearing a sign around its neck reading ‘sold.’ She’s holding on to its reins as if she doesn’t want to let go, clear symbolism of the city’s attitude at the time.

She makes another appearance, along with two other children, in an ad that features a broad view of the carousel with the headline “Imagine Telling Them That the Ride Is Over … for Good.”

And there’s a despondent yet still-hopeful young boy featured in yet another full-page ad. He’s holding out his piggy bank, as if to offer whatever’s in it. The headline reads, “Why He’s Putting All His Money on a Horse.”

But it wasn’t just young people enlisted to send this message. Indeed, several teenagers (from the ’50s, presumably, based on their attire) are featured in still another ad with the headline, “If You Care About Holyoke’s Future, Put Money Down on Her Past.”

In essence, this is what the campaign started in 1988 was all about, said those we spoke with, adding that it wasn’t just about keeping PTC 80 from being sold off as a unit or piece by piece and shipped overseas.

It was also about people investing in the city’s future, said Jackowski, meaning both the generations to come and the city itself, which needed a boost to spark its sagging fortunes and deteriorating downtown.

These sentiments are reflected in comments attributed to then-Mayor Marty Dunn (another of this story’s many heroes) in one of the many promotional pieces created to solicit support.

“This is not a toy,” said the mayor. “It is a folk-art masterpiece and a powerful attraction for our downtown.”

The merry-go-round has, by most accounts, become that spark, that attraction, thanks to the campaign to save it and, more specifically, that group that came to be known as the Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round.

It was created and led by Hickey, who first approached John Collins, owner of Mountain Park, who closed that attraction in 1987, with a proposal to allow the city of Holyoke to buy the carousel and thereby keep it ‘home.’

By most accounts, this wasn’t exactly a hard sell. Indeed, while Collins reportedly had some handsome offers for the merry-go-round on the table, including a rumored $2 million, he was supportive of the efforts to keep it in the city, and thus he set the bar, or price tag, low — $875,000.

While there was considerable support for the merry-go-round, in Holyoke and beyond, all those involved knew that raising that kind of money, at that time and in that community, would be very difficult. And, as we’ll see, the community would soon see that number rise considerably.

It’s been a labor of love — it was then, when we were raising the money to buy it, and it still is today.”

And this is where our story — the one told through the clips in those scrapbooks — really begins.

However, those we spoke with say it really starts with John Hickey.

Indeed, he was the one, said Wright, who convinced Holyokers, then facing a mountain of other, seemingly more pressing issues, from rampant unemployment to soaring poverty to a declining downtown, that the merry-go-round was still a treasure worth saving.

“In the beginning, people were saying, ‘are you kidding — a merry-go-round?’” Wright said while trying to capture the mood at the time. “There were so many other problems, from homelessness to the schools to downtown. People said, ‘how can you be thinking about raising money for a merry-go-round?’

“John would say to them, ‘you don’t understand — beauty is for your soul; there needs to be art, music, and beauty in this world, for everyone,’” she went on. “He would say, ‘this is as important as food’; he would make that comparison and stress the importance of art in one’s life.”

Round Numbers

To effectively reach the people of Holyoke, and beyond, Hickey would make early and frequent use of the Transcript Telegram’s op-ed page. Some of his early entreaties capture his passion for the project and his belief that it was an important part of the city’s history, identity, and psyche.

“A city needs more practical things, like sewage-treatment plants, snow plows, water filtration, better roads, and good school buildings,” he wrote on March 5, 1988, just as the campaign was being conceptualized. “But it also needs objects that nourish its spiritual life. A beautiful and historic, million-dollar merry-go-round may be a bit of mirthful indulgence, but it will give us, for generations, a special kind of happiness and pride.

“It is sad that we are losing our historic amusement park,” he would go on a few paragraphs later, “but it would be tragic if we stood by, doing nothing, and letting its centerpiece, the merry-go-round, become the object of pride and fame in some other distant city.”

Merry-go-round employee Kathie McDonough, left, staffs the concession stand with long-time volunteer Maureen Costello.

Merry-go-round employee Kathie McDonough, left, staffs the concession stand with long-time volunteer Maureen Costello.

Beyond passionate rhetoric, though, Hickey understood that this campaign needed a solid foundation on which to build, and to erect one, he turned to the many banks and other prominent corporate citizens at that time, said Wright.

“He pulled together all the CEOs and banking leaders and put them in a room,” she recalled, adding that, prior to this now-historic gathering, he took them to Mountain Park for a ceremonial and sentimental look at the carousel. “He talked for an hour about the value of this merry-go-round, not only to families and kids, but for history, nostalgia, as an anchor to downtown … he went through the whole thing.

“And he said, ‘unless you people commit a big number — and I mean a big number — then we can’t do it,’” she went on. “And by then, he had them practically in tears.”

Before the meeting convened, a big number, $300,000, had indeed been pledged, she went on, adding that, as for the rest … well, there were a variety of imaginative, and effective, strategies put to use, as told by the stories, ads, and posters clipped into the scrapbooks.

Famously, schoolchildren in the city raised $32,000 in two weeks from selling cookies and candy door-to-door, and for that work, a plaque was placed next the armored lead horse in their honor (such plaques were placed under each horse to commemorate donors.)

There was that fishing derby at the Jones Ferry Marina (“now is the time not to flounder,” wrote the creative scribe at the Chicopee Herald); Holyoke Community College raffled off a free semester of study to aid the cause; musicians performed at a benefit concert; the city’s aldermen launched a charity ball, with the merry-go-round as the first recipient of proceeds; commemorative stamped envelopes were issued with the likeness of the lead horse on them (the price was 25 cents, which will tell you how much water has passed under the bridge).

