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SPRINGFIELDBusinessWest celebrated the Women of Impact class of 2020 with a virtual event on Jan. 28. You can view the entire event, as well as videos from our sponsors, online by clicking this link.

This year’s Women of Impact honorees include Tania Barber, president and CEO of Caring Health Center; Carol Campbell, president of Chicopee Industrial Contractors; Helen Caulton-Harris, Health and Human Services commissioner for the city of Springfield; Pattie Hallberg, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts; Andrea Harrington, Berkshire County district attorney; Toni Hendrix, director of Human Services at Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing; Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College; and Sue Stubbs, president and CEO of ServiceNet.

In addition, the inaugural People’s Choice Young Women of Impact Award was given to Evelyn Humphries, a student at Longmeadow High School who has long been involved in the community.

The event was sponsored by Country Bank, Health New England, and TommyCar Auto Group (presenting sponsors), Comcast Business (supporting sponsor), WWLP 22 News/CW Springfield (media sponsor), and Chikmedia (social-media sponsor).

Women of Impact 2020

President, Chicopee Industrial Contractors

She Leads by Example and Shows Women How to Use Their Voice

Carol Campbell

Carol Campbell

Carol Campbell says she’s been heavily involved in the community for as long as she’s been a business owner — nearly 30 years now.

And she’s long believed it’s the responsibility of anyone in business to lend their time, energy, and talents to efforts and agencies focused on improving quality of life in a given region or specific community. She has backed up this belief with involvement in groups ranging from Rotary International to WestMass Development Corp. to Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

But Campbell, owner and president of Chicopee Industrial Contractors (CIC), a firm that specializes in rigging, millwrighting, machine and plant relocation, and structural steel installation, acknowledged that the nature of her giving back has changed somewhat over the past several years — and specifically since her first grandchild, Julia, was born.

“I held that child up and said, ‘you can be anything you want — a ballerina or the CEO of a rigging company,’” she recalled. “And when the words came out of my mouth, at that exact moment, I thought that I needed to be doing things a little differently — I need to be concentrating on what women and girls can do, today, tomorrow, and in the future.”

So, while Campbell is still active with WestMass, AIM, and other business organizations, over the past several years she has become more involved with groups whose missions involve the growth and development of women and girls — agencies ranging from the Women’s Fund to Dress for Success to Girls Inc.

“I held that child up and said, ‘you can be anything you want — a ballerina or the CEO of a rigging company.’ And when the words came out of my mouth, at that exact moment, I thought that I needed to be doing things a little differently — I need to be concentrating on what women and girls can do, today, tomorrow, and in the future.”

Meanwhile, she has also become a role model and mentor for many women, although she’s far more comfortable with the latter role than the former, as we’ll see. And at her own business — one that was and, in many ways, still is dominated by men — she has made it her mission to change that equation.

In fact, with the recent promotion of Deborah Dart, one of those Campbell has mentored, officially and unofficially, to operations manager, she now has a management team made up entirely of women.

“That was a goal I had, and it’s a goal I’ve achieved,” she said with discernable pride. “This company was all men at the start — we probably had women as file clerks — and now, the entire leadership team is women.”

Speaking of Dart, she nominated Campbell to be a Woman of Impact, and we’ll let her words drive home why she is now a member of the class of 2020.

“Carol’s success at CIC has paved the road and broken down barriers for other women in the industry,” she wrote. “She is now not the only woman in the board room or at the table. Her success at CIC has not come easy, but it has allowed her to pay it forward. Carol is known for sharing her thoughts and opinions, and she has used her voice to help her company, her community, and her friends.”

Indeed she has, and this notion of using one’s voice is something that Campbell stresses often when mentoring others, a sentiment passed down by her mother, and now passed on by her.

It’s just one of reasons why she lives up the name of this BusinessWest recognition program — she continues to have an impact — a deep impact — here in Western Mass.


Showing Her Metal

By now, most people know the story of how Campbell came to enter that male-dominated world of rigging and machine relocation. She was working as director of Marketing and Development for the UMass Fine Arts Center in the early ’90s, but looking for an entrepreneurial challenge.

Three area rigging plants had been shut down in the wake of the recession of the early ’90s, and Campbell started CIC as a way to rescue many of those workers, including her now-ex-husband.

Over the past 27 years, she has steered the company through a number of economic ups and downs — the Great Recession hit this company later than most, but very hard — including this latest downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, when things got slow earlier this year, as manufacturing and other sectors were put in a wait-and-see mode by the pandemic, Campbell used a Paycheck Protection Act loan to keep her people employed, and used the time for training and professional development.

“We didn’t have enough projects to keep everyone working, so we decided to do training,” she recalled. “We did in-house and online training — on our hard skills, our soft skills, and technical skills — and we did that through March, April, and May.”

Those training sessions speak to Campbell’s approach to business and management, one that is employee-focused and perhaps best explained with more commentary from Deb Dart:

“Carol’s core values would not allow her to lead without respect and equality for all, and using the principles of W. Edward Demming and Stephen Covey, she worked to create a paradigm shift in the industry, or at least at CIC, to create a work environment that is more linear, but, most important, a workplace without fear.”

Still, her leadership, entrepreneurial daring, and management philosophies are only some of the reasons why Campbell is being honored as a Woman of Impact. As noted earlier, she has, throughout her career, been very active within the community and, more specifically, with groups and agencies ranging from the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce and that’s city’s Rotary Club; from AIM and WestMass to Health New England, which she continues to serve as a board member.

The management team at Chicopee Industrial Contractors is now all women: from left, Anne Golden, director of Finance; Carol Campbell, president and CEO; Liz Sauer, project manager; and Deb Dart, director of Operations.

The management team at Chicopee Industrial Contractors is now all women: from left, Anne Golden, director of Finance; Carol Campbell, president and CEO; Liz Sauer, project manager; and Deb Dart, director of Operations.

More recently, she has devoted much of her time and energy to groups involved with women and children, and also to some women she is mentoring, with the accent on the present tense. It’s a role she has grown into and is now comfortable with because of what she can share.

“I like the fact that’s it’s an exchange — it’s not teaching,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s working to help individuals determine what their goals are, and then helping them find a path to accomplishing those goals. I’m not an executive coach, by any means, but if they’re on a path that’s similar to mine, which is to be a leader within an organization, I’ve dealt with something similar to what they’re going through.

“For me, it’s an opportunity to show them they’re not alone in this and that it’s not smooth sailing,” she went on. “We’ve all had ups and downs in business, and I’ve seen a number of them myself. The goal is to learn from each other.”

And while successes in business are important, one thing she’s learned — and also tells those she mentors — is that people can learn more from their mistakes, and usually do.

“Some of my worst management experiences have been my biggest assets for learning about who I want to be and how I want to lead,” she explained, adding that this is one of the insights she shares with mentees she’s matched with the WIT (Women Innovators and Trailblazers) program and other initiatives.

As for that phrase ‘role model,’ she is, as noted, less comfortable with it.

