LUDLOW — Meredith-Springfield Associates Inc., a plastics manufacturer specializing in bottles and hollow technical articles manufactured through extrusion blow molding and injection stretch blow molding, announced that President and CEO Mel O’Leary Jr. was honored on April 13 for his two decades as a second-chance employer as part of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office’s All-Inclusive Support Services (AISS).
The award was presented by Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi during the 24th annual AISS graduation ceremony at the Cedars in Springfield.
“I sincerely appreciate this honor, but what’s more important to me is the impact this program has on so many lives,” O’Leary said. “It doesn’t just benefit ex-offenders, but also their families and communities. People make mistakes, and giving them a chance to turn their lives around is very important to me. We’re proud to have helped hundreds of formerly incarcerated people transition back into the community with gainful employment.”
AISS helps formerly incarcerated people in all aspects of their lives as they move from incarceration into the community. In addition to educational and employment support, it offers a comprehensive range of services, such as parenting groups, assistance accessing housing and food benefits, behavioral-health and addiction-recovery services, and support groups. In 2019, Cocchi opened AISS to anyone in the community in addition to the justice-involved population.
“Our community partners, like Meredith-Springfield Associates Inc., are a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to empowering our formerly justice-involved people to create a life free from the elements that brought them to us in the first place,” Cocchi said. “Viable employment in an environment where management understands the human situation is one of the cornerstones of a successful path forward. We wouldn’t have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the nation without people like Mel believing in us and the people we work to help.”
O’Leary recalled that, when the opportunity to become a second-chance employer was first presented to him 20 years ago, he had to be convinced — but he’s glad he was. “We typically have a couple of people on each shift as part of the program,” he said. “Some are with us for six to eight months, but we’ve had others who have stayed with us for years and become valued members of our management team.”
O’Leary has spoken about the success of the program at Meredith-Springfield with other business leaders who are considering becoming second-chance employers, both locally and in other states. He was also interviewed, along with one of his employees who was in the re-entry program, for a recent episode of The Hustler Files podcast on WHMP.