Also, schoolchildren sold Christmas ornaments; artists sold limited lithographs of the carousel; there were car washes, phone-a-thons, a 10th-anniversary party at the mall, with the carousel as the beneficiary. And at the Merry-Go-Round Gift Store (the storefront donated by the mall) and other locations, supporters could buy hats, ornaments, tote bags, sweatshirts, a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, mugs, notecards, and several different posters with carousel imagery. The headline on the ad promoting it all in the Dec. 9 issue of the Transcript read, “Now You Can Finally Get a Pony for Christmas.”

Turn for the Better

As noted, the brass ring Hickey mentioned became the unofficial prize, if you will, and the phrase appeared repeatedly in ads and news stories throughout the campaign.

But even as the original goal of more than $1 million came closer to reality, the bar moved, and in a big way, said Wright, noting that, from the beginning, organizers knew they would have to build a home for the carousel.

They had a pledge from the state of $300,000 to build that home, she said, but as time went on, huge doubts emerged about whether the state could uphold its end of the bargain given the enormous financial pressure it was under, and whether that amount would be enough.

As things turned out, the state did keep its promise, but that figure wasn’t nearly enough (bids for the structure came in at twice that total).

Photography by Leah Martin

Photography by Leah Martin

But funds to cover the difference were raised with significant help from Warren Rhoades, then-president of PeoplesBank, she said, adding that this triumph would be one of the countless enduring stories from the campaign to save the carousel and then operate it, many of which simply didn’t generate headlines, but certainly contributed to that phrase ‘labor of love.’

As she recounted some of them, Wright said she didn’t really know where to start.

She eventually settled on Jim Curran, a contractor and owner of the Wherehouse banquet and meeting facility in downtown Holyoke, who not only stored a large amount of the carousel’s thousands of components — most of the horses were kept in a locked railroad car, and Hickey even kept some in his living room — but also took the carousel apart and played a huge role in the very complex, time-consuming effort to put it all back together.

“It was like a giant puzzle,” she explained. “There were boxes and boxes of nuts and bolts; it was mind-boggling to me.”

Wright also mentioned her husband, Joe (the couple have a long history of philanthropy in their native Holyoke), who assisted with piecing the carousel together and maintaining it; Tim Murphy, the architect who designed the carousel’s new home in Heritage State Park; Will Girard, a neighbor of the Wrights who has assisted with seemingly endless repairs and maintenance; the Gaul family, which donated the huge concession stand now at the carousel, replacing what amounted to a card table that was there at the start; Craig Lemieux, who volunteered the time and labor that went into building the ramp to make the carousel handicap-accessible; and the Steiger family for gifting to the carousel the Tiffany window that graced its downtown Holyoke store.

And on she went, noting that there were, and still are, volunteer angels whose names she never knew and faces she never saw.

“When we first opened, we didn’t have any money; we had no debt, but we also had no money,” she said. “And people just did things. Like cleaning the windows — people would appear … in the dark of night; I don’t know, I never saw them.”

The Ride Stuff

In many respects, this community spirit and volunteerism continues today, said those we spoke with, adding that the task of keeping the carousel open and operating is daunting, and a small army of volunteers is still needed.

Speaking in broad terms, Jackowski said operating a merry-go-round is a tough business these days — so tough that many have actually closed in recent years — and this one is no exception.

He cited everything from the myriad competitors for the time and attention of children and families to the rising cost of doing business (and generally flat revenues), to changes in Holyoke itself.

“It’s like any other business — there are fixed expenses and just stuff that you have to do,” he said, adding that there is quite a lot of ‘stuff’ with this ride that is now nearly 90 years old. “It’s a piece of machinery that requires maintenance and upkeep and hardware. And the community has changed in the 20-plus years since we opened; we had a bigger presence of retail and shopping when we first opened, and a lot of what was downtown and drew people to the downtown is unfortunately not there anymore.”

As one example, he cited Celebrate Holyoke, the annual summer festival that drew tens of thousands of people to Holyoke during its four-day run, which was discontinued several years ago.

“That used to be a huge weekend for us — we would get 20,000 riders in four days,” he explained. “Once that went away, it was hard to make up those riders; even at $1 per head, that was $20,000.”

And that challenge goes a long way toward explaining why a ride now costs $2, which is still a great bargain and one of the lowest prices to be found for a merry-go-round.

But, as with the vast majority of museums and other types of attractions, admission doesn’t cover annual expenses, said Joe McGiverin, another long-time member of the Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round board, noting that labor (there are seven staff members) and, especially, insurance top the list of rising costs.

Thus, other sources of income must be developed and nutured.

Birthday parties, private functions, and a handful of weddings each year have long been one such source, said Barbara Griffin, another long-time board member and former staff member at the Log Cabin, who, with Jackowski and others, would handle the logistics of such events.

“That’s just one example of how of this is truly a working board — we don’t just go to meetings,” she explained, adding that, while the staff manages the carousel day-to-day and is largely responsible for that perfect safety rating, the attraction is dependent on volunteers today as much as it was when the money to buy the attraction was being raised.

And many of these volunteers have their own specific assignments, said Wright, who offered one of many examples.

“Joe is the security person — if the alarm goes off in the middle of the night, it’s his responsibility to go in there and see what’s going on,” she said. “Everyone on the board has a job, in one way or another.”

But overall, the volunteers are generalists, said McGiverin, and help with everything from keeping the grounds clean to staging the semi-annual Kentucky Derby-themed fund-raiser, called Derby Dazzle, at the site.

But there is another source of help at the carousel that speaks volumes about its hold on people — and its special place in Holyoke.

These would be the young people — and there are more than a few of them — who would like to ride but don’t have $2, said Griffin, adding that staff members will often let them take a spin in exchange for pushing a broom for a few minutes.

“If they want to sweep the floor or pick something up, we’d be more than happy to give them a little something in return,” she said, noting that, in the larger scheme of things, the carousel is what has been given to all of Holyoke, and the region as a whole, in return for the generosity that kept it here.

