Home Posts tagged Dress for Success Western Massachusetts
Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts (DFSWM) announced achievements by all three of its staff members. Their commitment to empowering women to attain economic independence has made the organization a standout among 144 Dress for Success Worldwide affiliates, and has grown the organization in spite of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Director Margaret Tantillo is one of only 16 executive directors from around the world invited to join the inaugural Dress for Success Worldwide Affiliate Advisory Council. Representing the Northeastern U.S., Tantillo will give input to determine how Dress for Success will move forward and provide support throughout the affiliate network. According to Worldwide, “as an established affiliate with solid programming, we feel that Margaret’s participation in the council will bring unique insights that can benefit the entire organization.”

DFSWM does, in fact, have solid programming. In addition to its signature interview suiting, it has graduated 11 cohorts from its Foot in the Door workforce-development program in under six years, and is currently launching the 12th class. In less than three years, the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentorship Program has quadrupled the number of mentees paired with professional women in the community. DFSWM has also established a Professional Women’s Group to support participants looking to advance their careers and gain leadership skills. And in response to the needs of local women during COVID, it has established a digital-literacy coaching program that has provided more than 400 hours of one-on-one learning.

Overseeing this advancement is Jess Roncarati-Howe, who has been promoted to director of Programs and Operations. Having been hired in January 2020 as a part-time program coordinator, Roncarati-Howe quickly advanced, expanding programming, fostering community relationships, and responding to the needs of local women seeking gainful employment during and post-pandemic. As the former executive director of the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce and the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts, she is uniquely qualified to develop programs that target the needs of the local workforce while meeting participants wherever they are in their lives.

The overall success of DFSWM would not be possible without its more than 100 consistently active volunteers. This group of women supporting women is led by Volunteer Engagement Manager Diane Jacobs, who brings a distinct combination of facilities management, event coordination, and office oversight experience to the role.

Having joined the staff in September of 2019, Jacobs has established structure, enthusiasm, and a culture of gratitude that ensure an ever-growing roster of committed volunteers. Most recently, she has led the Volunteer Engagement Committee to the completion of a volunteer handbook that has been recognized as a resource by Dress for Success affiliates across the globe.

She has also, over the last two years, coordinated the largest and most successful tag sales in the organization’s history and brought DFSWM to the table for initiatives such as United Way of the Pioneer Valley Women’s Leadership Council’s Power of the Purse and the Suited for Growth program in collaboration with Follow My Steps and Bay Path University.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Eric Lesser recently joined state Sen. Adam Gomez, state Reps. Carlos Gonzalez and Orlando Ramos, and Margaret Tantillo, executive director of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts, to announce $25,000 in funding for the organization’s workforce-development program. As lead budget sponsor, Lesser secured this earmark in the FY22 budget that was passed by the Senate and House and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in July.

Dress for Success’ workforce-development programs and services improve the employability, employment placement, and self-sufficiency of women who are unemployed and seeking to enter or re-enter the workforce.

“The pandemic has had a massive economic impact on women, and in particular, women of color. This past year, female workforce participation dropped to 56% — the lowest it’s been in over 30 years,” Lesser said. “Dress for Success Western Mass. helps women prepare for interviews, outfits them in professional attire, trains in digital literacy, and develops soft skills — things that we take for granted. The demand has never been greater. This funding will help them continue their mission, a mission that has never been more urgent.”

This funding will aid workforce-development programs that include employment suitings to provide applicants and newly employed women with professional attire; career-coaching and digital-mentoring programs that are designed to bridge access and knowledge gaps for each individual woman served based on her specific needs and obstacles preventing her from joining the workforce; and workforce-readiness curriculum that includes soft-skill development, professional and personal brand, social-media presence, task management and goal setting, interviewing techniques, and more.

“Dress for Success helps women in our community who are unemployed or looking to enter or re-enter the workforce. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve shifted to a virtual format and added innovative ways to help our women gain access to technology and connectivity so they can succeed in our new digital world,” Tantillo said. “We are grateful for Senator Lesser’s continued support and for championing our women and helping to secure state funding to support our programs.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts will host another of its popular clothing tag sales — this time outside under a huge tent in the parking lot of the Eastfield Mall. The tag sale will be held on Friday, June 18, through Thursday, June 24.

