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STCC Named Fourth-best Community College in U.S.

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) was ranked as the fourth-best community college in the nation and second-best in Massachusetts, according to Academic Influence, a college ranking system. On March 4, the website released its first-ever ranking of the 50 best community colleges in America. STCC is one of six Massachusetts community colleges listed in the top 20. STCC, the Commonwealth’s only technical community college, offers comprehensive workforce and technical education in fields that include manufacturing; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); healthcare; business; human services; and the liberal arts. The college is federally designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, with more than 30% of students identifying at Latinx. Academic Influence considered 839 community colleges in the U.S. that were fully accredited, enrolled at least 1,000 students, and provided primarily two-year associate-degree programs along with certificate credentials in most cases. In a separate recognition, STCC’s online business degree program was recently ranked as the second-most-popular in the New England region, according to Business Degree Central, an online resource for students. The website ranked STCC’s program second out of 11 colleges in New England. The business program was also ranked second-most-popular in Massachusetts.

 

HCC Ranked Among Best Community Colleges in U.S.

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) ranks among the best community colleges in the U.S. for 2021, according to Academic Influence, a technology-driven education-evaluation group. HCC was listed 20th out of 839 community colleges nationwide. In particular, HCC was noted for the strength of its academic programs in criminal justice, nursing, computer science, business, education, and engineering. “In rankings on other sites, students typically see only the largest community colleges. We believe we take a smarter and more comprehensive approach,” said Jed Macosko, academic director of Academic Influence and professor of physics at Wake Forest University. Criteria for the schools in this ranking include a minimum of 1,000 enrolled students, full accreditation, and exclusively two-year (or associate) degree programs. “We look at how influential the school’s faculty is and then factor in the student-body size. We call this metric ‘concentrated influence,’” Macosko said. “Those community colleges with a strong faculty but comparatively fewer students, schools that might otherwise get lost in the shadows of their larger competitors, now have an opportunity to shine. Because students often choose to attend a school nearby, this kind of illumination provides a truer view of how influential their neighborhood community college may actually be, regardless of its size.”

 

Serve Food Opens Shared Kitchen to Aspiring Restaurateurs

HOLYOKE — Serve Food, a new business in Holyoke, recently hosted its grand opening at its 112 High St. location. Serve Food, a shared-use kitchen, is a certified commercial kitchen in which individuals or businesses prepare value-added food products and meals using a monthly membership. Because expenses are shared, the costs are significantly lower than if an entrepreneur started a kitchen on his or her own. All utilities, maintenance expenses, equipment repairs, sanitation, and cleaning supplies are included in the membership fees, allowing members to focus on their product. With membership in the Serve Food kitchen, members can get access to a kitchen almost immediately at little to no risk or extra expense, and have an opportunity to learn and collaborate with other local chefs and food makers. Serve Food’s website, servema.com, also plans to sell members’ products on its website.

 

Turning Leaf Centers Opens Dispensary Doors to Public

NORTHAMPTON — Turning Leaf Centers opened its doors on 261 King St. in Northampton on March 15. The dispensary features a ‘craft bar,’ experience, which will allow patrons to be educated on everything marijuana, have rolling parties, and participate in flower talk. “We believe the large, curated space will allow people to have an experience nobody has seen with the craft bar, live music days, and seating areas,” co-owner Stephanie McNair said. “Supporting our local community is something that is very important to us as a company. We are looking to display and promote local artists and have event demonstrations and educational seminars in our space.” Turning Leaf Centers Northampton has cultivated an eclectic menu from every product category and price point for every type of cannabis consumer.

 

UMass President to Again Recommend Tuition Freeze

BOSTON — University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan announced he will recommend that the university’s board of trustees freeze tuition for in-state undergraduates for the academic year beginning in September. If approved by the UMass board, this would be the second straight year of a tuition freeze at the Commonwealth’s 75,000-student national public research university system. The average pre-financial-aid in-state undergraduate tuition at UMass was $14,722 for academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21. UMass has the fifth-lowest tuition among the six New England public universities — University of Vermont ($19,062), University of New Hampshire ($18,938), University of Connecticut ($17,834), University of Rhode Island ($15,004), and the University of Maine ($11,712) — this academic year. UMass awarded $971 million in federal, state, institutional and other financial aid in FY20. Since FY15, institutional aid — funds set aside by the university to decrease actual student costs — has increased 49% to $351 million per year.

 

Florence Bank Opens Third Hampden County Branch

CHICOPEE — Florence Bank opened its third Hampden County branch at 705 Memorial Dr. in Chicopee on March 22, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony is slated for Wednesday, May 5. The Chicopee branch has an open floor plan with two teller pods and innovative technology for quick cash handling. The location will also feature a drive-up ATM with SMART technology for easy depositing. Kimberly Downing will serve as assistant vice president and branch manager for the new location. Other employees who will staff the new location are Diane Afonso, assistant branch manager; Tracy Keefe, customer service representative and senior teller; Kiara Sonoda, teller operations manager; and Karen Willemain, senior teller.

Jake’s Barber Shop Celebrates Five Years with Community Contribution

GREAT BARRINGTON — As Jake’s Barber Shop commemorates the start of its fifth year in the community, owner Jake Hunker is marking the moment by supporting Railroad Street Youth Project, a local organization that encourages focus and commitment for others. RYSP is a Great Barrington not-for-profit organization that encourages community teenagers to meet, learn, talk, and focus on the future. For the week of Tuesday, March 30 through Saturday, April 3, the barber shop will donate $5 from each haircut to RSYP. Appointments for RSYP-benefiting haircuts from Hunker can be made online through booksy.com, and customers can also call (413) 717-4238 for an appointment. Railroad Street Youth Project is a nonprofit organization helping young people bring their ideas and inspirations to fruition and discover their place in the world. Its Youth Operational Board continues to fund youth-inspired projects, run ongoing mentoring and apprenticeship programs, provide sexual-health programming through local schools, offer job training and career counseling, and staff an active drop-in center that provides counseling, mediation, referrals, and advocacy services for young people in need.

 

Springfield College Recognized for Community-college Transfer

SPRINGFIELD — For the sixth consecutive year, Springfield College has been named to Phi Theta Kappa’s Transfer Honor Roll, which identifies the top four-year colleges and universities for creating dynamic pathways to support community-college transfer. Springfield College is one of only 150 colleges and universities in the country to be recognized for this honor, including one of only six colleges and universities in Massachusetts. “We are very honored once again to be among a small, select group of colleges recognized nationally by Phi Theta Kappa for our high level of commitment to the success of transfer students,” said Stuart Jones, vice president for Enrollment Management at Springfield College. “Educating students in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others is the hallmark of who we are and what we do best.”

 

Bradley Airport Launches Non-stop Service to Nashville, Miami

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced the launch of non-stop flights from Bradley International Airport (BDL) to Nashville International Airport (BNA) in Tennessee on Southwest Airlines, and non-stop flights from Bradley to Miami International Airport (MIA) on JetBlue. “We are excited to launch Southwest Airlines’ non-stop service to Nashville from Bradley International Airport,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the CAA. “Nashville is a popular destination that also offers key connectivity to major destinations across Southwest’s West Coast network. The launch of this service significantly enhances our non-stop offering for our travelers, and, with its introduction, we are pleased to strengthen our long-standing partnership with Southwest Airlines.” In addition, “we welcome JetBlue’s expansion at Bradley International Airport and the addition of new, non-stop service to Miami,” Dillon said. “This new route, which follows JetBlue’s other recent route launches, is a significant vote of confidence in our airport and the market we serve.”

Company Notebook

WNEU Center for Social Justice Receives HNE Mini-grant

SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law’s Center for Social Justice was awarded a $6,000 DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) mini-grant from Health New England (HNE). The grant provides funding to local nonprofit organizations that are actively addressing racial health equity and disparities, and at least one of the CDC’s social determinants of health (SDOH). These are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes; these include healthcare access and quality, education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment. The grant seeks to dismantle systemic racism in two ways. The project will first educate the WNEU community about the connection between racism and health disparities and the structural barriers to equity that exist across society, and then will work to facilitate racial healing and relationship building between the institution and the local community through healing-circle conversations. Since its launch in 2019, the Center for Social Justice has been a key stakeholder in the pursuit of social justice in its community and beyond. In the last year, the center has sponsored or hosted more than a dozen events, including various know-your-rights trainings and programming, panel discussions addressing the racial disparities of COVID-19, and lawyering in the time of Black Lives Matter, as well as speakers like Evan Wolfson, who is considered an architect of the marriage-equality movement. Its work is entirely grant-funded from supporters like HNE and MassMutual, as well as individual donors.

 

Visiting Angels West Springfield Wins Provider of Choice Award

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Visiting Angels West Springfield received the 2021 Best of Home Care Provider of Choice Award, which is granted to the top-ranking home-care providers in North America according to Home Care Pulse. The Provider of Choice Award recognizes Visiting Angels’ dedication to client satisfaction and commitment to offering quality, affordable in-home care services. Visiting Angels West Springfield was established in 1999 and has served the elder population of Western Mass. for more than 20 years. It has grown to provide more than 70,000 hours of care annually by helping seniors to maintain a sense of independence, dignity, and quality of life in their own home. Visiting Angels strives to foster lasting client-caregiver relationships by offering family-like compassionate care and dependability.

AIC Named to 2021-22 Military Friendly Schools List

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced it has earned the 2021-22 Military Friendly School designation. Institutions earning this designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,200 schools participated in the 2021-22 survey, with 747 earning the designation. The 2021-22 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine and can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com. Methodology and criteria were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly​ ​Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey response set and government/agency public data sources within a logic-based scoring assessment. The institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer), and loan-default rates for all students are measured.

 

Team 413 Moves to William Raveis Real Estate

EAST LONGMEADOW — Shawna Gutowski and Heidi Pafumi, founders of Team 413, announced their move to the East Longmeadow office of William Raveis Real Estate. Team 413 finished 2020 top five in sales volume for all real-estate transactions in Hampden County. When asked why they decided to move their team, Gutowski noted that, “as we quickly grew from two to 16 agents, we realized a partnership with a name and reputation like William Raveis was the next step. Using their structure, technology, and years of experience, we plan to continue to exponentially grow.” In the previous four years, Team 413 has consistently ranked in the top 1% of Hampden County teams, with more than 500 transactions and $100 million in closed volume. The team has sold homes in more than 30 towns across Western Mass. and Northern Conn. Team 413 prides itself on its cultural diversity, as well as its extensive resources, spanning from contractors to interior designers.

 

ACC Designated as 2021-22 Military Friendly School

ENFIELD, Conn. — Asnuntuck Community College announced that, for the 14th year, the college has earned the 2021-22 Military Friendly School designation. Institutions earning this designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,200 schools participated in the 2021-22 survey, with 747 earning the designation. Asnuntuck has had nearly 300 active-duty and/or veteran students enrolled during the last three years. The college offers a multitude of services to these students. Asnuntuck and other campuses in the North-West Region worked with Resilience Grows Here to each offer a “No Wrong Door” training at the campuses last year. Asnuntuck, in partnership with Tunxis Community College, has done community outreach by sponsoring the Hartford Yard Goats Military Family of the Game for each of the baseball team’s home games.

 

Holyoke Hummus Food Truck Comes to Resinate Northampton

NORTHAMPTON — Holyoke Hummus and Resinate Northampton recently announced a new partnership. The Holyoke Hummus food truck is now serving in the parking lot of Resinate at 110 Pleasant St. in Northampton and is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. Holyoke Hummus serves falafel, hummus, and other Middle Eastern treats. Delivery and online ordering are available at holyokehummus.com. The truck is also available for special events and catering.

 

Girls Inc. of the Valley Receives Amelia Peabody Grant

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a $145,000 grant from the Amelia Peabody Foundation, which will enable the organization to further develop its virtual programming, help prepare for the time when in-person programs may resume, continue its Learning Pod collaboration with Holyoke Public Schools, and ultimately bring staff together in one building, fostering even greater creative and collaborative synergies. The foundation awarded $25,000 to Girls Inc.’s general program and $120,000 to its comprehensive campaign, “Her Future, Our Future.” This commitment will help Girls Inc. to establish a new, permanent home and provide the space, resources, and opportunities needed to enable more girls to participate in the transformative Girls Inc. experience. The grant will support both program planning and implementation; funds will be used for staffing, expanded outreach, and program supplies. Additionally, the grant will facilitate bringing all Girls Inc. staff together under one roof to create greater collaborative and economic efficiencies.

 

Christina’s House Gets a Hand with Giving a Hand Up

SPRINGFIELD — The Davis Foundation recently awarded Christina’s House with a $15,000 grant to do what it does best — giving a hand up to homeless and near-homeless women and their children. A largely underserved population, these women and their families will stay with Christina’s House for 18 months to two years while they establish healthy living habits, become employed, and earn a GED or job training for upward mobility in the workforce. Paul Belsito, executive director at the Davis Foundation, and Magnus Monroe, grants and project manager, met with the organization in early fall to better understand how the foundation could support Christina’s House. The Davis Foundation, long known in the community for its educational agenda, found a fit, and the board voted to approve and provide much-needed funds to help the organization through a tough year. Christina’s House provides transitional housing and social services for homeless or near-homeless mothers and children. It educates, embraces, and encourages families in the program with the life skills needed to become self-sufficient as they transition from homelessness to stable environments. The organization also helps each mother seek, obtain, and maintain employment once accepted into the program, and promotes occupational advancement through résumé writing and job-skills training.

 

Bradley International Airport Named in USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that USA Today has named Bradley International Airport a winner in its 2021 10Best Readers’ Choice travel contest in the “Best Small Airport” category. Bradley placed seventh out of 15 airports that were selected by industry experts as the best across the nation. In response to COVID-19, the CAA has continued to enhance services at Bradley International Airport over the past year, aimed at providing a safe, clean, and comfortable travel experience. More information about the safety measures undertaken and what travelers can expect can be found at www.bdlcares.com. On its website, USA Today noted that Bradley International Airport “ranks as the second-busiest airport after Boston Logan, yet it remains a convenient option with on-site parking, lots of charging stations, free wi-fi, and proximity to both New York and Boston.” Bradley was chosen by a panel of industry experts for inclusion in the USA Today contest, which was followed by four weeks of public voting nationwide. This is the airport’s second national recognition within the year after placing as a top-10 airport in the 2020 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice survey.

 

Company Notebook

Health Partners New England Acquires Providence Hospital

HOLYOKE — Mercy Medical Center announced it has sold Providence Behavioral Health Hospital to HPNE, which will operate the facility under the name MiraVista Behavioral Health and resume operations of the Acute Treatment Service (detoxification), Clinical Stabilization Service (post-detoxification), and outpatient services, including the Intensive Outpatient Program, court-ordered services, and the Opioid Treatment Program without interruption of service. Additionally, HPNE plans to establish inpatient psychiatric services at the facility, and is currently working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to acquire licensure to provide up to 84 inpatient beds. The timeline for the opening of these inpatient beds is still being determined. Mercy Medical Center will assist colleagues who are affected by the sale, where possible, with Trinity transfers, statutory benefits for employment loss, referrals for alternative employment, and further educational opportunities, and through cooperation with MiraVista for those seeking employment with the new owner. Brightside for Families and Children will continue to provide services to the Western Mass. community under the umbrella of Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England. Offices will remain in the former Providence Behavioral Health Hospital building under a lease agreement with HPNE.

 

State Files $400 Million Bond Bill to Rebuild Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

HOLYOKE — The Baker-Polito administration recently filed “An Act Financing the Reconstruction of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke,” which would provide $400 million in capital authorization for a major project to reconstruct the long-term-care facility at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. This bill provides the capital authorization that would allow the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to construct a new facility on the site of the current Soldiers’ Home that would meet the needs of the veterans of Western Mass. and their families. The capital project is on an expedited timeline, necessitated by the April 15 deadline for the VA State Home Construction Grant Program, which would provide 65% matching federal funds. To meet that deadline, DCAMM must have this authorization available by April 1, which requires this bond bill to be enacted by mid-March, with a terms bill filed and enacted soon afterwards. The design-development phase must be completed by Aug. 1 to be eligible for this cycle of the grant program.

 

Happier Valley Comedy Offers Free Happiness Program

HADLEY — After the year nonprofit organizations have had, who couldn’t use more happiness? On March 1, Happier Valley Comedy launched its Free Happiness Program, through which nonprofits serving underrepresented, marginalized communities can apply for a free Happier Valley Comedy event. Organizations can apply for the local comedy theater to provide a free improv show or a personal/professional development training session, either online or in person, when it’s safe to do so. Happier Valley Comedy developed the Free Happiness Program as part of its ‘green-lining’ efforts, which aim to provide some balance for the historic, unjust ‘red-lining’ of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) individuals in the greater worlds of comedy, personal and professional development, and beyond. Applications open on March 1 and will be awarded by Happier Valley Comedy’s board of directors on a rolling basis through the Free Happiness Program page at happiervalley.com. Organizations must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to apply. Preference will be given to local organizations serving underrepresented, marginalized, and/or BIPOC individuals.

 

Shakespeare & Company Plans to Open 500-seat Amphitheater

LENOX — Shakespeare & Company hopes to open a 500-seat amphitheater on its grounds this summer. Founded in 1978, the theater company attracts more than 40,000 patrons to Lenox annually. “We’ve been considering this particular location on the property for a long time as part of our strategic plan,” Artistic Director Allyn Burrows said. Demolition has already begun on the buildings occupying the space where the new performance space, currently known as New Spruce Theatre, will sit. The theater company hopes it will be completed in time for the opening of King Lear this summer. The open-air theater comes after a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to suspend all of its in-person activities.

 

Elms College, Big Y Partner on COVID-19 Vaccinations

CHICOPEE — Elms College and Big Y Supermarkets have formed a partnership to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible residents in Western Mass. In coordination with the Elms College School of Nursing, Big Y has established two COVID-19 vaccination clinics. One clinic site is in the former Staples store located in the Big Y Plaza at 443 North Main St. in East Longmeadow. The second is located in the Big Y Plaza at 237 Mohawk Trail in Greenfield, in a space formerly occupied by a mattress store. More than 200 Elms College School of Nursing students — sophomores, juniors and seniors — are participating in this joint effort with Big Y to administer and schedule COVID-19 vaccinations. While some nursing students are administering the vaccines, others help monitor patients after the shots are administered. Elms nursing students also help patients schedule appointments for their second vaccine shot. For more information on the clinics, to see if you qualify, and to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination, visit www.bigy.com/pharmacy/covid19-vaccine-faq.

 

Girls Inc. to Receive Proceeds from Sen. Warren’s Children’s Book

HOLYOKE — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that a portion of the proceeds from Pinkie Promises, her new children’s book debuting this fall, will go to Girls Inc. of the Valley, as well as several other Girls Inc. chapters in Massachusetts. The book features illustrations by Charlene Chua. “We are completely blown away by this incredible act of generosity from Senator Warren,” said Suzanne Parker, Girls Inc. of the Valley’s executive director. “For the senator to think of Girls Inc. in this way is so special, and we are humbled to be among the Massachusetts Girls Inc. affiliates to receive this honor.” Girls Inc. of the Valley aims to inspire all girls to see themselves as leaders with the skills and capabilities to improve and influence their local communities.

 

Bradley International Airport Named in USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that USA Today has named Bradley International Airport a winner in its 2021 10Best Readers’ Choice travel contest in the “Best Small Airport” category. Bradley placed seventh out of 15 airports that were selected by industry experts as the best across the nation. In response to COVID-19, the CAA has continued to enhance services at Bradley International Airport over the past year, aimed at providing a safe, clean, and comfortable travel experience. More information about the safety measures undertaken and what travelers can expect can be found at www.bdlcares.com. On its website, USA Today noted that Bradley International Airport “ranks as the second-busiest airport after Boston Logan, yet it remains a convenient option with on-site parking, lots of charging stations, free wi-fi, and proximity to both New York and Boston.” Bradley was chosen by a panel of industry experts for inclusion in the USA Today contest, which was followed by four weeks of public voting nationwide. This is the airport’s second national recognition within the year after placing as a top-10 airport in the 2020 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice survey.

 

GCC Introduces Scholarship for Frontline, Essential Workers

GREENFIELD — In response to the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenfield Community College (GCC) has introduced a scholarship to support frontline and essential workers in their education. The award allows recipients to attend GCC tuition- and fee-free for up to three years of full- or part-time study. The Frontline & Essential Workers Scholarship was conceived last summer in conversations among GCC President Yves Salomon-Fernández; Regina Curtis, executive director of Institutional Advancement and the GCC Foundation; and Linda Desjardins, director of Financial Aid. The expenditures for the scholarship for this academic year are $16,227, and the total cost over three years will be approximately $50,000. The scholarship is primarily funded by GCC’s financial-aid resources, with the help of Big Y World Class Markets. Four students received the Frontline & Essential Workers Scholarship in the 2020-21 academic year: two Big Y employees, one ETM, and one Target employee.

Company Notebook

Mount Holyoke College Receives Largest Gift in Its History

SOUTH HADLEY — Mount Holyoke College announced it has received the largest gift in support of financial aid in its history. Alumna Liz Cochary Gross and Philip Gross have committed $10 million to be directed to scholarships and financial aid.  Nancy Nordhoff, a 1954 graduate, also committed $1 million to support future Mount Holyoke students across the economic spectrum. These two gifts are the seed for Mount Holyoke’s new Meet the Moment Scholarship Challenge. This challenge offers donors the opportunity to double — or triple — their impact with their endowment gifts. For first-time donors to endowed financial aid, the Meet the Moment Scholarship Challenge will match two dollars for every one dollar contributed for gifts between $50,000 and $250,000. For repeat endowed financial-aid donors, the challenge will match new gift commitments between $50,000 and $250,000 dollar for dollar. The college is seeking to raise at least $20 million in new gifts and commitments over the next 18 months. As of Jan. 14, Mount Holyoke has already secured more than $5 million in gifts and commitments toward this effort, above and beyond the $11 million in challenge gifts.

 

Big Y Participating in Nexamp Community Solar Program

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y World Class Market has taken another step in supporting the production and consumption of clean energy by contracting with Boston-based Nexamp to participate in its community solar program. Under the agreement with Nexamp, Big Y is subscribing to 19 solar projects across Massachusetts, representing a total of 57 megawatts of capacity. Big Y will receive 50% of the energy credits generated by these projects. The projects included in Big Y’s agreement with Nexamp are located in Massachusetts in the National Grid and Eversource utility service territories. Big Y and other subscribers to these community solar projects are allocated a portion of the project’s output and receive discounted credits on their utility bills.

 

Monson Savings Bank Gives $15,000 to Nonprofits Chosen by Community

MONSON — After Monson Savings Bank asked community members to cast their votes for their favorite charitable organizations as a part of the Monson Savings Bank 2021 Community Giving Initiative, more than 3,400 votes were received. Now that the votes have been tallied, Monson Savings Bank is donating a total of $15,000 among the top 10 vote recipients. In total, 200 organizations received votes. The recipients include Women’s Empowerment Scholarship (Greater Springfield), Wilbraham United Players, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield, Rick’s Place (Wilbraham), I Found Light Against All Odds (Greater Springfield), Academy Hill Private School Scholarship (Springfield), Scantic Valley YMCA (Wilbraham), Monson Free Library, St. Michael’s Players (East Longmeadow), and Link to Libraries Inc. (Hampden). This was the 11th year of the Monson Savings Bank Initiative.

 

Comcast Introduces Fastest Internet Speeds over Wi-fi Across Northeast

PHILADELPHIA — Comcast announced it has introduced the fastest internet speeds over wi-fi available across the Northeast, including 14 states from Maine to Virginia and Washington, D.C. Customers can now take advantage of advanced wi-fi technology that is capable of delivering speeds faster than a gig to support the ever-increasing number of connected devices in their homes. The speed increase was rolled out in Comcast’s Northeast markets on Jan. 7 for no additional charge to customers, and will be introduced to the rest of its service areas throughout 2021. Comcast is one of the first U.S. internet service providers to offer a Wi-Fi 6 certified gateway with the latest version of its xFi Advanced Gateway, which is capable of delivering multi-gigabit speeds via ethernet and laid the groundwork for gigabit speeds over wi-fi. Customers on the upgraded Xfinity gigabit tier will require an xFi Advanced Gateway, or one of the wi-fi-6-capable devices approved to work with the Xfinity network to receive the faster speeds. Comcast will be reaching out to customers who need to upgrade their equipment for no additional cost if they don’t have a capable device in their home.

 

Nursing Schools Almanac Names AIC Among Best Schools for Nursing

SPRINGFIELD — Nursing Schools Almanac has released its 2020 rankings of the best nursing schools in the U.S. In collecting data on more than 3,000 institutions nationwide, only 20% made the list of the best nursing schools in each geographic region. The nursing program at American International College (AIC) was named in both the New England and Massachusetts categories, placing 45th in the region and 21st in the state. Each school was evaluated on three dimensions: the institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, the breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, and student success, particularly on the NCLEX licensure examination. Nursing Schools Almanac combined the assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly.

 

The Royal Law Firm Announces New Strategic Association

SPRINGFIELD — The Royal Law Firm announced it has established a mutual of-counsel association with Minasian Becker LLC, a boutique commercial real-estate and business law firm, as of the third quarter of 2020. Complementing Royal’s business-side-only litigation practice, this association will provide Royal clients with the added benefits of commercial real-estate and corporate transactional work. The Minasian Becker team of attorneys has represented regional, national, and international companies and nonprofit organizations with their commercial real-estate and business-transaction needs for more than 25 years. Amy Royal, founding partner of the Royal Law Firm, believes the relationship with Minasian Becker will be an attractive supplement to Royal’s existing law practice of labor and employment law and other business-related litigation. With this alignment of their practices, Royal and Minasian Becker will offer their clients locations in Arlington, Springfield, and Rockport in Massachusetts, as well as in Hartford, Conn. Royal attorneys are admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Both law firms are nationally certified as women’s business enterprises and women owned small businesses, and are able to offer the benefits of diversity to their clients.

 

Boston Children’s Hospital, Baystate Health Collaborate on Specialized Pediatric Care

SPRINGFIELD — Boston Children’s Hospital and Baystate Health have formed a collaboration that will improve patient access to highly specialized pediatric care and strengthen the coordination of care between Boston Children’s and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield. The collaboration will provide patients throughout Western Mass. with improved access to pediatric specialty care at Baystate Children’s Hospital, and it will streamline care planning among providers at Boston Children’s and Baystate Children’s. The collaboration anticipates that the two hospitals will jointly develop pathways to ensure that children and adolescents get the right care in the right setting. In some instances, Boston Children’s clinicians will be available to provide care at Baystate Children’s. The two hospitals already work collaboratively in cardiology, neurology, and dermatology, and by enhancing medical education, remote consults, information technology, and other initiatives, the two institutions will be better able to coordinate care for their patients.

 

Boulevard Machine & Gear Moves to Larger Headquarters

WESTFIELD — Boulevard Machine & Gear, a precision-machining facility, announced it has moved its headquarters to a new, larger space in Westfield to accommodate steady business growth over the last decade. The new address is 326 Lockhouse Road. Boulevard Machine will leverage its new facility to provide additional capacity for its customers while providing new internal operational efficiencies. The new facility also will provide Boulevard with improved, state-of-the-art production space to facilitate internal and external collaboration and communication, while providing the company with further room for growth with its ongoing investment in equipment. The newly constructed factory will accommodate leading-edge manufacturing technologies, lean equipment layout, and automated workflow, resulting in increased efficiency and better overall customer experience, company President Susan Kasa said. Boulevard Machine, founded in 1954, was acquired by Kasa in 2006. It is a certified woman-owned business that provides precision-machined components for the aerospace, defense, and medical markets.

 

Balise Auto Boosts Square One’s Campaign for Healthy Kids

SPRINGFIELD — Balise Auto, a long-time supporter of Square One, recently committed $15,000 toward the agency’s Adopt-A-Classroom initiative. “We have been so impressed by Square One’s dedication and ability to find creative and effective ways to support the education of children and families in our community,” said Alexandra Balise, director of Marketing at Balise Auto. “Balise is proud to support Square One and their ongoing efforts to shape the leaders of tomorrow.” Square One’s Adopt-A-Classroom program is part of the agency’s Campaign for Healthy Kids, a multi-year fund-development initiative focused on the agency’s commitment to providing healthy meals, physical fitness, social-emotional well-being, and a healthy learning environment. The gift from Balise comes at a critical time, as Square One continues to provide full-day remote-learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to its traditional preschool classrooms, childcare offerings, and family-support services. Square One currently provides early-learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, as well as family-support services to 1,500 families each year.

 

Academy of Music Raising Funds for Restroom Renovations

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton’s historic Academy of Music Theatre announced its “We Care!” campaign, which will expand and renovate the public restrooms in the 130-year-old landmark to provide more toilets and sinks and upgrade the facilities for cleanliness and hygiene. Among the improvements slated for the $325,000 project are the expansion of the existing restroom facilities and the installation of new plumbing, HEPA-filtered hand dryers, touch-free toilet and sink fixtures, and partitions to serve a larger patron population, as well as new wall, floor, and ceiling finishes. The project is led by Northampton-based Thomas Douglas Architects, whose previous design for the renovation of the Academy of Music’s auditorium earned a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award. The Academy secured $225,000 last winter for the project from state and foundation sources, including the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Funds, Smith College, and the Beveridge Family Foundation. The “We Care!” campaign aims to raise the remaining $100,000 from the Pioneer Valley community.

 

Architecture Environment Life Inc. Wins Citation Award from WMAIA

EAST LONGMEADOW — Architecture Environment Life Inc., known to many as ArchitectureEL Inc. or AEL, received a Citation Award from the Western Mass. chapter of the American Institute of Architects (WMAIA). In partnership with the Western Mass. section of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA), WMAIA hosted its biannual Celebration of Architecture and Design Awards program last month to encourage and recognize distinguished architectural and landscape-design achievement and honor project teams, including the clients and consultants who work together to improve the built environment. The WMAIA Design Awards, held every two years, includes two Honor Awards for exceptional work, easily distinguishable by exceptional quality of design and function; two Merit Awards for work that demonstrates a high level of design quality worthy of recognition; and two Citation Awards for work that demonstrates a level of design quality worthy of mention. ArchitectureEL Inc. applied for this award by submitting a portfolio displaying its design for New Valley Bank at 1930 Wilbraham Road in Springfield. Judging for the award was informed by the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, which contends that design is not solely about aesthetic components, but also concerns how buildings perform for people.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters, Restaurants Team Up to Raise Funds for Programs

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County (BBBSHC) and four area restaurants partnered in December to raise money to support BBBSHC’s youth-mentoring programs. The four restaurant partners were located throughout Hampden County and included Springfield’s Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill, Hampden’s La Cucina di Hampden House, Wilbraham’s Blue Elephant Restaurant, and Holyoke’s Delaney House. Staff, board members, and volunteers from BBBSHC delivered close to 100 dinners to more than 40 donors during four Fridays in December. Participants chose from customized menus created specifically for the fundraiser. BBBSHC Executive Director David Beturne formed the partnerships as a creative way to raise funds for his organization during a trying time that has seen revenues and staffing levels cut by more than half. BBBSHC captured 50% of the revenue, and the restaurant partners captured the remaining 50%. Between the fundraiser itself and a sponsorship from Freedom Credit Union, BBBSHC was able to pull in just over $7,000.

UMassFive Donates Hundreds of Winter Coats and Clothes to Amherst Survival Center

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that its members, staff, and community partners have donated hundreds of winter coats and clothing to Amherst Survival Center. Donations were gathered through a collection drive held at UMassFive’s Hadley and Northampton branches throughout the month of December. “This is a drive that we hold annually, and we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of donations during the pandemic,” said Cait Murray, Community Outreach manager at UMassFive. “We were pleasantly surprised to receive a record number of donations this year. The generosity of our members, staff, and community partners is truly remarkable.” Five vehicle loads of donations were dropped off at the Amherst Survival Center, where they were sorted and distributed to the community. To support the Amherst Survival Center directly, visit amherstsurvival.org.

 

RT Consulting, LLC Acquires Sage Benefit Advisers, LLC

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — RT Consulting, LLC, has acquired Sage Benefit Advisers, headquartered in Peterborough, N.H. Formed in 2006, RT Consulting is a national employee-benefits administration firm focused on employee-benefits compliance, healthcare advocacy, data transparency, communication, education, and partnerships with clients and brokers. Since inception, RT has grown to become a robust HR-management tool helping to ease the burden of all the critical activities within human resources, such as enrollment, communication, navigation, and administration. RT Consulting has worked with companies of all sizes and industries, including technology, automotive, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and energy, and has also done extensive work with associations. The acquisition of Sage Benefit Advisers positions RT to expand its comprehensive advisory and administrative services.

 

Company Notebook

Thunderbirds Announce Suspension of 2020-21 Season

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds announced that they are one of three AHL franchises that have elected to opt out of play for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The decision, made in conjunction with their NHL affiliate, the St. Louis Blues, was based on numerous safety and logistical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and will allow the organization to turn its full focus toward the 2021-22 season. The Thunderbirds will maintain their status as active members of the AHL and return to play next season. “Over the past few months, we have worked tirelessly with the St. Louis Blues to explore every possible avenue for returning to play this season,” Thunderbirds President Nate Costa said. “Unfortunately, due to health and safety concerns, travel logistics, new player-supply rules, and other considerations, the Blues and Thunderbirds collectively determined that it was in the best interests of all parties to opt out for this season. Given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts, it has also become clear that we will be unable to host fans at our games in the foreseeable future. As an independently owned franchise, our foremost obligation is to ensure that our team is financially viable for the long term, something that is not possible without game-day revenue.”

 

Hazen Paper Wins Award for 2020 Holographic Calendar

HOLYOKE — The International Hologram Manufacturers Assoc. (IHMA) recently named Hazen Paper’s 2020 holographic calendar Best Applied Decorative/Packaging Product at the Excellence in Holography Awards 2020. Featuring a fire-breathing dragon with three-dimensional scales, the oversized calendar utilized an array of innovative holographic techniques to create a decorative design the IHMA called “outstanding.” These holographic designs included Hazen-Lens behind the months of the year, gray-motion for the sky background, color-motion for the dragon, and two-channel color-motion lenses and fire-motion lenses to animate the flames. The calendar was originated entirely within Hazen’s state-of-the-art holographic lab and manufactured in Hazen’s Holyoke facility on Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product. Made with renewable energy, transfer-metallized Envirofoil is made with less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate, a recycled film carrier that is reused again and again, and is repulpable as paper after de-inking. It was offset-printed using UV-cure inks with customized opaque white by AM Lithography of Chicopee.

 

Tighe & Bond Named Finalist for Engineering Excellence Awards

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond Inc. has been recognized by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (ACEC/MA) as a 2020 Engineering Excellence Award Finalist (Gold Award). Tighe & Bond, in conjunction with a team of subconsultants and property owner ENGIE North America, transformed the site of the Mt. Tom coal-fired power plant into the state’s largest community solar and energy-storage facility. In 2014, the Mt. Tom coal-fired power plant in Holyoke stopped operations, and ENGIE North America began the task of decommissioning and closing the power-plant site. This undertaking involved demolition of the coal-fired plant and remediation of many areas of the property. A portion of the site was also used for renewable-energy generation and energy storage to benefit the region and the city of Holyoke. The project team aided with the decommissioning design of the property and worked to obtain a complex array of environmental and land-use permits for the entire project for future industrial and commercial redevelopment. The Tighe & Bond environmental team developed the remedial design for the power plant and the associated coal ash management on the property. The largest component of the property restoration included risk-based evaluations and various capping strategies to address coal ash that has been deposited over much of the property. The successful coal-ash closure approach resulted in preserving and protecting nearby waterways, including the Connecticut River and Kennedy Brook, as well as more than 50 acres of vegetated forest and associated rare and endangered species habitat. For the solar project, the project team provided permit-level design and engineering support as well as construction-period design for the energy-storage system. This project developed the largest community solar project in Massachusetts and the largest utility-scale energy-storage installation in the Commonwealth.

 

UMass Amherst Grad Students Receive Financial Support

AMHERST — The economic and research hardships stemming from the global COVID-19 pandemic have strained campuses around the country, including UMass Amherst. Especially hard-hit are graduate students in the sciences, as their research opportunities and funding trajectories have been greatly reduced by COVID-19 public-health restrictions. In response, the university’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS) created the Graduate Student Fellowship Fund this fall to provide additional funding to graduate students who need to extend their work for another year, and to make available innovations in data collection for those who are unable to conduct in-person experiments. The largest gift to the fund so far has come from alumni and long-time supporters Richard and Barbara Mahoney, who contributed $100,000 in early December. The contribution has sparked additional donations from donors who recognize the value of graduate-student research in the college and want to support those students. Graduate students are at the core of the research enterprise on campus, putting in thousands of hours to run experiments, collect data, and analyze findings. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many graduate students have lost the opportunities they previously had to spend much-needed time in labs or out in the field. More than 1,000 graduate students are working toward degrees across CNS.

 

Florence Bank Donates Nearly $100,000 in 2020 to Ease Food Insecurity

FLORENCE — Florence Bank donated nearly $100,000 in 2020 to support a new food-distribution collaborative and nine other longtime nonprofits with a mission to feed people who are battling food insecurity in the Pioneer Valley. The gifts have been made since March to organizations in all corners of the region, including the hilltowns, to help ease the economic strain brought on by COVID-19. In the spring, Florence Bank donated $50,000 to the Community Food Distribution Project created jointly by the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton to help fund emergency food distribution in the early months of the pandemic. The new collaborative makes food staples available through on-site distributions at nearly a dozen local sites. Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton established the organization in partnership with Community Action Pioneer Valley, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the city of Northampton, and Northampton Public Schools. Grow Food Northampton and the Northampton Survival Center each received $25,000 from the bank. Since May, Florence Bank has also made the following gifts to these local nonprofits: Amherst Survival Center, $10,000; Springfield Rescue Mission, $10,000; Easthampton Community Center, $7,500; Chesterfield Community Cupboard, $5,000; the Gray House Market of Springfield, $5,000; Easthampton Congregational Church, $2,500; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as part of Monte’s March, $1,000; Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry of Chicopee, $1,000; and Open Pantry Community Services Inc. of Springfield, $1,000. Florence Bank also nominated Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen to receive a $5,000 award from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. Charitable Foundation, which the nonprofit has accepted.

