SPRINGFIELD – To a backdrop of proud smiles and enthusiastic applause, The Association For Community Living honored individuals it serves for milestones such as overcoming fears, working on lifestyle goals and persistence in the face of health challenges.
At its Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, on June 17 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Executive Director Barbara Pilarcik also presented achievement and anniversary awards to agency programs and highlighted outstanding contributions of staff and community members.
“Every day, day in and day out, our staff is in our communities doing good work. Their actions and deeds overwhelm prejudice, doubt and fear,” Pilarcik said. “These are the people who fulfill our mission each and every day and who, together with persistence and resilience, have overwhelmed the world with their good work.”
The awards program was attended by over 300 board members, staff, volunteers, supporters and those in greater western Massachusetts who are served by The Association along with their families.
Pilarcik also held a moment of silence for 16 friends of The Association who died in the past year, including Judge Sidney Cooley of Longmeadow, who died in January at age 100.
She said of the friends, many of whom were also donors, “They often led the way in showing communities how to accept a child who may be more challenged than some, but no less gifted. Their courage in standing up and stepping up has left us much better off.”
Pilarcik presented the following awards to individuals throughout Western Massachusetts served by the agency:
• Titus Barklow of Springfield, for persistence in his Judo and Karate training for seven years. “He is now at the brown belt level and has been working hard to earn his black belt,” Pilarcik said. “Congratulations, Titus on your energy and positive attitude.”
• Peter Bergeron of West Springfield, for persistence in working toward good health. “Peter has lost 50 pounds and has learned how to make better food choices, and he watches his portion sizes,” Pilarcik said. “He has started exercising and takes walks around the block.”
• Bill Bragdon of Indian Orchard, for resilience in overcoming the loss of his late, long-time friend and housemate. “Bill has grown and found his own voice,” Pilarcik said. “He assisted in the Toy Drive at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield and participated in many of the REACH activities. He speaks up more, expresses his own opinions and is more outgoing.”
• Richard Gemme of West Springfield, for successfully tackling the challenge of trimming down his large record collection. “It is never easy to part with these objects of our desire, but when they overwhelm us, it is necessary,” Pilarcik said.
• Marie Guillmette of Chicopee, who Pilarcik said has “shown the power of a loving presence in her visits to her grandmother, who is living in a nursing home.”
• John Hanuszcsyk of Springfield, for dedication in achieving his brown belt in karate and working toward his black belt. “John has never lost the same energy and enthusiasm he had as a beginner,” Pilarcik said.
• Elizabeth “Betsy” Jackson of Westfield, for overcoming several serious health challenges with calmness and dignity. Pilarcik said, “She proved to herself and others how strong she truly is. In spite of all the health concerns, she continued to enjoy her community outings and woke every day determined to have a fun day.”
• Edward Magnani of Springfield, for developing a new approach to life that has him following through on medical appointments and becoming more active in community service programs.
• David Ruddock of Springfield, for being willing to accept changes in his life and developing new interests.
• Lisa Trapani of Dalton, for overcoming her fear of domestic animals. “Lisa has lived with the Morgan family for the past four and a half years,” Pilarcik said. “When she arrived, she was deathly afraid of dogs and disliked animals. Over these years, she has gradually worked at her fears to the point that she is now able to tolerate cats, will pet dogs and has allowed a bird to perch on her finger. She even sat in a pen with a rabbit!”
Other awards were also presented to community members, care providers and agency staff.
The Robert V. Agoglia Community Living Award was given to:
• Judy and Mark Goodwin and their children, Chelsea and Jamison, of Palmer for their care and support of Brett Thomas over 33 years. Thomas lived with the Goodwins for 17 years, and when he turned 22 several years ago, they continued to spend time with him and “include Brett as a member of their family.”
• Nancy Farnsworth, Educational Advocated for people, for her dedication, ideas, and “calming influence” in her work with individuals on the autism spectrum served by The Association.
• Stacy and Tom Mason of Hampden, for helping those they serve feel safe and helping them deal with issues around hygiene, anger and health.
The Good Friend Award was awarded to Little’s Pharmacy of North Adams for stepping in to serve community members by providing medications after a long-time supplier closed without warning.
The Respite Provider Recognition Award went to Cynthia Lovejoy of Springfield, a respite provider for The Association, for an ongoing positive attitude and kindness and for having a major impact on an individual she welcomed into her home during an emergency placement.
The Charles E. Veith Community Service Award was given to Dr. Lisa Planeta of Mercy Medical Center, for her “unwavering support” of a community member dealing with a serious health matter in 2012 and ongoing.
The Michel Reberkenny Supervisor Recognition Award, was presented to Placement Coordinator Marilyn Lysobey of Pittsfield, for her lifetime commitment to helping people with disabilities and a “can-do attitude.”
The Nancy E. Patridge Direct Support Professional Recognition Award went to Greta Sienkiewicz of The Association’s Residential Supported Living Programs, for giving freely of her own personal time to enhance the experience of community members.
For more information about the services and programs of The Association For Community Living, visit www.theassociationinc.org