Wright agreed. “These kids … they know what we have, and you can’t let a kid walk by and just look in the window all day. You need to let them ride.”

That’s the kind of community spirit John Hickey was talking about all those years ago.

Words That Ring True

In March 1988, not even Hickey could have known what an attraction, and an institution, the merry-go-round would become.

Then again, maybe he did know. Or maybe … there’s no maybe about it.

What was it he wrote? “A beautiful and historic merry-go-round may be a bit of mirthful indulgence, but it will give us, for generations, a special kind of happiness and pride.”

Sounds quite prescient, as does that comment from the Transcript Telegram. Indeed, this was, and still is, the best Holyoke has to offer in community spirit, from the youngest child to the most senior resident.

And that’s why, nearly 30 years after this saga began, three decades after Hickey implored a city to reach for that “glittering brass ring,” the story about how it all happened never gets old.

And that’s also why the many Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round — those who have passed and those who still keep the city’s happiness machine turning — are true Difference Makers.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Class of 2017 Difference Makers

Cut and Dried

In Business and the Community, Denis Gagnon Is a Role Model

Denis Gagnon

Denis Gagnon

Denis Gagnon Sr. was asked about the origins of the signed, framed Tom Brady jersey that dominates one wall of his spacious office at Excel Dryer in East Longmeadow.

Rather than answer that question, he bolted up out of his chair and said, “think that’s nice? I’ve got something better … follow me.”

And with that, he walked briskly down the hall, with BusinessWest in tow, to the conference room, apologized as he ever-so-briefly interrupted a meeting in progress, and proudly pointed to a huge framed, autographed photo of Malcolm Butler, depicting the moment he stepped in front of Russell Wilson’s final pass in the 2015 Super Bowl, sealing a Patriots victory.

“How about that?” Gagnon, the company’s president, said of the photo, a gift from Pats owner Robert Kraft, who is now a valued customer of Excel Dryer, which, according to company literature — not to mention most people who have placed their hands under one of its products — has revolutionized the long-maligned hand-dryer industry.

Later, amid considerable and quite necessary prodding, he grudgingly revealed that signed photos and jerseys are just some of the many benefits that have come through what is now a very solid and multi-faceted marketing relationship between the Patriots and Excel (and donations to the team’s charitable foundation), up to and including the opportunity for Gagnon to actually get on the hallowed turf at Gillette Stadium, practice with the team, and play some catch with TB 12.

As noted, such reflections came reluctantly, because it is simply not in Gagnon’s nature to call attention to his actions or accomplishments. Those who know him well say he basically just goes quietly — and quite efficiently — about his business.

Denis Gagnon with his wife, Nancy, and sons Denis Jr., left, and Bill, right.

Denis Gagnon with his wife, Nancy, and sons Denis Jr., left, and Bill, right.

And by ‘business,’ they aren’t referring specifically to Excel and its signature product, the XLERATOR, although that’s certainly a big part of the conversation — the part referring to his strong entrepreneurial instincts, success in making the company’s products a global phenomenon, and even pride that the dryers are made not only in America (the only ones that can make such a claim), but in the 413 area code.

“I’m in the men’s room at Heathrow Airport … and I see East Longmeadow, Mass. on the XLERATOR,” recalled Gene Cassidy, president of the Big E, who has known Gagnon for years, “and it sends shivers up my spine; I wanted everyone in the lavatory to know that I knew Denis Gagnon.”

No, by ‘business,’ they were mostly referring to Gagnon’s strong track record of service to the community, which is notable for many reasons.

For starters, there’s simply the depth of that service, which includes everything from decades of work with the Boy Scouts and the Children’s Study Home to his multi-layered involvement with Link to Libraries (LTL).

There is also his ability to inspire others to become involved and make a difference in their own way.

He’s a man who not only sees the need, but takes action. He is very empathetic to those people in need and especially the young people of our community.”

Dana Barrows, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, another long-time acquaintance and long-time LTL volunteer, explains.

“I was in Denis’ office four years ago, and I saw a picture of him with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno,” he recalled. “I said, ‘what are you doing?’ and he replied that he was reading a book to school kids as part of Link to Libraries. And he told me I should check it out.

“I did, I’ve been reading ever since, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it,” he said, adding that this is but a small example of how Gagnon not only gets involved, but gets others to follow suit.

Humbly, Gagnon said simply, “if you have the good fortune of being in a good corporate job or owning your own business, like we’ve been able to do, you have a responsibility to give back to that community.”

And this philosophy was certainly handed down to his children, including those involved with him at Excel, Denis Jr. and Bill, who are both very active in the community (Bill is a member of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of 2013).

Mike Suzor, assistant to the president at Springfield Technical Community College and a serial entrepreneur himself, was a classmate of Gagnon’s at Cathedral High School, in the class of 1968. He remembers Gagnon as an excellent student, a multi-sport athlete, and someone who knew what it took to succeed on any stage, or playing field.

Mike Suzor

Mike Suzor, a long-time friend and former classmate of Denis Gagnon’s at Cathedral, says Gagnon has always understood what it takes to succeed at any level.

“I never met his parents, but they must have been great people,” he said, “because Denis learned very early on the value of honesty, integrity, and hard work — ‘don’t pass it off to someone else; get it done yourself.’ That attitude was there in high school, and it has stayed with him all through his career.”

“If you measure success financially, then he’s clearly successful,” Suzor went on. “But if you measure success by what kind of human being someone is … he’s one of the most successful people I’ve ever met.”

Rarified Air

Over the past 18 years or so, Gagnon has sat across from interviewers representing all manner of media outlets curious about the XLERATOR, from the small weekly paper that covers Longmeadow and East Longmeadow to the Wall Street Journal; from a host of trade publications, such as Restaurant Daily News, to Inc. magazine.

While the comments vary, obviously, he will undoubtedly tell the inquirer something he told BusinessWest back in 2003 — that, as entrepreneurial gambles go, Excel Dryer was anything but a rock-solid bet.

