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Bank of America Charitable Foundation Donates $27,000 to United Way of Pioneer Valley

April 20, 2017 – Springfield, MA — Representatives from Bank of America visited the United Way of Pioneer Valley offices in Springfield on Tuesday, April 18 to present a $27,000 check from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. The funds are unrestricted and will be used further the mission of the United Way.

BankofA10“We are so grateful to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for this generous donation,” said Dora Robinson, United Way President Emeritus. “This donation will go a long way as we continue to fight for the health, education and financial stability of children and families in our communites.”

“As part of our commitment to investing in healthy communities across the Commonwealth, Bank of America is proud to partner with the United Way of Pioneer Valley toward our mutual goal of helping people become economically mobile and set them on a path to financial stability,” stated Miceal Chamberlain, Bank of America Massachusetts President.

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About United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of Pioneer Valley fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community by finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources and inspiring individuals to join the fight against their community’s most daunting social crises.

United Way of Pioneer Valley Hosts Grand Friends Day to Help Seniors Learn Technology

April 10, 2017 – Pioneer Valley — Wednesday April 19 – Friday April 21, United Way of Pioneer Valley will partner with senior centers across Western Massachusetts to host Grand Friends Day, an intergenerational event matching senior citizens with teen volunteers that will help them learn and navigate new technologies. During this inaugural event, nine senior centers will open their doors to teen volunteers as they teach seniors valuable skills including managing email accounts, video chatting and maintaining social media accounts.

 

“In an age where technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in our lives, the senior population is falling behind on this trend,” said Jennifer Kinsman, United Way Director of Community Impact. “Through Grand Friends Day, United Way aims to get seniors more involved and comfortable with technology.”

 

The United Way recruited volunteers from Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, church groups, and Key Clubs for this event with the goal of empowering kids and teens to make positive change in their communities.

 

Grand Friends Day is sponsored by The Massachusetts Service Alliance and the Corporation for National and Community Service. The schedule for Grand Friends Day is as follows:

 

Wednesday April 19th

9am-12pm

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

110 Cherry St, Holyoke MA 01040

 

Thursday April 20th

10am-11:30 am

Jewish Geriatrics Services

770 Converse Street, Longmeadow MA 01106

 

12:30pm-2:30 pm

South Hadley Council on Aging

45 Dayton Street, South Hadley MA 01075

 

Friday April 21st

9:30am-11:30 am

Southwick Council on Aging

454 College Highway, Southwick MA 01077

 

11am-12:30pm

East Longmeadow Council on Aging

328 North Main Street, East Longmeadow MA 01028

 

1:00pm-3:00pm

West Springfield Council on Aging

128 Park Street, West Springfield MA 01089

 

2:00pm-4:00pm

Springfield Senior Computer Learning Center

1600 East Columbus Ave, Springfield MA 01103

 

 

About United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of Pioneer Valley fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community by finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources and inspiring individuals to join the fight against their community’s most daunting social crises.

 

United Way of Pioneer Valley Announces Grand Opening of Westfield Thrive Financial Success Center

February 28, 2017 – Springfield, MA — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) along with key partners will hold the grand opening of the Thrive Financial Success Center in Westfield on Tuesday, March 14 at 11:00am at Episcopal Church, 36 Court Street in Westfield. Senator Don Humason, State Representative, John Velis, Westfield Mayor, Brian Sullivan, as well as representatives from program funders including Westfield Bank and the Davis Foundation will attend the grand opening.

 

The center, to be housed at Episcopal Church is the fourth of its kind in Western Mass.

“After the success of the Thrive Financial Success Centers at Holyoke Community College and in downtown Holyoke, we are thrilled to open a third Thrive Center at Springfield Technical Community College,” Dora D. Robinson, President and CEO, United Way of Pioneer Valley said. “At the United Way of Pioneer Valley, we believe basic financial literacy should be a key aspect of everyone’s education. No career goal or life’s ambition should be hindered because a person doesn’t know how to balance their checkbook or maintain a good credit rating.”

Thrive@ STCC anticipates it will serve 400 individuals in its first year of operation. Program offerings include confidential benefits screening and enrollment; money skills class; individual financial coaching sessions; free income tax prep through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program; links to workforce development and training workshops; and MassMutual’s LifeBridge program, a free life insurance program.

Thrive Centers currently operate in partnership with the United Way at Holyoke Community College and at the Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center in downtown Holyoke.

 

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About United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of Pioneer Valley fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community by finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources and inspiring individuals to join the fight against their community’s most daunting social crises.