Carol Campbell has balanced work in her adopted field with mentoring efforts and contributions of time and energy to many area nonprofits.

Carol Campbell has balanced work in her adopted field with mentoring efforts and contributions of time and energy to many area nonprofits.

“I don’t think I would call myself a role model — when a reference is made, even about my leadership, I’m pretty humble about it, because I’ve always just done what I feel is right,” she explained. “I’ve always thought that, if I could help anyone in any way, I would do it — I always want to give someone a hand up.”


Doing the Heavy Work

There’s a pillow on a bookshelf in Campbell’s office with an embroidered message that says simply: “Behind Every Successful Women is … Herself.”

She is living proof of that, obviously, and that’s one of the reasons she’s a Woman of Impact. The other, perhaps even bigger reason is the hard work she’s put into convincing others of that. Her management team is a perfect example of this, but she believes it’s just one.

She intends to keep using her voice to create many more of them.


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


Women of Impact 2020

President and CEO, ServiceNet

She’s Grown Her Agency by Recognizing Needs and Welcoming New Ideas

Sue Stubbs

Sue Stubbs

Sue Stubbs has always thought like an entrepreneur.

“Even as a kid, I was thinking about business opportunities,” she said, recalling that, during her studies at Northeastern University, she’d walk through Boston’s Back Bay — which was littered with dilapidated buildings back then — between her train stop and the campus.

“I tried to convince may parents to buy a brownstone in the Back Bay, and they thought I was nuts. Now, look what’s happened in that neighborhood. It would have been a good idea.”

Fortunately, Stubbs has been able to shepherd myriad good ideas into practice as president and CEO of ServiceNet, which she has led since 1980. Actually, she worked for Valley Programs back then, and later oversaw its merger with Northampton Area Mental Health Services and Franklin Hampshire Community Mental Health Center; the new organization became ServiceNet in 1995.

Through those years and well beyond, she has grown the agency from 25 employees to 1,750 and its annual budget from $500,000 to $70 million. From its origins running a few group homes, ServiceNet’s range of services has expanded to include residential and day programs for people with mental illness, developmental disability, autism, and brain injury; outpatient behavioral health clinics in five communities; addiction services; vocational services; shelter and housing programs for people working their way out of homelessness; children’s services; and more.

“We’ve been open to new opportunities, always looking at the next thing coming down the pike and asking, ‘how can we meet a need or take advantage of an opportunity?’”

“It’s very gratifying,” she said of that growth and her 40 years of, well, impact. “Not just in terms of staff and money, but in terms of the people we’re serving. And it’s not just due to me — it’s due to a lot of people, and a lot of collaboration with the state. We pride ourselves on being a good partner with the state.”

Among its many innovations over the years, ServiceNet:

• Established Prospect Meadow Farm in Hatfield, a working farm — staffed by individuals with developmental disabilities or autism — that has become one of the largest producers of log-grown shiitake mushrooms in Western Mass.;

• Created two multi-faceted enrichment centers for people with brain injury, which provide intensive rehabilitation services in partnership with area universities’ training programs, as well as social networking, programming in fitness and the arts, and opportunities for community service — a model that has become a standard across Massachusetts;
• Has become the first mental-health agency in Massachusetts to adopt an integrated electronic medical record, using aggregated data to track the impact of various outpatient clinical services over time;

• Partnered with academic leaders at area universities on applied research projects with ServiceNet’s own research team;

• Launched the Western Massachusetts PREP (Prevention and Recovery in Early Psychosis) program, an intensive, evidence-based day program for young people, designed to speed recovery and help prevent long-term, chronic mental illness; and

• Developed intensive residential programming for individuals with developmental disability who have also been diagnosed with mental illness.

“Some agencies keep doing the same thing for years and years, and they have one mission, and it’s narrow, and that’s all good,” Stubbs told BusinessWest. “When someone comes to me with an idea or a need that’s been identified and nobody else is stepping up, we’ve had a tendency to try to problem-solve and step up.

“That’s how we’ve grown,” she continued. “We’ve been open to new opportunities, always looking at the next thing coming down the pike and asking, ‘how can we meet a need or take advantage of an opportunity?’”


Calculated Risks

She’s always done so with an entrepreneurial mindset, thinking like a for-profit business might, with an eye toward calculated risk taking and a willingness to seize opportunities for growth and diversification when they come into view rather than remaining on the sidelines and playing it safe.

Sue Stubbs, pictured with Allie LeClair, assistant director of Prospect Meadow Farm in North Hatfield

Sue Stubbs, pictured with Allie LeClair, assistant director of Prospect Meadow Farm in North Hatfield, says the farm and its store have been revenue generators in addition to the farm’s therapeutic benefits.

Take, for example, day programs for people with acquired brain injuries. There were no such facilities in the region, said Stubbs, before ServiceNet began developing its own — and the state changed its outlook on the need for such programs. While services existed for people with developmental disabilities, she noted, “brain-injury patients usually ended up in nursing homes, where they weren’t getting the help they needed. The state now funds those services.”

Another example is Prospect Meadow Farm, which was developed around the value of connecting with living things, both animals and plants, for many clients with intellectual disabilities, autism, or brain injury. While it indeed serves that purpose — Stubbs tells of clients who have opened up like never before — its shiitake production and a café produce revenue that supports other ServiceNet programs.

That entrepreneurial mindset isn’t shared by every social-service organization, she noted.

“I guess some people are more risk-averse and worry more about bad outcomes. My feeling is, if something doesn’t work out, you have to be prepared to admit you’re wrong and you have to be prepared to fail fast,” she said, adding that ServiceNet has done exactly that on occasion.

“You can’t hold on to a project when you find fatal flaws or it’s too much of a struggle and it diverts energy from other things. You have to be willing to say, ‘this is not a project we should be doing,’ and be willing to cut your losses.”

She admits she may be more cautious these days — “I took more risks when I was younger, and didn’t think as much about contingency plans” — but one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s a focus on hiring people with both good business sense and “fire in the belly” when it comes to helping people, two traits that go hand in hand, she said.

“People ask, ‘how does an organization get its culture or its outlook, and how does the CEO make people feel the same way she does? How does it happen?’ It’s kind of an organic process, where people tend to hire and promote people who fit in with how they think.”

So, even though the management team at ServiceNet is diverse when it comes to age, gender, and nationality, “they’re people who have that entrepreneurial spirit, or step-up kind of spirit, that I have, and they end up being people who resonate with my way of thinking, so I promote them.”

That team has had a difficult year for sure, especially challenging the group homes, which obviously couldn’t close when much of the economy shut down in March; some managers worked extra hours, while temporary staff were brought in to cover those who were unable to work due to COVID-19 concerns.

The outpatient clinics had a different challenge, but ramped up virtual appointments quickly once the state made them billable.

“That allowed therapists to work at home, and we hardly skipped a beat in seeing our clients. It’s amazing how quickly therapists and clients adapted to it and liked it,” Stubbs said, adding that, while it can never replace all in-person visits, the remote model does have a future; for one thing, it has decreased the no-show rate.