 

Nursing Schools Almanac Names AIC Among Best Schools for Nursing

SPRINGFIELD — Nursing Schools Almanac has released its 2020 rankings of the best nursing schools in the U.S. In collecting data on more than 3,000 institutions nationwide, only 20% made the list of the best nursing schools in each geographic region. The nursing program at American International College (AIC) was named in both the New England and Massachusetts categories, placing 45th in the region and 21st in the state. Each school was evaluated on three dimensions: the institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, the breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, and student success, particularly on the NCLEX licensure examination. Nursing Schools Almanac combined the assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. According to Dean of Health Sciences Karen Rousseau, “while the demand for healthcare professionals grows each year, at no time has that need been more critical than now. The School of Health Sciences at American International College provides access to educational opportunities that develop a diverse network of skilled individuals who provide comprehensive nursing care in a variety of settings and who are able to demonstrate leadership in evidence-based practice to promote continuous improvement in the quality and safety of healthcare.”

People on the Move
Peter Coppez

Peter Coppez

Jean Pierre Crevier

Jean Pierre Crevier

The longtime owner of M. L. Schmitt Electric Inc. has transferred his business to two electricians who have worked for him for many years. Thomas Schmitt transferred the electrical-contracting firm that performs residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects to new co-owners Peter Coppez and Jean Pierre Crevier. Coppez joined M. L. Schmitt as an apprentice in 2000. He’s a graduate of Springfield Technical Community College, the Local IBEW #7 apprenticeship program, and Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in project management. Crevier joined M. L. Schmitt as an apprentice in 2004. He earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from UMass and completed the Local IBEW #7 apprenticeship program. He graduated this spring with a master’s degree in project management from Wentworth Institute of Technology. Schmitt was President of M. L. Schmitt Electric for 31 years.

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Victoria Graffam

Victoria Graffam

Country Bank announced that Victoria Graffam has joined its Corporate Risk division. Graffam held various BSA and loss-prevention roles before joining Berkshire Bank in 2017 as the BSA/AML EDD manager. While at Berkshire Bank, her focus was to develop and maintain a program to identify and mitigate risk for higher-risk customers. She is also a member of the Assoc. for Certified Anti Money Laundering Specialists. “We are excited to welcome Victoria to Country Bank,” said Miriam Siegel, senior vice president of Human Resources. “She brings over 30 years of professional experience, with 20 years in community banking, and is a perfect cultural fit for our team. Her can-do attitude, commitment to customer service, and collaborative management approach aligns perfectly with our iSTEP corporate values of integrity, service, teamwork, excellence, and prosperity. We are proud that Victoria has chosen Country Bank to be her employer of choice.”

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Coldwell Banker Community Realtors (CBCR) announced the addition of Realtor Courtney Kinney to its roster of professional real-estate agents serving Franklin and Hampshire counties. Kinney attended UMass Amherst from 2007 to 2011 and later worked at the university in Student Affairs for eight years. During that timem she earned a master’s degree in applied data science from Bay Path University. Kinney decided to make the move to real estate and the Coldwell Banker brand not only for the company’s industry innovations and technology, but also because locally owned Coldwell Banker Community Realtors has a marketing department, agent support, and training, while most real-estate companies do not. She is a member of the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, the National Assoc. of Realtors, and the Massachusetts Assoc. of Realtors.

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Gina Maroni

Gina Maroni

Kathi Bates

Kathi Bates

UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced the recent promotions of Gina Maroni and Kathleen (Kathi) Bates. Maroni was promoted to senior vice president of Finance and chief financial officer (CFO). This promotion acknowledges her commitment and contributions to UMassFive, and is a better reflection of her level of authority. In her new role, she will maintain her current responsibilities, including financial oversight, strategizing, and budgeting for the credit union. Maroni previously served as UMassFive’s vice president of Finance and CFO for the past nine months and as assistant vice president of Finance and controller for 18 months. Prior to joining UMassFive, she was the senior vice president of Finance and chief financial officer at Athol Credit Union. Bates was promoted to Worcester branch manager. She began her career at UMassFive 18 years ago as a part-time teller, eventually becoming a member service specialist, and most recently the backup supervisor for UMassFive’s Worcester branch. In her new position as branch manager, she will continue making a difference in the financial lives of members by identifying and providing solutions for their financial needs and making sure the Worcester branch runs smoothly.

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Christopher Heights of Northampton, an assisted-living community, recently welcomed Amie Miarecki as its new marketing and admission director. Miarecki brings nearly 20 years of experience working in the health and human-services field in both Greater Springfield and Greater Boston, providing marketing, community-relations, and development expertise. She will promote the company’s mission by engaging with the community and healthcare partners to help individuals find their next home while maintaining their independence and a dignified quality of life. Miarecki holds a master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication with a specialization in leadership from the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from UMass Amherst. She is the president of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, a board member of the Professional Women’s Chamber, and a committee member for both the civic and community-engagement committee of the Springfield City Library and the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce community-engagement committee. In addition, she holds memberships with Hampshire County Young Professionals, the Western Mass. Elder Professionals Assoc., and the Retirement Marketing Directors Assoc. of Western Mass. She is also a past recipient of the BusinessWest 40 Under Forty award.

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Richard O’Hearn

Richard O’Hearn

Aegis Energy, EDF Group, a leading provider of co-generation technology, announced that Richard O’Hearn has come on board in the role of CHP specialist. His hire comes during an extended period of growth; Aegis recently hired 12 employees and plans to continue to add to the team. A certified energy manager by the Assoc. of Energy Engineers, O’Hearn informs customers about the benefits of combined heat and power (CHP), building strong relationships with new and existing clients in the process. A former employee of Siemens, he is no stranger to the energy industry or green technology.

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John Pucci, a partner at Bulkley Richardson, and Jennifer Levi, professor of Law at Western New England University School of Law, were named members of a bipartisan advisory committee to review and provide recommendations on U.S. attorney candidates for the District of Massachusetts. The announcement was made on Dec. 18 by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. The advisory committee will solicit, interview, and comment on applications for the position of U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, the state’s top federal law-enforcement officer. The committee is comprised of members of the Massachusetts legal community, including prominent academics and litigators, and is chaired by former U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner. Other members of the committee include Elissa Flynn-Poppey, former deputy legal counsel to Gov. Mitt Romney and executive director of the judicial nominating commission for the Office of the Governor of Massachusetts; Angela Onwuachi-Willig, dean of Boston University School of Law; Walter Prince, partner at Prince Lobel and former president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Assoc; and Georgia Katsoulomitis, executive director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

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Daisy Flaim

Daisy Flaim

Denise “Daisy” Flaim received the Faculty of the Year Award for 2019-20 from Springfield Technical Community College. The award recognizes Flaim’s teaching techniques to accommodate a variety of learning styles; her efforts to build an inclusive classroom; her work with students outside of the classroom; support letters from colleagues, students, and supervisors; as well as her service contributions to STCC. Flaim has taught several writing and literature classes at STCC in addition to serving as chair of the Liberal Arts/General Studies Program for one year. She applies her past work experience, which included professional writing jobs, and has drawn inspiration from her students over the years. She also makes a point to get to know her students outside the classroom. “I offer all of my students a conference for every paper we do. I meet with them if they’re distressed,” she said. “I spend most of my work day meeting with them individually. That’s probably the core of what I believe in as an instructor. I learned when I was starting out that students who know a professor outside of the classroom do better not just in that professor’s classroom, but in all of their classes. I made a promise to myself that I would try to be that professor who knew people outside of the classroom.”

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Lee Vardakas

Lee Vardakas

Lee Vardakas, president of Aegis Energy, EDF Group, a leading provider of co-generation technology, has been named a 2020 Energy and Environmental Leader. For the past eight years, this award has celebrated substantial and measurable environmental impacts and the trailblazers who achieved them. Only 100 people per year are chosen to receive this honor. Vardakas was appointed president in 2013 and has been instrumental in Aegis Energy’s success as a leader in co-generation in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. With more than three decades of experience in the combined-heat-and-power industry, he is well-qualified to create and guide the vision for the growing company and is a sought-after resource for policymakers and regulators in the distributed-energy industry.

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Pioneer Valley Federal Credit Union (PVCU) wishes Iggy Collura, a member of the board of directors for almost 40 years, well in retirement. Collura began on the board around 1980, providing leadership and exuding a volunteer spirit with PVCU for almost four decades. He served on multiple committees throughout his time and was an integral part of the local credit union’s history throughout the years. Recently, Collura was invited to the Brookdale branch to receive a memory photo book and a plaque to honor his time spent with Pioneer Valley Credit Union. Socially distanced, with masks, CEO Anabela Grenier and board member Kathy D’Angelantonio handed Collura his commemorative gifts and reminisced with smiles as Collura shared his favorite memories. Collura served as chair of the policy committee and was a member of the nominating and asset/liability committee. He also participated in legislative efforts both locally and nationally.

Company Notebook

Princeton Review Recognizes UMass Amherst for Graduate Entrepreneurship Studies

AMHERST — For the first time, UMass Amherst has earned recognition in Princeton Review’s annual selection of Best Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs. In the publication’s 2021 list, the university ranks 40th among 50 colleges and universities. Based on survey data from more than 300 schools, the rankings encompass a broad range of entrepreneurial activities inside and outside the classroom. The catalyst for student entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst is the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship. The center serves the entire campus through a wealth of activities and resources. Gregory Thomas, executive director of the Berthiaume Center, noted that entrepreneurship courses and scholarships, faculty who focus on entrepreneurship, student competitions, student mentorship by entrepreneurs, and ventures by alumni and non-alumni all fall within the center’s purview. Its annual Innovation Challenge propels student startups through pitch contests and a final competition judged by entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Last year, the finals awarded $65,000 in seed money to student startups. The center brings student innovators together from different disciplines for entrepreneurial collaborations and offers networking and mentorship with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academics, as well as an incubator space for student startups.

 

Furnari Jewelers Opens at Holyoke Mall

HOLYOKE — In time for holiday shopping, Furnari Jewelers recently opened its doors at Holyoke Mall at Ingleside. Furnari carries fine gold and silver jewelry, wedding sets, gemstones, pearls, watches, and more, and has a gold and silversmith on premises who can do repairs while customers wait. Furnari also offers customers the ability to design their own ring for a special touch. Known in the region for decades, Anthony Furnari opened his first store 40 years ago and says it was built on the foundation of customer service. Anthony’s son, Joey Furnari, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. Starting with an undergraduate degree from Kenyon College in Ohio, Joey went on to become a certified bench jeweler at the American School of Jewelry, and opened his first store in May 2012 in Enfield, Conn. The 1,400-square-foot Furnari Jewelers is located on the upper level of the mall, near Apple. The store was formerly occupied by Kay Jewelers until Kay relocated its store earlier this year to the lower level, next to Round1 Bowling & Amusement. Furnari has hired seven employees for this location. Furnari joins a list of new tenants at Holyoke Mall over the last five months, including Cinnabon, which opened in June; EA Teriyaki, which opened in October; and Wings Express, which opened in November.

 

Tighe & Bond Receives ACEC/CT Engineering Excellence Award

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond was recently recognized by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Connecticut (ACEC/CT) with an Engineering Excellence Award. The project team received the award for the design of phosphorous-removal upgrades at the Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) in Plainville, Conn. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection set new phosphorous limits after it was determined the nutrient was negatively affecting water quality in the state’s freshwater rivers and streams. While phosphorus is a naturally occurring element that is an essential nutrient to support plant growth, excessive amounts contribute to dense growth of algae and suffocation of marine life. This meant the Plainville WPCF needed to reduce the amount of phosphorous leaving the facility by 88%. In anticipation of these changes, Tighe & Bond prepared a phosphorus-removal plan to determine how best to meet the new phosphorus limits. The plan recommended the addition of a filter building that would house new, multi-point chemical-addition and disc-filtration processes to reduce the amount of phosphorous from the facility’s water. The design also included cost-effective improvements to the existing WPCF, including a larger sludge-processing system, raising the facility’s existing UV disinfection system for improved flood resiliency; new flow-equalization tanks to stabilize the effluent from the facility’s sequencing batch reactors (SBRs); and filter influent pumps to lift the flow up to the disc filters. The project was completed four months ahead of schedule and $1 million under budget. The upgrades have enabled the town of Plainville to meet its phosphorous limits. The new system continues to remove phosphorus from the treated water the facility discharges daily into the Pequabuck River, which joins the Quinnipiac River and Long Island Sound. The renovations to the WPCF also meets all state and federal environmental regulations and ensures the protection of surrounding bodies of water. Tighe & Bond and its project partners will be honored at the ACEC/CT Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in June.

 

Big Y Announces Additional Bonus Pay for Employees

SPRINGFIELD — Big Y announced it will pay additional holiday bonuses to its front-line and distribution-center associates, including full-time, part-time, and casual employees. This holiday bonus is part of the company’s ongoing recognition and appreciation for the efforts and sacrifices of employees, which was instituted last March. Thank-you bonuses are expected to continue during the first part of 2021. “We continue to be grateful to all of our employees for their valiant efforts throughout this pandemic,” said Charles D’Amour, president and CEO. “They have all taken their role as essential workers both nobly and carefully in order to continue to provide for and support our friends and neighbors in our communities. I am so very proud of their resilience and dedication to serving our customers during this past year. This bonus pay is just one way that we show our appreciation to our team of 12,000 who work so hard and tirelessly every day.”

 

Bay Path University Community Donates to Christina’s House

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s annual holiday party and employee-recognition event has been a long-standing tradition for faculty and staff. The pandemic prevented the normal gathering, but technology came to the rescue and provided a platform to connect remotely. Highlights of the event include naming a charity to be the recipient of Bay Path’s generosity, as well as employee recognition for years of service at the university. For 2020, the designated charity is Christina’s House, a Springfield-based nonprofit and Christ-centered ministry that provides transitional housing to meet the needs of mothers and their children who are homeless or near-homeless. More important, Christina’s House provides emotional, spiritual, physical, and education support as families transition from homelessness to permanent, stable living environments.

 

Grants Will Provide 100,000 Meals for People Across Western Mass.

HATFIELD — Wheeler & Taylor Insurance of Great Barrington and Canary Blomstrom Insurance Agency of Agawam are providing major support to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Two rounds of funding, one now and a second round in the spring, will pay for about 100,000 meals. The Food Bank provides food to 165 food pantries, shelters, and meal sites in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. Wheeler & Taylor and Canary Blomstrom are members of GoodWorks Financial Group, a network of common-ownership insurance, real-estate, and financial firms. With the pandemic, demand for food has grown exponentially. The Food Bank is serving 109,500 people a month in 2020, up 16% from 2019. The organization distributed 11.1 million pounds of food from March through October, a 30% increase. It estimates that about one in six residents in the region, including 40,000 children, or one in four, are food-insecure.

 

Springfield Museums Distributing 495 Literacy Activity Kits to Children

SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to funding from MEFA and the U.Fund College Investing Plan, Springfield Museums are distributing 495 literacy activity kits to children throughout Springfield and beyond. Ten programs — including the Gray House, Home City Families, Raising a Reader, and Head Start — will benefit. The literacy activity kits contain a consumable activity, a reusable building toy, colored pencils, a Dr. Seuss clipboard, and an early-reader book: Dr. Seuss’s ABC. Springfield Museums are committed to helping children and their caregivers explore literacy in its many forms — literary, science, historical, art — while also having fun. The museums have also tripled their hands-on learning spaces over the past few years. The Art Discovery Center, the Cat’s Corner, and Spark!Lab are all spaces for people to engage in hands-on learning to gain skills and build competency in a variety of subjects. Since the onset of the pandemic, the museums also worked to share activity kits so that those unable to visit in person could still have access to learning.

 

Bradley International Airport Earns COVID-19 Health Accreditation

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that Bradley International Airport has received the Airport Health Accreditation from Airports Council International (ACI) World. The organization’s Airport Health Accreditation program evaluates new health and safety measures and procedures introduced at airports worldwide in response to COVID-19. During the comprehensive accreditation process, ACI assesses the airport’s response and safety measures in the context of the entire passenger journey, including terminal access, check-in areas, security screening, boarding gates, lounges, retail, food and beverages, gate equipment such as boarding bridges, escalators and elevators, border-control areas and facilities, the baggage-claim area and the arrivals exit. Among other things, ACI recognizes Bradley for cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing (where feasible and practical), staff protection, physical layout modifications, passenger communications, and passenger facility enhancements. In addition to these safety measures, Bradley International Airport has also prioritized other initiatives to enhance the passenger journey, including contactless parking check-in/check-out availability (pre-registration required); renovated restrooms with touchless faucets, hand dryers, and light signals to indicate stall availability as well as added privacy and surfaces that promote more effective cleaning; terminal-wide air-purification technology, which will be in place in early 2021; and expanded mobile ordering in partnership with our restaurants, also to be introduced in 2021.

 

Thunderbirds Foundation Donates More Than 1,000 Stuffed Animals

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds Foundation announced a donation of more than 1,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals to local charitable partners, the culmination of a successful drive-thru Teddy Bear Toss presented by Teddy Bear Pools & Spas and held on Dec. 12 outside the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield. The Thunderbirds’ mascot, Boomer, along with staff members, then made deliveries of hundreds of stuffed animals to Square One, the Center for Human Development (CHD), the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, and the Boys & Girls Club Family Center in Springfield. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Teddy Bear Toss event was much different than in previous years. Instead of tossing the bears onto the ice after the T-Birds’ first goal during a home game in December, fans brought their new teddy bears or stuffed animals and ‘tossed’ them out of their vehicles as part of the drive-thru Teddy Bear Toss at the MassMutual Center. Boomer, the Nicebox Icebox, and front-office staff were present to collect donations and properly package and sanitize them. Those that couldn’t make it that day also donated at the Thunderbirds office, Teddy Bear Pools & Spas in Chicopee, the Springfield Visitor Center, or at New Valley Bank’s headquarters in Monarch Place in downtown Springfield. The Thunderbirds thank their partners that stepped up and were able to make this event a reality, including Teddy Bear Pools & Spas, Balise Auto Group, Western Mass News, the Springfield Business Improvement District and downtown Visitor Center, New Valley Bank & Trust, and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as their tedd- bear delivery partner, BMW of West Springfield.

 

American Eagle Donates $3,000 to Diaper Banks

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — In the spirit of the holidays and to reinforce its long-term commitment to assisting families in need, American Eagle Financial Credit Union awarded $3,000 in grants from its donor-advised fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to three nonprofit diaper banks in Connecticut and Western Mass. Square One Diaper Bank in Springfield, the Diaper Bank of Connecticut, and Gentle Love Diaper Pantry, a youth-led nonprofit organization at Manchester (Conn.) High School, each received $1,000 to purchase and distribute diapers to needy families in their respective communities this holiday season. “More than ever, our families are struggling to meet their basic needs. The cost of diapers can be as high as $100 per month for some families,” said Dawn DiStefano, executive vice president of Square One. “Thanks to the generosity of American Eagle Financial Credit Union and other community partners, we can continue to lessen this burden by supplying emergency diapers to those in need.”

 

Company Notebook

Elms College Establishes St. John Paul II Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the creation of the St. John Paul II Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture (CERC), thanks to the generous support of three foundational donors. A seven-figure naming gift from an anonymous donor and two six-figure contributions, from Carolyn Jacobs and B. John and Collette Dill and family, will help the college launch the center. The CERC will examine the most pressing and complex questions related to ethics, religion, and culture in today’s society and lead the regional community in thoughtful, engaging discourse. From an academic perspective, programming for the CERC will focus on the infusion of ethical leadership across the curriculum, the integration of ethics within the healthcare and business fields of study, and the provision of innovative experiential learning opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. “The creation of the CERC reflects the college’s goals of training the next generation of ethical leaders, sharing the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition, encouraging interfaith dialogue, and promoting our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Peter DePergola II, associate professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Elms College and a member of the CERC advisory board. An official launch of the St. John Paul II Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture will take place in late October and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held virtually.

 

MassMutual Center, UMass, AIC to Co-host 2024 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Regional

SPRINGFIELD — The National Collegiate Athletic Assoc. (NCAA) announced that the MassMutual Center, in conjunction with American International College and UMass Amherst, has been selected to host the 2024 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Regional, marking the first time the event has been held at the MassMutual Center. The two-day regional will feature four teams competing in two first-round games, with the winners advancing to the regional final the following day. The winner of the regional final will advance to the 2024 Frozen Four, which will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. “We are incredibly proud to partner with American International College and the MassMutual Center for a 2024 regional,” said Ryan Bamford, director of Athletics at UMass Amherst. “We have been privileged to see first-hand the passion that fans in this region have for college hockey, and we are looking forward to playing a part in hosting a first-class event in Springfield during one of the most exciting weekends on the college hockey calendar.” Added Jessica Chapin, interim director of Athletics at AIC, “we are thrilled to be awarded the bid for the Division I Ice Hockey Regional with UMass and the MassMutual Center for 2024,” “This will be a wonderful opportunity to add to the storied history of hockey in the Springfield, Massachusetts area.”

 

Northern Tree Service Transitions to Employee Stock-ownership Plan

PALMER — Northern Tree Service Inc. announced it has transitioned the ownership of its business lines over to an employee stock-ownership plan, or ESOP. The Lazear Capital Partners team worked with the management of Northern Tree Service to design a custom solution that included employee benefits, financial flexibility, and maximum tax advantages. Founded in 1932 by Walter Cambo, the company was first established to service state and municipal tree work in Eastern Mass. Under the leadership of Paul Cambo, Northern Tree Service grew to provide land-clearing services for the ever-expanding energy grid in the Northeast. Furthering Northern’s expansion, now under the leadership of Paul’s son, Philip, Northern Tree Service has continued its growth to become one of the most diversified tree-care companies in the industry, servicing all New England and surrounding states. “The ESOP was the choice we made to maintain the business’s current direction while simultaneously rewarding the 250-plus employees that have been so critical to the business’ success,” President Timothy LaMotte said. “We have a very specialized and highly skilled group of professionals focused on safety and integrity, and we are excited to see that continue.” With the new ESOP in place, both Philip Cambo and LaMotte will continue their current roles for the foreseeable future and gradually hand over the business’ operational control to the next generation of leaders.

 

Berkshire Bank Enhances Leave for Employees Experiencing Gender-based Violence

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced enhanced protections that will provide its 1,500 employees with paid and protected leave to manage the consequences of intimate-partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Berkshire Bank has partnered with FreeFrom, a nonprofit creating pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of gender-based violence, to increase its existing leave policies to benefit its employees. The enhanced policy gives employees 15 days of leave a year to seek medical care, attend court proceedings, and relocate — all without missing a paycheck or depleting their accrued sick or vacation days. Since 2014, Berkshire Bank has had a domestic-violence leave policy in compliance with relevant state laws. These new enhancements go beyond the mandated requirements of state laws to offer additional support for survivors and their families impacted by this type of abuse. Berkshire Bank employees will also now have access to FreeFrom’s Compensation Compass, a tool designed to assist survivors of domestic abuse in understanding whether they are eligible for compensation to cover some of the costs of the harm they experienced. In addition, the bank plans to collaborate with FreeFrom as part of its Survivor Safety Banking Initiative to explore how to design products and policies to better support customers that have experienced or are experiencing violence or abuse. This approach eliminates barriers to access for individuals of all backgrounds and experiences by providing innovative financial solutions, including an online account-opening experience that will help bring survivors into mainstream banking.

 

Bradley Recognized by Condé Nast Traveler Readers as Eighth-best U.S. Airport

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) announced that Condé Nast Traveler released the results of its annual Readers’ Choice Awards, with Bradley International Airport recognized as the eighth-best airport in the U.S. The awards are the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry. Bradley International Airport was recognized as a top-10 airport for the fourth consecutive year. “This award is a tremendous honor during a challenging year for the travel industry, and we are proud to once again be recognized among our nation’s best airports,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority. “We thank the travel community for their continued vote of confidence in Bradley International Airport and for underscoring the value of traveling through a smaller airport. Now more than ever, Bradley Airport stands out by always offering a clean, safe, and convenient travel experience.”

 

Excel Dryer Supports Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom Initiative

SPRINGFIELD — For the fourth consecutive year, Excel Dryer has committed an annual gift of $5,000 to support Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom initiative. The gift comes at a critical time as Square One recently expanded its early-education program to include full-day remote learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to its traditional preschool classrooms and family childcare offerings. The funds will be used to offset expenses associated with classroom supplies, meals, and professional development. “I am a strong proponent of in-person learning, and I applaud the efforts of Square One to reopen its preschool programs back in June, with appropriate protocols in place,” said Denis Gagnon, president of Excel Dryer Inc. “However, not all children have been able to return to school in the fall, which has created additional expenses to provide these children with remote learning support.” Square One’s Adopt-a-Classroom program is part of the agency’s Campaign for Healthy Kids, a multi-year fund-development initiative focused on the agency’s commitment to providing healthy meals, physical fitness, social-emotional well-being, and a healthy learning environment. “The past few months have greatly reinforced the demand for our programs and services,” said Kristine Allard, vice president of Development & Communication at Square One. “With that growing demand and the unanticipated COVID-related expenses — including providing full-day support during remote learning — we have a tremendous need to expand our donor base.” Square One currently provides early-learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, and family support services to 1,500 families each year, as they work to overcome the significant challenges in their lives.

 

Company Notebook

bankESB Earns Recognition for Quality, Community Commitment

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB was recently honored for overall quality and commitment to the community. The bank earned the number-one spot for Overall Quality in Western Mass. in the 2020 New England Banking Choice Awards. The awards are presented annually by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England, and are based on the results of the Rivel Banking Benchmarks, the largest and most comprehensive measure of banking customer experience in the world. The 2020 results are based on more than 11,000 interviews and 300,000 reviews of nearly 300 Massachusetts institutions. The bank also was named an honoree by the Boston Business Journal in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, a recognition of the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to showcase companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. Companies qualify for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year.

 

Florence Bank Gives $10,000 to Amherst Survival Center

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently donated $10,000 to the Amherst Survival Center, which connects residents of Hampshire and Franklin counties to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community, primarily through volunteer efforts. Since mid-March, the Amherst Survival Center has focused its resources on food and nutrition programs, ensuring its ability to provide hot meals to go, daily access to fresh produce and bread, and full grocery shops from its food pantry in as safe a manner as possible. This summer, the center established a strategic plan to address the steady rise of food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their plan entails doubling the food provided by the food pantry while also expanding grocery offerings to roughly two weeks each month. Additionally, the center will expand its staff in order to implement evening and weekend hours and integrate deliveries into the schedule with a goal of delivering food to 1,000 to 1,500 area residents per month. These efforts have been fueled by generous donations like the one from Florence Bank.

 

ValleyBike Share Offers Discount to Area Students

PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share has begun offering a special discount to all area students with an .edu e-mail address. The pass costs $60 for an annual membership that includes unlimited 45-minute rides. ValleyBike Share is the all-electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley, which includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus. Students can use ValleyBike Share to explore the Pioneer Valley without a car. The electric-assist bikes can go from one town to another with ease within the system, which makes them perfect to use if a student has classes at any of the other colleges in the service area. To join, visit www.valleybike.org. ValleyBike is open from approximately April 1 to Nov. 30, weather permitting.

 

UMass Donahue Institute Wins $14 Million Contract

HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded a five-year, $14 million contract to provide training and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs for all six New England states. The grants allows the institute to continue to work with local Head Start programs on their educational, health, and family services as well as management systems to strengthen their ability to serve children and their families. Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide comprehensive services that support the development of children from birth to age 5, and their families, in centers, childcare partner locations, and their own homes. Early Head Start also provides services to pregnant women. Head Start and Early Head Start services include early learning, health, and family well-being. The contract was awarded by the Office of Head Start in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nationally, Head Start/Early Head Start is divided into 12 regions. UMass Donahue Institute will be the sole provider of training and technical assistance to Region 1, which includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The institute was first awarded the New England training and technical assistance grant in 2003.

 

Country Bank Recognized for Charitable Giving

WARE — The Boston Business Journal has once again named Country Bank an honoree in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, recognizing the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to highlight companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. During this year’s virtual celebration held on Sept. 10, 107 companies — a record number — qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year. This year’s honorees include companies from healthcare, technology, financial and professional services, retail, professional sports, and more. Country Bank, which ranked 60th, employs 209 staff members within Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties. In 2019, staff members actively promoted the bank’s mission of giving back to the communities they serve by volunteering more than 1,100 hours of community service.

 

AIC Receives High Marks for Teaching and Education Degrees

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is ranked 17th among the top 50 colleges and universities for teaching and education degrees, as ranked by learn.org for academic year 2020-21. Established in 2003, learn.org provides free resources for students and working professionals to research potential schools and degrees by providing information on career opportunities and institutions of higher education that help individuals reach their goals, including school connections, scholarships, and online college planning for quality and affordable education. Citing AIC, learn.org highlights the college’s master’s programs, including its master of education in early childhood education and a master of education in middle or secondary education. The organization additionally notes that AIC offers a doctoral program with multiple tracks, the doctor of education in teaching and learning, and called attention to students’ ability to take part in a practicum or field-based research to ensure preparedness for future careers. The organization also credits the School of Education with employing “top-notch staff and faculty members, many of whom hold terminal degrees in their field.”

 

Square One Responds to Need for Remote-learning Support

SPRINGFIELD — As working parents continue to navigate the unchartered territory surrounding remote education, Square One is answering the call for help. The agency is now providing full-day remote-learning support for children in kindergarten through grade 5, in addition to expanded offerings for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Enrollment is available at three Square One early-learning centers in Springfield, as well as the agency’s network of home-based child-care providers who operate throughout the region. Through the generosity of funders, including the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and Square One’s corporate and individual donors, all locations are outfitted with the technology and staffing needed to accommodate each student’s remote-learning needs. All guidelines surrounding social distancing, cleanliness, and personal protective equipment will be strictly enforced. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided. For more information, parents are urged to contact the Square One enrollment office at (413) 732-5183. With the growing demand for programs and services at Square One comes a greater need for additional financial support. Donors are asked to support the Campaign for Healthy Kids by texting ABC123 to 4432, visiting www.startatsquareone.org, or e-mailing Kristine Allard, vice president of Development & Communication, at [email protected].

 

Berkshire Bank Foundation Contributes More Than $1 Million in COVID-19 Relief

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Bank Foundation announced that, due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has contributed more than $1 million to collaborative efforts supporting nonprofit organizations responding to community-based needs. Guided by the foundation’s mission of investing in those living and working in its local communities, the total relief provided represents an additional $1 million over the foundation’s $3 million total annual grant budget. The organizations supported in the Pioneer Valley through Berkshire Bank Foundation’s contributions include the Mental Health Assoc. Inc., YMCA of Greater Springfield, the SCORE Foundation – Western Massachusetts SCORE, and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, among others. The foundation’s grants this year have supported community-based organizations to help local families in the areas of affordable and safe housing, food security, health supplies, students in distress, and assistance to small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The foundation has also allowed nonprofits to utilize funds given for specific programs to help cover general operating costs and extended requirements and/or reporting deadlines where needed.

 

Beveridge Family Foundation Partners with Innovation Accelerator

WEST NEWBURY — The Beveridge Family Foundation provides support to nonprofits within Hampden and Hampshire counties. While continuing that critical work, it has started investing directly into social-impact projects and ventures. By leveraging its endowment, the Beveridge Foundation is significantly increasing the amount of funding it can deploy. Local organizations with proposals for economically sustainable programs can now apply for investments of up to $250,000. These proposals must be at the pilot stage or later and already have significant evidence of demand and viability. Innovation Accelerator trains nonprofits to develop high-impact social ventures. Alumni have gone from sticky notes on a whiteboard to live programs that have raised more than $1 million in seed funding. Each team that participates in the flagship accelerator program generates mission-aligned ideas, gathers concrete evidence, and receives direct feedback from the Beveridge Foundation and other funders.

 

Education Equity Focus of Grant to Holyoke Community College

HOLYOKE — When Holyoke Community College (HCC) unveiled its four-year strategic plan in 2018, one of its top priorities was increasing success rates of students of color. That aligned with goals established by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), which in the same year made equity the top policy and performance objective for the entire state public higher-education system. To support those ongoing efforts, the Lumina Foundation recently awarded the Massachusetts DHE grants worth $1.2 million, with half the money earmarked for six state colleges and universities, including HCC. HCC’s $100,000 award will be used to further the work of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion task force and expand mentorship programs that focus on students of color. Through its Talent, Innovation, Equity, and Equity Institution grants, the Lumina Foundation seeks to dismantle systemic barriers to student success and degree attainment, particularly for black and Latinx students. Massachusetts was only the fifth state to receive grants from the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Indianapolis. Latinx students participating in HCC’s ALANA Men in Motion program show a fall-to-fall retention rate of 75%, compared to 45% for Latinx students not participating in ALANA, an academic support, mentoring, and counseling program for African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American men. HCC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion group focuses on making sure students of color succeed at the same rate as their white peers, using benchmarks such as retention and college completion rates.

 

United Way Distributes PPE to Area Nonprofits, Municipalities

SPRINGFIELD — As part of its COVID-19 response efforts, United Way of Pioneer Valley has distributed a round of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19-related items to multiple area nonprofits and municipalities. Recipients of PPE to date include the Agawam Department of Public Health, Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee, Chicopee Food Force, Granville Fire Department, Granville Police Department, Granville Public Library, Link to Libraries, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Ludlow Senior Center, Ministry en Motion, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, One Holyoke CDC, Quarry Hill Community School in Monson, Southwick Senior Center, Tolland Fire Department, and Westfield Senior Center. Distributions include various sizes of hand-sanitizer bottles, hand-sanitizing stations, disposable masks, gloves, face masks, face shields, cleaning wipes, and countertop sneeze guards. Donations also included hula hoops and pool noodles to help young children learn about social distancing.

 

Wealth Management

A Seeming Disconnect

By Jean M. Deliso

Have you wondered how the S&P 500 stock-market index has been trading at near all-time highs when, in the second quarter, S&P 500 corporate earnings were down compared to the first quarter of 2020, daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. are currently stable or declining, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July unemployment report showed more than 16 million unemployed Americans, with an unemployment rate of 10.2%?

That question is a good one, with the seeming disconnect between what the stock market has been doing and what we are seeing in the news and the U.S. economy. No doubt the stock market was arguably pricing in what the economy will look like a year from now and what the market sees as significant pent-up demand, a fading pandemic-induced economic impact, and a wall of liquidity coursing its way through capital markets.

The real question is whether investors should be concerned about the U.S. stock market hitting all-time highs with the economy still bruised and slowly recovering. Could this mean a crash or major correction is coming?

Jean Deliso

Jean Deliso

“There is a chance the economy one year from now will be in better shape than it is today — or it may be worse. But being a participant in the market for the long haul means participating in the growth and losses that happen between now and then, and always focusing on your investment time horizon.”

No one truly knows the answer to that question. But we know that market corrections and bear markets are normal and common; we just don’t know when they will arrive or how long they will last. And if anyone tells you ‘with certainty’ when a market downside is coming and how long it will last, you might want to run the other way.

When thinking about where the markets and economy could go in the next year and beyond, it’s useful to break it down by key categories:

Economics. The pandemic-induced recession has been steep and ugly. But there is a good argument that the worst of the crisis could be behind us. Manufacturing and service activity have rebounded, the housing market has seen very solid activity, and spending has outpaced expectations, according to the Washington Post.

Earnings. Second-quarter earnings were bad, plain and simple. But at the same time, earnings were not as bad as the double-digit expectation of Wall Street, and clearly stocks love positive surprises. Will earnings continue to improve going forward? That is the question — and we all hope the answer is ‘yes.’

Interest Rates. Overnight rates in most developed countries are near historic lows, meaning borrowing costs and financing costs are highly attractive for businesses and individuals that can obtain loans. The Federal Reserve also signaled plans to keep interest rates near zero for years; these actions make equities attractive by comparison.

Inflation. The amount of global stimulus is massive; the total global fiscal and monetary stimulus being deployed amounts to approximately 28% of world GDP, according to the Wall Street Journal. This ‘wall of liquidity’ makes inflation seem more likely in the coming years and will be a factor to watch.

Sentiment. Consumer and investor sentiment is improving in the wake of the pandemic, but may sour as the election nears.What’s the bottom line for investors? The nature of bull markets is that we can expect the stock market to reach new highs over time. This is what history has told us to expect every time. That said, I would caution against seeing an all-time high in the S&P index as a reason to go completely defensive. When setting a long-term investment strategy, it is important to consider how the economy may grow or contract in the next six, 12, or even 18 months, and how that plays into your personal goals and objectives. If your retirement date is close, it is always prudent to review how much safe money you may need to weather an unexpected storm.

There is a chance the economy one year from now will be in better shape than it is today — or it may be worse. But being a participant in the market for the long haul means participating in the growth and losses that happen between now and then, and always focusing on your investment time horizon.

Jean M. Deliso is a registered representative offering securities through NYLIFE Securities, LLC (member FINRA/SIPC), a licensed insurance agency. Deliso Financial and Insurance Services is not owned or operated by Eagle Strategies, NYLIFE Securities, LLC, or any of their affiliates.

Company Notebook

Officials Celebrate Start of Court Square Project

SPRINGFIELD — A host of city, state, and national leaders were on hand at the former Court Square Hotel property on Aug. 27 to mark the official start of a long-awaited $51 million project to convert the long-dormant landmark into apartments and retail space. Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno were among the many dignitaries to address those gathered to commemorate the launch of the initiative, which will bring 59 market-rate apartments, 15 workforce apartments, and more than 20,000 square feet of retail to the center of Springfield. The project is the result of a partnership involving a number of players, including developers Winn Companies of Boston and Opal Real Estate of Springfield, as well as MassMutual, MGM, and MassHousing’s Workforce Housing Initiative. More than $11 million in state and federal historic tax credits have also been secured for the project. Initial work on the property involves $4 million worth of demolition and hazardous materials cleanup, expected to completed by November. Actual construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

AmherstWorks Reopens; New Applications Being Accepted

AMHERST — AmherstWorks, a co-working space dedicated to serving the Pioneer Valley community, has reopened and is accepting new applications for membership passes and private offices. AmherstWorks has implemented new policies and procedures, in addition to restructuring the space to adhere to the state’s health and safety regulations in light of the coronavirus pandemic. All members will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing of six feet at all times. Previously shared desks will be assigned exclusively to individuals each day, with hand sanitizer readily available. AmherstWorks membership assistants will sanitize all surfaces a minimum of three times a day. The newly renovated downtown workspace includes large windows for natural light, high-speed internet, and premium amenities for members.