Hundreds of women have refreshed their wardrobes at past tag sales, while at the same time supporting Dress for Success’ mission to empower women to achieve economic independence.

Women can choose from an extensive array of clothing, shoes, accessories, and more. These new and gently used items include selections from name-brand fashion houses such as Anne Klein, Evan Picone, Ellen Tracy, and many more. Customers can fill a shopping bag for only $25.

Individuals with clothing they would like to donate can call (413) 732-8179 to make an appointment.

Because the tag sale is outside, there will not be rooms to try on clothes. If anyone buys something that doesn’t fit, they can pass it on to friends or others in need. For everyone’s safety, shoppers are asked to wear a mask while inside the tent.

Volunteers are needed on June 14-17 to set up, June 18-24 to staff the tent, and June 25 to break down the event. Anyone interested should e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Common Threads, the signature event of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts, is coming up on Thursday, April 22 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will highlight the “My Strong Suit” campaign, which celebrates women’s unique talents and skills.

The annual event, held virtually this year for safety reasons, is an evening that celebrates women. Guests will hear stories of success and be encouraged to discover and share their strong suits. Dress for Success serves low- to moderate-income women, many who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important to lift everyone’s spirits and celebrate the women served by Dress for Success.

Western Mass News anchor Briceyda Landaverde will be the emcee for the event. Joli Hamilton, a depth psychologist whose life has revolved around teaching in non-traditional settings, will serve as the keynote speaker. Rather than working on what is ‘wrong’ in a situation, Hamilton approaches every question and emotion with an attitude of curiosity, looking for the ways she can help people find their own answers, providing practical, well-researched support.

During the event, the Eastfield Mall and its management team will be honored as Outstanding Contributors for their generous support hosting the Dress for Success boutique, which serves more than 400 women per year.

In addition, the organization will honor Christina Atwater as Volunteer of the Year for her leadership in implementing and developing programs like the Margaret Fitzgerald mentor program, the volunteer strategic plan, and the diversity, inclusion, and equity initiative. “Her altruism is an inspiration to all of our participants,” Executive Director Margaret Tantillo said.

Jenary Merced will be recognized with the Distinguished Alumna Award. She successfully completed Dress for Success’ programs and is now an accomplished professional and passionate community contributor.  “Jenary recently joined our board and is a role model for all women in our organization,” said Jessica Dupont, board president.

Click here to register. Tickets to Common Threads cost $15. In recognition of how they help the organization, volunteers may attend at no cost. The event will feature opportunities to donate to the work of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts.

Event sponsors include Baystate Health, Berkshire Bank, BusinessWest, Health New England, MassLive, Meredith-Springfield Associates, PeoplesBank, Scout Curated Wears, Seven Roads Media, the Republican, St. Germain Investments, Toner Plastics, Western Mass News, and Zasco Productions.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS) and Dress for Success Western Massachusetts have partnered to provide networking and career-advancement opportunities to local women working to establish careers.

This partnership is timely, as women have been disproportionately impacted by job loss related to COVID-19. According to the National Women’s Law Center, female workforce participation has dropped 57%, to its lowest level since 1988. McKinsey and Oxford Economics projects that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 — a full two years after a projected recovery for men.

Dress for Success Western Massachusetts, whose mission is to help women achieve financial independence, has been working to address this reality. Its Professional Women’s Group, with the support of Eversource, launched immediately before the pandemic in early 2020, was intended to support women who have attained employment with continuing education, career-development programs, and leadership training.

While remaining true to its intent, the program has also come to support women who have lost their employment due to the pandemic and are struggling to juggle the demands of work, loss of childcare, virtual schooling, and other COVID-specific challenges. The program is focused on keeping the determined participants not just afloat, but moving forward in spite of these challenges.

YPS, a community-minded organization that focuses on business and career development, networking, and community involvement, will provide the Professional Women’s Group with complimentary YPS memberships, which will enhance access to each of these focus areas to provide new and expanded career opportunities.

“YPS is thrilled to partner with Dress for Success,” said Amie Miarecki, YPS president. “It’s a natural fit because we are focused on career development and creating connections, especially during this time when we are all seeking new ways to network. We welcome these new members and want them to take advantage of our unique events.”