“For some people, it may be a better option,” she said, adding that ServiceNet has also been able to expand its workforce pool by allowing employees to work at home. “Sometimes, out of adversity come good discoveries. We hope we can keep billing for remote forever.”


Making Things Happen

In her Women of Impact nomination form, Amy Swisher, ServiceNet’s vice president of Community Relations, called Stubbs “a visionary leader, insightful therapist, and restless entrepreneur who never stops innovating. Sue understood the power of possibility thinking long before this concept hit the mainstream.”

That remains true today for someone who has never been afraid of new ideas, and always encouraged her team to think outside the box.

“If we’re sitting around with our management team and somebody says, ‘hey, I have this idea, but it may sound crazy,’ everyone goes, ‘no, it doesn’t sound crazy. Maybe we can make that happen,’” Stubbs said. “People fill out each other’s ideas — and we’ve made a lot of things happen that way.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]


Women of Impact 2020

President, Holyoke Community College

The Pandemic Provides a Lens Through Which to View Her Leadership Skills

Christina Royal

Christina Royal

As she talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and her administration’s multi-leveled response to it, Christina Royal related a story that speaks volumes about both the impact of the crisis on every aspect of the higher-education experience at Holyoke Community College (HCC) and her own efforts to lead this institution through it — and beyond it.

It also helps explain why she’s been named a Woman of Impact for 2020.

This story is about a student, one of the many who needed some help with learning virtually from home — help that went beyond providing a laptop and internet connectivity.

“Through our student emergency fund, this student put in a request and said, ‘I’m so grateful for the college to provide a laptop for me … but I don’t have a desk,’” she recalled, adding that there were several people in this household suddenly faced with the challenge of trying to learn and work from home. “And that’s just one example of how we had to think about support at a deeper level, really dive into the individual needs of each of our students to support them during this time, and address the inequities that exist in the communities we serve.”

The college would go on to fund a desk for this individual, she went on, adding that this piece of furniture is symbolic of how the school has indeed expanded its view of student emergency needs during this pandemic — but also in general.

“One of the questions I bring up to employees of the college is, ‘what do we want to look like on the other side of this pandemic?’ Because I don’t want to be a person who just felt like I was trying to weather the storm. I want us to emerge stronger from this.”

Royal arrived on campus roughly five years ago with a mindset to do what was needed to address the many needs of students and help enable them to not only grasp the opportunity for a two-year college education, but to open many other doors as well. As a first-generation, low-income, biracial college student herself, she understands the challenges many of HCC’s students face — from food insecurity to lack of adequate housing and transportation — and she commits many of her waking hours thinking about how to help students overcome such barriers and achieve success, however that might be defined.

Meanwhile, as an administrator, she he has put the emphasis on long-term planning and leading for today, as well as tomorrow. This is evidenced by her push for a new strategic plan for the school — the first in its existence — but also the manner in which she is addressing this pandemic.

Instead of something to be merely survived, although that is certainly important enough, she views it as a learning experience and, in many respects, an opportunity.

“One of the questions I bring up to employees of the college is, ‘what do we want to look like on the other side of this pandemic?’” she explained. “Because I don’t want to be a person who just felt like I was trying to weather the storm. I want us to emerge stronger from this, and the work we have to do is so absolutely critical to this community, and we have an opportunity to continually strengthen ourselves.

Christina Royal meets with students at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened its doors in 2019.

Christina Royal meets with students at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened its doors in 2019.

“Just like education is a journey, so is continuous improvement,” she went on, adding that this process can — and must — continue, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

Her commitment to this process, and her ability to effectively keep one eye on the present and the other on the future, certainly makes her a Women of Impact.


Course of Action

Royal calls them ‘town meetings.’

These are Zoom sessions that she conducts with various audiences — students, faculty, members of the community — to keep them abreast of new developments and initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the college in general. She’s staged 19 of them since March, including one just a few weeks ago in which the topic of conversation among faculty and staff was the ongoing accreditation process and the comments offered by the team at the New England Commission of Higher Education.

“I really prioritized this as part of our crisis-management plan — we really had to increase communication at the college,” she told BusinessWest. “When people are feeling isolated in their homes, and they’re uncertain about this thing called COVID, and they’re uncertain about their own health and safety, and they’re concerned about the college, I felt it was really important to come together.

“And while it’s really nice when we can come together in the same room, community is community, and we need to bring people together to feel a sense of community through this,” she said, adding that another initiative she’s implemented is the formation of a volunteer team of students and staff tasked with calling every student enrolled at the school every week “just to check in and see how they’re doing.”

These town meetings and weekly check-ins are just some of the ways Royal is providing both stewardship and forward thinking at a time when every college administrator’s abilities are being sternly tested. And the pandemic provides a lens through which her leadership skills and ability to build partnerships and create collaborative initiatives can be seen.

But first, we need to talk about life before anyone had ever heard the phrase COVID-19.

Royal became just the fourth president in HCC’s history in early 2017 after a stint as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

In an interview with BusinessWest soon after taking the helm, she provided some clear evidence of both her empathy for students and commitment to creating ever-stronger ties between the school and the communites it serves.

“I have a phrase that I’ve used often during my career — that ‘it takes a village to raise a student,’” she noted at the time. “And I really believe that having partnerships with business and industry and the community is essential for an institution of higher education to thrive. Likewise, for a community with a community college to thrive, it needs to have a strong community college. I look at it as a bi-directional relationship and partnership.”

Since her arrival, there have been a number of significant developments at the school, including a $44 million project to modernize and revitalize an antiquated Campus Center, the so-called ‘heart’ of the college, a new Center for Life Sciences, and the creation of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute in the Cubit building, which opened its doors to considerable fanfare in early 2019.

Christina Royal leads Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on a tour of HCC

Christina Royal leads Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on a tour of HCC’s new, $44 million Campus Center earlier this year.

Ironically, the new campus center staged its elaborate grand opening just a few weeks before the pandemic shut down college campuses across the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the Culinary Arts Institute, while still operating on some levels, has seen a dramatic decrease in interest among prospective students as the pandemic has devastated the hospitality industry.

But while those new facilities are in many ways quiet, they form some of the building blocks that will support continued growth for decades to come.

No one can say with any degree of certainly when a sense of ‘normal’ will return to college campuses — HCC has already announced that most all classes will be taught remotely next spring — but Royal, as noted, is working to have her school ready for that day.

“I want us to look at this moment in time as an opportunity, and focus not just on the things that are outside of our control, but the things that we do have the ability to control,” she explained, noting that the questions and comments offered by students during those aforementioned check-ins are certainly helping in this process of continuous improvement and readying for life after COVID-19.

“When that day arrives, there will be a much-anticipated return to the classroom,” she noted, adding quickly, however, that the pandemic has proven there is certainly a place for remote learning and that it will be a big part of the equation moving forward.