MCLA, BCC Sign Education Articulation Agreement

NORTH ADAMS — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and Berkshire Community College (BCC) have signed a new articulation agreement, creating a pathway for students who complete BCC’s associate degree in early childhood education to enroll in MCLA’s liberal-arts degree-completion program in children, families, and society. Students who complete this associate-degree program at MCLA will also be able to enter MCLA with a core-requirement waiver. Students must graduate with at least a 2.5 grade point average to qualify. This agreement means students who qualify will be able to earn their associate and bachelor’s degrees as well as early education and care certifications. These credentials support requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC). This pathway can also result in a lead teacher certification from the DEEC.

Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley Moves to Northampton

NORTHAMPTON — Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley, part of the TommyCar Auto Group, moved from South Deerfield to its new location at 48 Damon Road in Northampton on Sept. 1. “This is an exciting change for us as Northampton is such a wonderful community and has been incredibly welcoming,” said TommyCar co-owner Carla Cosenzi. “The dealership will be more conveniently located for our customers, right off the highway. They will still get the same outstanding service they have come to expect from us, along with a greater inventory and a more spacious showroom and service department.” TommyCar Auto Group already has three dealerships in Northampton — Country Hyundai, Genesis of Northampton, and Northampton Volkswagen — as well as Country Nissan in Hadley.

Westfield State University Installs Cell Tower Atop Scanlon Hall

WESTFIELD — Cellular service on the Westfield State University campus is expected to significantly improve now that a new cell tower has been installed atop Scanlon Hall. Westfield State partnered with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority on the project. The installation was completed in August by Berkshire Wireless, a subcontractor for Verizon Wireless. In addition to improved and more reliable cell service, the university will also generate revenue by leasing the space to the cellular provider. A 10-year contract will generate $240,000 over the term, and the $24,000 per year will go toward the university’s Residential Life area to support services and programming for resident students.

Bulkley Richardson Joins Law Firm Anti-racism Alliance

SPRINGFIELD — Bulkley Richardson announced it has joined the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), a national collaboration of more than 260 law firms united in identifying and dismantling structural or systemic racism in the law. The alliance’s charter states its purpose is to “leverage the resources of the private bar in partnership with legal-services organizations to amplify the voices of communities and individuals oppressed by racism, to better use the law as a vehicle for change that benefits communities of color, and to promote racial equity in the law.” “We are joining some of the country’s most prominent law firms to shine a spotlight on systemic racism,” said Jeff Poindexter, co-chair of Bulkley Richardson’s litigation department. “Recognizing that racism is a public crisis, the firm has made a pledge to reject racism, hate, bigotry, and all forms of discrimination. By joining the LFAA, we can be a part of the solution and support an initiative to advance racial equity.”

HCC Receives $40,000 Grant for COVID-19 Relief

HOLYOKE — The Holyoke Community College (HCC) Foundation has received a second grant in as many months to help students facing financial emergencies because of COVID-19. In its latest round of grants, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts awarded $40,000 to HCC from its COVID-19 Relief Fund. In July, the Community Foundation awarded the HCC Foundation $35,000. All $75,000 went into the President’s Student Emergency Fund, which is managed by the HCC Foundation. Thanks to the Community Foundation’s first grant to HCC, 67 students received emergency funding with an average disbursement of $522. Already, in the past two weeks, 15 additional students have received emergency aid. Typically, students request help paying for basic needs, such as food, rent, utilities, childcare, and transportation.

JFS Selected for Year Two of Jewish Poverty Challenge

SPRINGFIELD — Following a North American call for submissions and an exhaustive selection process, Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts has been chosen by the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA) for participation in year two of its NJHSA Jewish Poverty Challenge, an offering of the network’s Center for Innovation and Research. The goal of the program is to help NJHSA member agencies better analyze the marketplace, launch and manage solutions, and implement sustainable measures for success to address the many dynamics associated with responding to Jewish poverty. NJHSA has partnered with Start Co., a venture-development consultancy firm based in Memphis, Tenn. with an expertise in launching startups and engaging municipalities, corporations, and nonprofits in poverty-reduction responses. The team at Start Co. will provide expert consultation assistance as JFS rethinks and redesigns products and services, adjusting assumptions and organization models. Throughout the process, special attention will be paid to the impact of COVID-19 on service-delivery methods.

Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley Awards Six Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Six area students were each recently awarded a $1,000 Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship to advance their education by the law firm that bears his name, Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley. The Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship is an award that goes to a member of a local union affiliated with the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation or their spouses or dependents. Applicants were asked to submit their high-school or college transcripts, written recommendations, a recital of their community-service activities, and an essay detailing the importance of the labor movement to their family. Winners of this year’s awards are Corey Bryant of Springfield, Alexandria Barnard-Davignon of Longmeadow, Anna MacDonnell of Longmeadow, Lindsay Marjanski of South Hadley, Sarah Meunier of South Deerfield, and Taryn Morse of Hatfield.

Hazen Paper Pioneers New Type of Custom Holography

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. has created an innovative, two-sided promotion to demonstrate cutting-edge holographic technologies. Hazen’s team designed the artwork on both sides to showcase specific visual effects with nano-holography that delivers an even more dramatic three-dimensional effect than lenticular printing. The front features a fire-breathing dragon with minutely detailed glittering scales. The effect of a blast of moving flames was achieved with registered, custom color-motion and multi-channel holography. On the back, a shimless random repeat custom hologram, ‘random burst,’ creates a moving, three-dimensional flash backdrop for a flock of butterflies. Originated entirely within Hazen’s state-of-the-art holographic lab and manufactured in its Holyoke facility, the project was realized on Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product. Sub-micron transfer-metallized Envirofoil uses less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate and a recycled film carrier, and is repulpable as paper after de-inking. It was offset-printed using UV-cure inks by AM Lithography of Chicopee. Vertically integrated, Hazen can take production from design to holographic paper in less than two weeks.

WNEU, Big Y Pharmacy Residency Program Accreditated

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) College of Pharmacy Health Sciences and Big Y Foods, Inc. Community-Based Residency Program has received accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the American Pharmacists Assoc. (APhA). The accreditation establishes criteria for training pharmacists for the purpose of achieving professional competence in the delivery of patient-centered care and in pharmacy services. The purpose of the post-graduate year one (PGY1) Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program is to build upon the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) education and outcomes to develop community-based pharmacist practitioners with diverse patient care, leadership, and education skills who are eligible to pursue advanced training opportunities, including post-graduate year two (PGY2) specialized residencies and professional certifications. ASHP’s Commission on Credentialing extended the accreditation of the residency program through 2024. The accreditation means the program meets or exceeds the national standards set for a residency training program. The WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Big Y Foods Community-Based Residency Program is the only such university-based initiative in Western Mass. This year, the residency program graduated its fifth resident. Three of the graduates are Big Y pharmacists who have created new pharmacy services, and two graduates went on to pursue PGY2 ambulatory-care residencies. WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also offers a PGY1 Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program with Walgreens. This program began in 2014 and is also accredited by ASHP and APhA.

Multiple Sclerosis Center Opens at Mercy Medical Center

SPRINGFIELD — Trinity Health Of New England announced the opening of the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research at Mercy Medical Center. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the Greater Springfield area are now able to access their healthcare needs in one central location with a team of specialists dedicated to every aspect of their care. The Mandell Center, located at 175 Carew St. in Springfield, offers a combination of cutting-edge treatments, groundbreaking research, and innovative rehabilitation programs, and provides an all-inclusive treatment plan for each patient’s individual needs. In addition to state-of-the-art equipment, the model will include a nationally recognized team of MS specialists including neurologists, neuropsychologists, urologists, physiatrists, social workers, occupational and rehabilitation therapists, speech pathologists, physician’s assistants, and nurses. The Mandell MS Center at Mercy is partnered with the world-renowned Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell MS Centers at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital in Hartford, Conn. and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn.

HMC Recognized for Promoting Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has earned national recognition as a Let Life Bloom Platinum Award recipient for its efforts to increase organ, eye, and tissue donor registrations through the Workplace Partnership for Life (WPFL) Hospital Organ Donation Campaign. The WPFL is a national initiative that unites the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the organ-donation community with workplaces across the nation in spreading the word about the importance of donation. The WPFL Hospital Organ Donation Campaign challenges hospitals and healthcare organizations to “let life bloom” by educating staff, patients, visitors, and communities about the critical need for organ, eye, and tissue donation, including offering opportunities to register as organ donors. HMC earned points for conducting awareness and registry activities between October 2019 and April 2020 and prompting new donor registrations during that time period. Visit registerme.org to sign up as a donor.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBank Grant Helps Fund WNEU Student Startup

SPRINGFIELD — PeoplesBank and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Western New England University (WNEU) College of Business are working together to help students expand their entrepreneurship education beyond the classroom. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WNEU works to develop students’ entrepreneurial mindset. Through co-curricular efforts, such as Startup Weekend and the cross-disciplinary business/engineering “Product Development and Innovation” course, students are able to create ideas, products, and services that have market potential. PeoplesBank is taking this one step further by providing grant funding to advance qualifying startups that show promise and demonstrate success. Joseph Ferrera, a 2020 graduate of the Entrepreneurship program at Western New England University, is the first recipient of a PeoplesBank grant. He founded Double O Joe, a Ludlow-based videography startup, in his sophomore year and continued to advance the business model through his entrepreneurship courses at WNEU. He is currently serving several small businesses in the Greater Springfield area. The grant funded a more advanced drone and camera in order to continue to grow his customer base and video offerings.

STCC Launches Certificate in Social-media Strategy, Design

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer a new social-media strategy and design certificate this fall in the Department of Technical Arts and Design. The coursework is designed to prepare students for the planning and implementation of a promotional strategy using a variety of social-media platforms, including social networking, microblogging, photo sharing, and video sharing. In addition, students will take courses in graphic design, motion graphics, marketing, and advertising to blend social-media strategy and design, a combination that is very much in demand, said Professor Philip Ruderman, a faculty member in the Graphic Communications & Photography program at STCC. Ruderman called the program a vehicle to help students promote their talents, showcase their work, and develop relationships that will grow their employer’s business, or their own. The new social-media tools course offered this fall will focus on the basic elements needed to create and maintain a successful social-media campaign, including social-media marketing basics, social-media mix, social marketing process, analysis, strategy development, program and communication design, and implementation. This online course will put students on the path for self-promotion and promotion of businesses. The training enables them to build awareness within the marketplace and to target and engage online viewers and build a community of followers. An online search for social-media jobs in the region will yield a number of results, including digital content creators, digital content producers, social-media designers, and social-media specialists. In addition, a number of marketing positions requiring social-media skills can also be found. Nine courses, or 27 credits, are required to complete the program, which could be completed in as few as two semesters. To learn more about the program, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/smsd.coc. For questions, call Admissions at (413) 755-3333.

BHN’s Kamp for Kids Receives $10,000 Grant from Westfield Bank

WESTFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) announced it received a grant of $10,000 from Westfield Bank to benefit Kamp for Kids, the organization’s summer day camp for children and young adults with and without disabilities. Westfield Bank has been a longtime supporter of BHN’s Kamp for Kids. Grants made to Kamp for Kids provide camperships to youth with or without disabilities to ensure that all children, regardless of family income, are able to attend camp. Due to COVID-19, this summer Kamp for Kids is being held virtually in order to provide a safe camp experience for the campers and their families. The virtual camp is open to all who wish to participate and offered free of charge, and consists of recreational activities, nature time, and arts and crafts. To register and participate in virtual camp, visit www.bhninc.org/kamp-kids. The camp has created three themes for this year’s activities: “In My Backyard,” “Only in New England,” and “All Around the World.” Kamp for Kids has also continued its partnership with the Westfield Cultural Council and Berkshire Hills Music Academy, a music-based program for people with disabilities in Franklin County, to offer musical programming for participants.

LPV Announces New Path Forward

SPRINGFIELD — Last month, Leadership Pioneer Valley’s (LPV) board of directors approved a plan for the next six months. The plan creates new leadership-development options aimed at addressing the needs of the wider community. Because leadership in a pandemic necessitates both a statewide and national perspective, LPV will continue to collaborate with programs across the Commonwealth and participate in the National Leadership Alumni Network — a first of its kind. It will also continue offering sessions exploring creating more equitable workplaces and communities. These programs and others in the works are designed to address the needs of LPV alumni and the wider community. LPV’s signature LEAP program, a nine-month regional leadership-development program for emerging leaders, will be pushed back to January 2021, and will be a hybrid of virtual and in-person programming that prioritizes safety while building engaging connections. This fall, LPV will offer a number of new opportunities including small Leadership Luncheons, a Leader Roundtable series, and a new Adaptive Leadership series. All sessions will begin virtually and transition to in-person when feasible.

HCC Unveils New Academic Programs for Fall Semester

HOLYOKE — Cannabis cultivation, beer and cider brewing, and winemaking are just a few of the new academic programs being offered this fall at Holyoke Community College (HCC). All three were developed as one-year, 24-credit certificate programs through the college’s Sustainability Studies department. One new course, “Cannabis Today,” provides knowledge of the growing part of the industry. Other requirements for the certificate include classes in agriculture, marketing, and entrepreneurship. The college also developed the brewing and winemaking certificates with an eye on expanding industries. Another new course, “Fermentation Science,” explains the scientific processes of fermentation as it applies to both brewing and winemaking. This fall, HCC is also unveiling new certificate and associate-degree programs in a range of other academic areas, including behaviorial neuroscience (degree), critical social thought (degree), geoscience (degree), child development (certificate), mental health (certiificate,) and veterinary assistant (certificate). The fall semester at Holyoke Community College begins Tuesday, Sept. 8. To enroll for fall, visit hcc.edu/admission, call (413) 552-2321, or e-mail [email protected].

Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley Awards Six Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Six area students were each recently awarded a $1,000 Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship to advance their education by the law firm that bears his name, Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley. The Gerard L. Pellegrini Scholarship is an award that goes to a member of a local union affiliated with the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation or their spouses or dependents. Applicants were asked to submit their high-school or college transcripts, written recommendations, a recital of their community-service activities, and an essay detailing the importance of the labor movement to their family. Winners of this year’s awards are Corey Bryant of Springfield, Alexandria Barnard-Davignon of Longmeadow, Anna MacDonnell of Longmeadow, Lindsay Marjanski of South Hadley, Sarah Meunier of South Deerfield, and Taryn Morse of Hatfield.

Hazen Paper Pioneers New Type of Custom Holography

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. has created an innovative, two-sided promotion to demonstrate cutting-edge holographic technologies. Hazen’s team designed the artwork on both sides to showcase specific visual effects with nano-holography that delivers an even more dramatic three-dimensional effect than lenticular printing. The front features a fire-breathing dragon with minutely detailed glittering scales. The effect of a blast of moving flames was achieved with registered, custom color-motion and multi-channel holography. On the back, a shimless random repeat custom hologram, ‘random burst,’ creates a moving, three-dimensional flash backdrop for a flock of butterflies. Originated entirely within Hazen’s state-of-the-art holographic lab and manufactured in its Holyoke facility, the project was realized on Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product. Sub-micron transfer-metallized Envirofoil uses less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate and a recycled film carrier, and is repulpable as paper after de-inking. It was offset-printed using UV-cure inks by AM Lithography of Chicopee. Vertically integrated, Hazen can take production from design to holographic paper in less than two weeks.

WSU Teacher-education Program Accredited with Commendation

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) teacher-education program has received full, seven-year accreditation with commendation from the Assoc. for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) for its wide-ranging, growing work in anti-racism education. WSU is the first institution of higher education in the AAQEP membership to receive commendation from the organization. The WSU Education Department’s teacher-education program is designed to prepare educators to teach effectively within a democratic society. Its mission is informed by several pillars, including critical engagement with diversity, social justice, community building, scholarship, and reflective practice. Program coursework and field experiences provide students with the understanding, knowledge, and skills that will enable them, as teachers, to engage with diversity and issues of equity, build inclusive learning communities, embrace the scholarship of teaching and learning, and adopt a reflective practitioner mindset. These principles — which undergird the Teacher Education program — set expectations that are essential for those who will teach in K-12 schools, and collectively are needed to provide the foundational knowledge for WSU students to become effective, caring, and equitable teachers. The Accreditation Commission also commended the university’s education programs for their concerted and deepening work in anti-racist education, as these efforts permeate the preparation of educators, are embedded in and impact the wider campus culture, and reach into the community through campus- and program-based partnerships. All education students participate in annual Anti-Racist Education Town Hall events featuring relevant themes like the School-to-Prison Pipeline, share common readings across courses, and participate in guest lectures on campus.

WNEU, Big Y Pharmacy Residency Program Accreditated

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) College of Pharmacy Health Sciences and Big Y Foods, Inc. Community-Based Residency Program has received accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the American Pharmacists Assoc. (APhA). The accreditation establishes criteria for training pharmacists for the purpose of achieving professional competence in the delivery of patient-centered care and in pharmacy services. The purpose of the post-graduate year one (PGY1) Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program is to build upon the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) education and outcomes to develop community-based pharmacist practitioners with diverse patient care, leadership, and education skills who are eligible to pursue advanced training opportunities, including post-graduate year two (PGY2) specialized residencies and professional certifications. ASHP’s Commission on Credentialing extended the accreditation of the residency program through 2024. The accreditation means the program meets or exceeds the national standards set for a residency training program. The WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Big Y Foods Community-Based Residency Program is the only such university-based initiative in Western Mass. This year, the residency program graduated its fifth resident. Three of the graduates are Big Y pharmacists who have created new pharmacy services, and two graduates went on to pursue PGY2 ambulatory-care residencies. WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also offers a PGY1 Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program with Walgreens. This program began in 2014 and is also accredited by ASHP and APhA.

Multiple Sclerosis Center Opens at Mercy Medical Center

SPRINGFIELD — Trinity Health Of New England announced the opening of the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research at Mercy Medical Center. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the Greater Springfield area are now able to access their healthcare needs in one central location with a team of specialists dedicated to every aspect of their care. The Mandell Center, located at 175 Carew St. in Springfield, offers a combination of cutting-edge treatments, groundbreaking research, and innovative rehabilitation programs, and provides an all-inclusive treatment plan for each patient’s individual needs. In addition to state-of-the-art equipment, the model will include a nationally recognized team of MS specialists including neurologists, neuropsychologists, urologists, physiatrists, social workers, occupational and rehabilitation therapists, speech pathologists, physician’s assistants, and nurses. The Mandell MS Center at Mercy is partnered with the world-renowned Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell MS Centers at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital in Hartford, Conn. and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes a disruption in the myelin that insulates and protects nerve cells. MS is a long-lasting disease that can affect a person’s brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, causing problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions. Thus, having a variety of specialists in one location is invaluable for MS patients.

Company Notebook

First American Insurance Acquires Morin & Foy

CHICOPEE — First American Insurance Agency, an independent insurance firm, announced it has acquired Morin & Foy, a property and casualty firm situated in Brimfield. Located on Route 20, Morin & Foy serves its surrounding communities by providing clients with personal and commercial insurance. The joining of the two companies allows for the growth of First American Insurance Agency’s portfolio and building the business client groups. First American Insurance Agency is acquiring only the Brimfield location. “When I first met Sharon and the team in Brimfield, it was clear from our very first conversation that First American Insurance Agency could build on what we both have in common: the client-first mentality,” said Corey Murphy, First American president. Added Sharon Morin, manager at Morin & Foy, “we are a dedicated team committed to serving our community and treating people with respect and kindness. I know that First American Insurance will continue to build and grow that culture.”

St. Germain Named to List of Top Registered Investment Advisers

SPRINGFIELD — For the fifth consecutive year, St. Germain Investment Management has been named to the Financial Times 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers (RIA). The 2020 list recognizes top independent RIA firms from across the U.S. This is the seventh annual FT 300 list, produced independently by the Financial Times in collaboration with Ignites Research, a subsidiary of the FT that provides business intelligence on the asset-management industry. RIA firms applied for consideration having met a minimum set of criteria. Applicants were then graded on six factors: assets under management (AUM), AUM growth rate, years in existence, advanced industry credentials of the firm’s advisers, online accessibility, and compliance records. There are no fees or other considerations required of RIAs that apply for the FT 300. The FT 300 is one in series of rankings of top advisers by the Financial Times, including the FT 400 (DC retirement-plan advisers) and the FT 400 (broker-dealers).

Gift From Bulkley Richardson Gives Parents Peace of Mind

SPRINGFIELD — During COVID-19, the world has turned upside down. For parents with babies at the Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Baystate Children’s Hospital, the pandemic brings especially tough choices. Due to the coronavirus, Baystate Health’s NICU allows just one parent to visit at a time. To ease the stress of separation, the NICU team keeps families connected through personal webcams attached to many of the bassinettes. Using a unique password, parents can log onto a secure website anytime, day or night, to visit their baby virtually. Recently, Bulkley Richardson generously donated $10,000 to support the purchase of additional cameras. Peter Barry, former managing partner at Bulkley Richardson, knows firsthand the difference these resources make for families. His grandchild was in the care of Baystate Children’s Hospital Neonatal Continuing Care Unit when he was born. “The skill and caring of the team were truly impressive,” Barry said. “These cameras will make a very difficult situation a bit easier for parents and grandparents. Bulkley Richardson is proud to provide philanthropic support for this level of life-saving expertise in our region.” The Davis Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is the only one of its kind in Western Mass., providing the highest level of care available for sick or premature newborns. NICU patients often have prolonged hospital stays of weeks or months.

UMass Amherst to Make Standardized Tests Optional

AMHERST — Beginning with the spring 2021 term, and continuing for each spring and fall term through spring 2023, UMass Amherst will make standardized tests optional for its first-year entering applicants. For the past several months, the university has monitored how possible, safe, and secure it will be for students to take the SAT or ACT. In recent weeks, said James Roche, vice provost for Enrollment Management, it has become obvious that the challenges to testing presented by the coronavirus pandemic will persist in the months ahead. Historically, UMass Amherst has used a holistic review to evaluate applicants. The quantitative assessment component of that review was done using a formula that combined the applicant’s high school GPA and the best combination of test scores. Roche said the university’s research shows that, of the separate components, the high-school GPA is a stronger predictor of student performance, persistence, and success; however, it is also known that the combination of the two components provides an even stronger predictor than either the GPA or test score alone. The university has analyzed three years of data and more than 100,000 applicant records to develop a formula for its test-optional assessment that uses the high-school GPA as the base. For applicants who either have or will submit test scores, UMass Amherst will compare the result of the formula with and without the test score included and give the applicant the highest value of the two. This test-optional approach applies to all majors. As it always has, UMass Amherst will continue to consider the rigor of students’ high-school coursework in its assessment, especially for courses that apply most directly to the applicant’s intended major.

STCC Launches New Water-distribution Course

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer an online course this fall to prepare students for careers in the drinking-water industry and to help those working in the field enhance their skills. The course, called “Concepts & Practices of Drinking Water Distribution,” is being offered through the Workforce Development Center at STCC in partnership with the Massachusetts Water Works Assoc. and the Springfield Water & Sewer Commission. The training, which runs from Sept. 14 to Dec. 4, is free for students enrolled in any community college in Massachusetts. Individuals not enrolled at a community college, as well as employees at water utilities, can register for the class for a fee. This is the second in a series of courses designed for careers in the water industry. Last fall, a water-treatment course was offered in a similar self-paced online format. Students who completed the training last fall touted the course’s effectiveness and flexibility. The water distribution course will include weekly videos, readings, discussion topics, and quizzes. The 12-week training will help prepare students to take the Massachusetts Drinking Water Operator Grade 2, 3 and 4 Distribution license exams. Licensure is necessary for beginning a career in the drinking-water industry. This course is approved by the Massachusetts Board of Certification of Drinking Water Operators. Material covered includes hydrology, source waters, basic math and chemistry, regulations, water sampling, hydraulics, distribution-system components (pipes, valves, pumps, tanks, meters), equipment operation and maintenance, safety, and administrative duties. Someone with a Massachusetts water operator distribution license can work in such positions as water construction and repair technician; construction foreman; equipment operation and maintenance specialist; water-quality technician; SCADA, GIS, or instrumentation specialist; or water-systems manager. Students who complete the water course can consider continuing their education in fields such as civil engineering, urban studies, software development, business administration, and more. To enroll online, visit stcc.edu/water. To enroll in person or for more information, call (413) 755-4225 or e-mail [email protected]

Wellfleet Launches ‘Back to Work’ Educational Series

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet has launched a “Back to Work” education series, offering virtual programs designed to give business leaders from all sectors advice, ideas, and best practices for returning to the office — and to a sense of normalcy. Wellfleet’s “Back to Work” series, a collection of live and on-demand webinars and online resources available at wellfleetinsurance.com/backtowork, kicked off this spring with a “Healthy Buildings” webinar featuring Dr. Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Allen shared valuable insights on how business leaders can improve workplace buildings to enhance productivity, engagement, and retention among employees, and offered a hierarchy of controls for a safe, multi-faceted approach to repopulating office spaces. Worried parents can get peace of mind from Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year, whose on-demand webinar offers perspective, strategy, and support to parents-turned-educators navigating long-term social distancing and the potential for continued remote learning this fall. Parents can also take advantage of Wellfleet’s Summer Education & Activity Pack, a resource rich with activities, tips, and tools for keeping kids educated and entertained over the summer. Insurance-industry-specific webinars round out the “Back to Work” series offerings, including a conversation on “Overcoming Challenges Facing Voluntary Benefits Engagement & Enrollment,” led by Erik Gray, Wellfleet Workplace’s head of Enrollment Experience. For a complete listing of events and to register, visit www.wellfleetinsurance.com/backtowork.

Common Capital Approved as Lender for Community Advantage Recovery Loans

BOSTON — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has developed a new, temporary loan product called Community Advantage Recovery Loans (CARL) for eligible lenders to provide technical and financial assistance to support small businesses located in underserved areas. The SBA issued a document in the Federal Register, providing specific requirements for Community Advantage Recovery Loans. In addition to getting funded, the underserved small businesses will also receive technical assistance to build financial resiliency against future business disruptions. Community Advantage Recovery Loans can be approved through Sept. 27 and must be fully disbursed no later than Oct. 1. The CARL Participant Guide is available on SBA’s website and outlines all other loan terms and conditions. “Common Capital appreciates the opportunity to participate in this new program, which will help us increase the flow of loan capital to underserved businesses in Western Massachusetts,” Common Capital President Raymond Lanza-Weil said. “Combined with our existing SBA loan programs, we look forward to expanding our assistance to businesses that have a concrete plan for adapting to the COVID-19 economy.”

New EV Charging Stations Available in Northampton

NORTHAMPTON — Whalen Insurance, located at 71 King St. in Northampton, now has six new electric-vehicle (EV) chargers installed beneath and powered by its solar canopy. These charging stations are operational and available for public use, charge up to 7.2 kW of power at a cost of $2 per hour, and require no parking fees to access them. The EV chargers and 62.64 kW solar canopy were both installed by PV Squared, a local solar design and installation company based in Greenfield. The EV project was funded primarily by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, as a result of the Volkswagen diesel-emissions settlement. In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to secretly and intentionally installing software in vehicles to cheat state emissions tests, which raised the levels of smog-causing nitrogen oxides up to 40 times higher than permitted. Massachusetts received a partial settlement, and the money is being used to increase the amount of EV charging and infrastructure and promote more electric-vehicle usage throughout the Commonwealth. The goal is to increase air quality and reduce particulate pollution by creating a cleaner transportation sector. The EV charging station at Whalen Insurance is contributing to the larger environmental goals of the state, while also directly benefiting the local community. Peter Whalen and Janna Ugone own the EV chargers. In addition to the EV charging station, Whalen has invested in six solar projects, totaling 127.92 kW, on various properties in Northampton. On an annual basis, these solar arrays produce a combined 141,591 kWh of electricity, which is equivalent to 110 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). This translates to an environmental offset of CO2 emissions from 11,265 gallons of gasoline consumed and 110,308 pounds of coal burned. Whalen also loves driving his electronic vehicle.

Company Notebook

Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Tapped for WSU Parenzo Hall Renovation

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University, in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Assets Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), announced the selection of Holyoke-based Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Inc. to serve as construction manager for the university’s $40 million Parenzo Hall renovation project. The construction manager selection committee — consisting of three DCAMM representatives, architect James Loftus of Miller Dyer Spears of Boston, and David Riggles, associate director for Projects and Space Management at Westfield State — received 12 responses to DCAMM’s request for qualifications and eight final proposals for the project. The final construction-manager selection was made based on the firm’s qualifications, experience, past performances, and reviews of performance records in comparison to the others. The university plans to transform the 64-year-old Parenzo Hall — the oldest building on campus — into a state-of-the-art hub for student success and development. Renovations will include the creation of two new centers — the Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE) and the CoLab (collaboration laboratory). The renovation of swing space to relocate current Parenzo Hall tenants is underway and expected to be completed this winter. Groundbreaking for Parenzo’s reconstruction is anticipated in summer 2021. The renovation is expected to take approximately two years. The CoLab will leverage technology to serve as a nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to productively engage in online and hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The CoLab will work with community colleges to ease the transfer process by offering financially supported hybrid-style programs and boot camps. It will work with chambers of commerce and economic-development boards to broker relationships, inform curriculum, and secure support. The CSSE will address the university’s goals of increasing retention and graduation rates, as well as reducing achievement gaps and the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults. In addition, it will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. New and in-demand certificate programs and advanced study options will be offered to its business partners, utilizing technology. The Commonwealth is helping to finance the project via a $21.25 million spending bill that was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker during a July 2018 visit to campus.

Baystate Health, Kindred Healthcare to Partner on Behavioral-health Hospital

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health and Kindred Healthcare, LLC announced plans to form a joint venture that will build and operate a $43 million, state-of-the-art behavioral-health hospital in Western Mass. The 120-bed facility will address the shortage of behavioral-health beds in the region, increasing patient access to Baystate Health’s specialty inpatient behavioral healthcare for adults (including geriatrics), adolescents, and children by more than 50%. Kindred will manage day-to-day operations of the hospital, and Baystate Health psychiatrists and advanced practitioners will provide care under the medical leadership of Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of Psychiatry at Baystate Health. The hospital will be designed specifically for behavioral-health services to foster a better healing environment for patients. The hospital will feature distinct units to meet patients’ varying treatment needs and is expected to employ more than 200 direct caregivers and ancillary staff. Baystate had planned last year to partner with US HealthVest, LLC on a $30 million behavioral-health hospital, but ended that relationship in November following news reports alleging substandard care at other HealthVest facilities, and began searching for a new partner. Baystate Health remains interested in a centrally located Holyoke location and is in discussions with the city of Holyoke regarding the potential acquisition and development of a property on Lower Westfield Road. It is anticipated that, from the time the site is secured, it will be at least two years before the new hospital is operational, pending regulatory and other approvals. Until the new hospital is completed, Baystate will continue to operate its inpatient behavioral-health units at its community hospitals — Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate Noble Hospital, and Baystate Wing Hospital. Upon completion of the new facility, those units will be closed. Emergency-care services will continue to be provided at all Baystate Health hospitals, and the treatment of medically complex patients will continue at Baystate Medical Center in its Adult Psychiatric Treatment Unit.

Elms College Receives Grant to Fund Experiential Learning

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced it has been awarded a $240,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation (DEF) in support of its Experiential Learning Mastering Success (ELMS) – Real World Ready! learning initiative. The grant will be dispersed over the next three years. The overall goal of the ELMS – Real World Ready! learning initiative is to provide at least one high-impact experiential learning opportunity to every student during their college career. Experiential learning is one of the five pillars of the college’s 2020-23 strategic plan. Students can participate in internships, research, study-abroad trips, and service learning opportunities. The first-year disbursement of the grant will support hiring a director of Experiential Learning, providing professional development for faculty and staff, and broadening of the college’s third annual Innovation Challenge (IC). The IC is a three-day event in which students work in teams and explore the intersection of social relationships, business economics, public education, and social justice. Over the past two years, Elms students have developed creative ideas to alleviate homelessness and address bullying. The upcoming Innovation Challenge in the fall 2020 semester will expand participation from 60 students to the entire first-year class. The ELMS – Real World Ready! learning initiative and the DEF grant build on the philanthropic scholarship funding currently available to students through the donor-funded Keating Schneider Experiential Learning Fund and the Elms Advantage Internship program.

WNEU to Offer MS Program in Construction Management

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced the addition of a new master of science program in construction management to the list of graduate-degree offerings. U.S. News and World Report ranks construction manager first in “Best Construction Jobs” and 43rd in “100 Best Jobs” with a low unemployment rate of 2.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows that the job outlook growth (2016-26) for Construction Managers is 11% (faster than average), with a median salary of $93,370 per year. With courses rooted in civil engineering, industrial engineering, and engineering management, the program strives to provide a well-rounded knowledge base in engineering as it pertains to construction management. Elective opportunities in business and management will give students a perspective into the business world that will prepare them for management and leadership roles. The program is tailored for students to choose from three options to complete the degree. The all-course option allows students to complete the 10 graduate courses that include open electives, choosing from courses in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering as well as engineering management and business. Through the project or thesis options, students will work with a faculty advisor to take a deeper dive in a topic of interest, culminating in a final report and presentation. Applications are now being accepted for the MS in construction management program. Classes begin Sept. 28. To learn more, call the Office of Graduate Studies at (413) 782-1517 or e-mail [email protected].

Dress for Success to Collaborate with the Links Inc. on Mentorship Program

Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts announced a partnership with the Greater Springfield chapter of the Links Inc. Founded in 1946, the Links Inc. is an international, not-for-profit organization that brings together professional women of color to serve their communities through volunteerism and philanthropy. Its ultimate goal is to sustain the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and people of African ancestry. The work of the Links Inc. aligns well with the mission of Dress for Success, specifically the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentor Program. This program, named for a Physics Department secretary from Mount Holyoke College who provided help and encouragement for women entering that male-dominated field in the 1970s, pairs women who are overcoming great odds to achieve economic independence with professional women who volunteer to work with them one-on-one. Together, they establish individual goals and work on self-esteem, résumé building, workplace etiquette, interview skills, work/life balance, and more. By establishing a trusting rapport and sharing the wisdom of experience, mentors helps move their mentees from career readiness to action. Though the mentorships last one year, the impact lasts a lifetime. Beginning on Aug. 14, women from the Greater Springfield chapter of the Links Inc. will serve as mentors to women of color who have been recruited to the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentor Program from both Dress for Success programs as well as their partners in the community. The mentorships will continue until August 2021, when the mentees will be invited to join the Dress for Success Professional Women’s Group.

6 Bricks Wins Provisional License to Advance Cannabis Dispensary

SPRINGFIELD — 6 Bricks, LLC was chosen to receive a state provisional license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Last year, the city of Springfield awarded 6 Bricks one of just four licenses to operate a cannabis dispensary in the city. For more than a year before the award by Springfield, 6 Bricks had been preparing for the city application process, engaging and working with architects, industry and profession experts, security professionals, and others as to how best to propose a community-oriented facility and operation that would include and benefit the city and surrounding neighborhood community. 6 Bricks incurred substantial expense and invested significant time securing data and planning strategies to put forth a winning application to the city and the state, including hiring and working with engineering firm Vanhasse Hangen Bustin Inc. to produce traffic and other studies. 6 Bricks worked extensively with former Springfield Police Officer John Delaney on a security plan for operation; he assembled a team of former law-enforcement professionals who have advised the project from the idea stages to the present. Achieving provisional-license status means 6 Bricks, LLC has moved one step closer to being able to open a facility on Springfield. Of the four Springfield applicants, 6 Bricks is the first to be awarded this status.

Company Notebook

Melanson Heath Rebrands as Melanson

NASHUA, N.H. — Melanson Heath, one of the fastest-growing accounting firms in the U.S., announced that the company will begin operating under a new name and will be known as Melanson, effective immediately. This rebranding strategy reflects both the evolution of the company and its vision for the future. Along with this change, a newly redesigned company logo has been revealed, and a new website, melansoncpas.com, has been launched. “As part of our focus on expansion and business development, our leadership team and I believe it was appropriate to rebrand our firm to more specifically reflect who we are,” said Managing Partner Scott Toothaker, CPA. “We are very excited about the introduction of our new company name, Melanson, because it allows us to better represent our business to our clients and community. We are also very happy about the launch of our new website, which features our own employees and better reflects the personality found at Melanson. We are not just an accounting firm; we are a partner for our clients.”

Phoenix Project Launched to Assist Struggling Businesses

PIONEER VALLEY — The DiStefano Group and Seven Roads Media announced the Phoenix Project, a movement to collaborate and create opportunities within the Pioneer Valley business community based on the principles of kindness and understanding. The goal is to provide a broad range of assistance to businesses that are struggling as a result of the unprecedented happenings of 2020. The two companies, in direct response to the inequities and hardships that so many in the community are facing, will seek to gain a genuine understanding of what local business owners need and address those needs immediately and for free. The process will begin with a video interview to gather raw, first-hand knowledge. Seven Roads Media and the DiStefano Group will provide business and media coaching on the spot, but support for the business won’t end there. The Phoenix Project also includes the expertise of an established group of ‘masterminds’ — local professionals at the top of their fields — to provide coaching in banking, marketing, financial management, real estate, photography, hospitality, events, human resources, psychology, IT, and more. Gina DiStefano, president and CEO of the DiStefano Group and Phoenix Project co-founder, explained that “the video is just the beginning. From there, we will connect the business with our group of masterminds, who will continue to provide pro bono advice. We intend to have a real impact on businesses that have been hit hard. We are willing and able to help.” The project’s model will build supportive relationships not just for the chosen business, but among all of the those represented by the masterminds, said the third co-founder, Jess Roncarati-Howe, a nonprofit consultant and coach with the DiStefano Group who formerly served as president of the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce. “An entrepreneurial spirit who truly cares about what’s going on around them can foster tremendous impact,” she added. “It is the driving force behind the Phoenix Project. We will help our community to heal — one interaction, one relationship at a time.”

