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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — As part of its Hope for the Holidays program, United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) announced Fill the Fiat, a unique opportunity to stuff a very small car full of holiday cheer for those in need.

Paul Mancinone, chairman of the board for Mercy Medical Center, has loaned UWPV his vintage Fiat 500 for the event, and it is currently sitting inside the TD Bank building, 1441 Main St., near the UWPV office in downtown Springfield, ready for donations of unwrapped holiday gifts through Dec. 7.

“It is truly an honor for Mercy Medical Center and Trinity Health Of New England to work with the United Way, continuing its mission and commitment to serving those in need,” Mancinone said. “By partnering with the United Way of Pioneer Valley, Fill the Fiat will help bring educational toys and much-needed clothing to those children in need in downtown Springfield and the eastern and western parts of Hampden County. We are blessed to have this opportunity to serve.”

Hope for the Holidays is seeking educational toys, as well as socks and pajamas, for infants and children through age 12. Learn more at uwpv.org/hope.

“United Way of Pioneer Valley has always believed in trying new ideas and forging partnerships with the community to solve its problems,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley. “I implore our community to fill this Fiat full of presents so we can provide hope, dignity, and holiday cheer to those most in need this holiday season.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley is looking to the community for support as it launches its Feed-a-Family 2021 fundraiser: Feed-a-Family for Fifty. Every donation of $50 or more will help United Way of Pioneer Valley feed a family of four a full holiday meal, including turkey and all the fixings.

Feed-a-Family is United Way of Pioneer Valley’s largest fundraising effort in support of its feeding-the-hungry initiative. Only with generous support from the community can it raise the funds needed to ensure its neighbors and friends in the Pioneer Valley have enough to eat during the holidays and throughout the year. The United Way invites donors to stop into its food pantries anytime to observe or to volunteer as well, so individuals can see firsthand return on their community investment. Participants can make donations to Feed-a-Family by clicking here.

Every act of generosity counts. Again, just $50 covers a holiday meal of turkey and all the fixings for a family of four.

United Way of Pioneer Valley looks at each gift as an investment into the community’s future. The organization aims to impact the community today and build the foundation for tomorrow through strong partnerships with volunteers, local businesses, government, and nonprofit organizations.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) has merged with the Springfield-based nonprofit OnBoard. Continuing under the same name as a UWPV program, OnBoard will continue hosting biennial conferences to increase diversity on the boards of local and regional nonprofits, and work more closely with nonprofits to build diversity through trainings and other tools.

Leadership Pioneer Valley, which provides training and support for rising nonprofit professionals in the region, will work with UWPV to support the program.

An OnBoard matching event is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Valley Venture Mentors, 276 Bridge St., Springfield.

“I am excited that the OnBoard programs will continue, now with the strength and support of the United Way,” said Ellen Freyman, founder of OnBoard and partner at Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin. “Over the years, our area nonprofits and individuals looking to get involved have come to expect and look forward to the OnBoard matching events. OnBoard has facilitated many new relationships not only benefiting those participating, but also the community at large.”

Paul Mina, president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley, added that “OnBoard has been a successful initiative for years, and I believe our plan to expand the popular tabling event into working with nonprofits and building diversity on an individual level will help our nonprofit sector evolve.”

Registration information can be found at uwpv.org/onboard, and donations can be made at uwpv.org/donate.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley is holding volunteer signups for Day of Caring 2021, which takes place on Friday, Sept. 24. Volunteers may sign up at uwpv.org/doc21-events.

“There is a greater need than ever for kindness, good deeds, and building our sense of community this year,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley. “I implore anyone with free time on or around Day of Caring 2021 to sign up and do good with us. Help our nonprofits, who have struggled greatly through the COVID-19 pandemic, and you will start your last weekend of September with the best night’s sleep you can find — knowing you’ve done a good thing when it was needed most.”

This year, Day of Caring sites include Chicopee Boys & Girls Club, Chicopee Child Development Center, Stanley Park in Westfield, Habitat for Humanity, Westfield Schools, Springfield Boys & Girls Club, Gray House, and YMCA of Greater Springfield, among others. Volunteers will be instructed to follow COVID-19 safety protocols at each location.