Margaret Tantillo, executive director of Dress for Success, agrees that this is a natural partnership. “Giving our participants access to the expanded opportunities and new networks that YPS provides just makes sense. It’s a perfect next step for women who are looking to develop or redevelop their career. YPS membership will open doors, foster relationships, and expand upon what the Professional Women’s Group can offer in a seamless way. We’re grateful for their support.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts announced the addition of four new members to its board of directors.

“These women will be a great addition to our board,” said Jessica Dupont, the organization’s president. “They each bring a unique skill set and perspective to the organization. We are honored to have them join our leadership team and help us advance the organization.”

Nikki Burnett brings more than 20 years of program coordination, board management, and volunteer engagement to the Dress for Success board of directors. She is currently the executive director of Educare in Springfield and has also worked at the American Heart Assoc. and Baystate Medical Center.

Mariangeliz Fines-Delbrey is a previous client of Dress for Success and has worked for the last 13 years in patient care in the Springfield area, and is also a one-on-one special-education paraprofessional. She has been an advocate for patients and their families and has completed many trainings and certifications to further her education and ability to provide outreach to the community.

Jenary Merced is also a previous client of Dress for Success and brings a wealth of community work and volunteer experience to the board. She has worked in higher education for the last five years, most recently as a community outreach and admissions counselor at Springfield Technical Community College.

Myra Quick brings many years of experience in employee development and volunteer recruitment and is currently the CEO and president of Fast Forward Learning and Development. She holds certifications from the Society of Human Resources Management and the Assoc. for Training and Development, among others.

Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is part of a worldwide nonprofit organization whose overall mission is to help women journey toward self-sufficiency. More than suiting its clients, the organization offers programs including mentoring and interview training to area women seeking meaningful employment.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Eric Lesser and Dress for Success Western Massachusetts hosted a virtual forum this week on the ‘digital divide,’ focusing on the fight to plug in disconnected cities and towns across the Commonwealth as well as the prevalence of income-related issues with internet access.

Lesser and Margaret Tantillo, executive director of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts, were joined by experts and advocates in the region to discuss the high-level impact that broadband access has on remote learning, job training, and telehealth, as well as funding challenges in bridging the digital divide. The group stressed the transformative impacts of reliable, high-speed broadband service in unserved, underserved, and urban communities. The entire program can be viewed on Facebook by clicking here.

“I do think that it’s times of challenge that bring out the biggest opportunities,” Lesser said. “If we all work together to overcome COVID-19, learn where the gaps are, and make the big choices and decisions to close those gaps, I do feel confident that we can end up in a more equitable place and we can have a future where we do close the digital divide.”

During the forum, Tantillo also highlighted the Digital Literacy Task Force launched by Dress for Success Western Massachusetts back in June that strives to help guide women through their professional careers and provide resources needed for online meetings or learning. “Right now there are some resources,” she said, “but people don’t know how to access them or where to go.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — When Dress for Success Western Massachusetts was forced to shut down its boutique due to social distancing, staff and volunteers sprang into action to see how they could continue to serve the women in their programs. They quickly learned that many of the women were at a distinct disadvantage because they either lacked connectivity or did not know how to use the tools needed for things like Zoom meetings or online learning.

To remedy this, Dress for Success put together a digital-literacy task force to provide outreach and individual support during this critical time. On Thursday, June 18, the organization will host a 24-hour Day of Giving. The goal of the Day of Giving is to purchase at least 20 laptops — complete with software and internet access — to help women bridge the digital divide.

“Not surprisingly, those who are already challenged by socioeconomic barriers are being even more severely impacted by this pandemic,” said Jessica Dupont, Dress for Success board president. “While we are all transitioning to a heavily digital world, we want to make sure women who do not have the financial means to own a computer or have internet access are not left behind.”

Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is part of a worldwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of women as they take control of their personal and professional lives. Programs include Foot in the Door, a professional women’s mentorship group, and the Margaret R. Fitzgerald Mentoring Program. At the completion of such programs, each woman receives free professional attire and accessories at the Dress for Success suiting boutique at Eastfield Mall in Springfield. Prior to the pandemic, women were also referred to the boutique by social-service agencies throughout the region.