IALS at UMass Amherst Joins Digital Health Sandbox Network

AMHERST — The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) selected six new healthcare research and development (R&D) hubs to join the Digital Health Sandbox Network, including UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS). The Sandbox Network program connects digital-health startups to cutting-edge R&D facilities in the Commonwealth and allows Massachusetts startups to apply for funding to test their innovations at one of the networks’ labs, now including IALS. Sandbox R&D facilities provide a range of services supporting validation and testing for digital health companies throughout their life cycles. “Establishing a translational institute at UMass that provides startup lab space; more than 30 industry-friendly, staffed core equipment facilities; and individualized venture-mentoring services creates an exciting environment for digital-health companies in Western Massachusetts,” IALS Director Peter Reinhart said. IALS helps to shepherd and translate fundamental research into new product candidates, technologies, and services that benefit human health and well-being. IALS also helps users address both basic and translational questions, deliver technologies and product candidates more rapidly, and become more competitive in obtaining funding. Facilities include a state-of-the-art test bed for mobile health experiments at scale, the Center for Human Health and Performance, a roll-to-roll fabrication and processing facility, and research laboratory space for lease. In 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker announced $500,000 in funding for the Sandbox program as part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to boost the digital-health ecosystem under the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative.

Captain Candy to Open Second Store in Holyoke

NORTHAMPTON — Levi Smith, owner of Captain Candy in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace, announced he is opening a second store in the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside. “I’ve survived the COVID-19 shutdown, and I’m excited to be opening a second store in Holyoke,” Smith said. Captain Candy offers eclectic candies that are not the norm in grocery and convenience stores — everything from gumballs to candy cigarettes, wax bottles full of juice, Turkish taffy, Pop Rocks, and Zotz. Smith was contacted in January by the owners of Pyramid Management Group, which owns more than a dozen malls in the Northeast, including the Holyoke Mall. Smith’s Holyoke store opening comes a little over a year after he purchased the Northampton shop from former owner Nolan Anaya. Smith was 18 at the time. Currently, he is a business student at Holyoke Community College. In the early months, Smith will operate the new store to ensure a smooth start, and then he will hire as needed. Currently, he and six part-time employees operate the Thornes location, which opened in 2013.

Smith College Team Wins Ventilator-design Challenge

NORTHAMPTON — The SmithVent team of engineering alumni, staff, and faculty are the winners of the CoVent-19 challenge to design an easily manufacturable ventilator for use during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Grécourt Gate, Smith College’s online news portal. The team’s breathing device was chosen from more than 200 submissions to the competition launched on April 1. “In two months, we went from knowing nothing to having a functional prototype,” said team co-leader Susannah Howe, director of Smith’s Engineering Design Clinic. “To see that trajectory in such a short period of time, with people who are volunteering their time on top of their other jobs, is amazing and heartwarming and so rewarding.” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney added that “I could not be more proud of the SmithVent team for winning the CoVent-19 Challenge. This win speaks volumes about the power of a liberal-arts education, grounded in experiential learning, to find innovative, collaborative solutions to complex, urgent problems. SmithVent is Smith at its best: a lasting example of our community coming together for the betterment of the world.”

Springfield Library & Museums Assoc. Wins $100,000 NEA Grant

SPRINGFIELD ​— National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $84 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2020. Included in this announcement is an Our Town award of $100,000 to​ the ​Springfield Library & Museums Assoc. in partnership with the Springfield Cultural Partnership for Spark!: Igniting Our Community, a project in the newly renovated Pynchon Park to envision and create public art that serves to connect the city, residents, and visitors. This is one of 51 grants nationwide that the agency has approved in this category. Spark: Igniting Our Community is a two-year public art project that will transform recently reopened Pynchon Park into a vibrant public space through innovative multi-media art installations created by local and national artists. City residents, community stakeholders, and cultural institutions will be involved in a collective process to imagine, select, and commission public art that celebrates Springfield’s citizens, culture, and heritage. The park, closed for 40 years, will use the arts to connect neighborhoods and people, creating equitable partnerships that demonstrate the power of civic engagement for more vibrant and livable communities. The park’s reopening offers an opportunity to continue momentum by celebrating public art in this passageway and creating a programming and civic-engagement space. This project will create a walkable pathway between the museum district and the commercial downtown, spurring retail and public-space projects along these avenues and encouraging greater tourism throughout the city.

Webster Bank Offers Financial Program for Frontline Heroes

WATERBURY, Conn. — Webster Bank became one of the first financial-services companies nationwide to introduce Frontline Heroes, a program for essential healthcare workers and first responders that enhances the financial well-being of those who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In gratitude for their selfless service, Webster’s new Frontline Heroes program offers a range of financial benefits, including checking accounts free of a monthly maintenance fee and free checking withdrawals at any ATM through December 2021. The program provides new customers with the ability to earn a cash incentive, as well as additional discounts and benefits. Frontline Heroes includes any full-time or part-time employee currently in essential healthcare, including hospitals, nursing homes, medical and dental practices, and home healthcare. The program is also available to first responders. For every new Frontline Heroes customer, Webster will also donate $250 to United Way COVID-19 Response Funds, making a minimum donation of $100,000.

Company Notebook

UMass to Expand Online Educational Opportunities

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts and Chapman University System announced their intent to form an exclusive strategic partnership between UMass Online and Brandman University to expand educational opportunities for adult learners in Massachusetts and across the nation. This partnership, expected to be finalized later this year, will be launched as millions of adults in Massachusetts and across the U.S. need flexible, high-quality, and affordable online-education alternatives now and as they recover from the economic dislocation caused by COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Based in Irvine, Calif., Brandman was established in 1958 by Chapman University, a 159-year-old private institution in Orange, Calif. Originally founded to deliver high-quality education to active-service military, Brandman has evolved into a widely recognized leader in online education, with a strong record of serving veterans and a diverse range of adult learners. The partnership will augment UMass Online, which now supports more than 25,000 students, strengthening its technology platform and student-support services tailored to adult learners. UMass President Marty Meehan recently cited dramatic declines in the number of high-school graduates and employers’ need for a highly skilled workforce in announcing plans to scale up online programming at UMass. He also cited the “troubling lack of economic mobility” among African-Americans and Hispanics. The economic disruption caused by COVID-19 has accelerated these challenges, and the need for new online education programs that remove the obstacles adult learners often face is now even more urgent. A key target group for the partnership will be adult learners in underserved communities. According to a Strada Network survey of 4,000 adults, most Americans (62%) are concerned about unemployment, but African-Americans are moreso (68%), and their Latinx and Asian counterparts are even more worried (72%). The same study indicated that 53% of adult learners prefer online education opportunities.

HMC Submits Proposal to Expand Psychiatric Bed Capacity

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has submitted a letter of intent and project proposal to the Massachusetts Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality to expand psychiatric bed capacity. The letter, sent on June 19, notified the Determination of Need Program that HMC will be completing an application for an additional 64 psychiatric beds. If approved, this will increase the hospital’s total capacity to 84 psychiatric beds, which will serve adult and geriatric populations. The 68,000-square-foot Holyoke Medical Center Behavioral Health Pavilion proposal includes 48 adult psychiatric beds, 36 geriatric beds, and 4,000 square feet of shell space for future expansion or uses to be determined later. Population statistics and competitive analysis suggest that there is a need within a 14-mile radius of Holyoke Medical Center for 52 adult psychiatric beds and 36 geriatric psychiatric beds. The proposal also includes a parking analysis and parking-garage study, which could provide an additional 60 to 180 parking spaces. Holyoke Medical Center is partnered with Signet Health Corp., assisting the hospital in the delivery of behavioral-health services by providing management and consulting services. The Leo Brown Group, a full-service healthcare real-estate development and solutions company, will design and build the facility. It is estimated that, once approved by state and local officials, the new facility will take 18 months to complete and become operational.

Monson Savings Bank to Open New Branch in East Longmeadow

EAST LONGMEADOW — Monson Savings Bank announced the expansion of its branch network into East Longmeadow. This new office, located at 61 North Main St., is expected to open in late summer. The full-service branch will offer an extensive array of consumer and commercial products, traditional banking products, wealth-management products, and several robust digital solutions that have grown more important in today’s environment. It has been the bank’s goal to further expand the markets it serves.

Royal, P.C. Moves to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — The law firm of Royal, P.C. has moved to Springfield. Founded by attorney Amy Royal in 2008, Royal, P.C. is now located in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield, at 819 Worcester St., Suite 2. “Springfield is where I grew up, so it felt natural to relocate my law firm here,” Royal said. “Indian Orchard, with its unique history, has always felt like a special place within the city to me, and its geography otherwise places us in a more centralized location with respect to our Central and Eastern Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut clients.” The telephone and fax numbers of (413) 586-2288 and (413) 586-2281 remain the same. For more information about the firm, visit www.theroyallawfirm.com.

Bay Path Launches Risk Management Degree

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University is expanding its focus in the rapidly growing area of cybersecurity — and helping to bring more women into it — with the introduction of an undergraduate major in risk management. In addition, the university will offer scholarships to women looking to obtain degrees in cybersecurity. Made possible by Strada Education Network, these scholarships will help offset the cost of fall 2020 enrollment in cybersecurity programs. The term ‘risk management’ applies to the forecasting and evaluation of risks alongside the identification of procedures to avoid or minimize their impact. This new program concentration will include coursework in data privacy, project management, crisis management, and incident recovery. With nearly 80% of the organizations surveyed for the 2019 Marsh Microsoft Global Cyber Risk Perception Survey ranking cyber risks as a top-five concern, but only 11% feeling adequately prepared to assess and address those threats, the need for risk managers in the cybersecurity sphere is more important than ever. Within those responding organizations, the majority of board members and senior executives responsible for their organization’s cyber risk management reported that they had less than a day in the last year to spend focused on cyber risk issues.

ValleyBike Share Launches 2020 Season

PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share — the electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley that includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus — has launched the 2020 season in select locations. Remaining stations will be opened over the following weeks. ValleyBike boasts more than 40,000 active members, who have ridden more than 280,000 miles on 126,940 trips. Due to the situation with Covid-19, ValleyBike is urging members to sanitize the handles, seat, and PIN pad before and after using the bikes. Every time the maintenance team touches a bike, it will be fully sanitized, but the public can do their part to keep themselves and others safe. Visit www.valleybike.org for more information and to find out how to become a member.

Art Therapy/Counseling Program Accredited at Springfield College

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Art Therapy/Counseling master’s-degree program has been granted initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), effective immediately. Awarded after a peer review by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education and the CAAHEP board of directors, this accreditation determined the Springfield College Art Therapy/Counseling program was in substantial compliance with nationally established accreditation standards. Students enrolled in the program will have the option to either pursue a master of science or master of education degree. Graduates are master’s-level clinicians who can jump right into the workforce or pursue additional licensure opportunities, which will allow them to earn a license in the mental-health field after graduation and to obtain board certification as an art therapist.

Applied Mortgage Giving Makes $45,000 Regional Donation

NORTHAMPTON — Applied Mortgage Giving announced a new campaign, the Vitality Grant, which will be donated to six local community organizations: Downtown Amherst Foundation (Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and Amherst Business Improvement District), Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Franklin County, and United Way of Hampshire County. These organizations will each receive a portion of the gift to use at their discretion to support their work in the community. The Vitality Grant — sponsored by Applied Mortgage Giving, the charitable arm of Applied Mortgage, a d/b/a of HarborOne Mortgage, LLC — is designed to positively influence and provide opportunities for the success of small businesses and nonprofits in Hampshire and Franklin counties. Applied Mortgage Giving will be partnering with the local chambers and United Ways, hoping to enhance these organizations’ opportunities to meet the specific needs of their communities. For more information or questions regarding the Vitality Grant, e-mail LaBonte at [email protected].

Westfield State Accepting Applications for Addiction Counselor Education Program

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Education is accepting applications for the 2020-21 addiction counselor education (ACE) program. Classes will be held evenings and weekends starting in September 2020 and ending in May 2021. The goal of this non-credit certificate program, offered at the university since 1991, is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and techniques necessary for the successful treatment of individuals and families afflicted by alcoholism and/or other drug addictions. This program has been highly instrumental in the professional development of individuals in Western Mass. who are either working or interested in the growing healthcare field of addiction services. To help with this mission, Westfield State also offers the ACE program at a satellite location, in Pittsfield, to help train potential counselors in the Berkshires area to fill critical positions in treatment facilities that are understaffed and unable to fill open positions. Applications for both programs are available online at www.westfield.ma.edu/ace. For more information, or to receive an application by mail, contact Brandon Fredette at [email protected] or (413) 572-8033.

Pittsfield Cooperative Bank Supports Resilience Fund

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) announced it has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to support its Resilience Fund for Farmers. This new fund was established in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting impact on local farmers, who are hurting right now as stores, restaurants, and other income-generating avenues like farmers’ markets and CSA are closed or operating in different, logistically challenging ways due to the virus. Despite these challenges, many farmers are reaching out to contribute healthy food to the neediest among us and sell as much as they can directly to consumers. The goal of the BAV Resilience Fund for Farmers is to support those who are experiencing business challenges as a result of COVID-19. Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure that farms remain viable and sustainable so they continue to meet demand for healthy, local foods. In addition to working with individual farmers, BAV also hopes to support strategies that avoid costly duplication of effort among farmers, such as developing coordinated delivery services. The first grant from the fund helped Roots Rising to pivot and establish the Berkshire County-wide Virtual Farmers Market, which in its first eight weeks served 1,400 households, gave $18,000 to neighbors in need, and generated $50,000 in sales to support the local food system. The grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank represents the first corporate support to the fund, which was established with a grant from a local family foundation. J. Jay Anderson, president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, added that the bank “is proud to support the work of the Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and the Resilience Fund for Farmers during this extraordinary time. At a time when local food systems and healthy food is important to our communities more than ever before, we thank them for their work.”

MCLA Receives Two Awards from Council for Advancement and Support of Education

NORTH ADAMS — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announced it has received two awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), a global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement. The college received an Educational Fundraising Award for Overall Performance in the category of Public Liberal Arts Institutions and a Circle of Excellence Award for its 2018-19 President’s Report. This is the first year MCLA has been recognized by this program. The annual Educational Fundraising Awards recognize exemplary development programs based on a blind review of data submitted to the CASE Voluntary Support of Education survey. Winners are selected based on factors and variables that include, but are not limited to, patterns of growth, overall breadth of fundraising, amount raised per student, and alumni participation. The Circle of Excellence Awards recognize institutions whose staff members advanced their institutions through innovative, inspiring, and creative ideas. The awards acknowledge superior accomplishments that have lasting impact, demonstrate the highest level of professionalism, and deliver exceptional results. CASE judges commended the 2018-19 President’s Report, which was developed by MCLA’s Department of Marketing and Communications staff, on its theme and narrative flow, effective use of vintage and modern photographs and design elements, concise but not spare use of color, and the overall feeling of community it expressed, among other praise.

Agenda

‘Interrupting Racism’ Training

June 25, 29: Learning to be an active bystander and interrupting racism before it escalates is critical to creating cultural change in the workplace, schools, and communities. Human in Common is poised and ready to help. This innovative business teaches individuals to effectively interrupt bias and discrimination and create policies and practices that amplify racial equity. The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce has invited Human in Common to offer its timely training, “Interrupting Racism: Policies, Practices, and Everyday Acts of Solidarity for Businesses and Nonprofits.” This two-part Zoom training will occur on Thursday, June 25 from 1 to 4 p.m., and Monday, June 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. This training begins with a timeline of the history of racism in the U.S. to bring awareness to the conditions that have led to systemic racism. Participants will develop a diversity mission statement, practice six ‘ethical upstander’ methods for interrupting racism in the workplace, explore policies and practices to amplify racial equity, and engage in small breakout groups to practice anti-racism skills using real-life scenarios. The event webpage is bit.ly/2MMrNmr, or visit www.facebook.com/events/193655011884223.

Small-business Resource Series

June 25, July 2: Holyoke Community College (HCC) and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will continue its series of online workshops for area employers who want to explore programs, services, and grant-funded workforce-training opportunities to boost their small businesses. The 45-minute remote sessions will meet from 9 to 9:45 a.m. and focus on a different government funding source. On June 25, Oreste Varela, branch manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration office in Springfield, will talk about SBA programs and services available to prospective and current entrepreneurs who need assistance starting or expanding their businesses. On July 2, Melissa Scibelli, director of Workforce Development Programs for MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, will discuss the Registered Apprenticeship program, an innovative, work-based learning model for new hires and incumbent employees that provides funds to assist businesses in closing critical workforce-gap shortages through on-the-job learning and related technical industry training. The Small Business Resource Series is being offered by HCC and STCC through their Training and Workforce Options (TWO) partnership. Advance registration is required for all sessions. To register, visit hcc.edu/business-series. Log-in information for each remote session will be supplied after registration is complete.

Healthcare Heroes Nominations

Through July 1: Since the phrase COVID-19 came into our lexicon, those working in the broad healthcare field have emerged as the true heroes during a pandemic that has changed every facet of life as we know it. And over the past several months, the world has paid tribute to these heroes, and in all kinds of ways — from applauding in unison from apartment-complex windows to bringing hot meals to hospital and nursing-home workers; from donating much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to people putting hearts on their front lawns and mailboxes to thank first responders, healthcare workers, postal workers, and others. BusinessWest and its sister publication, the Healthcare News, will pay tribute in their own way, by dedicating their annual Healthcare Heroes program in 2020 to those who are have emerged as true heroes during this crisis. Healthcare Heroes was launched by the two publications in 2017 to recognize those working in this all-important sector of the region’s economy, many of whom are overlooked when it comes to traditional recognition programs. Over the years, the program has recognized providers, administrators, emerging leaders, innovators, and collaborators. For 2020, the program will shift its focus somewhat to the COVID-19 pandemic and all those who are working in the healthcare field or helping to assist it at this trying time. All manner of heroes have emerged this year, and we invite you to nominate one — or several — for what has become a very prestigious honor in Western Mass.: the Healthcare Heroes award. To assist those thinking of nominating someone for this honor, we are simplifying the process. All we desire is a 400- to 500-word essay and/or two-minute video entry explaining why the group or individual stands out as an inspiration, and a truly bright star in a galaxy of healthcare heroes. These nominations will be carefully considered by a panel of independent judges, who will select the class of 2020. The deadline for nominations is July 1. For more information on how to nominate someone for the Healthcare Heroes class of 2020, visit businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes/nomination-form. Videos can be sent via dropbox to [email protected]. Healthcare Heroes is sponsored by Comcast Business and Elms College.

Estate Planning Conference

June 30: Mark Esposito, an attorney at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C., will speak at the 21st Annual Estate Planning Conference of Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Inc. (MCLE) on Tuesday, June 30. He will contribute to an expert panel discussion titled “What’s Up in the World of Fiduciary Litigation?” at the 2020 conference, which will take place as a live webcast from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The recorded webcast will be shown during that timeframe on Tuesday, July 14. Esposito joined Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin in 2017 and concentrates his practice in general litigation, with particular emphasis on commercial, trust and estate, and employment and labor litigation. He has counseled various public-sector labor unions and employees in collective bargaining, negotiations, arbitration, and litigation, representing clients in state and federal court as well as before administrative agencies.

Nominations for Humane Awards

Through July 31: Dakin Humane Society is accepting nominations from the public for its Dakin Humane Awards until July 31. Nominees should be people who go out of their way to care for animals in need, people who volunteer to help animals, or people and/or animals who have provided significant public service or shown courage in a crisis. Finalists in each of the award categories will be picked from among the nominees and notified of their selection in August. The award ceremony will be livestreamed at a later date in the fall, and one winner in each of the categories will be announced. There are five awards to be bestowed: the Frances M. Wells Award, given to an individual recognized for notable contributions to the health and welfare of animals; the Youth Award, honoring a hero, age 16 or younger, whose extraordinary care and compassion makes a difference in the life of an animal, and makes the world a kinder and gentler place; the Champion Award, given to a public servant who makes life better for tens of thousands of animals and people in their community, and recognizing their dedication and compassion on behalf of animals and people in need; the Richard and Nathalie Woodbury Philanthropy Award, paying homage to an individual who displays a remarkable sense of stewardship in sharing time, talent, and financial resources to improve the lives of animals and people who love them; and the Animal Hero Award, recognizing an exceptional animal and handler (when applicable) whose valor and extraordinary devotion to people proved life-saving in disastrous or challenging heath circumstances. Nominations are being accepted online only at bit.ly/2NOcgps. Mail-in nominations will not be accepted.

Submission Period for Virtual Art Show

Through Aug. 13: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAMI Western Massachusetts will present a virtual art show this year, and is now accepting artwork for the show. Submissions are limited to individuals living with a mental-health diagnosis, and the artwork will be displayed on the organization’s website and social-media pages for a limited time, then switched out for new artwork. To submit, e-mail a picture of the art to [email protected] Note the size of the piece, the medium, and the price if it is for sale. The artist should also specify if they want their name used. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 13.

MCLA Gallery 51 Virtual Artist Series

June 27 to Aug. 8: MCLA Gallery 51 announced that its new online program, the G51 Virtual Artist Series, will be held live on Zoom, at noon on alternating Saturdays. Local, regional, national, and international artists will give virtual tours of their studios and discuss their practices. Discussions with the artists will also be recorded for later viewing. The series kicked off on May 16. The gallery’s full spring programming schedule is available on its website. Upcoming artists include Gladys Kalichini (June 13), who is known for paintings, digital work, and installations that explore history and the marginalization of certain groups; Todd Elliott (June 27), a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is inspired by shapes and forms used in architectural motifs, transpiration design, typography, and logos; Sula Bermudez-Silverman (July 11), whose conceptual work intertwines multiple issues, investigating and critiquing the issues of race, gender, and economics; Kim Faler (July 25), a local, multi-disciplinary artist working in painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, and photography, whose art practice unpacks the emotional weight found within everyday objects and architecture; and Anina Major (Aug. 8), who works with topics of identity, slavery, the female body, Bahamian culture, and more. She considers her creative practice to be a response to continuous erasure and a culture that is constantly being oversimplified.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Company Notebook

Mill Town Buys Bousquet Mountain

PITTSFIELD — Mill Town, a community-impact investment firm, announced it has acquired Bousquet Mountain, one of the oldest ski areas in the country and a training ground for many top U.S. ski racers, from the Tamarack Ski Nominee Trust and owners Sherry and P.J. Roberts. The sale includes 155 acres across four parcels, including the summit of Yokun Ridge, 22 trails, multiple buildings, and operational equipment. “We are excited to keep Bousquet as a vital recreational resource for the region,” said Tim Burke, Mill Town’s CEO and managing director. “A significant focus of our work is to invest in and improve businesses, real estate, and outdoor recreational assets in Pittsfield to make it a stronger city and an appealing place for families and employers. Bousquet met all of these criteria. We plan to invest in the ski-operation infrastructure and the lodge, and we are excited to work with strong partners to enhance the on-mountain experience.” On that front, Mill Town and Berkshire East Mountain Resort of Charlemont announced a collaboration agreement. As part of this agreement, Berkshire East and Catamount management, including owners Jon and Jim Schaefer, will advise Bousquet on capital and operational decisions and investments. Bousquet will also be a component of the Berkshire Pass, joining Berkshire East and Catamount as the third mountain to be featured as part of this season-pass program. “We are thrilled to partner with Mill Town to ensure Bousquet will be a respected skiing and outdoor-recreation asset for years to come,” Jim and Jon Schaefer said. “Positioned between Berkshire East and Catamount, we feel that Bousquet will provide significant value to Berkshire Pass holders as another great skiing and riding option in Western Massachusetts. We think there is a great future here.”

Springfield College Students Assist with COVID-19 Data Project

SPRINGFIELD — Students from the Springfield College health science major have been working on a national project to track the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Students Yue Li, Ashley Tanner, Alexandra Christine Jones, Brenna Keefe, Dhruvi Patel, and Callie Dowd have been taking part in an internship to assist with this project. Participating students are responsible for tracking historical data and collecting daily data, as well as participating in special-interest team projects that include computer-based automation, data visualization, infectious disease, policy, social media, and fundraising. This internship is part of BroadStreet’s COVID-19 Data Project, a collaboration of more than 200 students, statisticians, epidemiologists, healthcare experts, and data scientists throughout the country, Springfield College Assistant Professor of Public Health Sofija Zagarins explained. The project is a collaboration of more than 40 colleges and universities throughout the U.S., bringing together people who are committed to having the most accurate, community-level data about COVID-19 positive tests and fatality rates. Along with Springfield College, colleges and universities also taking part include Harvard University, Yale University, Boston University, Temple University, and Duke University. Through BroadStreet’s COVID-19 Data Project Internship, healthcare professionals have access to data that can help them to improve how they spend their time and resources on improving community health. “We have been humbled by the outpouring of support, especially from the collegiate community,” BroadStreet co-founder Tracy Flood said. “We know that, right now, students have a unique set of challenges trying to navigate these difficult times. Despite this, we wanted to recognize students who have graciously donated their time and talent to our project.” For more information about the project, visit covid19dataproject.org to follow along with information and updates from the participants.

Eversource Completes Westfield Reliability Project

WESTFIELD — Eversource has completed construction of the Westfield Reliability Project, installing a three-mile-long electric circuit on an existing 115-kilovolt overhead transmission line in Westfield to help ensure the continued and safe delivery of reliable power. Part of the energy company’s work to ensure reliability for customers, the Westfield Reliability Project is one of many transmission upgrades to help meet the electric system’s evolving needs to support a clean-energy future. “With many people continuing to work and learn from home, the safe and reliable delivery of power has never been more essential than it is during these uncertain times,” said Eversource President of Transmission Bill Quinlan. “The completion of the Westfield Reliability Project is an exciting development in our efforts to serve our customers and to support economic growth in the future. As restoration and landscaping continue through the spring and summer, we will maintain close communication and collaboration with our host communities, property owners, and businesses while adhering to social distancing and other best practices to safeguard health and prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The power lines have been installed on existing structures along the right of way from the Pochassic substation, near Oakdale Avenue, to the Buck Pond substation near Medeiros Way. The Westfield Reliability Project also includes constructing new equipment adjacent to Eversource’s existing Pochassic substation and related upgrades to the Buck Pond substation. Eversource representatives have been working closely with city officials. As the energy company’s crews and contractors work to complete final construction activities, including environmental monitoring and reporting, they continue to follow strict safety precautions, including practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, and using enhanced sanitation practices. “We are grateful to our host communities for their input and partnership throughout the planning process, as well as their understanding and patience, as we work together to serve the public during the pandemic,” Quinlan said. “We remain committed to being a good neighbor and environmental steward as this project will deliver benefits to the region for years to come.” This project is one of several designed to strengthen the electric system serving Pittsfield, Greenfield, and surrounding areas.

Area Nonprofits Receive $230,000 from Harvard Pilgrim Foundation

WORCESTER — A total of 25 Central and Western Mass. nonprofits have received nearly $230,000 from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation for COVID-19 relief efforts. Most organizations in the region received a $10,000 grant for supporting community needs during the pandemic, such as food access and meal delivery, services for older adults and immigrant families, social and community services, and emergency response. “Now more than ever, it is so critical to support our communities and organizations who are providing services to those residents of Central and Western Mass. impacted by COVID-19,” said Patrick Cahill, vice president and Massachusetts market lead for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the foundation’s parent company. “The impact of this pandemic is enormous, and right from the start, we responded to the immediate needs facing nonprofit partners and communities. We are very grateful to all who are helping to feed and care for our community members, and we are committed to supporting them in the weeks and months ahead.” Among the 25 recipients, the following 10 Western Mass. organizations received funding as part of the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation’s COVID-19 Assistance Fund: Berkshire County Arc (Pittsfield), Gardening the Community (Springfield), Greater Springfield Senior Services (Springfield), Grow Food Northampton (Northampton), Just Roots Inc. (Greenfield), Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry (Chicopee), Nuestras Raices Inc. (Holyoke), Rooting Rises (Pittsfield), Stone Soup Café Inc. (Greenfield), and UMass Amherst. The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation committed more than $3.5 million in initial grants for COVID-19 relief efforts in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

Company Notebook

Olver Design Building Receives Architecture Institute’s Highest Honor

AMHERST — The American Institute of Architecture’s (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) announced recently that the John W. Olver Design Building on the UMass Amherst campus is a winner this year of its highest honor, the COTE Top Ten Awards. Projects “illustrate the solutions architects have provided for the health and welfare of our communities and the planet,” the AIA citation says. Called the most technologically advanced CLT building in the country, the Design Building opened in 2017 to house the campus’s Department of Architecture, Building and Construction Technology Program (BCT), and Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. The BCT program developed some of the CLT technology used and has since been testing native Massachusetts wood species for CLT suitability. The building is named for former congressman and UMass Amherst Chemistry professor John Olver and was designed by Boston architectural firm Leers Weinzapfel. In 2014, Olver attended a talk by associate professor of Environmental Conservation Peggi Clouston of the BCT program. She noted how CLT construction using lower-quality wood was enjoying a comeback. Olver, recognizing an expanded use for regional wood, encouraged campus officials to consider adopting the new technology. Built of CLT timber and glue-laminated columns, the 87,000-square-foot Design Building saves the equivalent of more than 2,300 metric tons of carbon compared to a traditional energy-intense steel and concrete building. It uses 54% less energy than a typical campus building and is one of two in North America to use CLT for wind and seismic resistance. Its footprint once a parking lot, the building now includes a rooftop garden and rain-garden landscaping. A central courtyard highlights natural light while reducing heat loss. Its open central stairway invites visitors to take the stairs instead of an elevator.

Whittlesey Achieves Blue Partner Status with Datto

HARTFORD, Conn — Whittlesey announced it has achieved exclusive Blue partner status with Datto, the world’s leading provider of IT solutions delivered through managed service providers (MSPs). Datto Blue status represents the top 5% of the company’s partners worldwide. “We’ve been partnered with Datto since 2014,” said Mark Torello, partner in charge of Whittlesey Technology. “We’ve been growing with them as they’ve branched out from data backup and recovery products to networking, cloud continuity, and device management. The reliability of their products and services and outstanding customer and technical support have been consistently top‐notch and provided us the resources to accelerate our business growth. It’s an honor to be acknowledged for putting these products and tools to use and demonstrating success.” Whittlesey has exceeded high standards of performance to qualify for Blue status within Datto’s Global Partner Program, the highest classification provided by Datto. Blue status includes many exclusive programs and benefits designed to support further enablement and business growth.

TRE Olive Wins Two Awards at International Olive Oil Competition

EAST LONGMEADOW — TRE Olive, located in East Longmeadow, is both a Gold and Silver award winner at this year’s 2020 New York International Olive Oil Competition. The NYIOOC is held each spring in New York and is the world’s largest and most prestigious olive oil contest. Its annual listing of award winners is considered the authoritative guide to the year’s best extra-virgin olive oils, according to Joe Maruca, co-owner of TRE Olive. TRE Olive won the Gold Award for Campo Dieci “Terra dei Nonni,” which means ‘land of our grandparents.’ The Silver was awarded for its TRE Olive Select. In addition to its award-winning extra-virgin olive oil, TRE Olive also offers a tree-adoption program. When an olive tree is adopted, the recipient will receive an adoption certificate, a gift box, a photo of their tree, a welcome brochure, and three tins of olive oil to get started. The tree is also tagged with the adoptee’s name for one year.

Paragus IT Named to Forbes ‘Small Giants’ List

HADLEY — Every year, Forbes publishes its “Small Giants” list highlighting 25 businesses “whose commitment to greatness over fast growth has enabled them to best serve their customers, employees, and communities.” This year, Paragus IT was recognized as an innovator in the small-business world, with Forbes citing the Hadley-based firm’s employee-ownership structure and mission to make IT fun, among other features. “It’s an honor to be included on such a diverse and amazing list of other small businesses around the country,” said Delcie Bean, CEO of Paragus IT. “And it’s great that a magazine as prestigious as Forbes is committed to appreciating what makes small businesses great. As an employee-owned company, our employees, or partners, as we call them, were so excited to be recognized for our passion for making IT fun.”

Bacon Wilson Donates $10,000 to YMCA of Greater Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced that the firm has recently completed a $10,000 contribution to the capital campaign for the YMCA of Greater Springfield. The pledge originated in the fall of 2019, as Bacon Wilson supported the YMCA’s transition from the former Chestnut Street location to the new Tower Square facility in downtown Springfield. “My partners and I are very pleased to be able to support the Springfield YMCA at this critical moment,” said attorney Kenneth Albano, Bacon Wilson’s managing partner. “Bacon Wilson is pleased to know our contribution will boost the mission and continuing good works of the YMCA of Greater Springfield.”

Bay Path Launches Master’s Program in Learning, Design, and Technology

LONGMEADOW — As an onslaught of complex challenges, and the urgency to develop innovative solutions to meet them, promise to reshape higher education, Bay Path University announces the launch of a new master’s program in Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) this fall. The fully online program will tap into Bay Path’s long-standing position as a leader in the use of emerging technologies, creative curricula, and learning analytics to train professionals looking to shape the ongoing evolution of higher education by applying technology to the development of innovative, accessible, and impactful learning processes. Designed by a broadly representative team of Bay Path faculty and staff, the LDT program was launched to give students a students a deep foundation in the tools and theory of learning design, technology innovation, learning analytics, and higher-education leadership, a foundation on which they can create engaging and innovative learning experiences for all students. Students will also have the opportunity to enroll jointly in Bay Path’s doctoral program in Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Studies (HELOS) and carry out applied, real-world learning design projects. While the launch comes at a time when the coronavirus has transformed campuses, Bay Path has used technology to pioneer unique teaching and learning formats and offer flexible, dynamic, and personalized educational experiences for 20 years. The university’s diverse student population includes its traditional on-campus undergraduates, online graduate students, and online adult learners obtaining bachelor’s degrees through the American Women’s College. 

Food Insecurity Prompts Big Y to Make Second Round of Donations

SPRINGFIELD — With regional food banks experiencing unprecedented demand, Big Y is providing an additional $125,000 in support to address the rise in food insecurity. With the donations made in March, Big Y has provided $250,000 in financial assistance to area food banks in addition to the healthy surplus food it provides to them on a weekly basis. Using the estimate that every dollar donated provides four meals, the Big Y financial assistance amounts to 1 million meals. The donation will be split equally by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Worcester County Food Bank, and the Greater Boston Food Bank in Massachusetts, as well as Foodshare and the Connecticut Food Bank in Connecticut. As part of its commitment to hunger relief in its neighborhoods and ongoing partnerships with regional food banks, Big Y provided an estimated $11.5 million of healthy surplus food to these organizations in 2019. This food donation amounts to an estimated 5.7 million meals, two-thirds of which include donations of meat and fresh produce as well as bakery and non-perishable grocery items. Frozen food and dairy products account for one-third of the annual donation.

MCLA Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge Announces Three Winners

NORTH ADAMS — Although this year’s Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge, held May 4-8, was a virtual affair, the college community still came together to view and vote for the three finalists’ pitches. The finalists, all seniors, who pitched their business ideas via video, were David Flight, Kimberly Granito, and Sierra Lamonde. The students were coached through a series of deliverables — determining a solution to a problem, developing a budget and business plan as the road map for the project or business, and presenting before a panel of judges. Granito’s Detailing Dream won first place, which came with a $7,500 award. Lamonde’s Pyrography Crafts placed second, for a $5,000 award, and Flight’s Settling the States won the $2,500 third-place award. The startup funding awards aim to cover inventory, equipment, and marketing costs for the three new businesses. Granito’s winning business, Detailing Dream, is a car-detailing service meant to cater to people who may think they don’t have the time or money for such a service. Granito’s packages include lower-cost options that other companies don’t offer because they usually cater to luxury cars. Unlike most of her competitors, Granito’s business would also include a mobile option where she would come to the customer, so they could take advantage of the service without leaving their home or office. Second-place winner Lamonde said her business, Pyrography Crafts, aims to bring joy to customers by creating one-of-a-kind, handcrafted wood burnings of people, pets and other animals, cartoons, and more. Flight’s Settling the States is a company that designs legacy board games inspired by the geographical regions of the U.S. The company’s first product, Settling New England, has players compete against each other to survive the changing seasons to become legend settlers.

Monson Savings Bank Announces New Loan & Operations Center

MONSON — Because Monson Savings Bank continues to grow by adding new positions and new personnel, and has outgrown some of its spaces, some employees are moving this week into a new, 12,000-square-foot office space on the top floor at 75 Post Office Park in Wilbraham. This location will be the new Monson Savings Bank Loan & Operations Center. The following departments will be moving: Commercial Lending, Residential Lending, Collections, Compliance, Retail Administration, Retail Operations, Business Development, Municipal Banking, and E-Banking. The main branch and corporate headquarters will still be located in Monson.

Taylor Real Estate Moving to Liberty Street in Easthampton

EASTHAMPTON — Taylor Real Estate, which is celebrating 65 years of operation this year, announced it will move to a new location on Liberty Street in Easthampton this month. Chuck Conner, a third-generation owner of the business founded by his grandfather in 1955, said the new office space offers convenient off-street parking for clients and staff as well as on-site storage for the firm’s plentiful ‘for sale’ signage, and a newer, brighter workspace for staff. He noted that the move is symbolic of moving the firm into the future, when ownership and operations will be assumed by his daughters, Megan Conner and Danica Achin, both licensed Realtors with the firm. In addition to working with buyers and sellers, Megan handles administration and advertising, and Achin is the rental division manager. Additional change has come in the form of new technology that allows a digital approach to marketing and communication and the execution of documentation. Houses can be shown to potential buyers via virtual visits made possible by professional photography, and closing papers can be signed electronically.