“Distance learning is here to stay. And even if we have a smaller number of students on one end of the spectrum, wanting to take everything online, we have a lot of opportunity in that middle space of how we blend our in-person courses with hybrid learning.

“What’s so great about this time is that we have faculty members who are experimenting with ways to utilize this technology to more effectively reach their students and enable them to complete the work,” she went on. “And when you think about combining that with the pedagogy of the traditional classroom and their expertise in that setting, I imagine there’s going to be some wonderful opportunities to grow the blended student experience.”


Career Milestone

In 2021, HCC will celebrate its 75th anniversary.

At this time, no one, including Royal, can say when and how that milestone will be celebrated. But she does know it will be a time to look back at what’s been achieved, but, more importantly, focus on what will come next and how the school can do more to serve its communities and its students.

That’s what Royal has done since she’s arrived in Holyoke. It’s a mindset that has made her a great leader — at all times, and especially during these times.

And it has also made her one of this year’s Women of Impact.


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

Women of Impact 2020

Director of Human Resources, Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing

She Changes Organizations for the Better Through Empathetic Leadership

By Mark Morris

Toni Hendrix

Toni Hendrix


Toni Hendrix has a few philosophies she’s fond of sharing.

The first is “the fish rots from the head.” To prevent that rot, she believes it’s important for each person to set a high standard.

“We need to lead by example,” said Hendrix, director of Human Resources at Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing in Springfield. “I’m extremely passionate about leadership, and when it’s done right, good leaders are role models.”

Her second philosophy is “God don’t like ugly.” She acknowledges the phrase uses improper grammar, but stating the idea this way gives it more impact. The point is not to treat others in an ugly way.

“Let’s do the right thing and treat people with dignity and respect because, if you don’t, karma can come back and bite you.”

Her third philosophy comes from a sergeant she served with while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army.

“You won’t know how much people can do until they know how much you care,” she said, calling it a great message about the power of empathy. “If you show people that you care, take time to learn about their families, and show a real interest in them, they will take that hill for you. They will even die for you. Otherwise, they’re not even going to follow you up that hill; you’ll be by yourself.”

“If you show people that you care, take time to learn about their families, and show a real interest in them, they will take that hill for you. They will even die for you. Otherwise, they’re not even going to follow you up that hill; you’ll be by yourself.”

Those three philosophies basically boil down to one guiding principle, she added: treat people with dignity and respect. In a quarter-century of honing her skills as as a human-resources professional, she’s followed that guiding principle, especially when facing her toughest challenges.

After graduating from West Springfield High School, Hendrix served for seven years in the Army, which brought her to several U.S. states as well as Germany, Turkey, and South Korea. Her job was supposed to be as a military policewoman, but in the 1980s, the Army prohibited women from serving in that role.

“I ended up doing other duties, like guarding the gate and working as the provost marshal’s secretary, but I was never allowed to work as a military police person,” she said. But instead of letting that experience bring her down, she turned it into a motivator.

“I’ve had my own personal experiences with gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and being treated very differently because I lived in a country where I didn’t speak the language.”

Treating people with dignity and respect has been a touchstone of Toni Hendrix’s career, including in her current role at Loomis Lakeside.

Treating people with dignity and respect has been a touchstone of Toni Hendrix’s career, including in her current role at Loomis Lakeside.

But those experiences provided a background that would become valuable in shaping her career, first as a Human Resources director with Mass Mutual and at several stops after that — all of them marked by a simple desire to be impactful by leading with empathy and treating people the right way.


Focus on Diversity

In the mid-1990s, Mass Mutual was working to address diversity issues that affected not only internal employees, but potential customers as well.

“At that time, their marketing messages were directed to white men with salaries over $100,000,” Hendrix said. “But they were ignoring families with dual incomes, women business leaders, and women entrepreneurs.”

When then-CEO Tom Wheeler decided he wanted diversity to be his legacy, Hendrix became the leader of that effort at MassMutual. Later, in the early 2000s, she brought those same leadership skills to Pennsylvania-based Simmons Consulting.

“We worked with a number of Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies that had gotten in trouble around gender or race discrimination issues,” she told BusinessWest. “With our help, they were able to better address diversity in their workforces.”

Hendrix also worked to improve human-resource processes at the American Cancer Society and Baystate Health before taking on her current role with the Loomis Communities.

It was a Loomis board member who encouraged her to be part of Bridge for Unity, a group of people from around the Pioneer Valley who come together to talk about race relations. With a goal of starting a dialogue among diverse people in a thoughtful and safe environment, the group has also hosted similar groups from South Carolina and Kentucky.

The simple act of gathering people to have a dialogue about race has been enlightening at times for Hendrix. “The people from Kentucky have a very different experience than the people from Amherst,” she observed.

A desire to be involved in the community has provided numerous opportunities for Hendrix to share her philosophies. In what she calls “my love project,” she serves as board president for the Art for the Soul Gallery in Springfield. Founded by Stella Butler and Rosemary Tracy Woods, Art for the Soul is a place where underrepresented groups can to display their art in all its various forms. When Woods decided to form a board of directors for the gallery, she asked Hendrix to lead it.

As a first order of business, Hendrix set a strategic goal to get the gallery out of the red. After some modest local fundraising, Art for Soul stepped up its game and organized its largest event, arranging for Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes to perform a concert in Springfield in 2018. Since then, the gallery has operated in the black, allowing the board to be more forward-thinking.

“We can now start to build the brand and develop our board to put the organization in a good place for the future,” she said.

Woods appreciates the impact her friend has had on the gallery. “Toni’s leadership and out-of-the-box thinking have been an inspiration and a godsend to the sustainability of Art for the Soul Gallery,” she said in nominating Hendrix to be recognized as a Women of Impact.


Building Community

As a human-resources professional, Hendrix has been a member of the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast for some time, and in January, EANE invited her to join its board of directors. She admitted she was initially hesitant because the group lacked minority staff and board members. “Then I reminded myself, it’s not good enough to just be critical — I also have to serve when asked.”

Once the pandemic is behind us, she said, the human-resources profession will have to operate under a whole new set of rules and policies. “And I think the Employers Association will be right at the forefront of what this new world will look like, so I’m glad to be on their board.”

Meanwhile, years of experience anchored by those strong principles have enabled Hendrix to manage her own staff during these unprecedented times of COVID-19.

“In my entire career, I’ve never seen the kind of fear employees have now,” she said. “I’ve always been a proponent of treating people right, so we are focused on helping people feel more safe.” That involves reassuring employees that their workplace is a safe place and that support systems are in place should they have a problem.

Hendrix and her husband Joe, owner of Smokey Joe’s Cigar Lounge, have lived their lives in a way in which they are always building community. She credits her mother with setting the example a long time ago by always having room at the dinner table, treating visitors with dignity and respect.

“I start every board meeting at Art for the Soul Gallery by going around the table to ask, ‘what’s good in your world?’” she noted. “That way, we know what’s happening in each other’s lives.”