That’s because the company made a product that, by Gagnon’s own admission, people don’t like or want — electric hand dryers, a product that, historically, didn’t dry people’s hands as much as they would like.

As he explained back then, and has gone on explaining ever since, most businesses and institutions that installed hand dryers in those days did so because satisfying the customer — and that’s a relative term in this case — was not a priority, and saving money was. As examples, he listed airports, train stations, colleges, municipal buildings, sports stadiums, and even correctional facilities.

Today, businesses and institutions like those mentioned above, but also some certainly not on that list, are installing Excel models because they do place a premium on customer service — and also on protecting the environment and saving money.

Changing the hand-dryer landscape wasn’t exactly the stated mission when Gagnon bought a piece of Excel in 1992 and later acquired the entire company, but it quickly became not only a goal, but an obsession — one of those who knew Gagnon well firmly believed he would succeed with, even given the chosen product’s dubious history and uncertain future.

To explain, Suzor went into the wayback machine to Cathedral High, then home to 3,000 students, and memories of Gagnon the student-athlete.

“He was an incredible wrestler and first-team All-Western Mass. placekicker,” Suzor recalled. “In the wintertime, he would go out and kick field goals in the snow to practice; he was absolutely dedicated to excellence and doing whatever it took to be the best he could be. Going back to high school, he showed that.”

This pattern would continue at UMass Amherst and later in business, especially at what was then Milton Bradley, later Hasbro, and now Cartamundi, where Gagnon would rise in the ranks to vice president of International Sales.

This was a rewarding job in a number of ways, but also one that took him away from home quite often (he was responsible for the Pacific Rim region).

Desiring a change, and something closer to home, he and his wife Nancy would both join her family’s business, Springfield-based Bassett Boat, and he would help it achieve dramatic growth in the late ’80s. But the deep and lengthy recession that began at the end of that decade put a serious hurt on discretionary spending and thus the boat business, and Gagnon began searching for an entrepreneurial adventure of his own.

He and a partner thoroughly researched options, and set their sights on Excel Dryer, but the partner got cold feet, leaving Gagnon to pursue plan B, as he called it, which was to acquire a piece of that company and acquire the rest over time as he ran its sales and marketing efforts.

By 1997, when the acquisition was complete, he would begin the process of changing the equation when it came to the product that seemingly no one liked or wanted by partnering with (and essentially bankrolling) some inventors with a revolutionary new concept.

In time, it would come to be called the XLERATOR, which, as that name suggests, was painstakingly designed to reduce the time it took to dry one’s hands, while actually getting the job done.

Gagnon explains the technology, sort of, in one of the many interviews he’s given, this one with Restaurant Daily News.

“If I could describe the new drying system in layman’s terms, I would say that it delivers a focused, high-velocity air stream, which blows off excess water in three to four seconds,” he told that publication, “and evaporates the remaining boundary layer of moisture very rapidly. With a conventional hand dryer, it takes over 20 seconds before effective evaporation takes place, and 30 to 45 seconds overall to completely dry your hands.”

Denis Gagnon

Denis Gagnon stands beside one of the first XLERATORs, the hand dryer that changed perceptions about that product.

He skipped over much of the proprietary science and engineering that would eventually solve a noise problem and enable the XLERATOR to live up to its considerable promise and become the best-selling hand dryer in the world, with more than a million units now in use.

The map outside Gagnon’s office, the one with multi-colored push pins on seemingly every continent (covering more than 70 countries in which the product is now sold), does an effective job of explaining how far this company has come in less than two decades.

Having a Blast

But there are other ways to measure its success, and at Excel, there are many of them, including:

• Evolution of the venture into a true family business. Indeed, while Denis Gagnon is president, his wife, Nancy, who has been involved with the company from the beginning, serves as vice president, while son Bill, who joined after college when Denis was developing the XLERATOR and has since helped grow the company, is vice president of Marketing and Sales, and son Denis Jr. is vice president of International Sales;

• Continued expansion and diversification of the product line, including a new “XLERATOR integrated sink system,” as Gagnon described it (there’s a prototype at the Fort restaurant in Springfield and 168 of them at MGM’s new casino in Maryland). Developed in collaboration with Sloan Valve, it includes an automatic soap dispenser, automatic faucet, and an automatic dryer coming out of what looks like a faucet head. “You never have to leave the sink — you soap, wash, and dry your hands right there,” he explained, adding that the product is being brought to the marketplace by a separate LLC called D13 Group, run by his son Bill and son-in-law Lance;

• Continued expansion of the plant complex in East Longmeadow to accommodate a growing company and staff (the company now employs 49 people). Town officials recently approved plans for 5,000 square feet of additional warehouse, R&D, and engineering space;

• Official designation as an American-made product and being named as the inaugural winner of the ‘Made in the USA Certified Award’ in the ‘medium company’ category in 2013; and

• Continued exposure in the press. Over the years, the company and the XLERATOR has earned all kinds of ink and face time. It was one of Terry Bradshaw’s ‘picks of the week,’ on his CNN Headline News segment, for example, and has also been on the Science Channel’s How It’s Made show, the Discovery Channel’s Things We Love to Hate series (actually, the show was about how the XLERATOR is changing perceptions about hand dryers), and many more.

But, as noted earlier, success in business is really only one chapter in the Denis Gagnon story, and not the most important one, according to those who know him well.

Excel Dryer employees

Excel Dryer employees gather for a shot at the plant in East Longmeadow. The company has registered explosive growth in recent years.

Instead, it’s his work within the community that resonates most.

As he talked about that work — again, something he doesn’t like to do and would rather leave to others — he referenced a more-than-half-century-long relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and the many lessons imparted him through that involvement.

Especially those from his youth. Indeed, Gagnon, a member of Troop 424, which met at the Nativity Church in the Willimansett section of Chicopee, became an Eagle Scout at the age of 12, something that couldn’t be done today (one needs to be at least 14) and was a very rare achievement back then.