People can visit Dress for Success Western Massachusetts at westernmass.dressforsuccess.org and donate online at any time, but the organization hopes they will do so on June 18 during the Day of Giving. Call Margaret Tantillo, executive director, at (860) 638-8980 for additional details.

People on the Move
Paul Belsito

Paul Belsito

The directors of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation announced the appointment of Paul Belsito as executive director of the foundation, succeeding Mary Walachy, who has served in the position for the past 23 years. Belsito will begin his new role on June 1. Belsito most recently worked for the Hanover Insurance Group in Worcester, where he served as president of the Hanover Insurance Group Foundation and assistant vice president for Community Relations. In his nearly eight years at Hanover, Belsito led charitable giving, community relations, and employee giving and service in the company’s efforts to improve the lives of Worcester’s youth. The Hanover Insurance Group Foundation places special emphasis on programs designed to strengthen schools and propel youth to higher levels of success. One of Belsito’s signature initiatives was supporting the Advancement Via Individualized Determination college readiness program in Worcester Public Schools. During her tenure, Walachy guided the foundation in establishing several signature initiatives, including Cherish Every Child, the nationally-recognized Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative, the 413families/familias community texting initiative, and the advocacy group Springfield Business Leaders for Education. Most recently, she led the effort to establish and build the innovative Educare Springfield early-education center, which opened in the fall of 2019 near the campus of Springfield College and Brookings Elementary School. Walachy will continue to represent the Davis Foundation in its role as philanthropic lead for Educare Springfield, the 24th Educare in the country and the first in Massachusetts, through the end of 2020. A native of Worcester, Belsito has long been deeply involved in his community, serving on numerous nonprofit boards, including corporator of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, associate trustee of the Nativity School of Worcester, and presently as chair of the board of the EcoTarium. In the last few months, he co-led the city of Worcester’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in support of COVID-19 pandemic response. Belsito brings a diversity of professional experiences across higher education, politics, and government to the Davis Foundation in addition to his significant experience in philanthropy and community engagement. Prior to joining Hanover, he served in the Office of the President at Assumption College as executive assistant for Government and Community Relations, and as a district director in the Massachusetts State Senate. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management and an MBA, both from Assumption College.

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Vanessa Otero

Vanessa Otero

The board of directors of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley (HRIPV) announced that former board member Vanessa Otero has been named interim director through the end of the year to support and move forward the work of the institute. The institute also announced it has become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As part of that move, the HRIPV board has appointed Baystate Health executive and longtime social-justice advocate Frank Robinson as the organization’s first president. Otero is among the co-founders of HRIPV that grew out of a City2City Pioneer Valley visit to Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2011, where a Healing Racism Institute was formed and housed at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Grand Rapids has also established institutes in its community’s faith and higher-education sectors. Otero is currently director of Smith College’s Urban Education Initiative. She has deep roots in the community, serving on state and regional boards, including being appointed to the Governor’s Latino Advisory Commission. She is also the chair of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission. Mostly recently, Otero was asked to join the Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Group, advising Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel and DPH on health-equity issues related to and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and providing suggestions on solutions to be implemented at all levels. Otero graduated from Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar. She has a master’s degree in public policy administration from UMass Amherst.

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Brenna Breeding

Brenna Breeding

Brenna Breeding has joined the bankESB Marketing Department as its digital marketing manager. In this role, she will be responsible for providing strategic, tactical, and analytical support for online and digital marketing initiatives for bankESB and across the member banks of its parent company, Hometown Financial Group. Prior to joining bankESB, Breeding was the marketing communications associate with VentureWell in Hadley, and before that was the communications and marketing specialist for the Center for Responsive Schools. Breeding earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware. She is an active volunteer in the Greater Springfield community and has been a member of the Junior League of Greater Springfield for seven years.