Learn more about Day of Caring, the United Way’s annual day of giving back, at uwpv.org/day-of-caring, or donate at uwpv.org/donate.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The United Way of Pioneer Valley announced it has officially opened volunteer signups for Day of Caring 2021, which takes place on Friday, Sept. 24. Volunteers may sign up at uwpv.org/doc21-events.

“There is a greater need than ever for kindness, good deeds, and building our sense of community this year,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley. “I implore anyone with free time on or around Day of Caring 2021 to sign up and do good with us. Help our nonprofits, who have struggled greatly through the COVID-19 pandemic, and you will start your last weekend of September with the best night’s sleep you can find — knowing you’ve done a good thing when it was needed most.”

Greg Williams, council program director for the Boy Scouts of America Western Massachusetts Council, added that “the United Way Day of Caring volunteers love coming to our 1,300 acres in the woods while providing essential work hours that allow us to better deliver the promise of scouting to thousands of youth throughout Western Massachusetts.”

Learn more about the United Way Day of Caring at uwpv.org/day-of-caring, or donate at uwpv.org/donate.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) announced its latest initiative to feed the hungry in the Pioneer Valley: a food pantry in downtown Chicopee. Called Chicopee Cupboard, it will offer food to those in need on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Chicopee Cupboard, located at 32 Center St., will open on Thursday, April 15 at 10 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. People in need of food are welcome to call (413) 693-0213 to make an appointment starting on April 15 at 11 a.m.

“Last year, we surveyed our community partners, local businesses, municipal governments, and state officials on what the Pioneer Valley needs from its nonprofit sector, and identified that feeding the hungry is an area where we can do a lot of good in our community,” said Paul Mina, president & CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley. “Chicopee is our first food pantry, and we have more plans to feed the hungry in the Pioneer Valley this year.”

More information can be found at uwpv.org/chicopee-cupboard, and donations can be made at uwpv.org/donate.


Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — In cooperation with the office of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Colebrook Realty Services Inc., United Way of Pioneer Valley will host a drive-thru, socially distant trick-or-treating event on Saturday, Oct. 31 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the TD Bank parking lot in downtown Springfield.

Families with children 12 and under, accompanied by an adult, are welcome to attend, and 3,000 bags of candy, toys, and information on community resources will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Everyone must remain in their vehicles to ensure safety.

“We are glad to be a part of the mayor’s efforts to keep our community’s children happy during an extremely difficult year,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Added Sarno, “thanks again to Paul Mina. We can always count on our United Way to bring some holiday cheer to our children and families.”

More information is available at uwpv.org/boo-bash, and donations can be made at uwpv.org/donate.

Daily News

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.

“Keeping our municipal governments and community essential services such as food pantries safely open for business is our top priority, and we thank our community’s generous contributors for our ability to help keep essential workers in Hampden County, Granby, and South Hadley safe,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) announced it will be able to provide backpacks full of school supplies to all 2,600 students who are homeless in its service area of Hampden County, Granby, and South Hadley. Thanks to generous funding from MassMutual, the organization has been able to greatly expand the scope of Stuff the Bus and bring help to the students who need it most.

“I am thrilled to work with MassMutual to help what matters most — our children, who are suffering greatly in these difficult times,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Starting on Tuesday, June 30, United Way of Pioneer Valley will start distributing hundreds of boxes of shelf-stable food items to community partner agencies for distribution to potentially thousands of needy clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The boxes of shelf-stable food have been secured through United Way’s relationship with MEMA as they distribute food throughout the Commonwealth in response to the ongoing pandemic. The first truckload will arrive at United Way headquarters in Springfield on June 30 at 10 a.m.

“We are honored to play a part in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response efforts,” said Paul Mina, president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley. “We have worked with MEMA closely in their relief efforts for Hampden County and are happy to continue to help.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — To help relieve the boredom of Hampden County’s children during a difficult time, the United Way of Pioneer Valley has partnered with numerous community organizations to deliver more than 1,000 educational, age-appropriate to families hit hard by COVID-19.

The United Way’s Joe Mina moves a pallet of donated toys.

Thanks to its partnership with Good360, the toys arrived at the United Way’s office on May 13 and are being distributed to the following organizations who will pass them along to children in need: Boys & Girls Clubs of West Springfield, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Westfield, Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Holyoke, YMCA of Greater Springfield, and Holyoke Housing Authority.