He remembers some of the scout credos, or marching orders, if you will, and said they’ve never left him.

“What’s the motto of the Boy Scouts? ‘Do a good turn daily’ — in other words, do something to give back to help other people,” he explained. “They teach you to be self-reliant, but they also teach you to give back, and that stays with you.”

Likewise, he’s never really left the Boy Scouts. He served as board president for eight years, for example, and, during that time, merged the Pioneer Valley Council and the Great Trails Council into the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America. And he’s still on the board.

In addition, he’s been a long-time supporter of a number of agencies, including the United Way, the American Red Cross, Western New England University (he’s a trustee), and a host of veterans’ organization, including Wounded Warriors.

Also on that list is the Children’s Study Home, the oldest nonprofit in Western Mass., which was created in 1865 as the Springfield Home for Friendless Women and Children, serving mostly the widows of Civil War veterans.

He’s served that agency, which provides a host of innovative and educational programs to strengthen children and families, in a number of roles, including the current one — president emeritus.

“That means that, whenever something big happens, they know who to call,” he joked, adding that his son Bill is now on the board.

Buy the Book

Actually, a number of agencies have called Gagnon’s number over the years, generally because he rarely says ‘no,’ but especially because he does much more than simply write a check.

That was the case with Link to Libraries, which, as that name suggests, places books on school-library shelves, but also brings business leaders into the classroom to read and essentially adopt the school in question.

Excel Dryer now sponsors two schools, and eight people at Excel volunteer to read, he said, adding that this is a company-wide effort that goes beyond read-alouds. Indeed, the company has funded a field trip to Sturbridge Village and other initiatives. And, as noted, Gagnon has encouraged others, including Barrows, to become involved and sponsor schools themselves.

Susan Jaye-Kaplan, founder of Link to Libraries and one of the first Difference Makers brought to the stage at the Log Cabin back in 2009, said Gagnon’s involvement with LTL is a good example of how he immerses himself in a cause and offers support that goes well beyond a cash contribution.

“He’s one of the most humble and caring men that I know,” said Jaye-Kaplan, who was one of many to invoke the phrase ‘role model’ as she talked about Gagnon. “He has never forgotten where he comes from or the people who helped make him the man he is today.

“He’s a man who not only sees the need, but takes action,” she went on. “He is very empathetic to those people in need and especially the young people of our community.”

Cassidy agreed, and put to use some of the same words and phrases others would deploy as they talked about Gagnon: ‘quiet,’ ‘humble,’ ‘generous,’ ‘impressive,’ ‘family man,’ and ‘inspiring,’ to name a few.

“He works quietly and mostly behind the scenes,” he said. “I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from him throughout my career from the way he works with people, the way he deals with adversity, and especially his generosity to the community.”

Barrows, who’s been doing business in Western Mass. for more than 40 years now, went so far as to put Gagnon in the same company (and sentence) as the late Dick Stebbins, the long-time regional president of BayBank whom most credit with setting the standard locally when it comes to community service, and said Gagnon is essentially the standard bearer for his generation.

Stebbins and Gagnon had different platforms in the business community — the former with a large public corporation, and the latter with a much smaller, family-owned company, but both worked in essentially the same way, Barrows explained.

“When I think of the people of that stature in today’s Pioneer Valley business community, I think of John and Steve Davis, and I think of Denis Gagnon,” he explained, adding that there may be others he is less familiar with.

“Denis is a little more private, a little more anonymous with his work in the community,” he went on. “But his actions speak very loudly. He’s a major player, and he inspires others with what he does and how he does it.”

Suzor agreed, noting that, in his philanthropic efforts, as with his business exploits, Gagnon takes a measured, results-driven approach to his giving.

“Even with his generosity, he would want to know the plan — ‘if I’m giving you money, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it? And how are you going to measure how successful you are at using it?’” he explained. “He’s a very bright businessman who always says, ‘let’s do what makes sense, and let’s not do what doesn’t make sense,’ and it was the same with his work in the community.”

Cut and Dried

In Business and the Community, Denis Gagnon Is a Role Model
That’s the Ticket

Returning to the subject of the Patriots and the various perks derived from that relationship, Gagnon noted that the company now has several season tickets.

In what should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him, Gagnon doesn’t use them much himself. (In fact, by late December, he had taken in only the Rams game a few weeks earlier, and that very ugly loss to Buffalo in early October, when Brady was still serving his Deflategate ‘vacation,’ as the quarterback called it).

Indeed, as any smart businessperson would, he bestows most of those tickets on very good customers and those who may attain such status. But he also puts them to use within the community — he donates tickets to the Boy Scouts, for example, for one of its fund-raisers, and, through his son Denis Jr., a board member with the United Way, that organization has received a few as well.

That’s a small example, but one of many, of someone who very quietly and humbly goes about his business — or businesses, as the case may be.

There’s the one that makes electric dryers, and then there’s the business of giving back to the community.

He’s, well, very hands-on, as one might say, with both — and certainly making a difference across Western Mass. in every sense of that phrase.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Class of 2017 Cover Story Difference Makers

Difference Makers to Be Honored on March 30

bizdiffmakrslogobttrfly

When BusinessWest launched the Difference Makers program in 2009 (see past winners HERE), it was with the understanding that there were several components to this initiative.

The first is what this special edition has become, a comprehensive effort to shine a light on individuals, agencies, and institutions that are finding profound and often unique ways to improve the quality of life in the community we call Western Mass. These light-shining efforts are profiled with words and pictures that collectively tell some very poignant stories.

The second component of this program, the more fun one, is the event at which the honorees are recognized for their various accomplishments and contributions. Since the beginning, those of us at BusinessWest have struggled with what exactly to call this gathering.