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Jessica Colon

Jessica Colon

Kim Bruno

Kim Bruno

DiGrigoli Salon, located in West Springfield, officially opened for business on May 26, included in the phase 1 reopening plan for Massachusetts. At the same time, two stylists, Jessica Colon and Kim Bruno, have been promoted to ‘the Artist’ level, the highest recognition of experience, due to their dedication, loyalty, and improvement throughout their careers. Colon joined the DiGrigoli Salon artistic team upon graduating DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology in 2008 and has grown into a stylist with a large and still-growing clientele over the past 12 years. She is particularly skilled in color formulation, precision cutting, and blow-drying curly hair types. In addition to a full appointment schedule, she has also performed demos and worked with upcoming stylists and students, all while continuing her own education at beauty shows such as Premiere Orlando in Florida and the Beauty Experience in New York. Bruno, also a graduate of DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology, became a stylist at the salon in 2011, and her skills and clientele have grown exponentially since then. With expertise in vivid colors and makeup, she has become one of the most sought-after stylists and makeup artists in the area. Frequently appearing on local lifestyle TV programs, she demonstrates standard makeup, special-FX makeup, and hairstyling techniques to a wide audience. Much like Colon, Bruno takes the time to educate others while balancing a booked schedule and pursuing her own education at the aforementioned beauty shows. DiGrigoli Salon is currently booking appointments and taking all recommended precautions necessary for the health and safety of both clients and the stylists. Appointments with Colon, Bruno, or any experienced DiGrigoli stylist can be made by calling (413) 827-8888 Tuesday through Saturday.

•••••

Richard Meelia

Richard Meelia

The Elms College board of trustees appointed Richard Meelia, principal of Meelia Ventures, LLC, as a new member of the board. From July 2007 until his retirement in July 2011, Meelia served as chairman, president, and CEO of Covidien, an $11 billion global healthcare-products company, following its separation from Tyco International in June 2007. Prior to that separation, Meelia served in a variety of senior leadership roles, including CEO and president of Tyco Healthcare. In addition to his business experience, Meelia has a passion for student experiential learning. He funded the Meelia Center for Student Engagement and Volunteerism at Saint Anselm College and has provided support to establish the Srs. Kathleen Keating and Maxyne Schneider Experiential Learning Fund at Elms College. Meelia is the chairman of the board of Haemonetics, a global provider of blood and plasma supplies and services located in Braintree. He is also a member of the board of directors of several organizations, including St. Francis House in Boston, the largest day shelter in Massachusetts; Por Cristo, a Brighton nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of poor children and their families in Ecuador; and Conformis, a knee-replacement manufacturer in Billerica. He has served on the board of trustees of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

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The West Springfield franchise of Visiting Angels announced that Michele Anstett, co-founder of the business, has transitioned to full ownership and assumed the role of president and CEO. Visiting Angels offers in-home care services to elderly and disabled adults throughout Western Mass. Anstett started the business in 1999 with her business partner, Joe Arduino, and served as the chief financial officer (CFO) for the past 20 years. Arduino recently retired, and Anstett has since assumed the role of full ownership, president, and director. Since 1999, the home-care landscape has changed dramatically in the Pioneer Valley. Anstett’s experience growing the business for the past 20 years in an evolving sector equips her to handle the modern challenges of the industry and successfully direct the business. Anstett’s franchise was the ninth franchise in the Visiting Angels network, which has since increased in size to more than 400 agencies internationally. With her guidance as co-director and CFO, the franchise has grown to provide more than 70,000 hours of care annually, helping seniors to maintain a sense of independence, dignity, and quality of life in their own home setting. Anstett brings dedication, compassion, experience, and attention to detail to the role — fundamental skills for successful leadership in the ever-evolving home-care industry. Particularly now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anstett has taken rapid action to increase caregiver training and certification to establish effective strategies to ensure client safety under the current circumstances.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Common Threads, the signature event of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts, will be held Thursday, April 16 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. as an online event.

The annual event celebrates women with an evening of sharing their stories of success as they have stepped up in the world. Dress for Success serves low- to moderate-income women, many of whom will be impacted disproportionally by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is part of a worldwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of women as they take control of their personal and professional lives. Programs include the Foot in the Door workforce-readiness program, the Margaret Fitzgerald one-on-one mentoring program, the Professional Women’s Group, and the suiting program.

The April 16 event is free, but there will be opportunities throughout to donate to the work of Dress for Success Western Massachusetts. Click here to register.

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