Reminder honors 2012 Hometown Heroes
Jan. 23, 2012
EAST LONGMEADOW Reminder Publications Inc. is proud to announce the winners of the 10th annual Hometown Hero Awards in honor of the company’s co-founder Anne Buendo.
The winners will be honored at a ceremony at the Log Cabin, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke, on Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. For tickets to the event, which are $20 each and include hors d’oeuvres and buffet dinner, contact Noreen Brennan at 525-3247 ext. 107 or Gail Breton at 525-3247 ext. 140.
Gianna Allentuck is a Longmeadow resident and guidance counselor at Brookings Elementary School in Springfield.
She was nominated by her co-workers Celeste Montessi and Pam Maynard for her efforts to ensure the success and safety of the students at Brookings School, especially in the aftermath of the June 1, 2011 tornado.
Montessi said of Allentuck, “Brookings Elementary School in Springfield was hit hard by the recent tornado. G opened her home to about 30 staff who descended on her home and used her phone and computer to call every student to insure their safety as most live around the school.
“She organized, stored, and distributed many tons of donations to our students, their families, and neighborhood families who lived close to the school.
“On the day of the tornado, G had a group of young boxers (boys not dogs) at the Springfield South End Community Center. She left during the tornado to go from Brookings to the center to ensure their safety. She got there just as the tornado hit, covering her car with bricks from the wall of the center. She was uninjured but brave nonetheless.
“This woman exemplifies the words Hometown Hero and she deserves the respect from the community as much as the children and staff of Brookings School respect and love her,” Montessi continued.
East Longmeadow resident Pat Henry nominated Denise Cote of Springfield for her countless hours of volunteer service as a member of the Exchange Club of Suburban Springfield over the past 20 years.
Henry said of Cote, “Denni has served on the East Longmeadow July 4th parade committee for years and assists the Exchange Club’s annual distribution of flags to children at the parade. She ran the ‘Healing Field’ project in 2009 where 400 American Flags were displayed in the field in front of East Longmeadow High [School] to honor service men and women and first responders. She runs children’s game booths at East Longmeadow’s National Night Out and 9/11 memorials.
“When the Exchange Club worked with Springfield’s MSPCC [Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] Parenting Center and with Open Pantry’s Teen Living Program, Denni bought the crafts and led the children and parents to create craft items, or led the children's games. Recently, Denni spearheaded the reconstruction of fencing at the Lil’ Ducklings Day Care Center in Sixteen Acres, which was ravaged by the June [1, 2011] tornado ... Denni personifies community service and continues to make a positive impact on many lives,” Henry continued.
Owen and Gina Humphries of Longmeadow nominated their daughter, Evelyn, 7, to the inaugural youth category of the Hometown Hero Awards for her efforts to raise funds for those affected by the 2011 tornado.
Evelyn’s parents said this of her efforts: “She wanted to do something to help, and decided a lemonade stand would work best to raise funds for families in our region that were now in need of assistance. She worked her lemonade stand for six straight days, totaling 16 hours, and raised an astonishing $1,215 in support of the American Red Cross.
“She presented her bank check to the Red Cross headquarters in Springfield, and requested that her funds be used locally. She expressed concern for her Western Mass. neighbors, friends, and family and felt strongly that the money she raised be used to help get them the supplies, food, and support that they needed.
“On average, 60 people a day visited her lemonade stand (she served over 350 cups to thirsty supporters!) and for her efforts, generous donations from the entire community were received. ... We are very proud of her lemonade stand fund-raising accomplishment, her dedication to her community, and her passion to assist those in need,” they continued.
Wilbraham resident Roger Coughlin nominated George Laroe of Springfield for his extensive volunteerism. His service includes serving meals to those less fortunate through the Open Pantry and at Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield; delivering holiday meals; and time as a volunteer at ‘Homeless Connect’ at the MassMutual Center.
Coughlin said of Laroe, “George is very involved at the Church in the Acres where he is a member of the missions’ board, works with the youth of the church, and helped organize a monthly men’s breakfast/bible study.
“George also started a nursing home ministry that visits many of the local facilities in our area. This group sings, visits, lifts the spirits of the residents, and has been well received.
“George is very involved at the ‘Lion’s Den’ in Indian Orchard. This is a youth drop-in center that works with some of the most under privileged children in Springfield. George counsels and works with the teens in an attempt to help prevent them from getting into gangs and other bad influences,” Laroe continued.