‘Dinner’ doesn’t quite work, because, although the food at the Log Cabin is certainly excellent, the evening’s festivities encompass so much more. ‘Gala’ falls short, too, because this connotes black ties and formality, and there is little of that at this event.

No, we prefer the word ‘celebration,’ because that’s exactly what this is — a celebration of those who stand out and make this region a better place to live, work, and conduct business because of their efforts. And this year, there is much to celebrate:

The region’s community-college presidents

The region’s community-college presidents, from left, Bob Pura, Ellen Kennedy, John Cook, and Christina Royal.

• We start  with a nod to the region’s community colleges. While perhaps not as famous as the region’s many fine private schools or UMass Amherst and other four-year institutions in the state system, these schools — Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, and Springfield Technical Community College — are playing an absolutely critical role in the development of this region.

They act as both a door of opportunity, especially to those who don’t have many available to them, and a pathway to careers, through both degree and certificate programs that provide job skills and also transfer opportunities to four-year schools. Meanwhile, behind almost every major economic-development initiative in this region, there is a community college playing a significant role.

Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round

Some of the many passionate Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round: from left, Jim Jackowski, Barbara Griffin, Angela Wright, and Joe McGiverin.

• We continue  with the Friends of Holyoke Merry-Go-Round Inc. The story of how this group raised the money to save the carousel at Mountain Park and keep it in the Paper City has been told many times. But there’s a reason for it. This is an epic tale of a community coming together and battling long odds to save a treasure that could very easily have become someone else’s treasure.

But buying the carousel was just the first chapter in the story, really. Keeping it operating amid a host of stiff challenges so that it may be enjoyed by more generations of ‘young’ people (with young in quotation marks for a reason) is an ongoing saga and one certainly worth celebrating.

Denis Gagnon

Denis Gagnon

• As are the contributions of Denis Gagnon Sr. He has improved our lives by dramatically reducing the amount of time we need to spend in the restroom drying our hands with his company’s XLERATOR. But that’s not why he’s being honored. OK, that’s part of it.

The other, much bigger part is how he has devoted generous amounts of time, energy, and imagination to groups and causes ranging from the Boy Scouts to the Children’s Study Home to a host of veterans’ initiatives, and, while doing so, serving as a true inspiration to others.

Jennifer Connolly

Jennifer Connolly stands beside the portrait of JA co-founder Horace Moses at the agency’s offices in Tower Square.

• Also worth celebrating are the contributions of Junior Achievement of Western Mass. This is a group that has been around a long time now (its centennial is coming up in 2018), and it would be easy to take its many programs for granted.

That would be a big mistake. As the story reveals, JA programs run much deeper than showing high-school students how to make and sell lamps (although that’s where it all started, and that solid foundation remains).

The organization begins by teaching vital lessons in financial literacy to kindergarten students, and stays with these young people until they’re ready for college or whatever other path they choose. And because JA stayed with them, the lessons stay with them as well.

Photo by Leah Martin Photography

Photo by Leah Martin Photography

• Last but certainly not least, there is Joan Kagan, whose career and accomplishments are worth celebrating for many reasons.

She has steered the organization known as Square One (formerly Springfield Day Nursery) through treacherous whitewater in the form of seemingly endless adversity. It has come in waves, literally and figuratively, from a tornado to a natural-gas blast to persistent fiscal challenges.

But her more lasting contribution has been tireless efforts to not only serve children and families, but lobby state and federal leaders for the many kinds of support they need and deserve.

As we said, this year’s honorees offer much to celebrate. And we’ll do it on March 30. Here’s what you need to know:

 

Fast Facts:

What: The 2017 Difference Makers Celebration
When: Thursday, March 30
Where: The Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, Holyoke
COST: Tickets are $65 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.
For More Information: Call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or go HERE.

Sponsored by:

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Opinion

Editorial

 

When BuinessWest approached Mike Suzor, assistant to the president at Springfield Technical Community College, to talk about Denis Gagnon Sr., he replied dryly, “who’s he … what’s he done?”

He was being facetious, of course. He’s known Gagnon since the two were roaming the halls, along with about 3,000 other students, at Cathedral high School in the late ’60s. And the ‘what’s he done’ line … well, that was an attempt at misdirection; what he was really saying was, ‘what hasn’t he done?’

In a way, though, Suzor was helping BusinessWest make a point. Many people don’t know Gagnon or what he’s done beyond revolutionize the electric hand-dryer business (and that’s a significant accomplishment in its own right). But they should know, and, more importantly, they need to know.

And that’s why BusinessWest launched the Difference Makers program back in 2009, to tell some of the stories that people need to know, or, to steal Paul Harvey’s famous line, tell them the rest of the story, the part that maybe they didn’t know.

And that’s what we’ve done with Gagnon and the rest of the year’s honorees, HERE.

People know, for example, that the region’s community colleges open their doors to anyone who has a high-school diploma or GED. It’s called open admission. What people might not know is just how this doorway has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people in this region. Also, they may not know the absolutely pivotal role community colleges are playing in the ongoing efforts to close a stubborn skills gap impacting every sector and virtually every business in the region through targeted programs and a hard focus on the specific needs of area businesses.

Many people do know the story of the merry-go-round that sits in the center of Holyoke in Heritage State Park and how it arrived there. But most probably don’t know the many ways individuals and the community as a whole came together to make it happen. Likewise, they probably don’t know or understand that the passion that drove this initiative nearly 30 years ago still exists today, and is quite necessary to keep the ‘happiness machine,’ as it’s known colloquially, spinning for this generation and those to follow.

As mentioned earlier, most know of Gagnon’s XLERATOR and its ability to dry their hands much faster than other products on the market. They probably don’t know about his multi-layered commitment to organizations ranging from the Boy Scouts to Link to Libraries, and how his work within the community has become an inspiration to all those who know him.

As for Junior Achievement, most people know it has programs that enable high-school students to learn about business by running a business. They know, because they were probably involved with such a company, whether they went to high school in 1948, 1978, or 2008.