Company Notebook

Country Bank Donates $75,000 as Part of ‘Neighbors in Need’ Program

WARE — As the pandemic continues to disrupt business activities both nationally and in Massachusetts, Country Bank announced a $75,000 series of donations designed to assist organizations on the front lines. As the latest installment in a string of recent financial support, the bank will be facilitating donations to select organizations throughout its market from Springfield to Worcester. The Greater Worcester Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts will each receive $25,000 to provide additional grant funding for critical-needs programs. These programs offer support for vulnerable seniors, those without stable housing, with limited English proficiency, and with compromised health conditions, including mental health and drug addiction. Other programs receiving a contribution include: Springfield Rescue Mission and Friends of the Homeless in Springfield; and Abby’s House, Saint John’s Food Pantry, and the Boys and Girls Club in Worcester. These donations will assist in continuing to meet the ever-changing needs in their communities. Many nonprofit organizations are not only combating reduced financial support as many businesses are closed, but also face a lack of volunteers, and have to continually evolve how they support their clients while keeping everyone safe on a limited budget and with limited resources. “This is an uncharted time for our bank, our customers, and our local business community. As part of our effort to assist those most affected by COVID-19, Country Bank has already donated $400,000 to help local hospitals, first-responder recovery centers, food pantries, homeless shelters, veterans, children, and community foundations,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. “We continually look for opportunities where we can help make a difference in the health and well-being of the people in our communities.”

Westfield Bank Future Fund Announces 2019 Giving Totals

WESTFIELD — Westfield Bank announced that the Future Fund, a philanthropic endeavor dedicated to supporting local 501(c)(3) organizations that have a positive impact on the region’s educational, recreational, cultural, and social well-being, awarded more than $300,000 to more than 40 organizations in Western Mass. and Northern Conn. in 2019. Grant recipients included the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Domus Inc., Farmington Valley YMCA, Friends of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, Girls Inc. of the Valley, the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Spirit of Springfield, and the YMCA of Greater Westfield. According to James Hagan, and CEO of Westfield Bank, the Future Fund awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants each year to qualifying organizations whose applications are accepted. “There are so many people and groups in our communities that have devoted themselves to making life better for all of us, and especially the young people who represent our future, and we know that supplying needed services presents financial and logistical challenges that grow with each passing year,” he said. “The Future Fund, and Westfield Bank, are dedicated to providing needed support to worthy organizations that enrich and define life in the towns and cities we serve.” In addition to the Future Fund grants, Westfield Bank contributed more than $400,000 to help sponsor community and performing-arts events, youth sports teams, fundraisers, and more. The bank also donated more than $500,000 to local organizations via the Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation, an affiliate of Westfield Bank. In total, Westfield Bank provided more than $1.2 million in local and regional philanthropic support in 2019.

Springfield College AmeriCorps, Parent Villages Begin Mask Project

SPRINGFIELD — Members of the Springfield College AmeriCorps program are partnering with Parent Villages Inc. and other local nonprofits to lead the Village Engagement Matters initiative, a program committed to providing community members with face masks at no cost to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The initial distribution of protective facemasks took place on May 12 at three meal-distribution sites located at Springfield elementary schools. Springfield College AmeriCorps members have been assisting with the production of the masks, and also helping with the planning of the distribution efforts. “Giving back to our community is always something we have done in our family, and we are committed to helping with this project,” said Springfield College AmeriCorps member and social-work student Molly Glynn. “My mom and I started making masks for our family members, but that quickly has turned into helping our community as well. What I like about the Olson mask pattern we are using is, it provides a pattern to make masks for both adults and kids, and the pattern also allows for a pocket on the inside for a micron filter to help those individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.” Added Parent Villages Inc. CEO Lakisha Coppedge, “the Parent Villages organization always tries to stay in touch and learn about items that community members really need, and obviously right now the masks are at a high demand. Springfield College stepped up to the plate to help, and we can’t thank the college enough to make this project a reality, and always being there to help our community members.” During these challenging times of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Springfield College AmeriCorps members continue to seek opportunities to serve the Greater Springfield area, including volunteering their time making sure the Village Engagement Matters initiative is a success. “It really means a lot to have AmeriCorps members finding ways to support others,” said Springfield College AmeriCorps Director LaTonia Naylor. “We continue to live our Humanics mission at Springfield College of educating students in spirit, mind, and body for leadership and service to others. It brings me so much joy to watch people step up and show love and support for our community members.”

United Way of Pioneer Valley Announces EFSP Grant Funding

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) has been appointed administrator for Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) grant funding from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, which appropriated supplemental funding in the amount of $194,555 for Phase 37 and $277,380 for CARES grants. With a board comprised of local community leaders, UWPV will determine funding allocation through a competitive application process. These funds will be used to supplement existing food and shelter services, and cannot be given to start new programs. Funding for Phase 37 and CARES-funded grants is now available. Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations that serve Hampden County, South Hadley, or Granby may apply. Allocations are to be applied toward supplementing existing food and shelter services. Applications are due by Friday, May 22 at noon. For information or to apply, contact Nicole Young, manager of Community Investments, at [email protected]

Vann Group Becomes Licensed Practioner of Predictable Success

SPRINGFIELD — The Vann Group, LLC announced that Michael Vann has recently become a licensed practioner of the Predictable Success, a business-growth methodology that over the last 30 years has been used to scale hundreds of businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Widely recognized as one of the most powerful organizational growth models available, Predictable Success was developed by Les McKeown, a successful entrepreneur and business-growth advisor. McKeown is the author of the bestselling book Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There, as well as the companion book, The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success. Until recently, access to the full model was available only through McKeown. Michael Vann is part of the first cohort of licensed practioners. “I’ve been working with growth models for the past 20 years but have never come across one as powerful as Predictable Success. It isn’t an academic model or a hypothetical theory; it’s a proven, real-world process that enables any organization to scale successfully,” Vann said. “What I find really valuable about Predictable Success is its ability to get to the root cause of an organization’s issues rather than trying to solve symptoms. It integrates very well with our core methodology and tool set. It has been a great addition for our clients that are looking to grow and build value.” Les McKeown, the founder and CEO of Predictable Success, noted that “I’m absolutely delighted to have Michael join our growing group of licensed practitioners. Michael’s background as a trusted advisor and consultant makes him a stellar addition to our group, and I know his existing client base will benefit enormously from his access to the Predictable Success growth model, especially in these precarious times.” The Predictable Success model is intuitive and non-complex and can easily be implemented with the completion of a workshop. In conjunction with the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, the Vann Group has several Predictable Success workshops approved under the Express Grant Program. The program will reimburse eligible businesses for up to 50% of the actual cost of training. Contact the Vann Group for additional information.

Pioneer Valley College Students Recognized for Entrepreneurship

AGAWAM — Eighty-six students from 14 local colleges and universities recently received awards for their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, with 55 unique businesses and business concepts represented. News of the 2020 Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative (EI) Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards came at about the same time as participating students’ semesters were disrupted by COVID-19. Soon thereafter, the annual entrepreneurship banquet, where more than 450 people were scheduled to attend to celebrate these students, was canceled. The Grinspoon EI class of 2020 received their award checks of up to $1,000 by mail, and they and continue to be mentored by their Grinspoon EI faculty advisors. This year’s entrepreneurial class represents many diverse concepts and businesses. Some examples include:

• Bac-Be-Gone, bacteriocin-based cleaning products (Hadley Beauregard, Hailey Charest, and Bryanna Lexus Freitas, UMass Amherst);

• Keifer Games, a clever tabletop game for creative thinkers (Matthew Kiefer, UMass Amherst);

• Nashion, a new material for salon gel nails (Sona Kim, Amherst College);

• PAL, a prosthetic airliner medical device (Courtney Carlson, Kelsey Hastings, and Olivia Truenow, Western New England University); and

• Slacktyde, eco-art and eco-friendly clothing (Camila Mirow, Mount Holyoke College).

Mary Schoonmaker, Grinspoon EI faculty advisor and assistant professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Western New England University, noted that “the Grinspoon Foundation Spirit Awards are foundational to building entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Past and present recipients have appreciated the confidence building and encouragement to advance their innovations.” This year’s Grinspoon, Garvey & Young Alumni Award went to Justin Park, founder and CEO of QL Gaming Group, a direct-to-consumer sports-betting data and iGaming affiliate platform. This annual award is given to a former Entrepreneurial Spirit Award winner who has advanced their entrepreneurial endeavors. It is named after Grinspoon’s original business partners, Tom Garvey and Bill Young. “The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation has provided me with encouragement since 2012 to pursue my passion in entrepreneurship,” Park said.

Agenda

Difference Makers

Sept. 10: BusinessWest will present its 12th annual Difference Makers event on Sept. 10 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The class of 2020 was profiled in the Feb. 3 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Tickets cost $75. To reserve a spot, e-mail [email protected] or visit businesswest.com. Event sponsors include Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal, P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, while the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, MHA, and United Way of Pioneer Valley are partners.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Hooplandia

June 25-27, 2021: Organizers of Hooplandia, the planned 3-on-3 basketball tournament and festival scheduled for this June, announced that the event has been postponed to 2021, with games hosted by the Big E Fairgrounds and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Boys and Girls Clubs in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut will remain the lead philanthropic recipient of the event, which was slated to host 2,500 teams and 10,000 players. To help build a bridge to the 2021 Hooplandia, a number of smaller events are being planned, with details forthcoming. Those include Hooplandia at the Hall of Fame Enshrinement, a series of 3-on-3 games in the parking lot of the Hall during Springfield Celebration Day on Sunday, Aug. 30, as part of Enshrinement Weekend activities; the Hooplandia World Slam Dunk Championship at the Big E in September, featuring slam-dunk artists from around the world competing for the title of Hooplandia World Slam Dunk Champ; and Hooplandia Showcase Games on the Court of Dreams at the Basketball Hall of Fame, a series of high-profile 3-on-3 games to be scheduled for competition this winter on the legendary hardwood. Details of all events will be announced as they emerge. All teams that have registered and paid for Hooplandia will be issued full refunds. Teams of players age 8 and under were slated for free registration in 2020, honoring the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant — Bryant wore #8 during a portion of his Los Angeles Lakers career in the NBA. The free under-8 registration will be extended to the 2021 event. Hooplandia’s Instagram account (@hooplandia) and website (www.hooplandia.com) will provide ongoing information and plans for the event and its transition.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBank Issues Annual Corporate Green Report

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2020 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Through its green values and actions to support environmental sustainability, PeoplesBank believes it can help make the region a healthier place in which to live, work, and raise a family. The bank puts these values to work throughout the year through its charitable donations, volunteerism, support of green-energy projects, and construction of LEED-certified offices. PeoplesBank is also a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing, and the bank’s commercial lenders are recognized for their expertise in creating financing packages for green-energy power generation. To date, the bank has financed more than $188 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power-generation projects. Over 2019-20, PeoplesBank supported several green community projects in Western Mass., including the Center for EcoTechnology’s ‘eco fellows’ and more than 100 community-education events; the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Food for All campaign; e-recycle and shred day at the bank’s Suffield Banking Center; Grow Food Northampton; the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s Local Farmer program and awards; scientific environmental education at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment; a mobile farmers’ market that travels to underserved/food-desert areas of Springfield and surrounding communities; the Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River, which also includes hands-on participation by a team of volunteers from the bank; and ValleyBike Share, the region’s new bike-sharing program. Community banks, like PeoplesBank, are not generally known for building green offices, but PeoplesBank has a LEED Gold-certified office in Northampton, a LEED Gold-certified office in West Springfield, and a LEED Silver-certified office in Springfield. The LEED-certified office in Springfield, the first of its kind in the city, won a Green Seal from the city of Springfield. The bank will pursue a fourth LEED certification for its Pedlar Banking Center in Holyoke in the near future. Three PeoplesBank offices (Northampton, West Springfield, and 330 Whitney Ave. in Holyoke) have electric vehicle-charging stations. The bank also launched a “Choose to Reuse” campaign designed to eliminate the use of disposable paper products internally. PeoplesBank has traditionally commemorated Earth Day by giving away tomato plants and seeds at several banking centers throughout the region. Due to the extenuating circumstances this year, in lieu of those customer giveaways, a donation will be made to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to assist in its COVID relief outreach.

Contribution Clothing Supports Women-focused Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — Kelly Partridge, founder of Contribution Clothing, launched her mission-driven online boutique (contributionclothing.com) last June. The boutique, which retails women’s apparel and accessories, provides quarterly monetary donations to Western Mass.-based nonprofit organizations that have a vision of empowering women and girls as well as community support. Contribution Clothing is currently working to gift 15% of its net profits to the Care Center of Holyoke, a nonprofit organization that helps young mothers grasp how powerful they are, gives them tools to learn, and provides them with an exciting and engaging learning environment. Since its website launch, the boutique has provided monetary donations to Dress for Success, Empty Arms Bereavement Support, Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, Shriners, Girls Inc. of the Valley, and Safe Passage. In additional to the boutique’s quarterly contributions, Partridge, a Bay Path University alumna, has worked with the university to create the Contribution Clothing Scholarship Fund, which annually provides a Bay Path student with $500 toward tuition. The clothing line has also supported community-based events and fundraisers such as the Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage, the Women Empowered calendar for Girls Inc., and the Unify Against Bullying fashion show, where Partridge provided six different outfits to help raise awareness against bullying. Partridge’s goal for her business is to use her story and passion for social justice to make a positive impact within her community. She hopes to use fashion as a way of helping women feel confident and empowered.

MGHPCC Expands Access to Researchers Working on COVID-19

HOLYOKE — The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC), operated by a consortium consisting of Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts system, announced it will provide access to outside researchers working on projects in which high-speed computing would accelerate resolution of the COVID-19 crisis. The MGHPCC’s member institutions are already heavily engaged in coronavirus-related research in areas that include understanding the fundamentals of the disease, contributing to the development of vaccines, treatment and tests, and public-health solutions. Much of this research, and most scientific academic research today, rely on high-performance computing. The MGHPCC, which is among the largest high-performance computing facilities in the country, is now expanding access to its storage and computational systems to academic and commercial enterprises beyond the facility’s member institutions. Total available capacity across all systems includes more than 200,000 CPU cores, 2,000 recent-generation GPUs, and 5 petabytes of temporary storage. The additional work will not impact day-to-day university needs. The MGHPCC consortium is also working with Mass Open Cloud and two of its sponsors, Red Hat and Intel, to launch a site that connects potentially impactful projects with people who have strong computing skills but are unable to work on their regular assignments due to travel restrictions.

Home City Development Wins Funds for Affordable-housing Renovations

NORTHAMPTON — Home City Development Inc. (HCDI), a Springfield-based affordable-housing development organization, was awarded $2.88 million and seven project-based vouchers by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Funds were awarded for renovations of New South Street Apartments, an 18-unit historic building located at 24-34 New South St. in Northampton. Project-based vouchers and supportive service funds will provide housing for seven homeless families. In addition, the city of Northampton awarded $50,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds for this project. Homeless households will be selected from the Three County Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry system. This system includes Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire county emergency-assistance shelters and other assistance organizations. HCDI will provide case management and related support services for residents at New South Street Apartments, including those who were formerly homeless. HCDI is working with Architecture EL as project architect and Henry General Contractors as contractor. Renovation work is expected to begin this fall and take about nine months to complete. Home City Development Inc. is a nonprofit, resident-centered developer of multi-family and mixed-use properties in Western Mass. HCDI was founded as Better Homes Inc. in 1968 by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Over more than 50 years, HCDI has worked to facilitate community stability and growth in collaboration with numerous partners and residents.

Freedom Credit Union Makes $55,000 Donation to Fight Coronavirus Crisis

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union (FCU) announced a donation of $55,000 to be dispersed among several community organizations at the front lines of the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. FCU announced that the following slate of organizations will receive a portion of the $55,000 donation: Baystate Health Foundation; Mercy Medical Center; Cooley Dickinson Health Care; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts; Hampshire Hospitality Group, whose Hampshire County Heroes feed first responders in Hampshire County; and Feed the Fight, an initiative of Peter Pan Bus Lines and area restaurants to feed healthcare workers and first responders in the community. Welch indicated that FCU will continue to assist the community throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to these community donations, Welch said FCU has offered resources to its individual members intended to provide financial assistance or relief during the crisis, including online banking services and the new Freedom Relief Loan, which provides up to $10,000 to members dealing with consequences of the pandemic, including layoffs, furloughs, and bills. In addition, FCU’s Skip-a-Pay program allows members with a consumer loan — auto, mortgage, home equity, or home improvement — to defer payments up to 90 days. Members should contact their local branch for details. FCU can also work with member businesses needing financial relief on their specific circumstances. Business members should speak with the Member Business Lending department. For contact information, visit freedom.coop.

 

First American Insurance Agency Launches New Client Portal

CHICOPEE — First American Insurance Agency, an independent insurance firm, announced the launch of a new online customer portal designed to enhance service and support for its customers. The portal, called CSR24, enables clients to access insurance ID cards and insurance documents (including renewal paperwork), request policy changes, and more. Clients can also submit claim photos, such as a cracked windshield. For truckers, the portal allows the quick and straightforward download of certificates. The portal is accessible on any device via the agency’s website and requires a login and username. The agency will release a matching app later in the year.

Phillips Insurance Delivers Pizza, Food Boxes to Clients, First Responders

CHICOPEE — Phillips Insurance partnered with clients Fazio’s Ristorante of East Longmeadow and Simos Produce of Springfield to deliver pizza and grocery boxes to its clients and first responders. Phillips Insurance delivered dozens of grocery boxes from Simos Produce to clients so they could avoid going to the supermarket. In addition, Phillips and Fazio’s Ristorante delivered pizzas and grinders to first responders and heathcare providers, while Phillips Insurance delivered pizza and subs to the Chicopee Police Department in appreciation of all they do for the community. Phillips Insurance Agency was established in 1953 and is a full-service risk-management firm with a staff of 28 professionals.

Western Mass. Wedding Vendors Say ‘Thank You’ to Frontline Workers

HOLYOKE — The wedding industry is being hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Couples are being forced to restructure or delay their wedding plans, leaving wedding vendors struggling with the financial challenges of delayed business. Thankfully, the wedding industry is also one marked by resilience and camaraderie. That is why a group of Western Mass. wedding vendors has come together to give back and say ‘thank you’ to frontline workers. Spearheaded by local DJ Anthony Corlis from TC’s Disc Jockey Services with assistance from the Log Cabin/Delaney House meal-donation program, more than 75 meals will be delivered to employees of Stop and Shop in Westfield today, April 24, at 11 a.m. by Corlis and Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin/Delaney House. One of those employees just happens to be a Log Cabin groom who needed to reschedule his April 26 wedding. Meals were donated by Vivan B Photography, Events by Jackie M., Aliber Bridal Shops, Michelle Anne Hair Design, SHO Productions, Durocher’s Florist, Catherine Jindela, Kasey Richards of Mountain Rose Inn, TC’s Disc Jockey Services, and Log Cabin/Delaney House. Anyone looking to donate meals should visit delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.

Wellfleet, EIS Group Partner on Innovative Insurance Solution

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet, a Berkshire Hathaway insurance company, and industry technology leader EIS Group are building a next-generation insurance-administration platform to meet the evolving demands of the employee-benefits market. In the complex voluntary-benefits landscape, brokers and their clients commonly work with multiple systems, fighting to integrate with carriers’ patchworked legacy systems. Whether it’s product sophistication, internal workflow monitoring, enrollment and third-party integration, or communications across multiple modules, carriers struggle to administer plans in a digitally unified way. Wellfleet Workplace entered the voluntary market last year, on a mission to be the digitally enabled carrier of choice. Partnering with EIS Group helps drive this differentiation by jointly creating an open-architecture and cloud-based software system designed to support the full broker and customer life cycle. The software provider’s cloud-based platform supports broker and customer life cycles, including rating and quoting, policy issuance and administration, and billing and claims management. Multi-channel touch points are easily created and managed through EIS Group’s digital-experience platform.

Pearson Wallace, Arbella Offer Premium Relief

AMHERST — Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, Arbella has committed to providing a 20% credit for three months on all personal auto policies until June 30. This is a per-vehicle refund that applies to existing and new policies from Pearson Wallace Insurance, said Alex Bennett, the agency’s vice president. Arbella Insurance also announced the Arbella Here. For Good. Give Back Program. Subject to approval by state regulators, Arbella’s personal auto customers will receive a credit equal to 20% of their auto premium for the months of April, May, and June. These savings would result in an estimated average of $60 per vehicle, and customers with multiple vehicles on their policy could see significant savings, Bennett noted.

Ascent Laser Aesthetics Introduces Innovative Hair-removal System

EAST LONGMEADOW — Ascent Laser Aesthetics, a medical spa located in East Longmeadow, has partnered with Cartessa Aesthetics to bring the hair-removal system Motux AX to the practice. Motux AX is the most effective laser wavelength for hair removal for the widest array of skin types, Dr. Kevin Coughlin said, adding that the procedure is virtually pain-free and significantly more comfortable than standard methods, while providing quicker treatment of large areas (less than five minutes) and fewer subsequent treatments to achieve optimal results. Through proprietary Moveo technology, risk of side effects is virtually non-existent.

EforAll Holyoke Launches Accelerator Program for Spanish-speaking Entrepreneurs

HOLYOKE — Continuing to expand its proven approach to help under-resourced individuals successfully start and grow their businesses, Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Holyoke announced that it is accepting applications for its new EparaTodos program in Holyoke, which will focus on supporting Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs in the Greater Holyoke community. EforAll’s free, one-year business-accelerator program helps under-resourced individuals successfully start and grow their businesses or nonprofits across a wide range of industries, including personal and professional services, food, manufacturing, and both online and traditional retail. The program offers a combination of immersive business training, dedicated mentorship, and access to a professional network. The organization typically offers its programs in person, but it is prepared to deliver classroom training and mentor sessions online if necessary. Among the businesses started by EforAll participants, 75% are owned by women, 56% are owned by people of color, 54% are owned by immigrants, and 56% are owned by people who were previously unemployed. EforAll is accepting applications for this new Spanish-language accelerator, as well as its English accelerator program (EforAll), through Wednesday, May 20 at 5 p.m. Interested applicants can learn more and apply at www.eforall.org, where they will find information in both English and Spanish. To support its new Spanish-language programming, EforAll Holyoke has hired a dedicated EparaTodos program manager, Gabriella Candelario. Before joining EparaTodos Holyoke, she worked with the Springfield Public Schools as a program coordinator. She can be reached at [email protected]

Agenda

Zoom Series on Elder Law, Estate Planning

May 4, 11, 18: Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, Attorney Karen Jackson of Jackson Law will teach a series of Holyoke Community College classes through Zoom, highlighting the latest developments in elder law and estate planning. An elder-law and estate-planning attorney, Jackson will present her six-hour course, called “Elder Law and Estate Planning: What You Need to Know,” on Zoom in three two-hour sessions on consecutive Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. The cost is $99. To register, e-mail Valentyna Semyrog at [email protected], leave a message at (413) 552-2123, or visit www.hcc.edu/bce. Participants will be sent a link to join the class and can join using PCs, laptops, or smartphones. In the first session, Jackson will explain each document in the core estate plan. She will discuss the problems that can occur when proper documents are not prepared before a loss of mental capacity or physical health or before sudden loss of life. The second session will address four areas: trusts, the probate court process, Medicare hot topics, and options for community care and home care. Jackson will provide pertinent information and details about each to assist attendees in their planning now. In the third and final session, Jackson will introduce the various Medicaid programs that provide long-term skilled nursing-home care in Massachusetts and the financial assistance associated with each. While participants may choose to attend any or all of the sessions, they must still pay the full course cost of $99.

Difference Makers

Sept. 10: BusinessWest has moved its 12th annual Difference Makers event, originally scheduled for March 19, to Sept. 10 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The class of 2020 was profiled in the Feb. 3 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Tickets cost $75. To reserve a spot, e-mail [email protected] or visit businesswest.com. Event sponsors include Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal, P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, while the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, MHA, and United Way of Pioneer Valley are partners.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Company Notebook

Country Bank Donates $50,000 to First Responder Recovery Home

LUDLOW — To help the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department successfully operate the First Responder Recovery Home for COVID-19-diagnosed first responders, Country Bank announced it will contribute $50,000 to the efforts. The contribution from the Ware-based financial institution comes with the aim of inspiring other similar organizations to do what they can to assist the department’s effort to help the people who typically help others. The donation, which brings the overall community contributions above $87,000, will help ensure that every COVID-19-positive first responder who comes to stay at the facility has the food and comforts necessary for recovery. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department opened the First Responder Recovery Home this week to fill an unmet need in the Commonwealth of providing a safe haven for our doctors, nurses, EMTs, police, firefighters, and corrections professionals who are diagnosed with COVID-19, but can’t safely go home to recover without jeopardizing the health of a vulnerable family member. Located at the department’s Pre-Release Center on its campus in Ludlow, the refuge is provided free of charge, thanks to the department’s community supporters and partners. Cocchi and staff started accepting guests this week, with 84 single-occupancy rooms available. Anyone coming to stay must be healthy enough to care for themselves; however, a pool of voluntary medical professionals from the community, led by Ludlow physician Dr. Shaukat Matin, will be making rounds, and if someone needs more comprehensive medical care, the Sheriff’s Department will help coordinate transportation. Any doctor, nurse, police, firefighter, EMT, correctional professional, or military member can call (413) 858-0801 or (413) 858-0819 to request a room or ask questions. The facility needs the person’s full name, gender, and expected length of stay, among other information, and all correspondence will be kept confidential. Community partners include Country Bank, Anthony Ravosa and the 91 Supper Club, Charlie D’Amour and Guy McFarlane of Big Y Foods, Bob Bolduc and Pride Stores, Cesar Ruiz Jr. and Golden Years Home Care, Jim Brennan on behalf of the Edward J. Brennan Jr. Family Foundation, Anthony Cignoli of A.L. Cignoli Co., Jeff Polep of J. Polep Distribution Services, Jay Caron of Bee-Line Corp., Larry Katz of Arnold’s Meats, Andy Yee and Peter Picknelly, and Matin. Anyone wishing to contribute to the First Responder Recovery Home initiative can send tax-deductible donations to Criminal Justice Organization, 627 Randall Road, Ludlow, MA 01056, and write “First Responder Recovery Home” on the memo line.

Ohana School of Performing Arts Looks to Community for Support

CHICOPEE — The future of small businesses hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and despite uncertainty and disruption, one local dance studio stands firm in its mission: to spread peace and positivity through performance. Ohana School of Performing Arts, located at 41 Sheridan St. in Chicopee, had to make significant changes to its business model as social-distancing guidelines and safety initiatives were put into place. The studio transitioned to online classes and continues to support families with an interactive Facebook group for dancers and their families, where instructors share craft ideas, new dance moves, story time, and messages of hope and joy. “We are bringing 50 virtual classes to our studio family each week,” said Ashley Kohl, owner and creative director. She explained that teachers are recording classes from their own homes to ensure that the dancers are staying engaged and active. In addition to moving to virtual programming, Ohana also shifted tuition terms for the studio — pay what you can, if you can. Due to the stay-at-home advisory, which Gov. Charlie Baker has implemented until further notice, it is likely that Ohana will not be hosting its June performance, which is the studio’s only for-profit recital of the year. The funds from this performance are typically used to cover overhead costs in the summer months. In addition to the annual performance, Ohana hosts two charity performances as fundraisers for local nonprofits. To date, Ohana has donated more than $30,000 to various organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Willpower Foundation, Miracle League of Western Massachusetts, We Love Riley Fan Club, Arik(q)ue, in addition to Ohana’s nonprofit, One Ohana Inc., that provides scholarships to dancers across the Pioneer Valley. The impact of lost revenue comes at a particularly challenging time, as the studio was forced to relocate last year, and the business had to secure significant loan funding. Without the consistent tuition and performance revenue, Kohl fears she may have to close Ohana’s doors. With that in mind, two of Kohl’s close friends, Danielle Barone and Tanyelle Duchesne, organized a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000. For more information on how to support Ohana School of Performing Arts, visit gofundme.com/we-are-ohana or ohanaperformingarts.com.

TommyCar Auto Group Donates $10,000 to Support Health Workers

NORTHAMPTON — TommyCar Auto Group — consisting of Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley — announced it has donated a total of $10,000 to local healthcare workers through its “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” initiatives. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on the doctors, nurses, and frontline medical workers at local hospitals, TommyCar Auto Group launched a two-part campaign to help support these local heroes. Members of the TommyCard Rewards loyalty program were able to donate up to 50 points to help the cause, making it easy to support the efforts without having to leave the safety of home to make an in-person donation. The points were then matched in dollars by TommyCar Auto Group. By early April, $5,000 was raised to provide meals to the Emergency Department staff at Baystate Medical Center. As of April 10, another $5,000 was donated to Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which is used to purchase needed equipment such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and more. To learn more and follow the “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” campaigns, visit the Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars of Pioneer Valley Facebook pages.

Holyoke Company Tools Up to Manufacture Medical Face Shields

HOLYOKE — Walter Drake Inc., a Holyoke manufacturing company, has responded to the urgent need for medical face shields by healthcare systems. In a matter of days, workers have designed, prototyped, built tooling for, and manufactured a medical face shield of the type that is in desperate demand by hospitals, nursing facilities, and other essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Joseph Feigen, company president, announced that the face shield is called ‘Corona Shield’ for the time being, but will be renamed for permanent use in the healthcare field after the current pandemic ends. Walter Drake staff is now contacting dozens of hospitals around the country to deliver this badly needed personal protective equipment and to help ensure employment opportunities during this extended Massachusetts business shutdown. Established in 1962, Walter Drake Inc. primarily manufactures custom thermoformed packaging in the form of clamshells, trays, and blisters for medical, electronic, consumer, and industrial packaging applications.

MGM Springfield Donates Sleeping Cots, Outdoor Heaters

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced a donation of 160 portable sleeping cots and 16 outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the city of Springfield. A portion of the cots will provide much-needed overflow support for the hospital, while the other portion of cots and the outdoor heaters will assist the city’s work to help the homeless population amid the COVID-19 crisis. “We are a strong community, but this is a challenging time, and MGM Springfield will continue to do what we can to support those impacted and those on the front line,” said Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield. Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “I want to thank MGM President and COO Chris Kelley and his MGM team for stepping up in support of our city’s ongoing and continued efforts in responding to this coronavirus situation. These much-needed items will go a long way in assisting our city’s coronavirus response.” Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates, added that “we are grateful to MGM Springfield for the generous donation of cots for use during the pandemic. This is another example of the local area’s remarkable community partnerships that assist our efforts to care for patients during this difficult time.”

UMass Amherst Food Scientist Helps Unravel COVID-19 Mysteries

AMHERST — With the rapid onset of smell and taste loss emerging as symptoms of COVID-19, scientists around the world — including a sensory expert at UMass Amherst — have united to investigate the connection between the chemical senses and the novel coronavirus. The wave of reports from patients and clinicians about anosmia, or smell loss, inspired the creation of the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers. Alissa Nolden, UMass Amherst assistant professor of Food Science, is among the 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data and cognitive scientists, sensory researchers, and technicians from 38 countries gathering data in a worldwide survey to unravel how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent its spread. Nolden was invited by a colleague at the National Institutes of Health to help develop strategies around measuring the sensory-related symptoms of the coronavirus. “Smell and/or taste loss may be an early indicator of COVID-19, as individuals appear to report loss of smell or taste prior to other symptoms,” she said. “We also want to better understand the mechanism behind taste and smell loss as a result of this virus.” Nolden noted that some people with COVID-19 who experience sensory losses may not have any other coronavirus symptoms. The researchers hope to learn more about this from the survey, since people with sensory symptoms alone are not likely to qualify for a COVID-19 test. “This has been a tremendous effort from collaborators from around the globe to gain a better understanding of the negative impact of COVID-19 on loss of taste and smell,” she said. “We hope to learn a lot about these symptoms and believe it will have a great impact on our understanding of the virus.”

Log Cabin, Delaney House Launch ‘Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need’

HOLYOKE — Many people and organizations are looking for ways to help others during this trying time. In that spirit, the Delaney House and Log Cabin have created the “Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need” meal-donation program. People can purchase meals at a discounted rate, which will then be distributed to local businesses with essential employees or community members struggling to gain access to fresh food during this difficult time. Some of the organizations that will receive these donations are Baystate Health System, Providence Ministries (Loreto House), Amherst Survival Center, Mercy Medical Center, Springfield first responders, Holyoke first responders, and many others. To donate, visit www.delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.

MassHire Holyoke Career Center Continues to Offer Services Remotely

HOLYOKE — The MassHire Holyoke Career Center is letting the public known it is open for business remotely for new and current customers and members of the career center. Individuals can visit www.masshireholyoke.org to access information and staff contact numbers for career-counseling and job-search services. Staff members are available to answer questions and provide support such as résumé review and career counseling. These services are available in English and Spanish. Job postings are also available on the website. People with questions about job-seeker services can call (413) 532-4900 and leave a message, and a staff member will be in contact as soon as possible. People who need to file an unemployment claim can call (877) 626-6800 or visit www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits. Businesses can call (413) 654-1650, and a business service representative will be in touch.

Company Notebook

Community Foundation Grants $700,000 Through COVID-19 Response Fund

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the release of its first grants, totaling $700,000, to community organizations and nonprofits from its recently-established COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. The fund has raised $2,480,000 from local philanthropic and business organizations and over 50 individuals. The first round of funding to support local response to the crisis includes $190,000 to distribute food through the region’s system of food pantries; $120,000 to address the needs of vulnerable elders, including home-delivered meals; $120,000 to provide critical health services and outreach through the Valley’s federally designated Community Health Centers; $150,000 to provide shelter for those without homes and those impacted by domestic violence; and $120,000 to provide flexible supports to the region’s lowest-income families and individuals. Organizations receiving funding include Caring Health Center, Catholic Charities Agency – Diocese of Springfield, Center for Human Development, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Health Center of Franklin County, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of the Homeless (Clinical & Support Options), Greater Springfield Senior Services, Highland Valley Elder Services, Hilltown Community Health Center, Holyoke Health Center, LifePath, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, Safe Passage, ServiceNet, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Springfield Rescue Mission, Valley Opportunity Council, WestMass ElderCare, Womanshelter Companeras, and YWCA of Western Massachusetts. More grants are expected to be announced and released to respond to emerging needs. In subsequent phases, grants will be made to address needs of nonprofit organizations that have been financially impacted by the crisis. The Community Foundation welcomes additional donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. Donate online at communityfoundation.org/coronavirus-donations.

Fire Investigation Transfer Program Launched at STCC

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) has a hot new program. Starting this fall, the college will offer a new option in the Fire Protection and Safety Technology department: fire investigation transfer. Students who choose this option will study fire behavior, fire operations, prevention, investigations, and criminal law through courses in fire science and criminal justice. Fire investigators often work for local, state, and federal agencies, but also pursue opportunities in the private sector. The program is offered in the evening only, which will give students who work more flexibility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for fire inspectors and investigators are expected to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028. The median pay in 2018 was $60,200. Students who successfully complete the two-year program will receive an associate of science degree in fire protection and safety technology. To learn more about the program and to apply for the fall, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/fitr.as. Individuals with questions may contact Tenczar at [email protected] or call (413) 755-4596.

HCC President Pledges $10,000 to ‘Together HCC’ Campaign

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) President Christina Royal has issued a personal $10,000 challenge gift toward a new HCC campaign that is as much about building moral support in a time of great uncertainty as it is about raising money for students experiencing financial distress. As part of the HCC Foundation’s “Together HCC — A Campaign for Caring,” students, staff, faculty, alumni, relatives, and friends are being asked to use the hashtag #TogetherHCC to share stories and images on social media that show the strength of the college community in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Royal’s $10,000 challenge is not just a financial one. Instead, the goal is to gather 1,000 contributions of any kind toward the #TogetherHCC campaign. That includes monetary donations as well as social-media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as e-mail submissions that describe an inspirational tale or messages of encouragement relating to the ongoing pandemic. Besides scholarships, the HCC Foundation manages several funds that directly support students facing financial emergencies as well as those experiencing food and housing insecurity. These include the President’s Student Emergency Fund, which was established by Royal, and another that supports HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center, which manages the HCC Food Pantry.

Northampton Survival Center Updates Public on Services

NORTHAMPTON — While concern for staff, client, and volunteer health during the COVID-19 pandemic recently forced Northampton Survival Center to temporarily stop client visits to pick up food, the center anticipates resuming modified operations as soon as possible. Even though the building is closed, however, new community partnerships and initiatives have sprung into action. The center has teamed up with Community Action Pioneer Valley to begin distributing food out of Jackson Street School, a nearby location with ample, circular parking and cafeteria and refrigeration capabilities. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, food will be delivered by the Survival Center to the school, where a team of trained personnel will be able to create pre-bagged packages of nutritious food while maintaining safe distancing and other health precautions. On those same afternoons, bags will be carted outdoors under a tent, for quick drive-up intake and food transfer to clients safely in their cars. Another initiative between the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton delivers fresh produce and groceries every Tuesday to high-need sites including Hampshire Heights, Florence Heights, Meadowbrook, and the Lumber Yard on Pleasant Street. Food distribution at all four sites will work in tandem with the Northampton public-school system and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s new meal-delivery program for children, in order to amplify each other’s efforts to keep children and their entire families fed. Shelf-stable groceries will be paired with fresh produce purchased directly from local farms, as well as produce and other goods purchased from distributors via River Valley Co-op. To serve clients in the hilltowns, food is being brought from the Hilltown Pantry and Northampton Survival Center to the various Councils on Aging that serve the region. COAs in Chesterfield, Worthington, and Goshen have already begun distributing this food from their sites, and further outreach is being coordinated with the Hilltown Community Health Center and the Hilltown Community Development Corp. The center is exploring using a school classroom in Worthington as a mini-pantry, and fresh produce has been shared with the Maples senior housing in Worthington. Eggs from Northampton Survival Center have been shared with the MANNA hot meal program, and fresh produce and retail donations of bread and other items usually reserved for the center are now being shared with other food pantries in the area, via the center’s partners at the Food Bank.

Monson Savings Bank Donates $25,000 to Baystate Health’s Greatest Needs Fund

MONSON — Baystate Health has just completed construction of a rapid-response triage area outside of the Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department, allowing the hospital to better protect patients and medical staff from exposure to the virus as patients are being screened and tested. This new triage area is just one of the many large, unplanned expenses this health emergency has created. Additionally, the exploding demand for personal protection equipment for staff and myriad other needs to fight this outbreak are stretching resources and finances to the limit. Monson Savings Bank has donated $25,000 to Baystate’s Greatest Needs Fund. This gift will directly support resources needed at Baystate Health as it continues to address and prepare for the care the community needs during this worldwide pandemic.