Mary Pat McMahon
West Springfield resident Linda Shippie nominated fellow resident Mary Pat McMahon for her strength and perseverance to aid those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide.
Shippie recalled, “The McMahons lost their son Mathew to suicide in 1991. At the time, Massachusetts had no support group for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. A need to connect to others who had lost someone to suicide prompted Mary Pat to run an advertisement in the local newspaper. This started the first local support group meeting in 1992, which still meets regularly and which Mary Pat still facilitates.
“Her pioneer spirit didn’t end there. She developed a program of meeting one-on-one with newly bereaved families in the comfort of their homes recognizing how paralyzing a death by suicide can be to families. Her personal commitment to help grieving families developed into the National Outreach Program where families throughout the country can have the same opportunity ... Yearly, Mary Pat organizes a conference specifically for survivors where together on International Survivors Day they can find comfort.
“In addition, Mary Pat served for 10 years on AFSP’s [American Foundation for Suicide Prevention] National Board of Directors and chaired its first National Survivor Council, a group she continues to serve on today. She helped to establish a Boston-based Chapter of AFSP and then went on to found AFSP’s Western Massachusetts Chapter ...
“Most recently, the Western Massachusetts Chapter, as an outreach of the support group, began the Out of the Darkness Community Walk held for the last 11 years here and it has spread to 275 cities ...
“Mary Pat has brought hope to the hopeless with her imitable spirit of healing. She understands grief from suicide those left behind often wonder if anyone out there really understands. She is ready with a sympathetic ear and a healing heart,” Shippie continued.
Ann Hennessey, a faculty member at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, nominated Lisa Mindell of Chicopee for the inaugural youth category of the Hometown Hero Awards.
Hennessey recognized Mindell as “a tremendous asset to the community of Chicopee” as a member of the board of directors of Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, a three-sport athlete, an officer in the Chicopee High School Best Buddies program and one of five members of an internationally and nationally ranked problem solvers team.
Hennessey said of Mindell, “I have had the pleasure of seeing Lisa grow into a compassionate, brilliant, active member of her community. She is kind to everyone, respected by her peers and faculty alike and a passionate learner. She brings a unique perspective to everything she endeavors to do and works hard to make the world a better place. Whether she’s doing things for Lorraine’s, participating in a Best Buddies event, or working on a service project at school, she is a standout. I recommend her for this honor without any reservation.”
Rosemarie Molinari Myers
East Longmeadow resident Rosemarie Molinari Myers was nominated by Martha Amsden, Dan Myers, Melinda Moran, Kathy Merrigan and Marc Robitaille for her work spearheading the East Longmeadow High School 50th Anniversary celebration, which took place in July 2011.
Dan Myers said of Rosemarie Molinari Myers, “The tireless efforts of Rosemarie Molinari Myers over a five-year period resulted in an incredibly successful 50th Birthday Party celebration for East Longmeadow High School [ELHS]. The four-day event gave former and current staff and students the opportunity to reflect on the success of the past fifty years at ELHS and look forward to its bright future.
“In addition to providing an opportunity for all members of the ELHS community to celebrate this milestone, Rosemarie coordinated all of the fund-raising activities associated with the celebration. A total of over $43,000 was raised with a portion used to present the school with the new Spartan Walkway and the remaining funds will soon be used to purchase much needed technology for the students. The Spartan Walkway also provides an opportunity for members of the community to continue to support the school for years to come.
“None of this would have been possible without the dedication, persistence, and leadership of Rosemarie Molinari Myers. I have no doubt that anyone associated with this incredible event would emphatically support Rosemarie as a Hometown Hero,” Dan Myers continued.
Kathy Lukasik of Granby nominated Joe Peters, deacon at Saint Stanislaus Church in Chicopee, for his efforts to better the lives of those in the ministry and the community at large.
Lukasik said, “As with any city in the country, there are always people who are in need of help, be they homeless, out of work, or simply facing hard economic times. Chicopee is no different than its sister cities with needs that many organizations help to fill.
“Joe Peters, a newly ordained deacon at Saint Stanislaus Church in Chicopee, recognized a need and in August 2010 started the ‘Sunday Sandwich Ministry’ with the help of the church. Every Sunday (no matter what the weather or holiday situation) Joe, along with a dedicated group of volunteers, makes 160 sandwiches (two in a bag along with a banana, juice, water, and a cookie) and goes to the center of Chicopee to distribute them to those in need.