Daily News

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].

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield have introduced the Good Morning Heroes program, a joint effort to give back to the first responders working hard and risking their lives for our community.

Good Morning Heroes will provide grab-and-go breakfast bags to Springfield first responders. They will be available on weekdays, 8-9 a.m. or until the bags run out, in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield parking lot on Carew Street. The program will run from Friday, April 10 until Monday, May 4, coinciding with Gov. Charlie Baker’s stay-at-home order.

In doing so, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield and the United Way of Pioneer Valley are working together to show appreciation to the workers keeping people safe and healthy every day, especially now, during this unprecedented global pandemic.

For more information or to volunteer, e-mail Vinny Borello at [email protected].

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The United Way of Pioneer Valley has donated 5,000 frozen meals to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The transfer took place at Springfield City Hall earlier this week, with Mayor Domenic Sarno and United Way President and CEO Paul Mina in attendance.

With the economic effects of COVID-19 causing many area businesses to close, the Food Bank and the food pantries it serves have seen a dramatic increase in area needs. This donation was a part of the Western Mass. United Ways’ combined efforts to provide COVID-19 relief.

More information about these efforts and how you can donate is available at uwpv.org/covid19.

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — In these challenging times, United Way of Pioneer Valley is continuing its mission to connect nonprofits with its community of dedicated, hard-working volunteers. With the area’s college students returning home and many seniors opting to stay in their homes, the need for volunteers in Western Mass. has never been greater.

“Nothing matters more to us than the health and safety of our community,” the organization noted. “We are working diligently to ensure agencies are taking the appropriate and necessary precautions for volunteers’ well-being. These include heightened sanitation protocols, physical distancing, and modification of their operations to lower the risk to all involved. There will also be remote tasks available for those who wish to remain in their homes.”

People interested in volunteering or agencies in need of volunteers can contact Jennifer Kinsman, director of Community Impact, at (413) 693-0212.

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley has established the COVID-19 Recovery and Relief Fund to provide aid and resources to those affected by the current public-health emergency. As the pandemic unfolds and schools, events, and workplaces close, hourly, low-wage workers and many others will experience unprecedented financial hardship. In Massachusetts, two in five workers lack sufficient savings to withstand a sudden loss in wages.

Funds collected for this emergency relief fund will help families and individuals impacted by the pandemic to meet their basic, childcare, housing and financial needs. This fund will also help to continue United Way programs such as Thrive and especially Mass2-1-1, a free referral hotline providing access to services such as emergency assistance and real-time COVID-19 information. Individuals can dial 211, United Way’s 24/7 information and referral hotline, from any Massachusetts number to get information related to the virus.

Every donation helps those in need. Visit www.uwpv.org and follow the link to ‘COVID-19 Relief’ for more information.


Test Driving a New Model

Paul Mina

Paul Mina says the United Way of Pioneer Valley has to go back to basics in many respects, but it also has to do a lot of outside-the-box thinking.

Steve Lowell says he took the phone call back in early August; he doesn’t recall the exact date.

Everything else, though, he remembers quite clearly.

That’s because on the other end of the line was Paul Mina, president and CEO of the United Way of Tri County, who asked for a moment of Lowell’s time — and used it to get a whole lot more than that.

Mina was calling Lowell, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank, and chairman of the board of the United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV), with a proposition of sorts, a unique partnership that has many potential — and, in some cases, already real — benefits for both United Ways.

That partnership comes in the form of a management agreement (two and a half years in length) whereby UWTC, as it’s called, will essentially share a CEO (Mina) with UWPV and handle backroom operations — bookkeeping, marketing, and others — for this region’s United Way for a percentage of the funds raised during its annual campaign.

This partnership, forged after several years of unsettledness at the top for UWPV — it has seen two CEOs and two interim CEOs since early 2016 — brings what Lowell called some “much-needed stability,” while also enabling UWPV to maintain its autonomy at a time when many such agencies are entering into mergers.

But it also gains much more, including perhaps $200,000 in savings on administrative costs and, even more importantly, a CEO with 30 years of experience working within the United Way family, said Lowell, adding that Mina brings a wealth of experience, and energy, to his expanded role.