 

United Way of Pioneer Valley Seeks Requests for Funding

Basic needs grant funding available for local organizations

United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) is seeking Requests for Funding (RFFs) for its Basic Needs Grant Program.  These grants will support programs and services in the Pioneer Valley that provide temporary and short-term food, shelter, and heating assistance to stabilize individuals and families faced with an emergency due to loss of employment, housing, natural disaster, domestic violence, etc.

Priority will be given for programs that serve seniors, veterans, residents living in communities with limited access to short-term emergency basic needs programs (e.g. rural communities), and residents ineligible for public assistance programs (e.g. fuel assistance) but in need of short-term emergency help to stabilize their situation.

Organizations should not approach this application with the expectation of ongoing annual operating support.  Grants will be awarded for a period of 12 months from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.  The purpose of the Basic Needs Grant Program is to support and sustain strong communities in Hampden County, South Hadley, and Granby, Massachusetts.

 

Application deadline is March 10, 2017. For more information contact LaTonia Monroe Naylor, Senior Manager of Community Investments, 413-693-0215 or lnaylor@uwpv.org.

 

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About United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of Pioneer Valley fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community by finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources and inspiring individuals to join the fight against their community’s most daunting social crises.

 

United Way of Pioneer Valley Announces Personnel Changes

United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) is filling out its team as they expand services and bring new energy to staple positions. Today, they announced the addition of Jennifer Fernandes of South Hadley, as the new Case Coach for Thrive Financial Success Centers in Westfield and Holyoke, Chris Woods of West Springfield, as the new part-time Volunteer Coordinator, as well as the promotion of LaTonia Naylor of Springfield, from Community Impact Manager to Senior Manager of Community Investments.

Jennifer FernandezFernandes will coordinate the UPWV’s Thrive program, which serves to strengthen the financial capacity of community college students and residents. Through community collaborative efforts, Thrive promotes and supports activities related to financial literacy, including access to a one-stop financial resource center, workforce development services, and public benefit screening and enrollment. Fernandes has a B.A. in Psychology from UMass Amherst and a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lesley College. She has been working with the Adult Basic Education program in Holyoke, and has been involved in financial literacy, academic and career counseling.

 

Chris WoodsWoods earned his B.S. in Marketing from Bentley University. Following graduation, he became an Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) member for a year and traveled across the country working on volunteer projects. For the past year, he has been a math tutor with Springfield Math Fellows, and he continues as an assistant swim team coach with the West Springfield Torpedoes. Woods will be coordinating volunteer activities for United Way Youth Generate, Stuff the Bus, and Day of Caring programs, among other projects.

 

“We are thrilled to welcome Jennifer and Chris to our team,” said Jennifer Kinsman, United Way Director of Community Impact. “They both bring the type of enthusiasm and talent we need as the United Way continues to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community across the Pioneer Valley.”

LaTonia Naylor HeadshotNaylor’s promotion to Senior Manager of Community Investments will have her overseeing grants management for the education, basic needs, small grants and emergency food and shelter programs. She’ll also provide technical assistance to United Way grantees and community partners and become the UWPV community liaison for education initiatives.

Latonia is a strong and extremely capable employee. Her passion for and commitment to the mission of the United Way and the communities we serve make her the perfect choice for this position,” added Kinsman.

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About United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of Pioneer Valley fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community by finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources and inspiring individuals to join the fight against their community’s most daunting social crises.

United Way of Pioneer Valley President & CEO Dora Robinson to Retire in June

United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) today announced that the organization’s President and CEO, Dora Robinson, will retire effective June 30, 2017, starting an orderly leadership transition over the next six months. The Board of Trustees named Jeffrey Ciuffreda as the organization’s interim president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. Robinson will continue to serve UWPV as president emeritus.

 

Robinson’s decision will bring to a close a remarkable career of over 40 years of non-profit leadership in the Greater Springfield Community, the last 7 with UWPV. “We thank Dora for her years of service, celebrate her contributions, and are excited to build upon them,” said Bennett H. Markens, president of the UWPV Board of Trustees. “It is our sincere hope that she enjoys this well-deserved retirement.”

 

“It has been an honor to lead this organization alongside our dedicated volunteers, staff and board members,” said Robinson. “I look forward to working with Jeff, the board and the management team during the six-month transition period.”

 

Robinson began with UWPV in 2009. Under her leadership, UWPV launched several new strategies to diversify revenues contributing to education, homelessness, basic needs and financial security programs, among others. During her tenure she co-founded the UWPV Women’s Leadership Council to engage local women leaders in supporting financial literacy and health initiatives for women and girls. She also led the effort to establish UWPV as a support organization for local and regional disaster recovery efforts.