UMassFive College Credit Union Offers Financial Resources, Support

HADLEY — As a local nonprofit financial cooperative, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union (UMassFive) is known for playing an active role in supporting and educating members and local communities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMassFive has launched a number of initiatives to continue supporting its membership and people in the local community. For example, UMassFive has joined forces with Log Rolling Catering to donate 350 meals to individuals and families in need, as well as those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The Amherst Survival Center received 150 prepared meals for distribution to those in need, and another 200 meals went to the ER staff at both Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and UMass Medical Center in Worcester. In addition, UMassFive has pledged $1,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and donated another $1,000 to the local farming nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which will use the funds as part of its campaign to raise $50,000 for emergency loans to local farms. Credit-union members can also participate by making charitable donations in support of their local community through the UMassFive Buzz Points program, including options benefiting the Food Bank and the Amherst Survival Center. UMassFive is committed to answering questions and providing financial guidance to its members throughout this ongoing time of economic uncertainty. Members are encouraged to reach out for one-on-one phone consultations with credit union staff to better understand what options are available to them at this time. For instance, UMassFive is offering loan-payment deferral for up to three months on all qualified consumer loans. Members can visit www.umassfive.coop/emergency-relief to learn which loans qualify and to submit their emergency-relief payment-deferral requests through an easy-to-fill-out web form. As a way to make things a little easier for qualified borrowers who decide to take on some short-term debt to address their current needs, UMassFive has temporarily lowered the rate of all new personal loans to 5.99% APR for amounts of $2,000 or less. New and existing members can apply for this loan online at www.umassfive.coop/personalloan. After signing up (for new users) or logging in, applicants should select ‘fixed-term loan,’ then ‘loan special,’ and continue filling out the form until fully submitted. The credit union strongly encourages seeking alternative options before taking on additional debt.

Country Bank Donates $250,000 to Four Hospitals

WARE — Country Bank announced it has donated $250,000 to four local hospitals to help assist with the work they are doing for patients as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospitals receiving donations include Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, and Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester. Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, noted that “these are challenging and ever-evolving times as we face uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a community partner, we care deeply about our communities, and we wanted to support our local hospitals to help ease their financial burden as they continue to offer exceptional care to our friends and neighbors in the region.”

Providence Ministries Services Continue Through Pandemic

HOLYOKE — Providence Ministries will continue to offer essential support services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, Executive Director Shannon Rudder shared precautions being made to ensure continuity of services while protecting program participants. Effective immediately, the following program shifts will occur: Kate’s Community Kitchen will provide warm, nutritious takeout meals; dining-room services will be suspended until further notice. Margaret’s Pantry will continue to welcome those in need of supplemental groceries to enjoy its community services. This includes both monthly guests along with anyone impacted by loss of work or simply realizing greater need at this time. Make an appointment by calling Brenda at (413) 536-9109, ext. 119. St. Jude’s Clothing Center will be closed until further notice to contain exposure, while the foodWorks culinary-training program will suspend current classes until further notice; the April 1 graduation will be rescheduled. Providence is taking every precaution to ensure its single-room-occupancy recovery housing spaces maintain cleanliness and overall health. It is difficult to ensure a true quarantine due to shared spaces, such as bathrooms and kitchens. At Loreto House, residents will suspend weekend passes and all planned workshops, no general public will be allowed entrance, a daily temperature check has been instituted, and any resident presenting symptoms and fever will be sent to the hospital or their primary-care provider. At both Broderick House and McCleary Manor, no outside visitors or overnight guests are permitted. No new residents will be admitted to any of these houses during this time. Each home has adequate cleaning products and hand soaps. Volunteers are asked to exercise caution and use their best judgement to continue in their service.

Girls Inc. Receives Grants from Baystate Health, Women Empowered

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a community-benefits discretionary grant of $5,000 from Baystate Health to Girls Inc. of the Valley’s “Informed and In Charge” program, which is designed to teach healthy sexuality. Through “Informed and In Charge,” girls acquire the knowledge and skills for taking charge of and making informed decisions about their sexual health. Exploring values, practicing responses in different situations, and thinking about their futures helps girls identify ways and reasons to avoid early pregnancy and prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Meanwhile, Women Empowered, a group that strives to promote body positivity and acceptance for both adult women and future generations of girls, has donated $2,500 in proceeds of its Women Empowered calendar sales to Girls Inc. of the Valley. The receipt of this gift will support Girls Inc. of the Valley’s current research-based program offerings designed to empower girls, and will provide a boost in its annual fundraising efforts. The Women Empowered calendar features a diverse group of everyday women who have embraced their uniqueness, have overcome physical and mental obstacles, celebrate their bodies, and want to share their story to inspire others. This calendar provides the chance to send a message of body positivity and acceptance in order to teach other women and future generations to embrace the totality of who they are, and use their gifts, their beauty, and their stories to change the world. Everyone involved with the production of the calendar and all sponsors are women-owned businesses.

Amherst Area Tip Jar Launched

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID) have launched the Amherst Area Tip Jar. Many locals would regularly be patronizing their favorite restaurants, bars, salons, coffeehouses, and other businesses that have been ordered closed or have shifted to take-out only, depending on the type of business, due to the COVID-19 crisis and related health and safety restrictions. The Tip Jar, first established in Pittsburgh, allows people to support local service industry staff and businesses. It allows them to send a ‘tip’ to their favorite business, which will share it with their staff — bartenders, servers, kitchen staff, stylists, aestheticians, mechanics, etc. The Amherst Area Tip Jar offers an option for these businesses and individuals to post their Venmo or PayPal information so that customers, family members, neighbors, and community members, near and far, can continue to support them using this open-source concept — a way to maximize social distancing while supporting these workers and small businesses. E-mail Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director, at [email protected] or Gould at [email protected]m with any inquiries.

Big Y Announces Support for Five Food Banks

SPRINGFIELD — On March 16, Big Y World Class Markets donated $125,000 to three Massachusetts food banks and two in Connecticut in order to help them respond to the challenges they face in helping to feed others during these challenging times. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank, Foodshare, and the Connecticut Food Bank will each receive an immediate donation of $25,000. All Big Y stores also now have collection boxes to allow customers to make food donations for local pantries and shelters. As part of its recent 10th annual Sack Hunger/Care to Share program, Big Y also provided more than $11.5 million in food to area food banks, which amounts to a total of 5.7 million meals to help those in need throughout the region. In addition to Sack Hunger, it donates healthy food to these food banks six days a week throughout the year. Two-thirds of those 5.7 million meals include donations of meat and fresh produce, while bakery, non-perishable grocery items, frozen food, and dairy products account for the rest. In fact, these almost-daily donations have become a routine part of Big Y’s operations. These food banks depend upon this steady flow of food to feed those in need. Big Y also encourages support in any amount for area food banks right now. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts estimates that every dollar donated will provide four meals for those in need. Visit foodbankwma.org for more information. Additionally, Big Y donated $50,000 to the COVID-19 Response Fund hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The fund will provide flexible resources to Pioneer Valley nonprofit organizations serving populations most impacted by the crisis, such as the elderly, those without stable housing, families needing food, and those with particular health vulnerabilities.

Company Notebook

Community Foundation Gives $341,000 Through Innovation Grant Program

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ (CFWM) Innovation Grant Program has awarded a total of $341,000 to three change-making nonprofit organizations to continue creating innovative solutions around critical issues facing the region. CFWM’s Innovation Grant Program was launched in 2016 to encourage nonprofits to develop and execute novel ideas in partnership with other entities, as well as allow organizations to construct inventive solutions with measurable impact. In January 2018, CFWM awarded first-year funding to Five Colleges Inc., the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity to implement innovative projects that were refined and tested during a planning period in 2017. Now entering their third year of funding, these grantees are seeing the tangible impact of their work. Twenty paraprofessionals of color are making their way toward receiving their licensure to become a full-fledged teachers, food-insecure patients are being identified and referred to healthy-food opportunities, and small homes have been built and are being occupied by first-time homebuyers. Five Colleges Inc. will continue to develop its “Paradigm Shift” initiative and bring in new partners. This initiative is focused on creating a more diverse teacher workforce in Western Mass. by helping para-educators of color overcome obstacles to obtaining licensure to become teachers in area schools. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will spend its third year expanding and analyzing the impact of its Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative that conducts and tracks food insecurity screening and social-service referrals at the Holyoke Health Center and its Chicopee location. Additionally, it will partner with WestMass ElderCare and Springfield Senior Services to address the food needs of patients who screen positive for food insecurity and have a specific medical condition. Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity will continue with a third year of its “Big Enough: the Small Home Revolution in Western Mass.” initiative, which aims to launch more individuals and families into the middle class by empowering them to become first-time owners of small, simple, affordable, energy-efficient homes.

MBK Donates $10,000 to MHA for Crisis-intervention Training

SPRINGFIELD — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., (MBK) recently made a $10,000 donation to the Mental Health Assoc. Inc. (MHA) to fund non-violent crisis-intervention training for MHA’s direct-care staff. “To train in non-violent crisis intervention is an important professional-development opportunity for MHA staff,” said Cheryl Fasano, president and CEO of MHA Inc. “MHA does not use physical restraint in any form, so our staff members need skills to safely de-escalate and manage challenging behaviors in a non-violent manner. Our training curriculum from the Crisis Prevention Institute goes further by also helping better equip our staff to prevent difficult situations from escalating.” The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) is an international training organization committed to best practices and safe behavior-management methods that focus on prevention. Since 1980, more than 10 million professionals around the world have participated in CPI training programs.

HCC Extends Scholarship Application Deadline

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has extended by two weeks the deadline to apply for scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year. The new application deadline is Wednesday, April 8. Students must be currently enrolled at HCC or have been accepted for the upcoming academic year to be eligible for scholarships, which are awarded through the HCC Foundation, HCC’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. Awards totaling more than $200,000 are available for incoming, continuing, and transferring HCC students. Applicants need only to fill out a single online form to be automatically matched with the scholarships they are most qualified to receive. There are scholarships for new students, current students and students transferring to other institutions, scholarships based on financial need, scholarships for students in specific majors, scholarships for residents of certain communities, and scholarships that recognize academic achievement. For the 2019-20 academic year, the HCC Foundation awarded $223,000 in scholarships to 231 students. To begin the application process, visit www.hcc.edu/scholarships. Questions should be directed to the HCC Foundation office at (413) 552-2182 or Donahue 170 on the HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

PTK Honor Society Presents ACC with Awards During Virtual Ceremony

ENFIELD, Conn. — Asnuntuck Community College’s Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society was recognized as being the Most Distinguished Chapter for the New England Region during a virtual awards ceremony held last weekend. The chapter and its members were awarded other honors during its first-ever virtual ceremony. These awards included Distinguished College Project Award and Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award. The chapter elected to do its Honors in Action project within a Politics of Identity theme. Working with various departments at the college, as well as outside agencies, including the Jordan Porco Foundation, the students concentrated on the issue of mental-health awareness. They also established an interactive exhibit on mental-health issues at Asnuntuck, with a digitized version, titled “Art|Mind,” available for those who could not make it to campus. The college project focused on getting information into the hands of students through campus brochures and during the college’s orientation. Asnuntuck student Victoria Orifice was awarded first-place honors for being the Distinguished Chapter Officer.

Beta Gamma Sigma at WNEU Earns Highest Chapter Recognition

SPRINGFIELD — For the third consecutive year, the Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) Chapter at Western New England University earned the “highest honors” designation for its campus engagement and programming for the 2018-19 academic year. According to Beta Gamma Sigma CEO Chris Carosella, earning highest honors “is indicative of a campus where academic excellence is highly valued and where the faculty and chapter leaders work diligently to enhance Beta Gamma Sigma’s stature on campus.” One indicator of this engagement is participation at the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS), which chapter President Tessa Wood and Secretary Kathryn Wells attended last year. The GLS enables delegates to participate in professional-development workshops and share best practices with student leaders from other BGS chapters worldwide.

Junior Achievement of Western Mass. Receives Five Star Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts has been awarded one of Junior Achievement USA’s highest honors: the Five Star Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize staff and boards of JA areas that meet Junior Achievement’s national standards in operational efficiency and through strong representation of the JA brand. Recipients must demonstrate growth in student impact and superior fiscal performance. Achievement against these criteria is certified through JA USA and audited financial statements. Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, which serves more than 13,000 students throughout Western Mass. and Vermont, will be presented with the award in July at Junior Achievement USA’s National Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Robinson Donovan Moves to Expanded Northampton Location

NORTHAMPTON — Robinson Donovan, P.C., a full-service law firm, announced it has moved from its previous Northampton office to a more expansive location at 351 Pleasant St. The firm’s phone number, (413) 732-2301, remains the same. “We wanted to make things as convenient as possible for our growing list of clients in Hampshire County,” Partner Michael Simolo said. “We can now meet with them more comfortably. The response from clients has been very positive.” Partner Jeffrey Trapani, added that “our new office in Northampton has plenty of meeting space, free parking, and easier access. Quite a few of our attorneys live in Hampshire County, so having an expanded office in Northampton makes sense for us operationally as well and helps us better serve our clients throughout the Pioneer Valley.”

Behavioral Health Network Receives $15,000 Grant from Country Bank

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $15,000 grant from Country Bank, which will fund direct services for BHN’s domestic-violence programs in Ware. Country Bank’s grant to BHN will be used for innovative support and advocacy services for domestic-violence survivors, which includes partnering with Country Bank employees in offering the economic-freedom initiative known as Money School. BHN’s Money School program is an award-winning, trauma-informed financial-independence initiative designed to create long-term safety and economic security for survivors of domestic violence. The grant will also be used to provide prevention-education work in local schools, and for interruption and prevention services for perpetrators of domestic violence.

Springfield WORKS Programs to Benefit from State Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield WORKS leads local employers, educators, community leaders, and job seekers in developing innovative solutions to meet the economic needs of area residents and local businesses. A founding member in the Springfield WORKS collaboration, Springfield Partners for Community Action, recently received a second $50,000 award from the Baker-Polito Community Services Block Grant Special Projects Fund to support Springfield WORKS financial-wellness strategies. This award comes on the heels of a recent $100,000 Baker-Polito Urban Agenda Grant to Springfield WORKS and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. The funds will enable families to achieve economic stability as they navigate workforce-development training into a career pathway.

Company Notebook

Bacon Wilson to Donate $25,000 for Firm’s 125th Anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced that, in honor of its 125th anniversary year, the firm will donate $25,000 to various community organizations throughout the Pioneer Valley. Bacon Wilson will make five contributions of $1,250 for each quarter of 2020. After gathering suggestions from members of the firm, first-quarter contributions of $1,250 were awarded to:

• Michael J. Dias Foundation, which provides aid and education for individuals and families on substance abuse, and help for those battling the disease of addiction;

• All Out Adventures, which promotes health, community, and independence for people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and their families and friends through outdoor recreation;

• Amherst Survival Center, which connects people to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community, primarily through volunteer efforts;

• Our Community Table: Westfield Soup Kitchen, a 100% volunteer organization dependent upon donations to provide a clean and safe environment to serve those in need; and

• Treehouse Foundation, an intergenerational community neighborhood where adoptive families and their children, older youth, and elders invest in one another’s health, dreams, and futures.

Bacon Wilson will announce recipients for the firm’s remaining quarterly giving in June, September, and December.

Eversource Energy to Purchase Columbia Gas of Massachusetts

BOSTON — Eversource Energy announced it has reached an agreement to purchase the Massachusetts natural-gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion from NiSource. The acquisition will bring Columbia Gas operations in Massachusetts under local ownership by the largest energy company in New England. Columbia Gas currently serves 330,000 natural-gas customers in more than 60 communities in Massachusetts. Eversource has 300,000 natural-gas customers and 1.5 million electric customers in 51 communities across the Commonwealth. Many communities that Columbia Gas serves with natural gas already receive electric service from Eversource. Under the asset-purchase agreement, liabilities related to the September 2018 gas distribution incidents in the Merrimack Valley will remain the responsibility of Columbia Gas’s current parent company, NiSource. Eversource plans to finance the transaction with a balance of new equity and debt that maintains its credit profile. The parties expect to close the transaction by the end of the third quarter 2020.

Isenberg Again Ranks First for MBA Online Education

AMHERST — For the fourth year in a row, the online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst topped the rankings of U.S. programs — and came out number three in the world — in the Financial Times survey. Isenberg has offered an AACSB-accredited MBA degree program entirely online since 2001, making it one of the most well-established and robust online degrees in the country. Currently, more than 1,100 students are enrolled in the program. In addition to its overall position in the 2020 Financial Times ranking, the Isenberg online MBA also stood out in a number of data areas, based on information collected by the publication from members of the 2016 graduating class. It ranked first in the world for salary increase, with alumni reporting that they earn 46% more now than they did when they graduated from the Isenberg MBA program; second in the U.S. for average current salary ($168,046); and first in the U.S. for value.

American International College Named To Military Friendly Schools List

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has again been named a Military Friendly School. VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that connects the military community to civilian employment and educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, has released the 2020-21 Military Friendly​​ Schools list, providing a comprehensive guide for veterans and their families using data sources from federal agencies, veteran students, and proprietary survey information from participating organizations in order to help them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. Institutions earning the Military Friendly​ School designation are evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey completed by the school. This year, fewer than 800 schools nationwide earned this prestigious designation. Methodology and criteria were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly​ ​Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the individual institution’s survey scores with the assessment of its ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer), and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

Girls Inc. of the Valley Receives $500,000 Grant

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley announced plans for major expansion and the launch of its new campaign. The organization is in the early stages of an ambitious, comprehensive campaign, “Her Future, Our Future,” with three primary goals: to develop a permanent Girls Inc. home in downtown Holyoke; to expand school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and to extend the Eureka! STEM education program. To that end, it has received $500,000 in support from the Kendeda Fund, a private grantmaker based in Atlanta. This transformative gift will support the expansion of Girls Inc. of the Valley’s programs and create a stronger network that encourages girls to achieve. Girls Inc. of the Valley is launching this campaign to offer more girls fundamental support and research-based programming. These programs are designed to empower girls and present them with opportunities to navigate barriers they face in school and beyond.

Women’s Fund to Award $45,000 to Groups Addressing Sexual Violence

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced a spring grant cycle to fund organizations that are working to fight sexual violence in the Western Mass. region. Funding for this grant cycle is made possible by a grant the WFWM received from the Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies (the Me Too Fund), housed at the New York Women’s Foundation. Joining the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of California, and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in this work, WFWM will carry out the Me Too Fund’s goal of ensuring ongoing philanthropic investments toward transforming the oppressive systems that produce structural inequalities of power that result in harassment and violence by making grants from this fund in and for the local community. Applications will be accepted from women- and girl-serving organizations in all four counties of Western Mass. through March 31. Projects funded by this grant from WFWM must focus on prevention and/or intervention of sexual violence and harassment. Visit mywomensfund.org for additional information or to apply.

GCAi Launches Videos for Peter Pan’s App Marketing and Perks Rewards Program

SPRINGFIELD — Riders on any Peter Pan bus right now will not only view a new app-marketing video but also a new Perks Rewards program video. In between the two marketing videos is a brief welcome message by company Chairman and CEO Peter Picknelly. Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi) produced the three videos, which are already being shown on all routes in the Northeast Corridor. Each of them was produced by award-winning video producer Darcy Young, one of the only female video producers in the market. The concepts and scripts were developed by GCAi founder John Garvey. The app and rewards videos will be disseminated through digital marketing campaigns in specific markets on the East Coast in the near future. These videos are the third in a series of passenger videos produced by GCAi that began when Peter Pan Bus Lines separated from Greyhound Bus Lines in 2017. The videos can be viewed at gcaionline.com/video.

Webber & Grinnell Acquires Roger Menard Insurance Agency

NORTHAMPTON — Webber & Grinnell Insurance announced the acquisition of Roger Menard Insurance Agency at 241 King St., Northampton. “Roger and I have been talking about this for a long time, and we are fortunate to be able to continue his legacy of great customer service to his clients,” said Webber and Grinnell President Bill Grinnell. “Our office is only a quarter-mile down the street, so it will be an easy adjustment for his clients. We also represent the same insurance carriers as Roger Menard Insurance, which will make the transition go very smoothly. Menard added that “Webber and Grinnell is the premier insurance agency in Northampton, and I know my clients will be treated very well. I’ve truly enjoyed this business and the relationships I have developed along the way. But after 36 years, it’s time to do something different. I will still be available to answer any questions during the transition.”

DAISA Enterprises to Facilitate Healthy Children and Families Event

SOUTH HADLEY — DAISA Enterprises, a food-systems and community health strategy firm based in South Hadley, was selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to design and facilitate a convening of Healthy Children and Families grantees for 2020. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), based in Princeton, N.J., is the largest philanthropic foundation in the U.S. focused solely on health, striving to advance policy, system, and environmental changes that create the conditions to foster families’ opportunities to promote healthy child development. The Healthy Children and Families convening will be a forum for sharing lessons and leveraging insights among grantees, partners, stakeholders, and RWJF staff around strategies to achieve this goal and prioritize health equity. More than 100 health leaders are expected to attend this event this spring or summer.

Health New England a Finalist in Healthiest Employers Program

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England has been recognized as one of the 2019 finalists of the Healthiest Employers of Massachusetts, a nationally recognized awards program powered by the Springbuk Health Intelligence Platform. Applicants to the Healthiest Employers awards program were evaluated across six key categories, representing a holistic view of employee well-being: culture and leadership commitment, foundational components, strategic planning, communication and marketing, programming and interventions, and reporting and analytics. All companies that applied to the awards program were ranked according to the proprietary Healthiest Employers Index, a 1-100 rubric for employee well-being programming. Ranked second in the 100- to 499-employee size category in Massachusetts, Health New England was honored for its commitment to employee health and corporate health programming. As an award finalist, Health New England has demonstrated a strong commitment to the health and well-being of its team members.

Bay Path Earns ‘A’ Grade for Early Reading Courses

LONGMEADOW — The National Council on Teacher Quality released its scores for the 2020 Teacher Prep Review, ranking Bay Path University’s Early Reading course content in undergraduate, traditional, elementary-education programs with an ‘A’ designation. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational gains and life success, and more than one-third of American children are not able to read by the fourth grade, with black and Hispanic children being disproportionately affected. Successful reading instruction is essential to achieving educational equity, yet only seven programs in Massachusetts received an ‘A’ ranking. After reviewing course syllabi and required textbooks, programs were ranked based on the following criteria: the availability of explicit instruction on each of the five components of reading instruction — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies; support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically based reading practices; and evidence that teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests, and field work.

Scout Curated Wears Supports Dress for Success

SPRINGFIELD — Scout Curated Wears started out as a local business and quickly turned into a nationwide sensation with its signature item, which converts from a wrap bracelet to a necklace. But the company is equally proud of its commitment to give back 10% of its net proceeds to support women’s organizations. Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is one of the nonprofits that benefits from the generosity of Scout Curated Wears and owner Lora Fischer-DeWitt. Women in the Greater Springfield community benefit from both a network of support and programs developed by Dress for Success. These programs, which are designed to be responsive to both women and employers, include the Foot in the Door workforce-readiness program; the Boutique, which provides women with professional attire for interviews and employment; the Margaret Fitzgerald One-on-One mentor program; and the Professional Women’s Group, designed to promote employment retention and career advancement. Fischer-DeWitt changes the lives of women who come through these programs by providing an annual contribution and by sponsoring Common Threads, an annual event celebrating of the accomplishments of women who have come through Dress for Success Western Massachusetts programs. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, April 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Springfield Sheraton.

Elms School of Nursing Ranks in Top 10 in State

CHICOPEE — The School of Nursing at Elms College ranks in the top 10 of “Best Nursing Schools in Massachusetts,” according to a recent ranking by registerednursing.org. To determine this year’s rankings, registerednursing.org researched the 40 nursing programs across the state and analyzed their students’ performance on the NCLEX-RN exam over the past five years. In 2019, Elms College nurses achieved a 97% pass rate on the exam, while the national pass rate was 91%. This is the third top-10 ranking for Elms College’s School of Nursing over the past year. It has been ranked in the top 10 of nursing schools in Massachusetts according to both nurse.org and niche.com.

Company Notebook

Bay Path University Names Sandra Doran Its Sixth President

Sandra Doran

LONGMEADOW — The Bay Path University board of trustees announced today that Sandra Doran has been selected by unanimous vote to become the sixth president of Bay Path effective June 30. She will succeed Carol Leary, who retires in June following her 25-year presidency of Bay Path. Doran’s appointment is the culmination of a comprehensive, 10-month, national search process. “Sandy Doran is a charismatic leader who cares deeply about women’s education and is passionate about access to education and student success,” said Jonathan Besse, board chair. “She has an impressive and broad background in a variety of complex organizations, all of which flourished greatly under her leadership.” Doran is currently president of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. As president, she led an inclusive and aggressive strategic planning process that resulted in a transformation of the college as evidenced by unprecedented growth in enrollment and fundraising. “I am humbled by the trust the board has placed in me to continue the spirit of innovation here at Bay Path,” Doran said. “The visionary nature of President Leary is inspiring and unprecedented in higher education, and I look forward to working with the Bay Path faculty and staff to build on her legacy. Serving our students, and providing them with a superior learning experience, gives us all great joy. I look forward to engaging with all members of our community, students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and our business and philanthropic partners.” Doran holds a juris doctor degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Methodist University. Before serving at Salem, Doran was CEO at Castle Point Learning Systems (CPLS), a company that develops innovative teaching and learning technologies incorporating artificial intelligence and adaptive learning algorithms to provide better student outcomes in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Prior to her position at CPLS, she was president of the American College of Education in Indianapolis, where she grew the organization into the fifth-largest graduate school of education in the country, serving more than 5,000 adult and non-traditional students. Her professional experience also includes positions at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey as an entrepreneur-in-residence, as well as at the New England Board of Higher Education as national policy director. Early in her legal career, she transitioned into higher education, joining Lesley University in Cambridge in 2004 as chief of staff, vice president, and general counsel. Doran currently serves as chair of the board for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation and on the board of the Online Learning Consortium. She was named the Triad Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO, and Power Player of 2019.

AIC to Offer Graduate Program in Cannabis Science and Commerce

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will offer a master of science program in cannabis science and commerce beginning in the fall of 2020, the first of its kind in this region. The 30-credit, hybrid graduate program is designed for individuals interested in a career in the cannabis industry and will provide students with an understanding of the science, business, and legal issues associated with the cannabis industry. The program offers education in the areas of basic science, including chemistry, horticulture, cultivation, uses, and delivery systems; business management, marketing, and operations; and federal and state laws and policies. According to a March 2020 jobs report issued by Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis website, over the past four years, legal cannabis has supported nearly a quarter of a million jobs. That equates to a 15% annual uptick in employment. For more information regarding the AIC’s master of science program in cannabis science and commerce, visit www.aic.edu/cannabis.

MGM Springfield Revenues Rebound in January

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that gross gaming revenue (GGR) at MGM Springfield totaled $20.6 million in January, up from $18.9 million in December, which was its worst-ever full month. Meanwhile, the Encore Boston Harbor casino recorded $48.6 million in GGR in January, down from $54 million in December, while Plainridge Park Casino posted $11.1 million in January, an almost $900,000 increase from December and its first monthly uptick since last spring. MGM Springfield’s January GGR totaled included $14.9 million from slot machines and $5.7 million from from table games. The facility named a new president and chief operating officer following December’s poor numbers, replacing Michael Mathis with Chris Kelley.

Country Bank Donates More Than $900,000 in 2019

WARE — Country Bank reported its donations to area nonprofits totaled $905,049 last year. Throughout 2019, more than 500 organizations in the communities the bank serves received donations, including the Children’s Trust, Ludlow Community Center Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, Project Bread, and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, among many others. Recognizing the importance and overwhelming need to help organizations that address hunger, Country Bank provided monetary donations exceeding $100,000 to food programs throughout the region. The recipients of these funds included Friends of the Homeless, Springfield Rescue Mission, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as well as many local food pantries. In addition, Country Bank’s employee charitable giving program raised more than $30,000 in 2019 through events such as jeans days, bake sales, and raffles, and employees volunteered more than 1,000 hours of personal time at various events within the bank’s communities.

Bank of America Entrusts More Than $22 Million to Community Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — After collaborating with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) for 29 years, the Bank of America in May transferred three trusts totaling more than $22 million to the Valley-wide grant funder. The move brings CFWM’s total earned assets from roughly $153 million to $175 million and bolsters its role as an enduring philanthropic leader in the Pioneer Valley. Founded in 1990, CFWM administers a charitable endowment consisting of more than 600 separately identified funds totaling approximately $175 million. Some of these charitable assets are unrestricted and used to meet emerging and changing needs in the region. Others support named nonprofit organizations or provide financial support to college-bound students. Still others are donor-advised, offering flexibility to donors in timing, amount, and beneficiary of their giving. Last year, CFWM awarded $7.3 million in grants to nonprofits and $2.2 million in scholarships and interest-free loans to more than 770 area students. The Bank of America funds will continue to support a wide variety of organizations for generations to come, from grassroots community food pantries to region-spanning arts programs — and will preserve the original donors’ wishes to support their communities in perpetuity. The three trusts transferred from the bank to the foundation are the Eugene A. Dexter Charitable Fund, established in 1944; the Nan and Matilda Heydt Fund, established in 1960; and the Valley Charitable Trust Fund, established in 1960. All three were originally created to support and serve charitable organizations and interests with a focus on Springfield and Hampden County.

Eversource Earns Award for Using Smart Technology to Reduce Peak Energy Usage

BOSTON — An Eversource program that pays customers to use less electricity during high-demand periods has received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Residential Program Design & Implementation by the Assoc. of Energy Services Professionals. The award recognizes the company’s ConnectedSolutions demand-response program, which leverages customer-owned devices, such as wireless thermostats, battery storage, and electric-vehicle chargers, to reduce electric use during peak periods, when the cost and greenhouse-gas emissions of electricity in New England are at their highest. More than 9,000 customers have enrolled in the volunteer demand-response program in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Customers allow their devices to automatically communicate with Eversource during regional peak energy periods, resulting in a short reduction of power or, in the case of batteries, a reduction of the stored energy. Residential customers with eligible connected wireless thermostats, battery storage, or electric-vehicle chargers can participate and earn incentives ranging from $20 to more than $1,000 a year. The energy company anticipates that, at full enrollment, the collective ability to call on these customers during high-demand periods could have the environmental equivalent effect of taking 20,000 homes off the grid.

EforAll Holyoke Seeks Mentors for Summer Business Accelerator

HOLYOKE — EforAll Holyoke is actively seeking both English- and Spanish-speaking volunteers to participate as mentors in the summer 2020 business accelerator program. Accelerator mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and use their business and leadership experience to guide new entrepreneurs through the process of turning their idea into a growing business. Mentors work in teams of three and are matched with an entrepreneur based on schedule availability and the desire to work together. The team meets as a group to help reaffirm topics and themes raised during classes, while also strategizing with the entrepreneur on how to reach their specific goals during the program. This is a high-touch, year-long commitment. Mentor teams have 90-minute, in-person meetings for three months and then meet once a month for the following nine months. Anyone interested can e-mail [email protected] for more information.

Company Notebook

Charter Oak Financial Merges with Two Firms

HOLYOKE — Charter Oak Financial, MassMutual Greater Long Island, and MassMutual Greater Hudson have combined. The expanded firm will operate as Charter Oak Financial and will be led by managing partners Brendan Naughton and Brad Somma. The consolidation is part of a strategic plan to extend Charter Oak’s reach and leverage highly skilled resources to create the scale and infrastructure needed to deliver an enhanced client experience. Charter Oak now includes 375 advisors and a team of more than 100 specialists and staff servicing clients from offices across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The combination also bolsters existing presence in the Chinatowns of Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Naughton and Somma have been industry colleagues since 2001 and bring a combined 30 years of financial-services expertise to their leadership roles. Naughton joined Charter Oak in 2005 as a managing director for the firm’s Stamford office. He filled that role until 2009, when he was appointed managing partner. Somma was a managing director with Charter Oak from 2008 until 2012, when he was appointed managing partner of MassMutual Greater Long Island.

Big Y Donates $215,742 to Breast-cancer Groups

SPRINGFIELD — In order to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer, all Big Y supermarkets donated proceeds from their October initiative “Partners of Hope” to 29 breast-cancer treatment and support organizations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. During the month-long campaign, Big Y raised $215,742. The 29 recipients included eight organizations in Western Mass.: Protect our Breasts in Amherst; the Pink Way in Ludlow; Survivor Journeys in Longmeadow; Cancer Connection and Cooley Dickinson Hospital, both in Northampton; Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield; and Baystate Health Foundation/Rays of Hope and Mercy Medical Center, both in Springfield. Big Y donated a portion of the proceeds from both the Floral and Produce departments during October, and 5 cents for each Big Y, Top Care, Full Circle, Simply Done, Paws Happy Life, Pure Harmony, @Ease, Tippy Toes, and Culinary Tours brand products purchased between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10 (excluding random-weight items). The Big Y Butcher Shops also donated 10 cents from every pound of all-natural angus beef and Big Y Smart Chicken sold during the entire month of October. Big Y Pharmacy & Wellness Center donated $5 for every flu shot given. Every store promoted Partners of Hope pink ribbons for $1 for the month of October as a way of generating additional proceeds for local breast-cancer organizations throughout the two states. In addition, Big Y’s dietitian team, Carrie Taylor and Andrea Luttrell, devoted a portion of their fall newsletter to cancer prevention. Since 2007, Big Y has raised more than $2 million to support local breast-cancer initiatives.

The Starting Gate at GreatHorse Honored by WeddingWire

HAMPDEN — The Starting Gate at GreatHorse was announced a winner of the 2020 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards, an accolade representing the top wedding professionals across the board in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism reviewed by couples on WeddingWire. For its 12th annual Couples’ Choice Awards, WeddingWire analyzed reviews across more than 20 service categories, from venues and caterers to florists and photographers, to find the most highly rated vendors of the year. These winners exhibit superior professionalism, responsiveness, service, and quality when interacting with the millions of consumers who turn to WeddingWire each month to help ease their wedding-planning process. Wedding professionals who win WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards are members of WeddingPro, the leading B2B wedding brand.

EANE Offers Study Classes for HR Certification Tests

AGAWAM — Perfect distance vision is commonly referred to as 20/20 vision. As a new year begins, the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) wants to help those in the human resources (HR) field sharpen their visions for career growth. HR certifications from HRCI or SHRM indicate that an individual possesses a knowledge and understanding of what HR professionals at various levels are expected to know and do on the job. The certification exams require a combination of experience and preparation in order to be successful. EANE provides a proven study process for these exams. The national pass rates for the HRCI or SHRM certification tests is about 50%. That pass rate increases to nearly 90% for those who have studied with an EANE HR certification study group. EANE’s winter study group sessions begin in February. The $995 registration covers enrollment in the 10-week class that meets from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, as well as all necessary study materials. Dinner is provided at the study classes, which are led by EANE’s certified HR professionals. Learn more about EANE’s study classes at www.eane.org/hr-certification-study.

Swift River Building New Pharmacy at Home Campus

CUMMINGTON — Swift River, a member of the Addiction Campuses treatment centers, announced the opening of a new pharmacy. The construction project began in 2019 and is expected to be completed this month. Swift River has teamed up with Keiter Builders Inc. based in Florence, and Kuhn Riddle Architects of Amherst to lead in the design and construction of a new, 1,690-square-foot addition. The addition is a B-use occupancy including a nurse’s station, patient-service portals, exam rooms, and a pharmacy for the storage and dispensing of narcotic addition-treatment substances. The project is regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and meets relevant standards, including an alarm system, security cameras, motion and sound detectors, and limited key-access entry points.

GCC, Double Edge Theatre Announce Collaboration

GREENFIELD — This spring, Greenfield Community College (GCC) and Double Edge Theatre will embark on a formal collaboration to grow the role of visual and performing arts within the college and Franklin County. Kicking off with an experimental-performance class taught by Double Edge at GCC next semester, this partnership will evolve into a multi-year endeavor to engage a diverse mix of students and community members in longer productions and spectacles. Founded in Boston in 1982 as a feminist ensemble and laboratory for the creative process, Double Edge has been an integral part of the community in Ashfield for the past 25 years. Located on a 105-acre former dairy farm, the theatre welcomes people from around the world to come study, move, perform, produce, and explore the intersection of art and social justice. Over 700 students have come through the company’s rigorous and intensive training. Artistic home to a multitude of passions, skills, and interests, Double Edge attracts thousands of theater-goers every year. Shows are sold out months in advance, and the company has brought its imaginative and visceral work across the U.S. and as far as Central Europe, South America, and Norway.

Cosmetology Student Salon at STCC Accepting Clients

SPRINGFIELD — Need a haircut or manicure? How about a scalp treatment? Consider stopping by the Cosmetology Student Salon at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC). The salon, located in Building 20, Room 217, is open to clients Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays for walk-ins 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a nominal fee for services. No appointment is necessary. Students can assist with haircuts, styling, scalp treatments, conditioning treatments, manicures, and paraffin hand treatments. A Redken Professional School, the student salon uses and sells Redken and Matrix professional products. Students in the salon are enrolled in the cosmetology program at STCC, which teaches the art, science, and business aspects of the cosmetology profession. Students who successfully complete the two-semester program will receive a certificate in cosmetology. All students who work in the lab have completed certain requirements mandated by the Massachusetts Cosmetology Rules and Regulations. For more information, call the salon at (413) 755-4837. To learn more, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/cosm.crt.

Fresh Paint Releases Economic-impact Report

SPRINGFIELD — Fresh Paint Springfield, the first-ever downtown mural festival that took place in June 2019 and transformed 10 large exterior walls into art, has released a report on the positive economic impact that occurred in Springfield from last year’s festival. Fresh Paint Springfield has also announced plans for a 2020 festival, which is set to take place June 1-13, 2020 and will paint exterior walls in Mason Square and downtown Springfield. Nominations for 2020 murals on walls in Mason Square or downtown can be made at www.freshpaintspringfield.com/walls. The economic-impact study involved a team of specialists from the UMass Design Center and Jessica Payne Consulting to measure concrete participatory, financial, cultural, community, and environmental outcomes of the festival. The full report can be downloaded at www.freshpaintspringfield.com. The study found that Fresh Paint Springfield stimulated new investment in the downtown community and showcased the connection between public art and economic development. The resulting economic impact to Springfield was $361,481. The study also found that business owners benefited from an uptick in revenue during the festival, and the murals permanently improved the walkability of downtown. All business owners reported that sponsoring the festival was a good use of city and state economic-development funds, and would like to see Fresh Paint Springfield happen again. Respondents also overwhelmingly agreed that the murals and festival events valued public art and built a greater sense of community. The festival drew 12 sponsors, including foundations, nonprofits, municipal agencies, and businesses.