Whether it’s inviting people to her own house for dinner or offering Smokey Joe’s to a family that can’t afford a post-funeral gathering, Hendrix and her husband are dedicated to building community by treating others the way they’d like to be treated. “If that’s the only impact I leave in this world, that’s perfectly fine with me.”


Women of Impact 2020

Berkshire County District Attorney

She’s Transforming the Criminal Justice System in This Rural Region

Andrea Harrington

Andrea Harrington

Like most who join the legal profession, Andrea Harrington says there’s a story behind her choice of career path.

In her case, it wasn’t a family member in that line of work who inspired her, or even a role  model from the community — meaning the Pittsfield area. Instead, it was the lawyers she saw on TV shows, especially L.A. Law, which was in its prime when she was in high school, and some real-life lawyers, like Anita Hill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who inspired her to become the first in her family to go college, and eventually earn a law degree.

“Growing up, I didn’t really know many professional people,” she recalled, noting that her parents, like so many others, worked at General Electric’s massive transformer-production complex in Pittsfield. “I would see TV shows with lawyers, and to me, they looked like people who have the power to make change.”

Not all lawyers have used that power, but Harrington certainly has. In two short years after being sworn in as district attorney of Berkshire County, she has introduced a number of important changes to the criminal-justice systems in this rural county — changes that are already having an impact. For example, Harrington has:

• Implemented a no-cash-bail policy for most defendants in county courts;

• Created the county’s first domestic- and sexual-violence task force;

• Assembled a staff of reform-minded individuals that better reflects the makeup of the county’s population;

• Implemented a vertical prosecution model so that crime victims in District Court work with the same assistant district attorney and victim-witness advocate while their cases are resolved; and

• Initiated work to develop a formal Berkshire County DA’s Juvenile Diversion program to reduce juvenile crime and help youths make smart decisions.

Above all, Harrington said she is changing the mindset of criminal justice in the Berkshires, from a system that has focused on punishment to one centered on “problem solving.”

And there are many problems to solve, she told BusinessWest, listing poverty, opioid addiction, domestic violence (Berkshire County has a 33% higher rate of restraining orders than the rest of the state), behavioral-health issues, and many others.

“I saw a criminal-justice system that was stuck in this old model — a punishment model. And given how many resources were being put into it, we were not getting a good return on that investment, and it was just spreading misery throughout our community.”

Harrington’s influence, just two years after triumphing in a hotly contested race, is perhaps best summed up by Noreen Nardi, executive director of the Hampden County Bar Assoc., who nominated her for the Women of Impact award.

“The election of Andrea Harrington to Berkshire district attorney has had a transformational effect on the county, its criminal justice system, and politics,” she wrote. “Andrea has remade operations in the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office with an eye toward modernization, innovation, and integrity. She’s revamping how the staff prosecutes crime and handles court cases, changing its media and communications practices to emphasize complete transparency, and overhauling operations on community outreach, victim-witness advocate, and the Child Abuse Unit so that Berkshire County citizens receive the fair and equitable justice they deserve whenever they come into contact with the Berkshire DA’s Office.”


Impact Statement

The race for DA in 2018 wasn’t Harrington’s first bid for public office. Indeed, two years earlier, she ran, unsuccessfully, for a state Senate seat. It was a moment in her life that would in many ways crystalize all that came before — and pave the way for all that has followed.

But before getting to that race, we need to go back further and explain how she got there.

As noted, Harrington, inspired by the characters on L.A. Law and other shows, and those real-life role models as well, graduated from the University of Washington and earned her juris doctor degree from American University Washington College of Law in 2003. One of her early career stops involved work representing convicted death-row inmates in post-conviction appeals in South Florida, which she described as eye-opening.

Andrea Harrington addresses those gathered at a press conference

Andrea Harrington addresses those gathered at a press conference to announce the launch of a juvenile-justice initiative, one of many programs she has introduced.

“That experience drove home for me how much power law enforcement does have over people’s lives,” she noted. “And also, how vital it is that we have prosecutors and police who have a healthy respect for the constitutional rights of defendants, and for civil rights.”

Elaborating, she said her work, which involved both the guilt and penalty phrases of these convictions, often centered on why such heinous and tragic crimes were committed. “And this gave me a different kind of lens — more of a problem-solving lens,” she said. “It’s sad to look back at someone’s life and recognize that, if there had been other kinds of intervention earlier on, then these really terrible crimes could have been prevented.”

After Florida, Harrington amassed more than a dozen years of legal practice, much of it defense work, while also raising a family — and watching her native Berkshire County change, for the worse.

“I was working in the courts, I had two young kids, and I was frustrated by what I was seeing in Berkshire County,” she explained. “In the courts, we see the big societal problems, we see the effects of the economic downturn in high rates of domestic violence, lack of opportunity, and drug use.

“I saw a criminal-justice system that was stuck in this old model — a punishment model,” she went on while explaining her involvement in politics and eventual run for the state Senate. “And given how many resources were being put into it, we were not getting a good return on that investment, and it was just spreading misery throughout our community. I thought that, if anyone was going to address these problems, I was going to be a part of it. I didn’t want to just be a cog in this machine that I didn’t think was working.”

While she lost that race, she was certainly encouraged by those who were telling her she should be running for a different seat — district attorney. And after winning a race ranked the top story of 2018 by the Berkshire Eagle, Harrington immediately went to work, fulfilling campaign promises and, more importantly, changing the criminal-justice system in Berkshire County.

One of her primary initiatives involved essentially eliminating the prosecution’s request for cash bail, which data shows disproportionately penalizes low-income individuals and African-Americans in most District Court cases.

“Who remains incarcerated pre-trial is driven by who can afford to post bail or not,” she explained, adding that this is one of many attempts to bring changes to long-established policies that were — in her estimation, at least — not working.

Another initiative undertaken early on was the formation of the Berkshire County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force and Steering Committee, assembled to address a growing public-health crisis in Berkshire communities and build prevention programs, she explained, adding that the Berkshires, like other rural areas, has high rates of these crimes.

Overall, Harrington said, the nature and volume of crime in Berkshire County has changed since she was growing up there, with more violent crime (there are eight homicides currently being prosecuted, a much higher number than in years past), drug-related crime, gang-related crime, and domestic and sexual violence. And her office is responding accordingly.

Andrea Harrington says she’s adjusted the focus of the criminal-justice system

Andrea Harrington says she’s adjusted the focus of the criminal-justice system in the Berkshires from one focused on punishment to one centered on problem solving.

“One of my proudest accomplishments is how we serve victims in this office,” she explained. “Previously, the practice was, once a case is actually arraigned and being prosecuted in court, the office would provide services to victims of crime. But we’ve expanded that; we want to have contact with victims as soon as there is a complaint of a crime — we think that’s really critical in being able to prosecute domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Another important change taking place involves the culture of local law enforcement, she told BusinessWest.

“We’re putting a lot more emphasis on doing high-quality investigations for violent crime,” she noted. “And we’ve out a lot of work into that, building our relationships with small-town police departments and also the State Police.”