 

With Ciuffreda managing day-to-day operations the board of directors will conduct an exhaustive search for Robinson’s successor. “As the search for a permanent replacement moves forward, we know that UWPV is in good hands and that there will be no interruption in the critical services we provide in our community,” said Markens.

 

“The United Way has been providing key support to families and organizations across the Valley for 94 years and has operated at a high level in this role,” said Ciuffreda. “It is my hope to not only maintain the organization’s success, but also build upon it. I am honored to lead an organization with such an impressive legacy.”

Ciuffreda becomes interim president and chief executive officer of UWPV after his August retirement from the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, where he served as president for five years. Ciuffreda joined the Chamber in 1987 as vice president of legislative affairs and became president in 2011. Prior to his work at the Chamber, Ciuffreda served as an aide to Congressman Silvio O. Conte for eight years and prior to that, served as deputy director of the United States Peace Corps program in the country of Lesotho in Africa. Ciuffreda has served as a board member with the Food Bank of western Massachusetts, the Friends of the Homeless, and the United Way of Pioneer Valley. A native of Pittsfield, Ciuffreda was a selectman in Williamsburg for 17 years, where he still lives with his wife, Mary Ann. They have two adult children.

 

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About United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of Pioneer Valley mobilizes people and resources to strengthen our communities. We envision a thriving, caring region where individuals have opportunities to realize their potential, become economically self-sufficient, and contribute collectively to improve the quality of life in their communities.

Club Connect comes to the Old Mill Elementary School in Palmer

club_connect-story02For most of us, there are two key ingredients for developing a life-long love of reading: a good book and a quiet, comfy corner to curl up into. Sometimes an ordinary classroom setting isn’t the ideal place to get swept away in a story or lose yourself in dialog. That’s where United Way Club Connect comes in.

This year, the United Way of Pioneer Valley was chosen nationally as one of ten United Ways to participate in Club Connect. They selected the Old Mill Elementary School in Palmer as an ideal place to give their students an even better shot at reading success. With club membership, comes the following benefits:

  • A Scholastic Reading Oasis, with more than 1,000 books and a comfortable, inviting space for children to read in throughout the year.
  • Access to an online website engaging children in a variety of reading activities 365 days a year.
  • Parent engagement, including emails and corporate incentive programs to reach parents and increase their involvement in their child’s reading.

This May, the Old Mill Elementary school opened their Reading Oasis, situated on the stage in the school cafeteria. A faux fireplace is circled with colorful beanbags and flanked by shelves teeming with books for all ages and reading levels.

On a recent Monday morning, as students streamed into the space, selected a book and plopped down in beanbag, Mrs. Jacqueline Haley, the school’s principal, was beaming. “I’d never imagined this space could be used this way,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without United Way’s support.”

Steve Lowell, President of Monson Savings Bank, was also present. As a United Way board member, he understands the importance of early literacy and wanted to see for himself how the Reading Oasis worked. Joining students on the rug, he agreed it was an ideal place for young children to “get wrapped up in a good book. This can really make a difference in students’ lives.”

Beyond the pleasure reading can bring, it’s a fundamental building block of any student’s education.

“Research tells us that children who can read proficiently by third grade are much more likely to successfully graduate high school,” said Sylvia De Haas Phillips, Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Engagement for the United Way of Pioneer Valley. “That’s why United Way Club Connect is such a game changer for schools like Old Mill Elementary School in Palmer.”

United Way Club Connect is part of a broader effort to increase area graduation rates. United Way volunteers also tutor students and help with homework. Providing children with greater access to books, as well as a supportive environment where they can read, will help ensure they don’t fall behind. In fact, having regular access to a large book collection and a reading role model has a greater impact on a child’s reading frequency than household income. Reading frequency translates to reading fluency, the main ingredient in school success—not just in the early grades, but throughout a child’s academic career.

Altogether, generous individual and corporate donors have adopted 87 schools in 15 states in 2015 and 2016. They donated more than 43,500 books and impacted the lives of 46,000 students.

— Mark Roessler

A Conversation with Tom Senecal, PeoplesBank’s new President

Tom_S

PeoplesBank of Holyoke has been in the news a lot recently.

Last year, as the bank celebrated its 130th anniversary, the accolades kept pouring in. The Boston Globe declared the bank as a “Top Place to Work.” MassLive and the Republican’s readers voted it “the best mortgage lender,” and the Boston Business Journal singled the local institution out as a “Top Corporate Charitable Contributor.”