“We needed some stability in the organization, and we needed a forward-looking, positive strategy,” he explained. “And in talking with Paul, our board of directors became convinced that he could do all that; he’s hit the ground running and done more in the month he’s been on board than I would have thought possible.”

Mina’s comments on his expanded duties and his approach to them echo those sentiments.


Steve Lowell

Steve Lowell

“We needed some stability in the organization, and we needed a forward-looking, positive strategy. And in talking with Paul, our board of directors became convinced that he could do all that; he’s hit the ground running and done more in the month he’s been on board than I would have thought possible.”


“I’m not a United Way CEO who hangs around and goes to meetings,” he told BusinessWest. “I’m a get-your-hands-dirty, fundraising person; I’m the chief fundraiser here, and I’m the chief fundraiser at our other office in Framingham, and I lead by example in that regard.”

By that, he meant that he’s generally not in his office at 1441 Main St. and is instead on the road, visiting area companies and stressing to decision makers that, while the times, and charitable giving habits, have changed, the United Way is still relevant, and it still plays a pivotal role within the community it serves.

“The first thing I said to everyone here in Springfield when we met on the first day was, ‘take your job descriptions and throw them out the window,’” he went on. “That’s because we’re all fundraisers, and that includes people who never leave this office.”

Such energy — and such a focus on fundraising — will certainly be necessary because, as most know, this United Way is much smaller (in every way) than it was a decade or even five years ago, especially when it comes to annual donations.

Indeed, this was a $5 million United Way — that’s the parlance used — earlier this decade, and is now closer to a $2 million agency. The loss of financial-services giant MassMutual as a major contributor — that corporation now gives back to the community through its own foundation — has been a major factor in the decline of the UWPV, but there are other factors as well.

These include changes within the business community, especially the smaller number of locally based banks and other types of companies, as well as those noted changes in how many individuals and businesses give back. Many now donate directly to a specific cause or charity, often through vehicles like the hugely successful Valley Gives program.

In response to these trends, and to bring its numbers higher, UWPV has to go back to basics in some respects, some Mina, and remind companies why it’s so important to support the United Way.

But it must also think outside the box, which in this case means beyond the traditional payroll-deduction model of giving back, as is the case with a new initiative called ‘Feed a Family,’ which invites individuals and businesses to donate specifically to the many food banks supported by the United Way (more on that later).

For this issue, BusinessWest looks at the new partnership arrangement, the projected benefits, and how the UWPV looks to capitalize on them.

When a Plan Comes Together

Summing up his first several weeks on the job, Mina said he’s on what he described as a ‘thank-you tour.’

By that, he meant he’s reaching out to many individuals who have been strong supporters of UWPV over the years, letting them know their support is certainly appreciated. He’s doing so, he said, because, due to all the transition in leadership in recent years, such acknowledgements have been somewhat lacking.

“We didn’t thank people enough — we didn’t honor people enough,” he told BusinessWest, adding quickly, “you can never thank people enough.”

Mina said that’s one of many lessons he’s learned over a more than 40-year career working for and behalf of nonprofits. It began with a lengthy stint as director of the Lincoln Square Boys Club in Worcester and, later, the Worcester Boys and Girls Club’s Camp Hargrove as well. He joined the United Way organization in 1988 as senior campaign fundraiser for the United Way of Central Mass., and in 1994, he became president of the United Way of Assabet Valley in Marlboro.

Since 1996, he’s led the UWTC, an entity created through the merger of several smaller United Ways based in Marlboro, Framingham, Norwood, Westborough, and Clinton — the three counties (actually parts of them) being Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester.

And since 2006, he’s also been president and CEO of Mass211, a program (a phone number, really) that connects callers to information about critical health and human services available in their community.

With these stops on his résumé, Mina is well aware of the many challenges facing United Ways across the country and across the region, especially the smaller organizations. Most all of them are looking for creative answers to the twin challenges of increasing revenues and reducing expenses.

It was with this thought in mind that a proactive Mina — aware that UWPV had launched a search to find a successor to Jim Ayers, who left his position as president and CEO to seek another opportunity, and looking for a way to help two United Ways — picked up the phone and called Steve Lowell.