Making Her Case

Harrington is currently prosecuting her first murder case, a matter that involves the shooting death of a woman in August 2019. COVID-19 has slowed the pace of progress in the courts, she noted, adding that she can’t say when the case will be coming to trial.

She can say that she’s looking forward to the challenge. “I love the law, I love being a lawyer, I love being in court.”

What she loves more, though, is having a bigger impact — an impact that goes beyond a single case, as significant as it might be, and translates into real change, real reform, and lasting significance.

This is what she thought lawyers had the power to do when she was watching those TV shows more than a quarter-century ago. Now, she’s proving they can, and while doing so, she has become a true Woman of Impact.


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

Women of Impact 2020

CEO, Girls Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts

She’s a Role Model and a Strong Advocate for Women and Girls

Pattie Hallberg

Pattie Hallberg

Pattie Hallberg has a large collection of keepsakes scattered about her office on Kelly Street in Holyoke. Together, they effectively tell a story of who she is, what she does, what she believes, and what’s important to her.

There’s the Ruth Bader Ginsburg bobblehead, for example, an indication of whom she draws inspiration from. There’s also the sign siting on her window sill that reads “No Solicitors, Unless You Sell Thin Mints,” a nod to her role as CEO of the Girls Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts (GSCWM) and one of the programs for which the organization is most noted — cookie sales.

There are also a few framed quotes. One, attributed to Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, reads: “The Work of Today is the History of Tomorrow, and We Are Its Makers.” There’s another that’s unattributed and says simply “Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You.”

Hallberg must have been at least a little scared the day she made the decision to leave her job as chief executive of Invent Now Kids Inc., a subsidiary of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and find a new challenge. Actually, she and her husband took the same plunge, if you will.

“I had four girls, and we were all kind of in transition,” she said while relaying the story. “My oldest was graduating from college, my two youngest were graduating from high school, and Jessica was at Lehigh University. I decided it was time for a transition for me; my husband and I decided that we were going to leave Northeast Ohio, and whoever found a job first — that’s where we were going to go.”

Long story short, she found employment first. Only it wasn’t a job she found, but a passion — or, to be more, precise, a new outlet for an existing passion.

“This is a business about relationships. I spend a lot of time talking to people who were Girl Scouts about what Girl Scouts meant to them. And then I talk to a lot of girls about what they’re doing, what they want to do, and where they want to go.”

This bold career move itself, fueled by ambition, confidence, and some adventurousness as well, makes a Hallberg a fine role model for the thousands of Girl Scouts under her charge. But there are plenty of other reasons why she’s worthy of that descriptive phrase. That list includes her accomplishments with this Girl Scout body, which resulted from a merger, which she managed, of three councils; her advocacy for young women; her work to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM; her involvement in the community (she’s involved with groups ranging from the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts to the Investing in Girls Alliance in Worcester); and even how she has handled the responsibilities of being a mother and grandmother.

“It’s so important to teach children in general — for me, my job is girls — to learn about the community and to give back to their community,” she said. “That’s the ultimate community service in Girl Scouting, and I try be a role model for that; I try to give back to my community as best I can.”

Mostly, though, she is a role model, and a Woman of Impact, for the way in which she has devoted most of her career to understanding the issues and challenges facing women and girls — and there are many of them — and being proactive in finding ways to address them.

When asked about what her work entails, Hallberg said there is a lengthy job description, as might be expected when managing a $4 million agency. But overall, she said it boils down to two main duties — listening and relationship building.

“This is a business about relationships,” she explained. “I spend a lot of time talking to people who were Girl Scouts about what Girl Scouts meant to them. And then I talk to a lot of girls about what they’re doing, what they want to do, and where they want to go.”

Suffice it to say, during her career advocating for women and girls, she has gone well beyond talk. And that’s why she was nominated for, and is a recipient of, this BusinessWest honor.


Moving Stories

Among her many goals and aspirations, Hallberg wants to someday hear someone say, ‘Eagle Scout? Is that the equivalent of being a Gold Scout in the Girl Scouts?’ or words to that effect.

Pattie Hallberg says she enjoys spending time with Girl Scouts, and those who have been Scouts and can talk about what that organization has done for them.

Pattie Hallberg says she enjoys spending time with Girl Scouts, and those who have been Scouts and can talk about what that organization has done for them.

She’s heard the reverse of this question more times than she would care to say or count, because while most everyone has heard references to Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in Boy Scouts and a proud line on any résumé, only those in the know understand its counterpart. Hallberg wants more people to know and thus put an end to those frustrating questions.

But she has more pressing concerns at the moment, especially the many challenges facing girls of all ages today. When asked to give a list, Hallberg put stress at the very top of it.

“Girls are under an incredible amount of stress today,” she explained. “There’s the stress to do well in school, and all those things that we’ve all had, but there’s this added layer to it now that’s really overwhelming.”

Much of this stress is connected to bullying, she went on, adding that, while it has always been an issue, today it is an even deeper concern, for obvious reasons.

“The stories are overwhelming … what can happen to a girl in just a moment, mostly around the internet,” she said. “It’s frightening, and it really takes its toll on these girls.”

For these reasons, the Girls Scouts and especially the GSCWM have always been focused on creating what Hallberg called a “safe space,” one in which they could be different and unique. But beyond that, the agency is devoted to giving them opportunities — and the confidence to realize them.

Pattie Hallberg has devoted much of her life to being an advocate for women and girls, especially in her current role with the Girl Scouts.

Pattie Hallberg has devoted much of her life to being an advocate for women and girls, especially in her current role with the Girl Scouts.

Which brings her back to STEM, and the numbers involving girls in those fields, statistics that in large part fueled her desire to seek a new career challenge.

“I developed a sincere concern about girls and women in the STEM field,” she recalled, flashing back to her days at the Inventors Hall of Fame. “The youth STEM programs we ran … at the elementary-school level, in kindergarten, first, and second grade, half of those kids were girls, and half were boys. Around third or fourth grade, the girl numbers started to drop, and there were more and more programs where there was a disproportionate number of boys.”

Years later, the problem persists to a large degree, she said, adding that changing this equation has been one of her many goals with the GSCWM.

Indeed, since arriving in Western Mass. in 2008, Hallberg has done much more than merge three Girl Scout councils, covering 186 communities, into one, although that was a significant feat in itself. She has shaped the organization into a leader in this region in advocacy for young women and also put in place an aggressive strategic planning process that has sharpened the council’s focus and championed leadership development of young women.

As part of these efforts, the council has instituted a Girl Leadership Board made up of two dozen girls who meet regularly with Hallberg to share ideas, concerns, challenges, hopes, and aspirations. An important aspect of this board is the manner in which she has created space and practice for young women to speak out and experience being heard and empowered to bring their ideas to life through scouting.

“We have 18 middle- and high-school girls, and I meet with them once a month on a Saturday morning,” she told BusinessWest. “They are fantastic at talking about what it’s like to be a girl right now, what they need from programs like the Girls Scouts, and what they want, which is different from what they need. So I get a lot of perspective.”