Company Notebook

Westmass Moves Corporate Offices to Downtown Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Westmass Area Development Corp. announced the opening of its new corporate offices in downtown Springfield. Located at One Monarch Place, Suite 1350, the new offices will host all corporate functions of Westmass with capacity to continue regional awareness and growth. The new office location will enable Westmass to continue to brand itself as a regional development company focusing on opportunities in real estate and economic development in Western Mass. “An opportunity to move into downtown Springfield is great for Westmass,” said Jeff Daley, president and CEO. “We look to expand our market throughout Western Mass. for real-estate development opportunities as well as working with municipalities and private developers providing consulting services to assist with the technical details of real estate and economic-development projects in Western Mass.” He noted that Westmass also maintains offices at Ludlow Mills. “As a nationally recognized brownfield-redevelopment site and the marquee project in our portfolio, with hundreds of residents and employees living and working at the Mills, it is important to not only have our facilities management office there, but to house our expanding leasing and marketing departments as well.”

Florence Bank Unveils Renovated Easthampton Branch

EASTHAMPTON — Florence Bank has completed a renovation of the interior and drive-through at its existing Easthampton branch at 5 Main St. The renovation is part of Florence Bank’s ongoing effort to align its physical branch locations with modern banking offerings and customer needs. The Easthampton renovation included interior updates and modernizations, along with two new ATMs. Florence Bank is a full-service, mutually owned bank based in Florence and has served the Easthampton community for 20 years. It first merged with Easthampton Cooperative Bank and expanded and remodeled its present location on Main Street in 1999. The Easthampton location serves more than 6,400 customers annually. The renovations were intended to maintain the branch’s charm while also embracing the innovative design of Florence Bank’s newly constructed locations. The bank partnered with the following local contractors on the project: HAI Architecture in Northampton, Pioneer Contractors in Easthampton, Broadway Office Interiors in Springfield, Fine Woodworks Millwork in South Hadley, Mercier Carpets in West Springfield, and Grimaldi Painting in East Longmeadow. Inside, the lobby, teller line, and customer-service area were renovated and updated, making the interior brighter and more contemporary. A new digital screen has also been installed to keep customers up to date on bank-wide enhancements and notifications. Outside, two new ATMs are now available, and the drive-up teller equipment was enhanced to provide two-way audio/video communication. Florence Bank opened a branch on Allen Street in Springfield in late 2018. In 2020, the bank will open its newest Hampden County location in Chicopee, expanding its network to 12 locations.

Behavioral Health Network Receives $10,000 Grant from PeoplesBank

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from PeoplesBank to be used for BHN’s Money School program, a financial-independence initiative for survivors of domestic or sexual violence who are also recovering from addiction. PeoplesBank’s grant to BHN will support the operation of the Elizabeth Freeman Center’s Money School program. Money School is an award-winning, trauma-informed, financial-independence initiative designed to create long-term safety and economic security for survivors. Participants are given individually tailored financial and career mentoring as well as intensive advocacy and support for their substance-use recovery and healing in the aftermath of domestic or sexual violence. The program helps survivors achieve and maintain safety, economic independence, and family well-being for themselves and their children. Kathy Wilson, president and CEO of BHN, noted that “much of our work at BHN has to do with supporting and engaging with people as they overcome obstacles and plan a better future for themselves. The Money School program has been particularly effective in helping women to take control of their finances, one of the most difficult challenges for anyone when navigating the long-term impact of domestic violence. We deeply appreciate the resources being provided by PeoplesBank in this vital program that is changing the lives of the women served.” The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that one in four women report experiencing domestic violence. In addition to physical abuse, domestic-violence survivors often experience financial duress, and almost half of domestic-violence victims struggle with substance-use disorders.

Tighe & Bond Opens Office in Portland, Maine

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond Inc. a northeastern leader in engineering and environmental consulting, opened a new office in Portland, Maine this month. The 4,400-square-foot office, located just minutes from Portland City Hall and the Old Port, will allow the firm to better serve its growing base of clients throughout Maine and the region while providing an opportunity to employ professionals native to the area. Senior Project Manager Dan Bisson will provide leadership for Tighe & Bond’s newest office. Bisson has more than 25 years of experience with management, permitting, planning, design, and construction of water infrastructure projects for municipalities, utilities, and private clients. Tighe & Bond’s strategic plan calls for geographic growth to further reinforce its position as a Northeast regional leader in engineering and environmental services. The company is experiencing office expansions and staffing growth in multiple locations throughout the Northeast, adding four offices in the past five years and expanding its Worcester office earlier this year.

Davis Educational Foundation Awards $100,000 to CCGS Joint Purchasing Initiative

LONGMEADOW — The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded the CCGS Joint Purchasing Initiative a $100,000 grant to be distributed over two years. This is the third grant by the Davis Educational Foundation to underwrite this collaborative project. The Joint Purchasing Initiative (JPI) consists of the five private member institutions of the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield (CCGS), including American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, Springfield College, and Western New England University. The goal of the JPI, which will continue to be administered by Bay Path University, is to identify and implement strategic opportunities for collaboration where shared purchasing and shared services in high-cost and high-impact areas will result in significant institutional cost savings across the JPI’s partner institutions, ultimately containing the cost of higher education for students. Since its founding in 2017, the efforts of the JPI have resulted in collective cost savings of nearly $900,000, with varying degrees of savings by institution. During this time, the JPI reduced costs by negotiating better deals on contracted services with vendors, such as student transportation for athletics and van leasing, rental-car agreements, contract management, corporate payment systems, IRB software, employee and student background checks, electricity and solar sources of energy, interpretive and captioning services, medical-waste-disposal services, and computer purchases. With the funding from the latest grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, the next step in the evolution of the JPI is to explore and develop potential plans for shared services, implement best practices, reduce duplication of efforts, and drive efficiency gains with the expertise already existing within the institutions.

HCC Marks 20th Year of Giving Tree Campaign

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) celebrated the 20th anniversary of its annual Giving Tree campaign Thursday, fulfilling the holiday wishes of 375 consumers from four nonprofits that aid and support some of the area’s most at-risk residents. During the campaign’s closing ceremony, HCC students, faculty, and staff gathered with representatives from WestMass Elder Care, Homework House, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), and the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to share food, stories, and gifts. Eleven HCC departments participated in this year’s Fall Food Fest in November, raising $833 for the Giving Tree campaign. The money was used to fulfill 26 gift tags for MSPCC and create gift boxes that included baby wipes, diapers, clothing, books, and toys. Each year during the annual campaign, Giving Trees are set up in designated areas around the HCC campus. Participants choose colored-coded tags from one of the nonprofit agencies based on the age of the recipient and their wish for a gift. The wrapped gifts are then sorted and piled on tables for the closing celebration.

Family Business Center Awards Grand-funded Memberships to Three Women Business Owners

HOLYOKE — At the Family Business Center’s (FBC) December Log Cabin Dinner Forum, Lakisha Coppedge of Coppedge Consulting, Kimberley Betts of Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply, and Sherryla Diola of Mundo Artisan Foods were awarded grant-funded memberships for the 2020 year. This inaugural grant, aimed at supporting women business leaders in Western Mass., was funded by Encharter Insurance. “My goal is to grow our trusted business learning community intentionally, and to increase diversity and inclusion,” said Jessi Kirley, FBC executive director, who collaborated with the women leaders of local partner organizations, including the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, Leadership Pioneer Valley, EforAll, and Valley CDC, for nominations and selection of the award recipients. Added Tracey Benison, president of Encharter Insurance, “women-owned businesses are critical to the success of small business in the Pioneer Valley. As a women-led insurance agency, Encharter looks for meaningful ways to support women-owned businesses. The recipients of the scholarships are standouts in their professions. We are excited to support their continued journey of learning.”

Company Notebook

City, MGM Springfield Win Economic-development Award

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield and the city of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) have received a 2019 Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for the MGM Springfield project. The award was presented by the IEDC last month at its annual conference in October in Indianapolis. The Gold Excellence in Public-Private Partnership Award was presented to Brian Connors, the city’s deputy director of Economic Development, and was the only award category highlighted during the conference keynote event. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative development projects that have significantly enhanced revitalizations. OPED’s team was led through the MGM Springfield project by now-retired Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, and also included Phillip Dromey, deputy director of Planning, and Scott Hanson, principal planner. The MGM Springfield project represented a $960 million private investment, resulting in several new-to-market amenities, including a downtown movie theater, bowling alley, ice-skating rink, four-star hotel, and several new retail and restaurant offerings. In addition, MGM’s commitment to populate existing offsite entertainment facilities became another highlight to economic spinoff, as did the commitment to $50 million each year in spending with local vendors. The project has created several thousand construction and permanent jobs and greatly enhanced local revenues, which helped fund additional public-safety, early-education, and park improvements.

United Personnel Named Among Top 100 Women-led Businesses In Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel announced it has been named one of the top 100 women-led businesses in Massachusetts by the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that supports female business owners. The list, published in the Boston Globe, was developed based on revenue, number of full-time employees in the state, team diversity, and innovation. The rankings feature a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, business services, healthcare, education, human services, and retail. United Personnel was number 75 on the list, and was one of only two companies based in Western Mass. represented. Focused on helping to connect people with job openings at local companies, United Personnel has seen decades of success as a women-led organization. Founded by Mary Ellen Scott in 1984 with her late husband, Jay Canavan, United Personnel is now on its second generation of female leadership under President Tricia Canavan.

Hampshire College Maintains Accreditation, Advances Plans

AMHERST — Hampshire College remains in compliance and will continue its accreditation, according to a vote by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) at its meeting on Nov. 22. NECHE reviewed Hampshire’s progress report and five-year plans before acting to continue the college’s accreditation. The commissioners lifted their notation on Hampshire’s compliance with the standard of organization and governance, citing significant progress in this area. NECHE recognized such progress as the hiring of a new president, substantial achievements with respect to good practices for governing boards, and considerable progress in realistic planning with respect to enrollment, fundraising, and finances. The commissioners continued Hampshire’s notation on the standard of institutional resources and asked the college for a full progress report in two years, in December 2021. A team of Hampshire College administrators and trustees, led by Wingenbach and board chair Luis Hernandez, met with the NECHE commissioners on Nov. 21 and reported that Hampshire’s leadership is secure and its board of trustees governance is strong. The college is actively recruiting new students for 2020, its 50th-anniversary year, as it plans to rebuild to full enrollment by 2023-24. The college has also been conducting a rapid, community-wide process to reinvent its curriculum and student experience. In the coming months, Hampshire will draw on the continued support of its alumni, donors, friends, and community members to meet admissions and fundraising goals. Hampshire College also kicked off a major capital campaign, announcing it has already raised $11.2 million in gifts toward its campaign goal of $60 million by 2024. “Change in the Making: A Campaign for Hampshire” is currently led by four alumni co-chairs: Ken Burns (’71), award-winning documentary filmmaker; Gail Caulkins (’73), president of the Greenacre Foundation and former Hampshire College trustee; Lucy Ann McFadden (’70), retired astrophysicist, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, and a member of the Hampshire board of trustees and chair of its advancement committee; and Julie Schecter (’71), director and trustee of numerous organizations, including the SHIFT Foundation, co-founder of Hampshire’s Ethics and the Common Good program, vice chair of Hampshire’s board of trustees, and chair of its trusteeship and governance committee. The co-chairs are working actively to secure additional major gifts, supported by a campaign council, a diverse group of volunteers that represents the board of trustees, major donors, college leaders, faculty, staff, students, and parents. The campaign is administered by Chief Advancement Officer Jennifer Chrisler and the college’s Advancement Division staff.

People’s United Bank to Close Three Springfield-area Branches

SPRINGFIELD — Following its acquisition of United Bank, People’s United Bank plans to close three Springfield-area branches in April, all of them because they are near other People’s United locations. The closures include the former United branch at 1355 Boston Road in Springfield, the former United Branch at 1414 Main St. in Springfield, and a former Farmington Bank location at 85 Elm St. in West Springfield that People’s United acquired in 2018. All employees have been offered jobs at other People’s United offices. People’s United Financial announced in July it was purchasing United Financial Bancorp for $759 million.

Elms College Ranked in Top 15% of State’s Best Schools for Veterans

CHICOPEE — Elms College ranks in the top 15% of 2020 Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, according to data-analytics company College Factual. The college is also in the top 15% of colleges and universities in the company’s national rankings. In the list of Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, Elms College was rated ninth out of 70 higher-education institutions for veteran friendliness as reviewed by College Factual. Elms improved its standing five slots over last year’s 14th position. According to College Factual’s national list, Elms College moved from the top 25% to the top 15% with a rating of 214 out of 1,751 institutions, improving its position by 225 slots over last year’s standing at 439. This list highlights colleges and universities that are working hard to provide quality educational outcomes to veterans, active-duty military students, and their families, College Factual stated. Some of the factors taken into account by College Factual include affordability to veterans, support services, and resources specific to the needs of veterans, whether they are traditional or non-traditional students.

UMassFive Opens Branch at Northampton VA Medical Center

NORTHAMPTON — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union introduced its newest branch location at the Northampton VA Medical Center. As of October, the Northampton VAF Federal Credit Union has formally merged with UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, and former Northampton VAF members have transitioned to banking with UMassFive. With this merger, current employees of the Northampton VA Medical Center and their immediate family members are now eligible for UMassFive membership. Along with the merger, the existing credit-union branch located in Building 1, Room B204 of the Northampton VA Medical Center has been completely renovated. The new, open floor plan includes seated service areas where UMassFive representatives can provide members access to a range of credit-union products and services, including checking, auto loans, home-equity loans, solar loans, mortgages, credit cards, and investment guidance. The space also now features a video teller machine that can be accessed in the branch entryway, and allows members to perform video transactions with UMassFive tellers, even while the branch is closed. As with other UMassFive locations, members at the Northampton VA branch will have access to free financial workshops on topics like budgeting essentials, homebuying, identity theft, and planning for retirement. The hours for this new UMassFive branch are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Off-hours access to the lobby video teller machine are available when the building and basement are open, and during regular video-teller hours. Any credit or debit card may be swiped for after-hours entry.

Freedom Credit Union Launches Cherish the Children Campaign

SPRINGFIELD — To a child in need, one special gift can be a holiday wish come true. That’s the spirit behind Freedom Credit Union’s 12th annual Cherish the Children campaign, which provides presents to hundreds of local children in time for the holidays. Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered on Main Street in Springfield and serving members throughout Western Mass. through 10 additional branches, will host this year’s endeavor through Dec. 23. Equipped with ‘wish lists’ of names, ages, and gift ideas from the local area offices of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), FCU aims to provide gifts for a total of 600 children in need. From the wish lists, FCU has produced a tag for each child, which they will place on holiday trees at all Freedom branches, excluding the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. Employees and members are encouraged to choose one or more tags from a tree, purchase the item the child has requested, bring it to the branch (unwrapped and with tag attached), and place it under the tree. Monetary donations are also welcome, as FCU’s own ‘elves’ will be going on a festive shopping spree at local stores that provide them a discount for this campaign.

Yankee Home Improvement Holds Annual Food Drive

CHICOPEE — For the second year in a row, Yankee Home is engaging customers in a pay-it-forward event to provide food for those in need this holiday season. For every non-perishable food item donated, Yankee Home will give customers 1% off the cost of their home-improvement service, up to 10%. All food items will be donated to Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts that works to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste in the community. Through the end of December, Yankee Home will be accepting non-perishable food items Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its 36 Justin Dr. headquarters in Chicopee. While the discount is capped at 10% of the total cost of the service, people are encouraged to donate as much as they can. The discount applies to installed, new work only. A Yankee Home specialist can provide complete details.

Florence Bank Receives Award From U.S. Small Business Administration

FLORENCE — Florence Bank was recently recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the Western Massachusetts Third Party Lender of the Year for loans the bank administers to small businesses in the area. Michael Davey and Erin Couture, both vice presidents and commercial loan officers with the bank, accepted the award on Nov. 8 at an event held during SBA’s annual meeting at Clark University in Worcester. Davey explained that third-party loans, called SBA 504 loans, are offered by the bank in collaboration with certified development corporations such as Granite State Development Corp., Bay Colony Development Corp., and BDC Capital/CDC New England. He said the program allows small-business owners who might be lacking the traditional 20% down payment to purchase business property with only 10% down, while also reducing the bank’s exposure to risk.

Company Notebook

HCC, C3RN Launch Cannabis Education Center

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) and the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) recently announced the creation of the Cannabis Education Center to provide education and training opportunities and other business resources to individuals in the region who want to work in the state’s newly legalized cannabis industry. HCC and C3RN are designated training partners through the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Vendor Training program. The program was designed to provide priority access, training, and technical assistance to those negatively impacted by the drug war. The Cannabis Education Center will be managed out of HCC’s Kittredge Center and provide academic advising and workforce training, public education events that highlight entrepreneurship and workforce development, entrepreneurship events for those interested in joining the cannabis industry as a startup company, and social-equity training for applicants qualified through the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Training program. More information about these programs will be posted soon on the Cannabis Education Center’s website, cannabiseducationcenter.org. The Cannabis Education Center will also be running four previously announced certificate programs for specific jobs in the cannabis industry: cannabis culinary assistant, cannabis retail/patient advocate, cannabis cultivation assistant, and cannabis extraction technician assistant. The first of those programs, cannabis culinary assistant, will begin on Jan. 11, 2020, at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. Each certificate program will consist of 96 hours of instruction, half of which will be held on the HCC campus with the other half conducted through C3RN’s internship program with participating dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers, and ancillary businesses. C3RN and HCC will also be running five courses for the entrepreneurship track in the Social Equity Program starting Saturday, Nov. 23 at HCC’s Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center, 206 Maple St., Holyoke. The first two-session class, set for Nov. 23-24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will focus on business-plan creation and development.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County Receives Mentoring Matching Grant

GREENFIELD — Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding quality youth mentoring in Massachusetts, is awarding $869,000 in mentoring matching grants to mentoring and youth-serving organizations across the state. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County is one of only 44 organizations chosen to receive a grant. These funds were approved by the state Legislature in the FY 2020 budget and are the only state funding dedicated to the mentoring field. MMP worked closely with legislative and community partners in advocating for the money, which represents a 110% increase over the last two years. The Mass Mentoring Partnership matching grant is used to make and support one-to-one mentoring matches that help ignite the power and promise of Franklin County youth. The mentoring matching grants are managed by MMP, with oversight from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and are intended to improve students’ attitudes towards school. Research has shown that young people who are in mentoring relationships show improved academic performance, better school attendance, and a greater chance of going on to higher education. Despite this compelling evidence, there remains a shortage of mentors, with research suggesting that one in three young people will grow up without one. This year’s grants are expected to create and support more than 3,200 high-quality mentor and mentee matches in schools and youth-serving programs statewide.

Eversource Partners with United Way on Programs

SPRINGFIELD — As part of its commitment to the health of all Bay State communities and economic development across the state, Eversource presented Massachusetts United Way agencies with contributions totaling more than $930,000 this year that support programs and services for hundreds of thousands of residents around the state. In total, Eversource and thousands of the company’s employees across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut contributed more than $2.2 million to the United Way in 2019 to support after-school programs, health clinics, workforce-development programs, weatherization for low-income homeowners, and more. Eversource’s contributions to agencies throughout the state include a corporate gift of more than $515,000 as well as $410,000 in personal contributions made by Massachusetts employees during the company’s annual giving campaign for the United Way. Additionally, Eversource employees across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut have volunteered more than 1,300 hours in partnership with the United Way to serve hundreds of nonprofits throughout New England.

Westfield Bank to Open Bloomfield, Conn. Location

WESTFIELD — James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western New England Bancorp Inc., announced that the bank will open a new branch office in Bloomfield, Conn. in mid-2020. The bank will open a full-service branch in the Copaco Center shopping plaza on Cottage Grove Road. The office will include lobby and safe-deposit services, an image-technology ATM, and multiple drive-through teller lanes. The bank looks forward to breaking ground as soon as it secures the necessary permits and approvals, with construction being facilitated by AmCap Inc., the property owner and manager, and Borghesi Building and Engineering Co. Inc. of Torrington. Plans are subject to regulatory approval. The Bloomfield location will follow a new Financial Services Center, which is expected to open in West Hartford Center earlier in 2020. In addition to a full-service branch, the West Hartford Financial Services Center will include a suite of offices for residential lending, commercial lending, and business and government deposit services. Representatives of these departments currently occupy temporary space at 977 Farmington Ave. to assist with their community-outreach activities.

Levellers Press Named a Manufacturers of the Year

AMHERST — Levellers Press in Amherst received a Manufacturer of the Year Award at the fourth annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony at the State House on Oct. 22. Collective Copies, a collectively managed and worker-owned printing company, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its publishing wing, Levellers Press, on Sept. 18. Levellers’ beginning was marked by the launch of its first title, Robert H. Romer’s Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts, still one of its bestsellers. One hundred titles later, it has expanded its book-printing and distribution capabilities with Off the Common Books to help self-publishing authors get their books out in a more collaborative way than is possible through the big vendors. Levellers offers a wide selection of printing papers and welcomes input from authors throughout the layout and design process. Levellers Press is a member of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers and was nominated by state Rep. Mindy Domb. The award ceremony was sponsored by the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. Along with Levellers Press, 76 manufacturers were recognized for truly ‘making it’ in Massachusetts.

‘Best Law Firms’ Ranks 11 Bulkley Richardson Practice Areas in Top Tier

SPRINGFIELD — Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News and World Report, has included Bulkley Richardson in its 2020 list of “Best Law Firms,” ranking the firm in the top tier for the most practice areas of any Springfield law firm. The 2020 “Best Law Firms” list ranks Bulkley Richardson in the following 11 practice areas: bankruptcy and creditor debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law, bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, corporate law, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white-collar, litigation – labor and employment, medical malpractice law – defendants, personal injury litigation – defendants, tax law, and trusts and estates law. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer included in Best Lawyers. Bulkley Richardson has 12 of its lawyers included on the 2020 Best Lawyers list, the most from any Springfield law firm. Three of the firm’s partners were also named 2020 Springfield Lawyer of the Year: Michael Burke, David Parke, and John Pucci. The rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations and peer reviews from leading attorneys in their field.

UMassFive College Federal Credit Union Honored with Award

BOSTON — During the recent Empower U conference in Boston, Credit Union Student Choice presented its third annual Honor Roll Award to UMassFive College Federal Credit Union. The award recognizes excellence in higher-education financing and is given to the winning financial institution in conjunction with a $5,000 Chip Filson Scholarship, which may be awarded by the credit union to an outstanding student-member of its choice. The scholarship was given to UMassFive College Federal Credit Union in honor of Chip Filson, a credit-union industry icon and former Student Choice board member, who played an influential role in the founding and ongoing development of Credit Union Student Choice.

Mellon Foundation Awards Five Colleges $800,000 for Online Museum Collections

AMHERST — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the Five College Consortium $800,000 to reimagine the way museum collaborations can share their online collections with each other and the world. The current shared collections database at Five Colleges was developed more than 20 years ago, and this commitment to a consortial database has enriched collaboration across the Five Colleges and opened up discovery and access to museum collections for students, faculty, staff, and the public. It remains one of the few collections databases in the country that is shared among several museums, but with advancements in technology and new accessibility needs on the part of the user, this database has revealed its age and limitations. These facts, combined with Five Colleges’ long history of collaboration, was what originally led the Mellon Foundation to request a grant proposal from the consortium. The museums that are a part of the current collections database are the Hampshire College Art Gallery, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the Smith College Museum of Art, the University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass Amherst, and Historic Deerfield, an independent museum that works closely with the campuses. The award from the Mellon Foundation’s Arts and Cultural Heritage program is a 30-month planning grant that will be used to assess the museums’ collections-management needs.

Melanson Heath Joins BDO Alliance USA

NASHUA, N.H. — Melanson Heath has joined the BDO Alliance USA, a nationwide association of independently owned local and regional accounting, consulting, and service firms with similar client service goals. As an independent member of the BDO Alliance USA, Melanson Heath can expand the services offered to clients by drawing on the resources of BDO USA, LLP, one of the nation’s leading professional-services firms, and other Alliance members. The firm serves clients through more than 60 offices and 550 independent Alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent member firm of BDO International Ltd., BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of more than 73,000 people working out of 1,500 offices in more than 162 countries. The BDO Alliance USA enhances member-firm capabilities through the availability of supplementary professional services, comprehensive management-consulting services, focused industry knowledge, customized state-of-the-art computer systems, and internal training programs.

Way Finders Breaks Ground on Library Commons Apartments

HOLYOKE — Way Finders held a groundbreaking ceremony for its Library Commons development, which will include 38 affordable apartments, support services, and retail and cultural spaces, on Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. at Holyoke Public Library. The development will feature 23 two-bedroom apartments and 15 three-bedroom apartments. The complex also features on-site laundry facilities, two wheelchair-accessible apartments, and 54 off-street parking spaces, and is a short walk to child-care centers, transportation, and schools. Way Finders has also developed a partnership with the Care Center on Roqué House, a first-of-its-kind facility in the Commonwealth that will provide 10 two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments for families headed by young parents who are full-time students. Library Commons is comprised of two rehabilitated historical buildings and one newly constructed building. Way Finders’ services will be made available on-site. There will also be meeting space, classrooms, and an art studio/gallery available to all Library Commons residents. The architect for the project is Dietz & Co. Architects Inc., and the contractor is NL Construction Inc.

Girls on the Run Completes Successful Autumn Auction

NORTHAMPTON — Girls on the Run of Western Massachusetts reported a successful Autumn Auction on Oct. 19. The event raised enough money to fund five more teams in Western Mass. Mill 180 Park in Easthampton donated the space and all the food for the event, while 70 items were donated by local business, and a cake was donated by Small Oven. Girls on the Run is a youth-development program that uses fun running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8. Participants develop and improve competence, feel confidence in who they are, develop strength of character, respond to others and themselves with care, create positive connections with peers and adults, and make a meaningful contribution to community and society. The next event is the GOTR 5K at Smith College on Saturday, Nov. 23 starting at 10:30 a.m. This event is open to the public.

Company Notebook

AIC Gets High Marks in College Salary Report

SPRINGFIELD — PayScale, a Seattle-based software company that performs compensation research, including pay-scale indices and employee engagement, recently released its 2019-20 College Salary Report, ranking American International College (AIC) 39th in the country for health science and nursing programs when considering salary growth. The annual report, based on the salaries of 3.5 million college graduates, provides estimates of early and mid-career pay for 2,500 associate and bachelor’s degree-granting institutions. For health science and nursing programs, PayScale examined 679 institutions offering four-year degrees. At number 39, AIC ranks in the top 6% of the colleges and universities reviewed. “We are very proud of the dedication, motivation, commitment, and diversity of the students in our health sciences programs, including nursing, exercise science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health, who strive to be the very best,” said Karen Rousseau, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “Central to American International College’s mission is to provide access, opportunity, and inter-professional collaboration to scholars in the School of Health Sciences, which will serve them well in their career goals as they advance in their chosen fields.” PayScale pioneers the use of big data and unique matching algorithms to power the world’s most advanced compensation platform and continues to be the compensation market leader based on user reviews.

Square One Receives $25,000 Grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. The grant is part $1 million the Tufts Health Plan Foundation is donating to area nonprofits that are focused on health equity and the social determinants of health in honor of Tufts Health Plan’s 40th anniversary and its longstanding tradition of giving back to the community. “It is a true honor to be recognized by Tufts Health Plan Foundation in such a meaningful and generous way,” said Joan Kagan, Square One President and CEO. “Each and every day, our families are impacted by health disparities and social determinants of health. With these funds, we will continue to seek out creative and effective ways to support the physical, social, and mental health and well-being of our children and families.” The $25,000 grants — 10 in each of the states where Tufts Health Plan serves members — support a range of nonprofit organizations doing exemplary work to promote community health and wellness. “We recognize that nonprofit organizations are on the front lines of service and play a crucial role in building stronger and healthier communities for all of us,” said Tom Croswell, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan. “These angel grants are a way of saying ‘thank you’ to Square One and other organizations addressing the economic and social conditions that influence the health of our diverse communities and helping them to keep up the great work they do.” The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has given more than $35 million to community organizations since 2008 and will give nearly $5 million in community grants this year.

KeyBank Recognized as a Leading Disability Employer

CLEVELAND — For the third year, KeyBank was recognized by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) as a Leading Disability Employer. “We are honored to accept this award from the NOD, a leader in inclusion for people with disabilities,” said Kim Manigault, chief Diversity and Inclusion officer. “Inclusion is intentional. This award reflects the work across many lines of business and partnerships that provide supportive experiences for people with disabilities who engage with and work for KeyBank.”

Jewish Family Service Receives $250,000 Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) has been awarded a competitive two-year $250,000 Citizenship and Assimilation Grant from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This grant will allow JFS to expand its current citizenship program to better serve prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life in Hampden County. The fiscal-year 2019 grants, which run through September 2021, promote prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life by funding educational programs designed to increase their knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics. “Our country welcomes legal immigrants from all over the world who come to the United States, positively contribute to our society, and engage in American civic life,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Immigrants who assimilate, embrace our Constitution, understand our history, and abide by our laws add to the vitality and strength of this great nation. Through this grant program, USCIS continues to support efforts to prepare immigrants to become fully vested U.S. citizens.” JFS is one of 41 organizations in 24 states to receive nearly $10 million in funding to support citizenship-preparation services. Now in its 11th year, the USCIS Citizenship and Assimilation Grant program has helped more than 245,000 lawful, permanent residents prepare for citizenship. A ‘permanent resident’ is a person authorized by the US government to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Junior Achievement Wins Community Partner Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM) was recognized recently by Massachusetts’ Department of Youth Services (DYS) for its work with local youth. DYS, the juvenile-justice agency for the Commonwealth, gave JAWM the 2019 Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Community Partner in the Western Region at a ceremony on Oct. 4 in Dorchester. JAWM, which provides workforce-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy programs to K-12 youth, was nominated by Sharon Bess, youth employment development specialist at the Center for Human Development (CHD) in Springfield. Bess wrote in her nomination that “Junior Achievement has allowed us to introduce career readiness and financial literacy in a unique way that leaves a lasting impact on our young people and creates a foundation toward positive change to their futures.” CHD is a nonprofit that delivers social and mental-health services to people in Western Mass. and Connecticut. “We’re honored to be recognized with this Community Partner award,” said Jennifer Connolly, president of JAWM. “Starting in 2005, our partnership with CHD helped establish their Exclusive Tees program by introducing local high-school students to the JA Be Entrepreneurial program and the JA Company program. Our partnership also established the Teen Reality Fair, which provides high-school students with information on career opportunities and introduces financial literacy in a hands-on, eye-opening fashion. It’s always a pleasure to work with the youth and the staff at CHD.”

Country Bank Receives Award for Marketing Video

WARE — Country Bank was recognized for its “Pioneers” video at the American Bankers Assoc. Bank Marketing Conference in Austin, Texas. “Pioneers” competed against hundreds of national video submissions, winning first place in its category. The winners were selected by bank marketing professionals who judged the entries based on creativity, production value, and overall messaging. “We were so honored to receive this award; ‘Pioneers’ truly portrays the hardworking communities that we serve in such an impactful way. The imagery captured local landscapes, people, and businesses, which resulted in a genuinely moving video for us,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president of Marketing at Country Bank. “The closing line, ‘even hard work needs a partner,’ supports the bank’s belief that relationships are life’s most valuable investments.” When the bank decided to create new videos last summer, it turned to its agency partner, Small Army, to develop a storyline that would truly represent both Central and Western Mass., she added. “We could not be more grateful to our agency for creating a true representation of Country Bank’s local communities.”

Employer Confidence Holds Steady in September

BOSTON — Business confidence remained essentially flat in Massachusetts during September despite a darkening outlook among manufacturers. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.2 points to 58.9 last month after retreating in August. The Index has lost 3.7 points since September 2018 but remains within optimistic territory. The September reading was weighed down by weakening sentiment among Bay State manufacturers. The Index’s manufacturing component dropped 2.4 points in September and 7.9 points for the year. The results mirrored the national Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, which fell to its lowest level since 2009 last month. A separate report by IHS Markit showed that the manufacturing sector suffered its worst quarter since 2009, though activity increased during September. The constituent indicators that make up the Index were mixed during September. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth fell 0.6 points to 63.3, while the U.S. Index rose to 56.5. The Massachusetts reading has decreased 1.2 points and the U.S. reading has fallen 7.1 points during the past 12 months. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 0.5 points to 56.4, leaving it 4.4 points lower than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 0.8 points to 61.3 — 3.0 points lower than its reading of September 2018. The Employment Index rose a point for the month but remained down 3.1 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy. Non-manufacturers (61.9) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Large companies (60.2) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (59.9) or small companies (55.4), reversing a trend established during the summer. Companies in Eastern Mass. (62.6) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (53.8).

Briefcase

Bradley Begins Construction on New Ground Transportation Center

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont, state leaders, Connecticut Airport Authority officials, and project stakeholders held a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of Bradley International Airport’s new Ground Transportation Center on July 18. The new facility, spanning 1.4 million square feet across 13.4 acres, will be located west of the existing short-term and long-term parking garage, with a direct connection to Terminal A. Its major features will include convenient rental-car services across from Terminal A, additional public parking, and improved access to public transportation, including a dedicated area that will be used to receive high-frequency buses connecting the airport to the CTrail line, as well as regional bus services. The construction phase will be completed over the next three years and will cost approximately $210 million, which is being entirely financed by customer facility-charge revenues. In anticipation of the construction of the new Ground Transportation Center, several enabling projects were initiated in 2018 to prepare the site for construction. These projects focused on the realignment of roadways and the addition of a new intersection. Additional enabling projects will commence in the late summer and will be publicized in the coming weeks.

Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at 3.0% in June

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate in June remained unchanged at 3.0%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 9,800 jobs in June. Over the month, the private sector added 8,400 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, financial activities, manufacturing, information, and trade, transportation, and utilities. Government added jobs over the month. From June 2018 to June 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 35,500 jobs. The June unemployment rate was seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force decreased by 2,100 from 3,840,900 in May, as 1,700 fewer residents were employed and 500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents age 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped one-tenth of a percentage point at 67.7% over the month. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in education and health services, information, leisure and hospitality, and other services.

Adam Quenneville Seeks Nominations for No Roof Left Behind Program

SOUTH HADLEY — When hard times fall on a local family, caring people in the community want to help. No Roof Left Behind is a nationwide program that gives good neighbors a chance to nominate a deserving homeowner to receive a free new roof. It also provides a local contractor the framework to provide a new roof at no cost. Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding Inc. has participated in the No Roof Left Behind program since 2014, and will do so again this year. Online nominations will be accepted from local people who know someone in dire need of a new roof in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties from Aug. 2 through Aug. 23, and then the public will vote online for the 2019 winner. To submit a nomination, visit noroofleftbehind.com. Each participant must upload a photo and brief story about someone who needs a new roof. Volunteers will review the nominees and select four finalists. From Aug. 26 through Sept. 13, the public will vote for the winner online. Finalists will be revealed, and the public will vote online for the 2019 winner, who will be revealed on Oct. 11.

MassDevelopment Provides $310,000 for Real-estate Projects Across State

BOSTON — MassDevelopment announced up to $310,000 in funding for 10 projects through its Real Estate Technical Assistance program. Under this program, through a combination of in-house expertise and contracts with consultants, MassDevelopment works with municipal officials, planners, local stakeholders, and others to address site-specific and district-wide economic-development challenges. The technical-assistance funds will support a range of projects, from feasibility studies to master-planning efforts. Locally, the town of Greenfield will use one of the awards to prepare a market assessment and operational analysis of proposed uses in the First National Bank and Trust building. This follows a feasibility study that consultant Taylor Burns completed in June. The other local award will be given to the city of Holyoke to develop architectural and financial analyses to determine the cost of rehabilitation of the former National Guard Armory at 163 Sargeant St. Findings from the analyses will help the city secure additional funding needed to move the project forward.

Company Notebook

Eversource Receives Award for Supporting Employees in the Military

BOSTON — Eversource Energy has been selected as a winner of the 2019 Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the government’s highest honor for a company for its support of employees who participate in the U.S. National Guard and Reserves. Eversource is one of only 15 companies nationwide that were selected among more than 2,400 nominations. The award is the result of the perseverance of Bill Gelinas, a control-room supervisor for Eversource in Berlin, Conn. Gelinas wanted to show his appreciation for the support he received from the company and its employees throughout his 15-year military service, which included four overseas deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Gelinas said he was deeply touched by the warmth and support he has received from his Eversource colleagues, especially during his numerous deployments. Each time he went overseas, he was overwhelmed by thoughtful care packages and almost daily encouraging e-mails from employees and company leaders. It also made him empathetic of other soldiers who didn’t have a support system like he did. The Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is administered by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program that since 1966 has promoted relations and understanding between military reservists and their civilian employers. The winning companies will be invited to Washington, D.C. to receive the award from the Secretary of Defense at a ceremony held at the Pentagon in August.

Holyoke Mall Celebrates 40th Anniversary

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mall marked its 40th anniversary on July 5. Since opening in 1979, Holyoke Mall has established itself as the largest shopping destination in Western Mass., currently offering more than 150 dining, entertainment, and retail destinations. Throughout the last 40 years, Pyramid Management Group has continued to adapt, evolve, and thrive in an ever-changing market. In 1995, the shopping center expanded, adding an additional 500,000 square feet, and welcomed big-box tenants such as Best Buy and Target. Traditionally located in free-standing or strip-mall locations, the addition of these anchor tenants began an industry-wide trend. Over the years, Holyoke Mall has welcomed Massachusetts’ first Hobby Lobby, and the Xfinity Store, Toys R Us, and Christmas Tree Shops’ first in-mall locations. The center also continues to attract and expand its dining and entertainment options, most recently adding 110 Grill, Flight Fit N Fun, Round1 Bowling & Amusement, and Sumo Japanese Steakhouse. Stores celebrating 40 years at Holyoke Mall include American Eagle, Foot Locker, Gap, GNC, JCPenney, Kay Jewelers, Motherhood Maternity, and the Greek Place.

