40 Under 40 The Class of 2014

Tamara Blake

Director of Psychology, Bay Path College; President and Founder, Angels Take Flight, age 31

Tamara-Blake-01As a licensed clinician working with children who have experienced loss and trauma, Tamara Blake knows about the big needs in troubled kids’ lives. But one day, she recognized a smaller, but still significant, need that she could help fill — literally.

In September 2010, while working at a transitional children’s home in Springfield, Blake saw kids getting picked up, and one had his belongings in a trash bag. “I said, ‘hey, wait a minute, I have a piece of luggage in my car.’ So I ran out, and we switched all the items from the trash bag to the piece of luggage. The face of the child was elated. You could see the posture change, the smile. I thought, that’s really, really easy to do.”

And she immediately wanted to do it on a larger scale. “That day, I created an e-mail, a flyer, and the name Angels Take Flight.” Within two months, she had gathered enough luggage for every child in the house for one year. With kids transitioning in and out every 14 to 45 days, that amounted to hundreds of pieces.

The nonprofit enterprise has been steadily growing ever since. “It became my goal to reach out to other homes, and now whoever has a need, whoever asks us, gets the luggage,” Blake said. “We give away thousands of pieces of luggage for multiple agencies, multiple families.”

In addition to soliciting donations and grants, Angels Take Flight conducts two major fund-raisers each year, a 5K run in the spring and a comedy show in the winter. Having connected with people across the country interested in the program, Blake believes her enterprise could go national. “I think it’s going to happen rather quickly — within the course of a couple of years.”

In addition to her other roles, Blake is an educator, starting out as a part-time teacher at Bay Path College, which hired her as director of Psychology for its one-day program in 2012. She’s also working to develop another nonprofit, Girls Will Shine, which will empower girls through the performing arts and media.

“I always knew I wanted to help people,” Blake said of the many facets of her professional life. “I just wanted to be that guide for people, to help them out any way I could.”

— Joseph Bednar