And this perspective often helps shape programming and the overall direction of this 108-year-old institution, said Hallberg, noting that her job essentially involves a balance of honoring the history and traditions of the Girls Scouts, but also looking to the future as well.

“There’s so much to learn from the past and so much to learn about the future from these girls,” she went on. “What I try to do beyond the job of running this business and organization is to really try to understand the issues for both women and girls in our area and to advocate for them.”


Bottom Line

Managing the GSCWM, an agency that covers territory ranging Worcester to the New York border, requires Hallberg to travel extensively. She rolled her eyes when asked how many miles she puts on her car each year.

She spends the time on the road listening to books on tape — and thinking.

Thinking about the many challenges facing young women today — from bullying to financial literacy to having the skills needed to succeed in today’s technology-driven economy.

She’s managed to convert many of these thoughts into effective action, and this helps explain why she is a member of the Women of Impact class of 2020.


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

Women of Impact 2020

Health and Human Services Commissioner, City of Springfield

This Leader in Public Health Is a Fierce Advocate for Social Equity

Helen Caulton-Harris

A career like that of Helen Caulton-Harris can’t be adequately summed up in just a few words. But she offered three important ones anyway.

“I believe in three things that are important to me and how I have spent my career: educate, advocate, and legislate.”

They apply both on the broader level and to specific moments in time — like the era of COVID-19 we’re living in now.

“To educate during this pandemic means to make sure we are educating the community about those things we need to do to stop the spread of this virus,” said Caulton-Harris, who has served as Springfield’s Health and Human Services commissioner for almost a quarter-century. That education has been a challenge, she added — and a constant learning experience as well.

“In the beginning, we really didn’t know what the impact was going to be. That’s why it’s called a novel coronavirus, because it’s new. Even the infectious-disease doctors, people who have studied all the science around diseases, had a learning curve with this virus. So we all are on this journey to try to educate.”

As for her advocacy role, “there are individuals in our community who don’t have a voice; they don’t have the ability to advocate for themselves, so our job in public health has really been to be the voice for the voiceless in our community, to make sure they get what they need, but also make sure we are speaking truth to those individuals who need to hear the truth around how to stem the tide.”

“Poverty is really the number-one public-health issue that I’ve had to deal with over the years — the fact that individuals living in poverty do not have equal access to the kinds of outcomes that we want for a healthy population.”

Finally, “what are the legislative interventions that need to be put in place in order to make sure we are doing what’s necessary on a political level?” she asked. “The messages from the political landscape, particularly at the federal level, have been very mixed, so it’s really been local public health out front, trying to do what we need to do in order to stem the tide of this virus.”

It’s been a busy year for someone whose role with the city — she also oversees animal control, veterans’ affairs, elder affairs, and libraries — has kept her plenty busy even without a pandemic to track every day. But it’s also been an opportunity to spotlight one of her passions: the demographic inequities that exist in public health.

“The pandemic has caused all of us to pause and really tear the Band-Aid off of what has been a festering wound,” Caulton-Harris said. “We’ve had to look criticially at our populations and how this virus is really impacting our community.”

It starts with the frontline workers — not only healthcare workers, but grocery-store employees, bus drivers, those who clean the hospital rooms, and so many others. “Those individuals overwhelmingly are black and brown, based on the data that we have.”

Then there’s the connection between poverty and healthcare access, and how economic factors put people at greater risk.

“Poverty is really the number-one public-health issue that I’ve had to deal with over the years — the fact that individuals living in poverty do not have equal access to the kinds of outcomes that we want for a healthy population,” she told BusinessWest. “So, from the beginning, we recognized that this virus really is impacting on the black and brown communities of the city of Springfield. It has been eye-opening from that perspective.”


Game Changer

‘Equity,’ as applied to topics of social justice, is more commonly discussed today than it once was, but it’s much more than a buzzword to Caulton-Harris, who recalls being passionate about matters of equity as a UMass Amherst student in the 1970s.

Helen Caulton-Harris has long recognized the connection between economic well-being and health, and COVID-19 has negatively impacted both for many families.

Helen Caulton-Harris has long recognized the connection between economic well-being and health, and COVID-19 has negatively impacted both for many families.

“During that time, there was a lot of momentum around social change and equity,” she said. “Public health says that everyone should have equal access, and we were thinking even then about how we can make social change. We are still — I am still — on that journey.”

When Mayor Michael Albano — the first of three Springfield mayors she has served under — appointed Caulton-Harris to her role in 1996, tasking her with combining the then-separate Department of Public Health and Department of Human Services, she didn’t consider herself a political person or a public figure. But she did relish the challenge of tackling some very serious issues, from infant mortality to teen pregnancy; from HIV and AIDS to substance-use disorders.

None of those have faded into irrelevance, of course. “All those things we saw as really challenging public-health issues are things we still work with today.”

But there were other shifts. For example, after 9/11, weaponized anthrax was a big issue, and on numerous occasions, Caulton-Harris helped investigate some suspicious white powder in Springfield. It was the first time her public-health focus shifted from behavior-related and community-based issues to external threats.

The other shift has been a growing understanding of how social determinants like employment, education, environment, and housing conditions directly impact health.

“We were working in silos, trying to help individuals make smart behavior changes, but public health is population-based,” she said. “We need to think about public health in the broadest sense and how it impacts populations. And social equity is the central piece of these social determinants of health — really looking at where a person works, plays, and lives.”

Meanwhile, the education aspect of her job continues to be critical, particularly with the COVID-19 infection rate rising in the city and across the state.

“When we were doing well, there were individuals in the city of Springfield and in Massachusetts who thought we were in a position where we could begin to take risks. And I think individuals did that. So we’re seeing a surge in the virus,” she said, noting that the previous week’s new case count in the city was 235, up from 107 the week before.

“COVID fatigue is absolutely real. I think each of us is tired. We have been battling this since late February, so I understand that individuals are tired,” she went on. “I have personally met residents who can’t go to funerals, who had to cancel weddings, who can’t go to hospitals and hold the hands of their loved ones. It is just really heart-wrenching to understand what’s going on. We believe that health is physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional, and all the quadrants of our health have been compromised by this virus.”

But if Springfield could control the spread in the spring — which it did, remarkably well — it can do so now, she believes. But it will take a collective effort.

“This virus really jumps from person to person; it loves having a host, and we are the host. Unless we do things like face covering, washing our hands, social distancing, and staying home when we’re sick, then the virus will continue to replicate itself until we have a vaccine.”



Family Legacy

When Caulton-Harris talks about responsibility, she speaks from the heart, and from a family legacy stretching back from her father, who was a Springfield police lieutenant, to her great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, who served in the 10th Cavalry of the U.S. Army and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, respectively.

“They contributed to the person I am,” she said. “We were raised to understand we had a role in the community and needed to give back.”