What they probably don’t know is that JA has expanded its programming to include lessons in everything from how and why people pay taxes (taught to second-graders) to how a zoning board functions (a matter for fifth-graders to assess), all in the name of improving financial literacy across the region.

Finally, people probably know that Joan Kagan famously led her agency, Square One, in recovery efforts following both the June 2011 tornado and the November 2012 natural-gas blast. What they may not know is that she has spent her career developing and refining programs for families and children and continues to lobby tirelessly on behalf of these constituencies.

Difference Makers was launched because sometimes people don’t know about some of the more important stories involving community service in our region, or they don’t know the whole story.

They should know, and this year’s class presents five very poignant reasons why.

Education Sections

RoyalChristina Royal recently took the helm at Holyoke Community College. She brings with her a phrase, or saying, that she contrived and uses often as she talks about higher education and her approach to it: “it takes a village to raise a student.”

Before accepting the position of provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Inver Hills Community College just outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Christina Royal first turned down an offer to become president of a school in Texas.

The stated reasons for that somewhat unusual career decision — many who have spent years working in higher education and believe they’re ready to apply for president positions yearn for that opportunity to lead their own school — speak volumes about Royal and her priorities. And also about the next school that would choose her to occupy the corner office: Holyoke Community College.

“I didn’t feel like it was going to be the best fit to get me the college experiences that I needed to prepare me ultimately to step into a college presidency and succeed,” she said in reference to job in the Lone Star State. “I’m a lifelong learner through and through, and when I look at my career to date, I tend to seek out positions where I see opportunities for growth and opportunities where I can make an impact.

“While it’s been helpful to be upwardly mobile in my career trajectory,” she went on, “it’s more important for me to feel that I can make a difference in that role and that I can learn something.”

Which says something about the provost’s job in Minnesota — and she did quite a bit of learning there, as we’ll see later — and also about the job she started on Jan. 9.

 

I really believe that having partnerships with business and industry and the community is essential for an institution of higher education to thrive.”

 

Starting with her visit to the campus on Homestead Avenue, she said she felt a “connection” — to the school, its mission, its current efforts to meet it, and the community as a whole. And the subsequent interviews and conversations with a host of constituencies, including students, faculty, and staff, only made the connection stronger.

At HCC, she saw an opportunity to forge an even stronger connection between the school and the community it serves, and thus make both stronger and more vibrant.

“I have a phrase that I’ve used often during my career — that ‘it takes a village to raise a student,’” she noted. “And I really believe that having partnerships with business and industry and the community is essential for an institution of higher education to thrive.

“Likewise, for a community with a community college to thrive, it needs to have a strong community college,” she went on. “I look at it as a bi-directional relationship and partnership.”

Royal arrives at HCC at an intriguing time for that school, community colleges in general, the ones in this state, and the four that serve this region. Indeed, those four institutions were chosen by BusinessWest as one of its Difference Makers for 2017, for their efforts to not only provide convenient, affordable access to higher education, but for becoming huge role players in regional economic-development efforts.

And, as that story goes on to note, the community colleges in this region have increasingly been working in collaboration among themselves and myriad other partners to address a host of workforce issues, including the skills gap plaguing virtually every sector of the economy.

Royal touched on some of these efforts when she talked with BusinessWest just a few days after her arrival — “nothing in this office is mine,” she said of what was in the credenza and on the walls — and noted that they fit right in with those basic criteria she was looking for in a move up the career ladder (and a college presidency) — opportunities to learn and grow professionally, and opportunities to make a difference.

As for community colleges as a whole, they are facing a host of common challenges, including enrollment — high-school graduation classes are getting smaller, and the economy is doing generally well, two factors that certainly don’t help drive individuals to community-college gates — and also financial pressures, and ongoing efforts to improve graduation rates, or ‘success rates,’ as many like to call them, because not all students are seeking a degree.

 

The $43 million renovation of HCC’s campus center

The $43 million renovation of HCC’s campus center is just one of many opportunities and challenges facing the school’s new president.

HCC is confronting these issues just as all schools are, said Royal, while it is also focused on some of its own specific challenges, including a soon-to-commence renovation of its campus center and a host of area workforce-development issues.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked at length with Royal about why she ultimately took this opportunity to become a college president, why she focused her career on the community-college community, as she called it, and what kind of learning opportunities she’s expecting at HCC.

Facing Stern Tests

Before getting into all that, though, Royal spent some time addressing the question often put to those putting ‘president’ on their business card for the first time — how and when did she know she was ready for that level of responsibility and challenge?

She said she recalls no specific morning when she woke up with that realization, but, rather, that it came with time, the accumulation of experience, the stockpiling of needed confidence … and confirmation from others in the industry that she was, indeed, ready to ascend to the top rung.

“I had a very well-rounded background, both in business and in higher education, that gave me a sense of the issues within higher education and the changing landscape of community colleges,” she told BusinessWest. “Given the number of college presidents that have been in these roles for many years and had started to retire, I was thinking this was a good time to be looking at pursuing one of those jobs.”

As for that accumulation of experience, it has come across the broad spectrum of higher education, starting in the private sector with CompUSA Inc. There, she provided instruction to more than 2,000 students for the Social Security Administration — and a host of other corporate clients — on various software-application programs.

From there, she went to the Beacon Institute for Learning in Florida, where, among other things, she was responsible for curriculum development, implementation, and assessment of technical training and certification programs for more than 20 colleges and universities, including Duke, Notre Dame, and Rutgers.

She then returned to her alma mater, serving from 2001 to 2006 as director of Technology-Assisted Learning in Marist College’s School of Graduate and Continuing Education in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

In early 2006, she would take a job that would eventually inspire a career-path decision. It was executive director of Distance Learning at Cuyahoga Community College (CCC) in Cleveland, a massive school with four campuses, two corporate colleges, a $270 million budget, and roughly 52,000 credit and non-credit students. She would later become assistant vice president of eLearning & Innovation in 2010, a post she would hold until mid-2013.