“Although originally just a sandwich ministry, it has blossomed into giving out clothing also. Through Joe’s efforts, every Sunday about 40 to 50 people receive a nice lunch and gently used clothing, new socks, and the knowledge that someone cares about them,” Lukasik continued.
Susan Jaye-Kaplan, co-founder of the non-profit Link to Libraries (LTL) in East Longmeadow, nominated Andrew Robitaille of Westfield for the inaugural youth category of the Hometown Hero Awards. Robitaille, a seventh grade student at Academy Hill School in Springfield, is being recognized for his volunteer efforts with LTL since its inception in 2008.
Kaplan said of Robitaille, “It was very obvious to the co-founders and committee members that Andrew would be an asset to our organization. Andrew agreed to be trained by one of our volunteers suggested to work on our organization’s website. He has stepped up to the plate and is now one of the LTL website hosts.
“Andrew is determined and magnetic; he is the ultimate role model for youth. He is always ready to offer suggestions and advice if called upon. Andrew’s role in this endeavor far exceeds what one might expect from any committee or board member. His carry through abilities and his leadership far exceed that of a seventh grade student ...
“Andrew has recently arranged and coordinated a school book drive for Link to Libraries at Academy Hill School and has collected over 500 gently used and new books for LTL to distribute throughout Western Massachusetts ...
“Andrew holds an A-plus average in his classes. He is a bible camp leader at Blessed Sacrament Church in Westfield (3 years), works at a soup kitchen in both Springfield and Westfield. He is a swimmer for the Westfield Wave team (3 years) and has recently been nominated and selected to participate in the People To People Ambassador Program, which he will be attending this summer 2012 as an international ambassador ...
“I view Andrew as the drip of water that causes ‘the ripple in the room.’ Although he is but one individual, his efforts bring together members of the community and our committee in ways that enable them to connect not only with initiatives but also with one another. His enthusiasm is infectious. Andrew reflects the best that is in each of us. His kindness, dedication, unfaltering optimism, and perseverance make him a worthy recipient for this prestigious award,” Kaplan continued.
Zachary Sabadosa, 16, a sophomore at Agawam High School, was nominated by Sister Margaret McCleary, SP, of Springfield and Barbara Bard of Agawam to the inaugural youth category of the Hometown Hero Awards. He is being honored for his efforts to secure a $20,000 ESPN grant for Cathedral High School (CHS), which was destroyed by the 2011 tornado.
McCleary said of Sabadosa, “Zac, a baseball player at Agawam High [School], immediately thought of his rival school [when he saw the advertisement for the grant]. Although he didn’t have friends at Cathedral, he said, ‘We play against CHS. I know many of the kids casually and I really felt for them.’
“I am nominating Zachary Sabadosa for a Hometown Hero Award because of his unselfish spirit and sportsmanship, his sensitivity and empathy for his rival peers, for stepping up to the plate sending the proposal to ESPN, and receiving the grant for CHS. Heroes take action. Zac is a hero. He’s a great role model for young people; a son his parents can be proud of; a credit to his teachers, coach, and mentors at Agawam High and to the community,” McCleary continued.
Agawam resident Michael Sullivan, owner of Common Ground Restaurant in West Springfield was nominated by Jennifer Putnam of Ronald McDonald House in Springfield for his work the charity and his effort to help those affected by the June 1, 2011 tornado.
Putnam said of Sullivan, “Michael has been involved in the Ronald McDonald House for several years. When we need something for the house, Mike is always ready to go beyond the call of duty. Michael is someone who is dependable, organized and always willing to give 100 percent.
“Michael is a dedicated husband, father, son, brother and friend to all in need. Mike has provided many opportunities to help his employees’ to help them improve their lives and be productive citizens.
“When the tornado hit our area, he was one first the first people driving up and down the streets of West Springfield handing out food and drink to the people in the Merrick area who were devastated by this storm in June. In the many days following, he donated and delivered food to the temporary shelter at the eastern states to feed the people who lost everything.
“I could go on about this special man, this is just a fraction of what this man, with his cheery attitude and kind manner, does in his quiet way. He also opens up his restaurant to any local charity looking for a way to raise funds. Upon opening, he started ‘Papa’s Table’ where he gave a percentage of sales of that table to a local charity. The charity did nothing but sign up. He now promotes fund-raising events to any local charity that may be interested.
“As you can see, Mike is always contributing his time, talent and treasure (and love) to our house and to the greater community. He has made a huge difference in the lives of many. One special man for one special award!” Putnam continued.
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