She’s also quick to credit the impactful women who shaped her own career, including the African-American nurses and nurse supervisor with whom she worked at her first job, at Neighborhood Health Center in Mason Square.

“To become a Woman of Impact is really important because I was immersed in women who had an impact on my life,” she told BusinessWest. “And they paid it forward by nurturing me, by mentoring me, and by making sure their behavior was something I would want to emulate.

“So, all these years later, to think about having an impact in my career, in my life, with other women is very, very gratifying,” she went on. “My journey has been completely dedicated to that social-justice movement that I saw as very important when I was a young woman at the University of Massachusetts. So I am really fortunate to sit here and feel as though I have lived that social-justice experience, rooted in science.”

She’s equally gratified when others follow in her footsteps.

“Three mayors allowed me to make decisions and supported those decisions,” Caulton-Harris said. “I would like to see more women, particularly women of color, emerge in leadership positions where they are decision makers and they can also have an impact on our residents, our state, and our nation.” u


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]


Women of Impact 2020

President and CEO, Caring Health Center

In Both Healthcare and Ministry, She Leads with a Servant’s Heart

By Mark Morris

Tania Barber

Tania Barber

Tania Barber likes to say her main motivation is servant leadership.

As president and CEO of Caring Health Center, as well as the founder and pastor of Living Water Global Ministries, her passion is focusing on the needs of others rather than the wants of self.

“I’m working in the career of healthcare, and I’m intertwining my calling, which is being a help to others,” she said. “It’s what gives me my drive.”

Barber’s story with Caring Health Center (CHC) begins in the salon where she worked as a hairdresser, which was about to close. As she was trying to figure out what to do next, one of her customers offered Barber temporary work as a switchboard operator at CHC.

“That was definitely not in my future plans, but it was bread and butter on the table for my children, so I said, ‘absolutely, I would love to come and help out,’” she recalled.

After a year as an independent contractor, Barber was hired as the permanent switchboard operator. As the years progressed, so did her career in roles of increasing responsibility, culminating in 2005 when she was asked to be CHC’s chief operations officer. She declined that offer and was asked two more times before finally accepting the position. Her hesitation was due to a concern that the COO position would remove her from the ability to engage and communicate directly with patients.

“I finally realized that I could have a greater impact in an executive management role, to help inform the policies and practices of the organization,” she told BusinessWest. “It was a chance to make positive changes to the issues I saw first-hand when I worked on the front line.”


Community Ties

Barber’s empathy for people in the community goes much deeper than her experience as a healthcare worker.

“I am one of our patients; I come from the same community,” she said. “When I was on MassHealth, I was denied services because they weren’t covered.”

These inequities made her more passionate about her position because community health centers are mandated to provide care for everyone, whether they have insurance or not. “It gave me the chance to speak to family members and people in the community that they could receive high-quality healthcare like everyone else and not be denied because of their ability to pay.”

Her passion for helping others led to her promotion to president and CEO of CHC in 2013. Under her leadership, the center has increased the number of patients seen every year from 14,000 to nearly 20,000, while staffing has increased from 109 employees to 250.

New services offered under her watch as president include a pharmacy, behavioral-health and substance-use treatment, and a wellness center. She has also built a diverse team, with strong representation by people of color in executive management and throughout the organization.

Barber has also put a special emphasis on improving services for the underserved and refugee populations in the community, noting that “I want to help remove the barriers and increase their access to quality care.” Currently, CHC serves the largest number of refugee and immigrant patients outside of Boston.

“I finally realized that I could have a greater impact in an executive management role, to help inform the policies and practices of the organization. It was a chance to make positive changes to the issues I saw first-hand when I worked on the front line.”

COVID-19 has brought multiple challenges to healthcare organizations, and CHC is no exception. Like most facilities, CHC offers telehealth, which works well for those who can access it. For others, it leads to a ‘digital divide’ where patients who might benefit from telehealth lack access to the internet or the devices to connect. This concerns Barber because recent data shows communities of color have contracted COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate.

While patients can still go to CHC for care, fear of leaving the house and becoming infected by coronavirus are preventing many from treating their other ailments. For the refugee population, these fears are compounded by the dual concerns of being exposed to immigration authorities, as well as to the coronavirus.

One solution, then, was to bring CHC to its patients.

“We purchased a mobile van to bring care to the community,” she explained. “The Mobile Health Clinical Services program has enabled us to confront some of the challenges we’ve seen during these times of COVID.”

Working with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, CHC also arranged to provide mattresses as a way to combat COVID-19. Barber explained that a mattress makes a big difference for patients who live in dense neighborhoods or housing.

As a person of faith, Tania Barber says she believes in adding value to the lives of others.

“Many of these people were sharing the same sleeping quarters or even sleeping in the same bed. By setting up individual mattresses, they are able to get some separation.”


Woman of Faith

In addition to her full-time career with Caring Health Center, Barber is a minister with Living Water Global Ministries, which she founded in 2011. While wearing two hats can be exhausting, the key for her is balance. “I make sure to rest and take a vacation when I feel its time. Of course, I factor in family time as well.”

As a woman of faith, Barber said she believes in adding value to the lives of others. It starts with seeing a person’s potential, and she has encouraged several CHC employees to enroll in undergraduate and graduate programs.

“They have gone back to school, graduated, and now work in different roles in the organization. Two of our employees are currently pursuing doctorate programs,” Barber said with pride. “If you believe in people, they will have the faith to believe in themselves.”

In the spirit of that philosophy, Barber founded EST.HER, a leadership-consulting firm, in 2019. “One day I was looking at the Book of Esther and I didn’t see the name ‘Esther’ I saw E-S-T, H-E-R, and thought, ‘establish her.’”

Because her passion is to help others achieve their goals and dreams, Barber founded EST.HER to help motivate disenfranchised women and allow them to eventually become pillars in the community. In fact, the EST.HER logo uses the acronym PILLHERS, which stands for ‘Purposely Impacting Lifestyle Leaders Helping Each Reach Success.’

Biblical scholars have noted that the Book of Esther teaches that our past doesn’t dictate our future, and God places mentors in our lives to teach us wisdom, she noted. “I want to help women aspire to become the pillars in our community and serve as the anchors who can help the next generation of leaders.”

In her nomination of Barber as a Woman of Impact, Yvonne Williams, chief Development officer at CHC, noted that “it’s not an overstatement to say that Tania Barber’s intelligence and vision directly impact the lives of thousands of patients and their families, as well as hundreds of employees.”

Early in her career, Barber took a professional-development course titled, “How to Take Charge of the Front Desk.” Among other things, she credits it with teaching her how to switch gears to the supervisor role after making friends with co-workers.

“The course was also instrumental in teaching how to lead, how to help people see beyond the horizon of where we are and where we need to go, and, finally, how to get there.”

That early course launched a career of servant leadership, in which she is still helping people see beyond the horizon by making the simple declaration, “I’m here to help.”

With a long track record of leading by example and helping others do the same, Barber is a true Woman of Impact.