Florence Bank a Winner in 2019 Banking Choice Awards

FLORENCE — Florence Bank accepted three of the four potential awards for banking excellence in Western Mass. and took part in a panel discussion at the Bank Best Expo! at MGM Springfield on June 28. As part of the 2019 Banking Choice Awards review by 278,359 independent consumers in a double-blind scientific study, Florence Bank came out on top in Western Mass. in almost every category. At the expo, Monica Curhan, the bank’s senior vice president and Marketing director, accepted two first-place awards, for customer service and overall quality, and a second-place honor for excellence in technology and tools. Curhan also sat on a panel of bankers whose institutions consistently rank at the top in independent consumer surveys to discuss best industry practices. She was joined by Stephen Lewis, president of Thomaston Savings Bank and chairman of the Connecticut Bankers Assoc.; Todd Tallman, president and treasurer of Cornerstone Bank in Massachusetts; and Mark Bodin, president of Savings Bank of Walpole in New Hampshire. The Banking Choice Awards recognize banks that receive the highest ratings from their own customers in four categories: customer service, technology, community contribution, and overall quality.

Different Leaf Magazine Announces Premiere Issue

NORTHAMPTON — July marks the publication of the premiere issue of Different Leaf magazine, a journal of cannabis culture. Targeted to readers 45 and over, Different Leaf’s editorial content covers the rapidly evolving cannabis industry in Massachusetts and makes it accessible for consumers who are new to cannabis and those looking for new ways to integrate it into their lives. Launching with a quarterly publication schedule, regular features in Different Leaf will include “Merch + More,” a roundup of cannabis products from Massachusetts and beyond including smoking accessories, THC and CBD products, and books. The back of the book contains practical, educational information on using cannabis for health and wellness, cooking, nutrition, fitness, sexuality, pets, and more. Features will look in depth at innovators in the industry, medical news, and social and cultural issues surrounding the legalization of cannabis. Different Leaf will depart from the more traditional publishing model of posting text-based content online and will instead launch a companion podcast series with the October issue. The podcast will expand on the topics in the print magazine and delve into issues and stories that don’t mesh with a print publication timetable. A calendar of events that tie into the print publication is also planned.

Bay Path’s Leadership and Organizational Studies Program Nationally Ranked

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s bachelor of arts (BA) in leadership and organizational studies (LOS) has been named among the top 20 online programs in the country, as ranked by thebestschools.org. According to the site, bachelor-degree programs in leadership and organizational studies were ranked based on several categories, including academic excellence, strength of faculty scholarship, reputation, range of degree programs, and strength of online-instruction methodology. Bay Path’s program, offered by its American Women’s College, was acknowledged for its accelerated degree program and its distinct Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders program. The BA in leadership and organizational studies at the American Women’s College offers 100% online or a combination of online and on-campus courses, with six different start dates per year. The program is offered in an accelerated version, and has the flexibility to be taken full-time or part-time. It also includes access to mentoring, tutoring, library resources, academic resources, and career services.

Miller Dyer Spears Selected as Architect for WSU’s Parenzo Hall Renovation

WESTFIELD — Miller Dyer Spears (MDS) has been chosen as the architectural firm to design Westfield State University’s (WSU) $40 million, multi-year Parenzo Hall renovation project. Following a request for proposals set forth by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the Massachusetts Designer Selection Board (an autonomous, 11-member board) reviewed and selected Boston-based MDS from three finalists among more than 20 applicants. Westfield State received $21.25 million in state funding last year for the renovation of Parenzo Hall, the university’s oldest building, which opened in 1956. Nearly matching the state’s $21.25 million investment, WSU will invest approximately $20 million of university funds into the project. The renovations will create two new centers — the Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships and the Center for Student Success and Engagement. The Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships will leverage technology to serve as the nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to engage productively in online-hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The Center for Student Success and Engagement will address the student-outcomes goals of WSU’s Vision Project (increasing retention and graduation rates, and reducing the achievement gap). The project will also address the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults. The center will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. In addition to the centers, several academic departments will be located in the renovated facility, including Education and Political Science.

AIC Celebrates Rex’s Pantry Garden with Ribbon Cutting

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently expanded its efforts to help serve the community with the official ribbon cutting for the Rex’s Pantry Garden. Rex’s Pantry was launched in December 2017 in an effort to provide the less fortunate in Springfield with hot meals, canned food, and other living necessities. Since its founding, Rex’s Pantry has served more than 2,000 meals and collected thousands of pounds of canned goods. Rex, a yellowjacket, is the AIC mascot. The Rex’s Pantry Garden, located on the AIC campus in the heart of the city, is the newest addition to the Rex’s Pantry initiative. The first harvest will include tomatoes and pumpkins. The tomatoes will be distributed to neighborhood residents, who often do not have the resources to purchase fresh produce. Pumpkins will be given to local children during the Halloween season. Until one month ago, the Rex’s Pantry Garden was a long-standing vacant lot, but the plot was transformed by the C&W Services grounds crew at the college. Local businesses also donated to the creation of the garden, including Associated Building Wreckers, C&W Services, Capone’s Pool Water, GMH Fence Co., Go Graphix, Ondrick Natural Earth, and Wallace Tree Service. Student-athletes and representatives from the AIC basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and wrestling teams, along with student groups — including IMPACT, a residential community for AIC students in pursuit of leadership experiences in and outside the classroom, and the Student Nurses Assoc. — have supported Rex’s Pantry by serving hot meals throughout the academic year. AIC staff and student volunteers will maintain the garden throughout the growing season.

Briefcase

Construction to Begin at Paramount, Massasoit House Hotel

SPRINGFIELD — Saying he is “bullish” on downtown Springfield, Gov. Charlie Baker was among a group of local and state officials who gathered recently to ceremonially break ground on a $38 million restoration of the Paramount Theater and Massasoit House Hotel. The project will transform the Paramount, which opened 90 years ago as a vaudeville theater, into a performing-arts center, while the adjoining Massasoit building will become an 85-room boutique hotel. The property was purchased in 2011 by the New England Farm Workers Council. The 85-room hotel is expected to be completed by December 2020, with the theater expected to finish a year after that. Main Street Hospitality — whose properties include the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Hotel on North in Pittsfield, and the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA in North Adams — will manage the new Massasoit House Hotel. Main Street CEO Sarah Eustis has been looking to enter the Springfield market for a few years. Project funding involves roughly $20 million from state and federal historic tax credits and a federal opportunity-zone tax credit. The project will also reap $3.8 million in HUD Section 108 loan funds through the city and the federal government, a $2 million state grant, and private funding.

Employer Confidence Stabilizes in June

BOSTON — Employer confidence stabilized in Massachusetts during June despite a continued swirl of conflicting economic and political signals around the globe. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.5 points to 57.6 last month, rebounding from a May drop that left it at its lowest level since October 2016. The Index has declined 3.7 points since June 2018 but remains within optimistic territory. And though confidence levels are virtually unchanged since January, the AIM Index reflects constantly changing headlines about international trade, economic growth, and the direction of interest rates. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 0.3 points to 61.2, while the U.S. Index rose 3 points to 58.0. The Massachusetts reading has declined 1.6 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 2.0 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 0.2 points to 56.2. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 0.8 points to 59.0, 4.5 points lower than a year ago. The Employment Index declined 0.4 points for the month and 2.2 percent for 12 months. Analysts say employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a state economy with a 2.9% jobless rate.

SBA Awards $100,000 for Veteran-owned Small-business Growth Training Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a partnership with the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training and Resource Network (VETRN) to establish a pilot training program for military veterans who are small-business owners and their immediate family members. The program will equip these entrepreneurs with the resources and networks necessary to grow their small businesses. Starting in September, this 26-week program based in Portsmouth, N.H. will feature 13 weeks of Saturday-morning classroom sessions with 12 to 20 participants, as well as 13 weeks of peer-to-peer mentoring sessions. The course curriculum will include strategic planning, financial management, cash-flow forecasting, marketing the small business, sales methods, human resources, developing a growth plan, access to capital, legal issues, and government contracting. Applicants must be a current business owner with at least one year of operation and one employee (not including the owner), and annual revenues of $75,000 or more.  Also required is the passion, dedication, and commitment to grow the small business. Veteran business owners interested in finding out more information or applying for the September 2019 program can visit vetrn.org to complete an application, or e-mail [email protected]

Massachusetts Credit Unions Unite to Support ‘A Bed for Every Child’

MARLBOROUGH — Ronald McLean, president and CEO of the Cooperative Credit Union Assoc. Inc. (CCUA), on behalf of Massachusetts credit unions, along with members of the Massachusetts Credit Unions Social Responsibility Committee, presented a check for $202,725 to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless at the third Annual Stephen D. Jones Credit Union Charity Golf Tournament in support of the “A Bed for Every Child” campaign. Massachusetts credit unions have supported the coalition for more than two decades, surpassing more than $2 million in donations and providing blankets, toys, and books to help families in need. In 2018, Massachusetts credit unions raised $202,725 through efforts including the Stephen D. Jones Charity Golf Tournament and a variety of credit-union-driven initiatives. The need for “A Bed for Every Child” reaches all cities and towns in Massachusetts. “A Bed for Every Child” began when a concerned inner-city public-school teacher reached out to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. At the time, the teacher was seeing an increase in the number of students who did not have a bed of their own. Robyn Frost, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said demand continues to outpace the coalition’s capacity.

Company Notebook

Wright-Pierce Opens Westfield Office

WESTFIELD — Wright-Pierce, an environmental/civil infrastructure engineering firm, announced the opening of an office in Westfield. “Opening the Westfield office is the next step in our strategic plan to better serve our expanding client base in Central and Western Massachusetts,” said Wright-Pierce President and CEO John Braccio. “We look forward to being an active community partner with municipalities throughout the region, helping to engineer environmentally sustainable and economically sound solutions to New England’s aging water, wastewater, and civil infrastructure challenges.” Thomas Hogan, regional group leader for Central and Western Massachusetts, will serve as office manager. Prior to joining Wright-Pierce, he served more than 20 years as an engineering consultant to Massachusetts municipal, institutional, industrial, commercial, and energy-sector clients. Wright-Pierce is an award-winning, multi-discipline engineering firm that has been providing water, wastewater, and civil infrastructure services since 1947. Employee-owned, Wright-Pierce’s more than 200 engineers and support professionals are strategically located in offices throughout New England and Florida.

Hampshire College Resolves to Admit Full Class for 2020

AMHERST — In a letter to the Hampshire College community, interim President Ken Rosenthal said the school is committed to admitting a full class for 2020, only a few months after the troubled institution decided to admit only a partial class this fall. “People have asked, why is the board confident they can enroll a new class next fall 2020 when they voted four months ago not to accept a full class for fall 2019 and spring 2020? What changed?” he wrote. “The answer is the remarkable, historic outpouring of support this spring from Hampshire alums, friends, and people who believe in our college. We are deeply grateful for the unprecedented energy and giving to secure an independent Hampshire.” Rosenthal said the college and its board are working on a number of fronts simultaneously. These include reinforcing its governance and leadership; defining and improving its value proposition; restructuring its business model so it is sustainable, and continuing to operate efficiently and reduce costs where possible; renewing its academic program; leading a successful fundraising campaign, including building the endowment; investing in improving the student experience on campus and upgrading campus facilities to benefit recruitment and retention; and continuing to participate fully in the Five College Consortium for the benefit of students and employees. The school is also making strides toward hiring a new president.

Open Square Creates Headquarters for VertitechIT

HOLYOKE — Architect John Aubin announced plans for the build-out of a company headquarters at his flagship mixed-use development, Open Square. Aubin is creating a new, custom-designed and custom-built workspace in his historic zero-net-energy development in Holyoke. The modern office environment will provide approximately 6,000 square feet of work and meeting space for 25 employees. Current tenant and national healthcare IT consultancy VertitechIT is expanding its presence at Open Square. The new space will also house employees of two sister companies — Akiro Consulting, a firm that facilitates medical practice transactions and acquisitions, and BaytechIT, an IT services provider to physician practices, clinics, and nonprofit healthcare companies. BaytechIT is a joint venture between VertitechIT and Baystate Health. The new space will allow collaboration between the three companies while giving each their own autonomy, said Greg Pellerin, VertitechIT’s chief operating officer.

Basketball Celebration Nets $7,500 for Five Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — A basketball event that celebrated the restoration of the court at the Greenleaf Community Center — just in time for summer pick-up games — netted $7,500 in donations for five area nonprofits. Roughly 50 area residents attended the festivities, which included a demonstration by a comedic basketball troupe called the Court Jesters. Several dozen adults and children took part in the Helping Hoops Challenge. As part of this game that benefited nonprofits, participants took shots at the basket from three designated points on the court — one that was kid-friendly for younger children.  The plan was to give each nonprofit $100 or $25 per basket, depending on the distance from the hoop. But Florence Bank and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame were feeling generous during the event. John Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Bank, ended the celebration by announcing that each nonprofit would receive $1,000 from the bank. Additionally, Jason Fiddler, vice president of Sales, Marketing and Partnerships for the Hall of Fame, offered $500 per nonprofit from his organization. The following nonprofits received the donations: Camp STAR Angelina, Dunbar Community Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, Urban League of Springfield, and Open Pantry Community Services. The event was a celebration of the rejuvenation of the basketball court at Greenleaf Community Center, which is only a few miles from Florence Bank’s new Allen Street branch. The city of Springfield and Florence Bank each contributed $15,000 to repave and paint the court at the center for young people in the neighborhood. Two new hoops and backboards were also installed.

STCC Rolls Out Child Development Associate Plus Program

SPRINGFIELD — This fall, Springfield Technical Community College will launch a new certificate program to help early-childhood educators or school paraprofessionals take their careers to the next level. The Child Development Associate Plus (CDA Plus) certificate of completion is designed for educators who want to get their CDA credential and earn college credit at the same time. An individual with a CDA credential, which is nationally recognized, has demonstrated competency in meeting the needs of children and working with parents and other adults to nurture children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth, said Nancy Ward, STCC’s Early Education and Care Pathways Grant and Activity director. The Career Pathways Grant, funded through the state Department of Early Education and Care, enables STCC to provide a range of support for CDA Plus students. STCC also has credit-earning opportunities available for educators who have earned their CDA credential or have acquired other skills in the field or from existing certifications. Students with a CDA credential can receive 17 credits toward an associate degree, Greco said. STCC has named experienced educator Aimee Dalenta as chair of the Early Childhood Education Department. Among her responsibilities, she will oversee the new CDA program.

Delaney’s Market Store Opens in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Owner Peter Rosskothen held a grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 19 at Delaney’s Market at 1365 Main St. in Springfield. Delaney’s Market is a retail store that features chef-inspired meals that are fresh and ready to serve with little effort. It also features a selection of beer and wine. The Delaney’s Market target audience is a busy individual or family who wants to eat a quality lunch or dinner at their home or office without the hassle of long prep times and/or high costs. Delaney’s Market Springfield will also feature delivery to its immediate area, as well as curbside pick-up. “We are so excited to be part of downtown Springfield,” said Roberta Hurwitz, general manager, who oversees operations and an eight-member team at the Springfield store. “The renaissance of the city is happening; we look forward to being a great citizen and neighbor.” This is the second Delaney’s Market store; its flagship store is located at the Longmeadow Shops in Longmeadow and has been open since 2016. Additional stores will open later this year, one in Wilbraham and one in Westfield.

Greenfield Cooperative Bank Reports FY 2019 Results

GREENFIELD — Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank (GCB) and its parent company, Greenfield Bancorp, MHC, shared the operating results of the bank’s latest fiscal year as announced at the 114th annual meeting of the bank on June 18. Tucker reported that FY 2019, which ended on March 31, was very successful, and the assets of the bank grew by $26.3 million (up 4.3%) over the prior year. Also in FY 2019, GCB originated more than $117 million in loans of all types, including $30.16 million in residential mortgages, $46.02 million in commercial real-estate/C&I lending, $28.31 million in municipal lending, $11.88 million in home-equity loans and lines, and $1.05 million in Mass Save zero-interest energy loans and Mass Solar loans. GCB had an increase of $11.4 million in deposits (up 2.14%) over the past year. Interest paid to depositors of GCB increased by $531,000 (23%) over last year. Total equity grew to $73.45 million. GCB’s tier 1 capital to average assets is 12%, and total capital to risk-weighted assets is 21.40%. The bank is considered well-capitalized by all regulatory definitions. The pre-tax operating income for Greenfield Cooperative Bank was up to $5.723 million for the year ended March 31, and the net income after taxes was $4.491 million. The bank also paid its fair share of federal and Massachusetts income taxes ($1.23 million) and local property taxes (more than $133,000) in the cities and towns where it has offices. As a result of these earnings and the fact that Greenfield Cooperative Bank targets its charitable and civic giving at 5% of the prior year’s pre-tax operating income, GCB and its employees were able to contribute $224,054 to 218 charities, community groups, school events, youth teams, and cultural events throughout both Hampshire and Franklin counties during the past fiscal year. This was a 13.8% increase over the prior year. Greenfield Cooperative Bank management noted it has received regulatory approvals for opening its new South Hadley location, and the bank expects to open the office by the end of 2019.

Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Falls Below 3% in April

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate for April was down one-tenth of a percentage point at 2.9%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,100 jobs in April. Over the month, the private sector added 4,000 jobs as gains occurred in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; financial activities; information; and other services. Trade, transportation, and utilities; manufacturing; and leisure and hospitality lost jobs over the month. From April 2018 to April 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 37,100 jobs. The April unemployment rate was 0.7% lower than the national rate of 3.6% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Preliminary estimates indicate that, in April, the Massachusetts unemployment rate fell below 3% for the first time since December of 2000,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “Year to date, the Commonwealth’s economy has added 25,400 jobs, showing that, even with a low, 2.9% unemployment rate, Massachusetts employers continue to add jobs to help fuel their growth needs.” The labor force decreased by 3,200 from 3,843,500 in March, as 1,600 fewer residents were employed and 1,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped six-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 67.8%. Compared to April 2018, the labor-force participation rate is up 0.4%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; information; construction; and education and health services.

Manning Family Gift Will Advance Innovative Research at UMass

AMHERST — UMass Amherst alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane Manning, have committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program, which provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. It will allow the university’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS) to support bold, promising researchers, providing resources for them to innovate in new directions and to develop real-world applications for their discoveries. The initiative will provide assistance to researchers and business students across campus through the critical early stages on the path to commercialization, such as ideation, proof of concept, and business development. Faculty will receive seed funding and engage in business training and mentorship from a number of campus units, including the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Isenberg School of Management. The first grant to be awarded from the Manning Innovation Program will support research on a topic that hits close to home for the Manning family, Stargardt disease. Both of the Mannings’ sons, Bradford and Bryan, have the disease, which causes loss of central vision. Currently, there is no treatment to delay or cure the disease. The two Manning brothers now run a clothing line called Two Blind Brothers, and they donate all of its proceeds directly to blindness research. Abigail Jensen, associate professor of Biology, will use a $40,000 grant to support her research on Stargardt disease and possible therapies using zebrafish. Her research seeks to identify how the disease works on a molecular level. Development of zebrafish with therapeutic mutations subverting Stargardt disease at the genetic level provides the first opportunity to discover the molecular mechanism of cone-photoreceptor degeneration and potential pathways for translation of research to therapeutic applications. In keeping with the university’s core values, the Manning Innovation Program will stimulate, recognize, and reward innovation. It will foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the college and enhance the spirit of collaboration among Isenberg School of Management advisors, science and technology researchers, and industry experts. Further, the Manning Foundation’s gift provides vital investment to support UMass as a partner of choice in advancing and applying knowledge and innovation for the betterment of society. The next wave in the application process for the Manning Innovation Program will result in a new round of applications being submitted by July 15. The review committee will notify recipients at the end of August, and the next round of projects could begin in September. Paul Manning, an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, most recently founded PBM Capital Group in 2010. PBM Capital is a healthcare-focused private investment group that looks for opportunities to use its entrepreneurial and operational experience to make high-growth pharmaceutical, molecular-diagnostic, gene-therapy, life-science, health and wellness, and consumer product investments. He was the anchor investor in Maroon Venture Partners, the first venture-capital fund at UMass Amherst. Created in 2017, the fund is a $6 million, for-profit investment vehicle created to support alumni, faculty, and student businesses in their early stages.

Communities Receive $647,000 for Middle-school Exploration Programs

BOSTON — American Student Assistance (ASA), a national nonprofit, announced it has awarded grants totaling $647,000 to seven Massachusetts school districts, including two in Western Mass., to fund career and interest exploration programs for middle-school students. The school communities, which will receive their funding over the course of three years, will begin implementing the programs in the 2019-20 school year. In Western Mass., Monson Public Schools will launch the Careers in the Middle program, providing students in grades 6 to 8 with classroom lessons, field trips, and events that will expose them to career-awareness opportunities. “Monson is thrilled to be chosen by ASA to partner to provide additional resources that focus on our middle grades,” said Robert Bardwell, director of School Counseling and School-to-Career coordinator. “This grant will give us the opportunity to do more for our middle-level students and collect data that tells us which activities are best to facilitate and encourage career development early on.” Meanwhile, Springfield STEM Academy will enhance and expand the Tech/Engineering Exploration program to expose students to new fields such as bioengineering, solar and wind engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. “Exposing students to biological, solar, wind, electrical, and mechanical engineering at a young age is a potential game changer for their rest of their lives,” Superintendent Daniel Warwick said. “It allows them to think about the wide array of STEM careers in real ways and opens the door to unlimited possibilities in this burgeoning field. We are extremely grateful that this ASA grant will help us provide this opportunity for our students.”

Employer Confidence in Massachusetts Falls in May

BOSTON — Employer confidence weakened in Massachusetts during May amid renewed trade tensions and concerns among companies about increased operating costs from paid family leave and other government mandates. The outlook among business leaders has moved in a narrow, overall optimistic range for much of 2019. However, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 3.2 points last month to 57.1, its lowest level since October 2016. The Index has declined 9.5 points since May 2018. All the constituent indicators that make up the BCI weakened during May, with the largest drop coming in employer views of conditions six months from now. The erosion of confidence during the past 12 months has been driven largely by caution about the national economy and concern among manufacturing companies. “The Business Confidence Index continues to reflect the Goldilocks economy in which we find ourselves — U.S. GDP growth is expected to remain at a modest level of 2% to 3%, and there is not much inflation or deflation. There are both encouraging signs and red flags,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Several employers participating in the survey said regulatory costs have become a significant concern. “The cost to operate has increased dramatically — higher wages, benefit costs, supply costs, and cost of compliance with all the new regulations coming out of the State House,” one employer wrote. Constituent indicators showed a broad-based retrenchment during May. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 2.3 points to 60.9, while the U.S. Index shed 3.3 points to 55.0. The Massachusetts reading has declined 9.1 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 14.3 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, tumbled 4.5 points to 56.0. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, lost 1.8 points to 58.2, 8.4 points lower than a year ago. The Employment Index declined 1.2 points for the month and 5.1 percent for 12 months. Analysts say employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a state economy with a 2.9% jobless rate. AIM President and CEO John Regan, also a BEA member, said the national economic uncertainty comes at a time when Massachusetts employers are struggling with a series of expensive new employment-law mandates such as the state’s $1 billion paid family and medical leave program. “AIM has joined Raise Up Massachusetts and other groups in asking the Baker administration to delay the scheduled July 1 start of paid leave by three months to provide employers time to consider how much of the cost they will share with workers and whether they wish to opt out of the state system,” Regan said. “The delay is necessary to ensure a smooth rollout of this new entitlement.”

Opioid-overdose Death Rate Falls 4% in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The opioid-related overdose death rate in Massachusetts continues to decline, falling an estimated 4% between 2016 and 2018, according to updated figures rin the latest quarterly opioid-related overdose deaths report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. For the first three months of 2019, preliminary data shows 497 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths. The decline in opioid-related overdose deaths is occurring despite the persistent presence of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. In 2018, fentanyl was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen. The presence of some stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, has also been increasing in opioid-related overdose deaths since 2017, while the presence of heroin or likely heroin in opioid-related overdose deaths has been declining since 2014. “While we remain encouraged that opioid-related overdose deaths have declined over the last two years, the epidemic continues to present very real challenges across Massachusetts that are made worse by the presence of fentanyl, cocaine, and amphetamines,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to provide the $266 million we proposed in our budget to support prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services in addition to $5 million for a new Regional Fentanyl Interdiction Task Force.” In 2018, the total number of confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths was 2,033. That’s 17 fewer deaths than the 2,050 confirmed and estimated in 2017. By comparison, there were 2,100 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016. “The inroads we are making are also the result of our relentless focus on using data to drive our decision making around programs and policies,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We continue to focus our efforts on multiple strategies that are proven effective.”

Massachusetts Health Officials Report Second Case of Measles

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed that a case of measles was diagnosed in a child in Greater Boston on May 24. During the infectious period, the child was present in a number of locations in Quincy and Weymouth that could have resulted in exposure to other people. This second case of measles this year in Massachusetts has occurred in the context of a large national outbreak of measles and a very large international outbreak. “Lack of vaccination, combined with domestic and international travel, has resulted in the spread of measles nationally and internationally,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “Getting vaccinated is the best way for people to protect themselves from this disease.” DPH urges all those who do not know their measles immunization status to get vaccinated with at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Measles vaccine given within 72 hours of exposure may prevent measles disease, and vaccination beyond this window will provide protection from subsequent exposures. DPH, local health departments, and healthcare providers are working to contact individuals at high risk for exposure. Early symptoms of measles occur 10 days to two weeks after exposure and may resemble a cold (with fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes), and a rash occurs on the skin two to four days after the initial symptoms develop. The rash usually appears first on the head and then moves downward. The rash typically lasts a few days and then disappears in the same order. People with measles may be contagious up to four days before the rash appears and for four days after the day the rash appears. People who have had measles, or who have been vaccinated against measles per U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, are considered immune.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests in Growth of Ludlow’s Manufacturing Sector

LUDLOW — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing $3.1 million in the town of Ludlow to help support of the growth of local manufacturing by improving Riverside Drive. The project, to be matched with $3.1 million in local funds, is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-designated Opportunity Zone and is expected to create more than 950 jobs and generate more than $90.6 million in private investment. “Improving Riverside Drive will support the needs of larger commercial and industrial users, which require reliable water and sanitary sewer systems, as well as electric and communication services, to be competitive in the regional and global economy,” Ross said. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone designation will further incentives businesses to invest in the area and develop the local economy.” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal noted that the investment will bring the Riverside Drive project at Ludlow Mills one step closer to completion. “I have visited the site many times and know how important this federal investment is to the town of Ludlow. The transformation of the former mill on the Chicopee River has been impressive, and I am pleased to have been an enthusiastic supporter of this business and housing venture from the start.” The Riverside Drive improvement project will include construction of approximately 4,500 feet of public roadway, including water and sewer lines and underground utilities, to provide safe and adequate access to new manufacturing space within Ludlow’s industrial area. This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). EDA funds the PVPC to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic -development road map to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Strengthens in April

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 2.4 points to 60.3 last month. Confidence remains well within optimistic territory, though still 3.9 points below its strong reading of April 2018. The April 2019 increase reflected growing employer optimism about economic prospects for the next six months and about the future of their own companies. All of the constituent indicators that make up the Index rose during April with one notable exception. The Employment Index fell 1.5 points to 54.4, suggesting that employer sentiment continues to be tempered by a persistent shortage of qualified workers. “The Business Confidence Index continues to show a conflict between short-term economic optimism and long-term concern about the prospect of finding enough appropriately skilled workers to run Massachusetts businesses,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “The immediate news for employers is positive as economic growth in Massachusetts surged to an annual rate of 4.6% during the first quarter of 2019, and U.S. growth came in at 3.2%.” The constituent indicators showed a broad-based strengthening of confidence during April. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 1.5 points to 63.2, while the U.S. Index gained 2.8 points to 58.3. The Massachusetts reading has declined 0.9 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 5.6 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, surged 3.1 points to 60.5. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 1.7 points to 60.0, still 5.1 points lower than a year ago. The decline in the Employment Index left that measure 5.4 points lower than in April 2018. One good sign for job seekers is that the Sales Index, a key predictor of future business activity, rose 3.9 points during the month.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Partners with Tech Foundry on Program for Students

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) and Tech Foundry partnered together for a leadership-development curriculum for the students participating in the 14-week IT-training program. At no cost to the students, Tech Foundry prepares a cross-section of the population to step into a sustainable career in the information-technology sector. The program provides a comprehensive computer-science curriculum that gives students the fundamental knowledge needed to work with a variety of programming languages, computer hardware, networking solutions, and more. Partnering with Leadership Pioneer Valley, Tech Foundry was able to offer leadership development and skills to the students. “I can definitely say that, as a result of working with LPV, our students’ skill sets and confidence increased by leaps and bounds. Lora was thoughtful and responsive from our first planning meetings designing the curriculum to establishing the schedule, to securing trainers and delivering the workshops to meet our unique program needs,” said Dara Nussbaum-Vazquez, executive director of Tech Foundry. “Interactive and engaging LPV sessions with Tech Foundry ranged from students creating an elevator pitch on video to team exercises building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows, to a creativity and problem-solving session rooted in improv-comedy techniques. We would highly recommend LPV to other nonprofits and companies, and look forward to a longstanding partnership.” LPV is also currently seeking applications for its LEAP Class of 2020. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley are encouraged to apply. The deadline for applications is Monday, July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

Scholarships Available for STEM Studies at HCC

HOLYOKE — Students enrolled full-time in chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics, or other STEM fields at Holyoke Community College (HCC) may qualify for a National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarship of up to $10,000 a year toward tuition and fees. Recipients of the scholarship become members of HCC’s STEM Scholars program and participate in field trips and benefit from other exclusive STEM-related events and activities each semester. The NSF STEM scholarship continues each semester students maintain good academic standing. Incoming and current HCC students are encouraged to apply. The application deadline for the 2019-20 academic year is Monday, July 15. Eligibility guidelines for the National Science Foundation STEM scholarship can be viewed at www.hcc.edu/scholarships, where there is also a link to the online application under ‘National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM.’ Applicants must be enrolled full time in a STEM program, demonstrate academic ability or potential, and demonstrate financial need, according to the guidelines. STEM disciplines include biological sciences, physical sciences, math, computer and information services, geosciences, and engineering.

Company Notebook

Girls Inc. of Holyoke Is Now Girls Inc. of the Valley

HOLYOKE — Poised to boost its reach three-fold over the next five years, Girls Inc. of Holyoke has chosen a new name — Girls Inc. of the Valley — to embody its bigger, wider impact across Western Mass. The agency will keep its headquarters in Holyoke, said Executive Director Suzanne Parker at a press conference this morning at WGBY’s headquarters in downtown Springfield, and stay as committed as ever to the city of its origin. But with Girls Inc. members now hailing from Springfield, Chicopee, South Hadley, and other surrounding communities, a name change was certainly needed. Girls from area communities will continue to benefit from Girls Inc. of the Valley programs held at the Holyoke center headquarters on everything from literacy to leadership, said Parker, but the agency is also expanding into surrounding communities and has partnered to work inside 10 schools, including Springfield’s Chestnut Academy Middle School and Chicopee’s Bellamy Middle School and Dupont Middle School.

CommunicateHealth Celebrates 10th Anniversary

NORTHAMPTON — CommunicateHealth announced its 10th anniversary as a national consulting firm specializing in health information design. CommunicateHealth started as a consulting practice focusing on translating health information into plain language. Co-founders Xanthi Scrimgeour and Stacy Robison started the business in their Northampton attic. The couple quickly outgrew that space, eventually establishing an office on nearby Market Street. Over the past 10 years, the company has been successfully evolving into a full-service communications shop. The mission-based company works for some of the biggest names in healthcare and public health, including health-insurance companies, health systems, patient-advocacy groups, and government. They also take on projects for local hospitals and community organizations. CommunicateHealth is headquartered in Northampton with a second office in the Washington, D.C. area. It employs more than 65 employees across both offices. In 2018, the company recorded more than $12 million in sales.

Hazen Paper Co. Wins AIMCAL Product of the Year

HOLYOKE — Turning a simple box into an unusual ‘beauty and the beast’ packaging statement, Hazen Paper Co. was honored for the second year in a row with Product of the Year honors at the annual meeting of the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters, and Laminators (AIMCAL), held recently in Palm Beach, Calif. The winning entry was a folding carton titled “The Spirit of Innovation” for prestige luxury box maker Autajon Packaging USA, which featured a three-dimensional, jewel-toned snake and a female model whose face transformed from flawless to gorgeously reptilian when the box is tilted. The folding carton was made with precisely registered custom color-motion holography that reflects and refracts light to bring the snake’s sinuous curves to life and allows the woman’s face and eye to blaze with unexpected snake-like gleam. The box is embossed with a snakeskin pattern and finished with a soft-touch coating. Inside, a sea-green coating contrasts with the rich black exterior. Hazen also received a “Product Excellence” award for Benefit Cosmetics’ Hoola Quickie Contour Stick packaging, created with silver Ultracure acrylic-coated metallized polyester laminated to paperboard, offset-printed in transparent and opaque colors, and embossed. Judges rewarded the package for its extensive use of embossing, halftone reproduction, tight registration, and vivid green interior.

Complete Payroll Solutions Reports Record Growth

SPRINGFIELD — Complete Payroll Solutions announced it saw more than 100% year-over-year revenue growth compared to a year ago, setting a record pace of new customer acquisitions. The momentum reflects the company’s investment in its people and processes to better serve clients. This momentum is evidenced by several highlights from 2018, including four location openings in Wakefield, Mass., White Plains, N.Y., West Warwick, R.I., and Portsmouth, N.H.; 35 new employees across all offices and an expanded sales force with 10 additional salespeople, providing enhanced resources in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut; a new HR consulting division that delivers local, personalized HR solutions to clients; partnerships with industry leaders like BankRI, Brookline Bank, and First Ipswich Bank, along with the company’s continued relationship with Webster Bank; and the addition of iSolved, an HCM technology, to complement its existing platform, Kronos. Together, the solutions help clients with their workforce-management processes, including payroll, time and attendance, benefits, and HR to recruit, onboard, and manage employees. Founded in 2003 as a startup venture by owners with a long tradition in the industry, Complete Payroll Solutions now has 14 locations throughout the Northeast with 150 employees, and services over 6,000 clients across all 50 states.

Financial Times Ranks Isenberg’s Online MBA First among U.S. Programs

AMHERST — The online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst has been ranked first in the U.S. and third in the world by the Financial Times. With one of the largest and most established accredited online MBA programs in the country, the Isenberg School of Management has provided online education opportunities for nearly 16 years. More than 1,100 students are currently enrolled in the program. The Isenberg School stood out in the Financial Times’ 2019 rankings in a number of areas. The online MBA program ranked first for increase in salary after earning an MBA, with a 39% increase; first in the U.S. for total salary; and first for percentage of female faculty, with 45%. Furthermore, the program ranked fifth in online interaction, which measures how well alumni rate interactions between students, teamwork, and availability of faculty. Isenberg’s online MBA program offers an expansive course of study, from business analytics, finance, and healthcare administration to marketing and sports management. Isenberg students come from all 50 states and around the globe, and include physicians, attorneys, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, and scientists.

Bay Path University Receives Grant for Student Internship Experiences

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University has been awarded $5,000 in grant funding support from the Charles H. Hall Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., trustee, for its project, “Impacting the Community: Fostering Social Justice Through Student Internships.” The foundation’s support will benefit Bay Path undergraduate students who are performing internships at nonprofits in Hampden County, including Square One, the Jewish Community Center, and Girls Inc., all of whom service at-risk children and youth. Bay Path requires its traditional undergraduate students to complete a three- or six-credit internship, research project, or field-work experience, depending on their major, to ensure they have the opportunities to develop the skills and competencies that will help them launch their careers. This funding, which will cover four internships, will help relieve the financial worry that unpaid internships can bring for students. Many Bay Path students hold part-time jobs to make ends meet, and adding an unpaid internship to the mix can be stressful.

BFMC Receives Grants for Community Film Fund

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative (BFMC) received two grant awards for its newly established Community Film Fund, which is a matching fund to help local nonprofit organizations create videos for their branding, marketing, fundraising, and social media. The grants were received from the Berkshire Bank Foundation and the Feigenbaum Foundation, each in the amount of $2,500. In today’s world, video messaging is becoming increasingly important. Wordstream, an online advertising company, states that the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text, and an initial e-mail with a video receives an click-through rate increase of 96%. BFMC is in the process of raising $50,000 for this new initiative, which it expects to launch later this spring. BFMC is partnering with the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires to provide information to local organizations about this opportunity.

Springfield College Students Volunteer in Trinidad and Tobago

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College Physical Therapy Professor Kim Nowakowski led a group of graduate students in the health sciences at Springfield College on a global health service trip during spring break. For the third consecutive year, Nowakowski’s group, together with healthcare professionals from Trinidad and Tobago, provided a National Fall Prevention Program in Trinidad and Tobago. The National Fall Prevention program in Trinidad and Tobago was developed based on a needs assessment conducted with physiotherapists from Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited and the Physiotherapy Assoc. of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT). PATT is the sole professional body that represents all physiotherapists in Trinidad and Tobago. Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited was established in 2007 to provide quality healthcare in a friendly, compassionate environment that is geared towards facilitating healing and return to the function of living. Carla Rauseo, a 2005 alumna of the Springfield College physical therapy program who is a physical therapist and co-owner of Total Rehabilitation and a member of PATT, initiated the collaborative effort with Springfield College’s physical therapy program. Since the initiation of the program, the Stay Steady Foundation, a non-governmental organization, has been created to promote sustainability of the Stay Steady Fall Prevention Program, and the involvement of Springfield College has been instrumental to provide the screenings, Rauseo said.