Though certainly impressive, for those familiar with the bank’s work, the praise wasn’t a surprise. PeoplesBank and the United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) have long worked together to improve conditions for the region. Most recently they were among several area partners to launch three Thrive centers across Holyoke and Springfield—financial literacy learning centers that provide training and free tax preparation.

During a speech for the opening of one of the Thrive Centers, bank president Tom Senecal had noted how the bank’s commitment to the community—especially those who are most in need—is not a new chapter for them. It was, in fact, among the core reasons that the bank’s first president, Victorian-era industrialist William Skinner, had designated the institution as a mutual bank. He wanted to make certain they provided a pathway to financial stability for ordinary people.

“That being said, though,” Senecal said in a more recent interview with UWPV, “I want to make certain we’re looking to the future and not just to the past. When I think of PeoplesBank today, I think of innovation, technology, and providing customer service without friction. Looking at banking through the eyes of the customer. We’re always looking for ways to improve our online services and embrace new technologies. It’s important we stay ahead of the curve—stay innovative—in order to provide these products and services to our customers.

“Skinner was also very innovative for his time, but I think it’s important we maintain a balance—remembering what others brought to the institution, but also building off of that and keeping focused on the future.”

To that end, projects like Thrive are innovations Senecal embraces completely.

“Financial literacy is tremendously important to PeoplesBank and the community at large,” he said. “I’m passionate about it, and Thrive very much aligns with what we do. Being a community bank, it allows us to participate, understand and support the community” in a way that is meaningful.

Regardless of age or income level, financial literacy is a skill that everyone needs, Senecal said, adding with a laugh that there were people in his own family he thought could benefit from the courses Thrive offers.

Family is important to Senecal, and it’s a chief reason he lives in the Pioneer Valley.

“I was a Chicopee boy,” he said. “My Senecal roots go back quite a few generations in the Willimanset section of Chicopee. When I left high school, I went into the service. When I got out of the service, I went to UMass Amherst, and I graduated from the Isenberg School of Business. I came back to the area because it was my roots, I believe in this area.”

Asked what he thought accounted for his business being declared a top place to work, he was unequivocal: “An unbelievably engaged employee base.”

Elaborating, he said, “Doug [Bowen, Chairman and CEO] has fostered an organizational culture that is extremely employee engagement focused, and that appeals to me. I hope to continue that tradition of making sure our employees feel that way about this organization.”

He was quick to add, though, that what made PeoplesBank special wasn’t merely strong leadership.

“Our employees donate a tremendous amount of time volunteering—giving back to the community,” he said. “Our employees were recognized for being in the top ten in the state of Massachusetts, per capita, for employee donations. That’s not driven from the top down—as president of the bank, I can make large donations, but I can’t tell my employees what to give. That ranking from the Boston Business Journal is all up to them. That’s pretty cool.”

Hiring new employees who are similarly engaged and dedicated to the community has also been important. “It’s important everyone is part of the culture we’ve created here,” he said.

Asked to describe that culture, he responded, “Team-oriented. I read a book a while ago, Give and Take by Adam Grant. It measured the lives of people and organizations who were successful in life and tried to determine whether they were givers or takers. I believe PeoplesBank has a culture of givers. Not just financially, but they are generous with their time, their talent and willingness to collaborate.”

The United Way of Pioneer Valley has helped PeoplesBank channel some of this energy. Partaking in our annual Day of Caring event, over the past few years, the United Way has identified and organized volunteer opportunities for bank employees at Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, the Springfield Boys and Girls Club, YMCA of Greater Springfield, YMCA of Greater Westfield, and the Children’s Museum at Holyoke.

“People think of others before they think of themselves at PeoplesBank,” Senecal concluded. “It’s very different from anything I’ve seen at other organizations.”

— Mark Roessler

A Financial Success Center Planned for Westfield

Berkshire Bank Foundation has made a significant two-year donation to the United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) towards the design and introduction of a Financial Success Center to be located in downtown Westfield, MA in early autumn 2016. Following the Financial Success Center model introduced in both Holyoke and Springfield, this will be named Thrive @ Westfield, and will be launched in partnership with the City of Westfield, Valley Opportunity Center, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, FutureWorks, and CareerPoint, as well as several other partners.

Financial Success Centers such as the Thrive Centers in Holyoke and Springfield provide free services such as individual financial coaching, financial literacy classes, resources for workforce development, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and access to income supports for low to moderate income individuals and families.

United Way of Pioneer Valley has a long history of convening local partners for innovative community initiatives that serve people throughout the region. Visit the UWPV website for more information at www.uwpv.org

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