It was during her tenure at CCC that Royal would first earn her doctorate in education (in 2007, at Capella University’s School of Education) a pre-requisite for most high-level jobs in higher education, especially president, and later achieve that aforementioned confidence and skill set also needed to ascend to those levels.

“My college president at the time said, ‘this is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re interested in this, then I’m going to send you to an executive-leader program focused on the job and the role of the president,’” she recalled. “She went on, ‘if you’re still interested when you come, let’s talk.’”

Christina Royal

Christina Royal says it take a village to raise a student, and this means more and stronger relationships between the college and the community.

 

She went, was interested when she came back, and the two did talk, she went on, adding that she considered herself ready for a presidency when there were “few surprises in the job,” and she had acquired a set of experiences that made her ready. She would cross that threshold at her next career stop — Inver Hills.

And it was also while in Cleveland, she said, that she began to focus on that aforementioned community-college community as her career ambition.

That mindset was only solidified at Inver Hills (which she chose over that Texas school), where she led a number of academic and workforce-development initiatives, including the South of the River Education Center, a workforce partnership with a host of other schools and economic-development-related agencies.

 

I had a very well-rounded background, both in business and in higher education, that gave me a sense of the issues within higher education and the changing landscape of community colleges.”

 

She told BusinessWest she has been looking at a number of president positions over the past several months, but made HCC the her main focus for a host a reasons, including geography (her family is still in the Albany area), but especially those aforementioned opportunities to grow professionally and make a difference — at the school and within the community it serves.

Grade Expectations

Since arriving on the campus during its winter intercession — students were not due back until late in January — Royal said she has taken advantage of that quiet time to meet with several of the constituencies she’ll be working with and beside.

These included staff and, later, faculty, as well as Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, several state legislators, the school’s foundation, the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, and the other area community college presidents (through a photo shoot for the Difference Makers program).

She and Springfield Technical Community College President John Cook have already talked more than a few times, continuing a dialogue — and pattern of collaboration — forged by their respective predecessors, Bill Messner at HCC and Ira Rubenzahl at STCC, who retired within a few weeks of each other last summer. (You can read more about those collaborative efforts in the story on page A4).

Royal has also become acquainted with many of HCC’s current initiatives, and there are many of them, including:

• A $43.5 million renovation of the school’s campus center. The two-year project will change the look, feel, and orientation of the campus, and give it what administrators are calling “a new front door.”;

• The Mass. Casino Careers Training Institute, a joint effort among all the state’s community colleges to train people for careers at gambling facilities, including the $950 million MGM Springfield now taking shape in that city’s South End;

• The Cubit Building. That’s the name given to an old mill in downtown Holyoke that takes that shape. HCC will be moving its culinary-arts program into the first two floors of that structure, thus making it the anchor tenant in a building that will also feature market-rate housing and is touted as one of the keys to revitalization of the city’s Innovation District;

• TWO (Training & Workforce Options), a collaborative effort with STCC to provide training programs to help business sectors and individual companies close recognized skills gaps; and

• The school’s designation as an Hispanic Serving Institution, a federal designation from the U.S. Department of Education. Schools earn it when they have an enrollment of undergraduate full-time-equivalent students that is at least 25% Hispanic, a threshold HCC has reached. If it maintains that number for a year, it will be eligible to apply for certain grants that can be used to assist that specific constituency, Royal said.

As might be expected, Royal said one of her first priorities for the school will be to undertake development of a new strategic plan, which would be the first in decades, in her estimation.

She doesn’t expect that a new plan will yield many surprises in terms of recognized priorities, growth opportunities, and a specific strategic direction (although one never knows), but instead will provide needed affirmation of a host of agenda items.

These include the broad issues of access, enrollment, and how to grow it given the current, and lingering, challenges, and developing programs to improve students’ chances for success — whether they’re seeking a certificate, a two-year degree, or a pathway to a four-year degree.

And with that, we turn to what Royal wrote to the search committee that would choose HCC’s next president as she expressed her interest in the position.

“I have been intentional in my career about serving the community-college mission,” she said. “Growing up as a first-generation, low-income, biracial college student, I understand the community-college student and the challenges they face. Student success is most effectively achieved when an institution understands the unique support needs of students in two-year colleges.”

To further emphasize ‘unique,’ she would go on to discuss — with the search committee in that letter, and then, several months later, with BusinessWest — an initiative called the Mobile Food Pantry at Inver Hills.

As that name suggests, this program, created in partnership with a Minnesota-area nonprofit called Open Door, which has a mission to end local hunger, allows Inver Hills’ students in need of food support to receive healthy food on a bus that travels directly to the college.

And there were, and are, plenty of students in need, said Royal, adding that 60% of Inver Hills’ students were classified as low-income.

Whether HCC needs a mobile food pantry or something like it remains to be seen, said Royal, adding that it is merely one example of the ways community colleges can and should work to address the many obstacles standing in the way of students’ success.

“The reason programs like Food Pantry are important is that you cannot educate a hungry student,” said Royal in a firm, direct voice. “We do have students who are struggling, their food insecure, their housing insecure, there are transportation problems … these issues are real, and they impact their quality of focus as they try to concentrate on their studies and improve the quality of their life and the lives of their children.

“We have to look at how we’re able to address, or partner with someone who can address, some of these social-service issues that come with some of the students we serve,” she went on. “So I’ll be looking at community partnerships to address some of these issues.”

Food for Thought

As Royal noted, it takes a village to raise a student.

She is now in a leadership position within that village, and is intent on using that power and responsibility to make success less of a goal and more of a reality.

And, while doing so, she’ll be focused on creating more and different learning experiences — not only for the students, but for her as well.

That’s why she came to HCC, after all.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

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