“I said, ‘it’s very important that the western part of the state has an anchor United Way,’” he recalled, adding that he invited Lowell to breakfast to “hear him out.”

He agreed (Mina, Lowell, and Denis Gagnon, vice chair of UWPV, got together the next day, in fact), and Lowell recalls soon liking what he was hearing.

“He said that he might have a solution for a solution for our organization that would allow it to keep its autonomy and the local oversight we want, but also gain some efficiencies,” Lowell recalled, adding that, with that opening, he was all ears.

Fast-forwarding a little, the two sides worked out a proposal and took it back to their respective full boards. Mina said his board had a number of questions, which were answered sufficiently to garner a 17-1 vote to enter into the agreement. The vote was unanimous at the UWPV, which, said Lowell, viewed the partnership as the best possible path for the agency moving forward.

“This really benefits both organizations,” he told BusinessWest, adding that, beyond the help on the expense side of the budget, UWPV gains from Mina’s vast experience working for the United Way and guiding agencies through the recent whitewater.

“He has more than 30 years of United Way experience; he’s been through some tough times and been successful at turning them into positive situations,” Lowell said. “When you put it all together, it was a great solution for us.”

Shared Enthusiasm

Gagnon agreed with that assessment.

He noted that Mina and UWTC have a strong track record of bringing United Ways together in a merger, creating efficiencies, and providing ways for these agencies to carry out their missions effectively given the many challenges they’re facing.

This arrangement is not a merger, he said, stressing that point repeatedly, but the goals are similar, and so are the basic strategies for achieving them.

“We needed a new leader and a few other key staff members,” he said, noting that, with Ayers’ departure, there were some others as well. “The United Way of Tri County can provide that all in one shot, rather than have separate recruiting efforts.”

The plan is for Mina to spend half his week in Springfield and other half in Framingham, leading the UWTC, although he knows there will some weeks where he’ll be in one region more than the other. And these will certainly not be 40-hour weeks.

But will this arrangement work as intended for both agencies?

Those we spoke with are, as noted, certainly optimistic, and also convinced that this partnership is better than the alternative — hiring a CEO specifically for UWPV and keeping the backroom operations in Springfield, especially at this critical time for the organization — the middle of an all-important annual campaign.

More to the point, both United Ways need it to work and are committed to making it work, said Mina, noting that all United Ways are facing a host of challenges, including those mentioned earlier with regard to how people give and why.

Which brings him back to those notions of stressing the basics, but also thinking outside the box.

“People give through their heart to their head to their wallet,” he explained. “And we have to do a good job of telling people what happens when they contribute to the United Way. It’s not a right that we have that people give to us, it’s a privilege, and we have to prove that what we’re doing is valuable and that it helps improve quality of life for the people who live and work here.

“And in order to do that, you have to be able to show ROI,” he went on, “and you can’t do that if you’re not out in the community seeing what’s important and doing what’s necessary to be done.”

As an example of this, he noted the Feed a Family drive, which specifically targets food pantries and other agencies that help feed those within the community.

“At the United Way of Pioneer Valley, we have focused for decades on funding safety-net services that assist this very vulnerable population. One such service area is our food-security initiative where food pantries and congregate meal programs feed hungry individuals and families in our region,” he said, noting that last year, United Way- funded programs provided more than 251,000 meals in the Pioneer Valley.

“While that’s an impressive number, the need unfortunately continues to increase rapidly, and donations lag far behind,” he went on, adding that the initiative will directly support the Gray House, Home City Development Inc., Open Pantry Community Services, the Salvation Army, and the Springfield Rescue Mission (all based in Springfield), as well as Neighbors Helping Neighbors in South Hadley, Our Community Food Pantry in Southwick, and Providence Ministries for the Needy in Holyoke.

Bottom Line

The Feed a Family drive is, as Mina noted, somewhat outside-the-box thinking for this United Way, but something definitely needed amid these changing and very challenging times.

The same can be said for the management agreement between the UWPV and UWTC. It is something different, but also something both boards deemed ultimately necessary — not just for this area’s United Way, but for both agencies.

Rather than an act of desperation, Mina called it “an act of intelligence,” and he credited both boards for having the imagination, and good sense, to make it happen.

Will it work? Time will tell, but so far the arrangement has generated what its architects hoped it would — stability and optimism.

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

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