Hometown Hero award winners announced
EAST LONGMEADOW Once again Reminder Publications will honor ordinary citizens who do extraordinary service in their communities throughout the Greater Springfield area.
The annual Hometown Hero Awards were founded to pay tribute to outstanding western Massachusetts residents and businesspeople in the memory of the late Anne Buendo, the co-founder of the company.
The sixth annual recognition event will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at The Log Cabin in Holyoke. The recipients will receive a $100 donation in their name to their favorite charity from Reminder Publications as well as a portrait from Robert Charles Photography. Each recipient had the opportunity to work with the photographers in a series of sessions.
Over 300 friends and relatives of those honored are expected to attend the event. Dancers from the MaryAnn Studio of Dance will be performing along with a slideshow presentation of the Hometown Hero experience by Robert Charles Photography. For more information contact Director of Marketing Diana Dziok at 525-3247, ext. 142.
The following are the recipients of the award.
Nominated by Michelle Fairman
Todd Fairman is a husband, best friend, dad, and huge community supporter when it comes to youth sports. Todd has donated endless hours to Wilshire Athletic Association over the past 4 years, to make sure ALL children who want to play sports are able to do so. Todd sits as Vice President on the Wilshire Board of Directors, Chairperson for the events Committee, Webmaster, and CORI program. He's the Head Coordinator for baseball season; he coaches 2 baseball teams, he is the team coordinator for Girl's Basketball, and takes team and individual pictures of all children for both sports year round enabling the parents to purchase photo packages of their child for keepsake. Todd also helped organize the Wilshire Golf Tournament over the past three years. Todd has expanded his coaching capabilities this fall to Assistant Coach for two Brookside Soccer teams. He also makes it a personal commitment that all "neighborhood" children play on the same team in hopes the kids will make new friends and carpooling opportunities would be feasible.
Todd does all this from the bottom of his heart, for his children and all children that want to be involved with sports. Even though he may be "busy" at times, he always makes time for his family and makes every game and practice for his kids; whatever it takes.
We love you, and everything you do. You are our hero.
Rabbi David Edelman
Nominated by Esther Kosofsky
Rabbi Edelman is my father, and he is the most inspiring man I know. He has lived in the Springfield community since 1950 and dedicated his life to spreading goodness, kindness, and spirituality to all the people he meets. Rabbi Edelman regularly goes to the hospitals visiting sick people, and he personally distributes matza- unleavened bread for Passover to many people in the area. He always has a good word about people. He is not a judgmental person and always encourages others to do more.
Since he turned 80 years old in 2005, he has not slowed down, but continues to visit people and act as a role model. He is the dean of LYA day school in Longmeadow and his greatest joy is interacting with the students in the school, sharing personal stories and listening to them relate what happened in school each day. He is the patriarch in his family of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. When asked how many grandchildren my father has, I respond "one" since he has the ability to make the grandchild he is talking to feel as though he or she is his only grandchild. He has the ability to touch whoever he meets and this community is fortunate that he calls the Pioneer Valley his home.
Sister Cindy Matthews
Nominated by Francis Ryan
Franciscan Sister Cindy Matthews serves as pastoral minister to the Holy Cross Parish in Springfield's East Forest Park. Through her tireless energy and keen insights, she facilitates scores of opportunities for parishioners to reach out to meet the needs of the parish, neighborhood, city and county.
Though this may seem exactly what a nun should do, it is her unending ease and warmth that invites so many to follow her kind, quiet example and become involved in many fulfilling activities.
While collecting and distributing clothing and household items for needy families, Grey House, and Weston Rehab for Women, donating requested Christmas presents from our giving tree to hundreds of adults and children throughout the area, building community through an annual picnic, a welcoming new families Sunday, a single parent support group, social and informational evenings and luncheons, and arranging for visits and gifts to homebound, nursing home, and hospital residents, she selflessly enhances all these experiences for both the givers as well as the receivers!
Sr. Cindy continues to minister to parishioners in the loss of their loved one throughout their bereavement period and anyone who comes in contact with this remarkable, charitable woman would recognize her as a heroine.
Richard "Dick" Kmetz
Nominated by John Ciesluk, Ed. D., Principal Wolf Swamp School ,
Mary Ann Sedran, Ed. D., Principal, Williams M.S.
As veteran principals, we have observed Dick Kmetz repeatedly knock on our doors with the latest recycling project for the Longmeadow community. Being an astute environmentalist, Dick knows that to be successful with adults one must educate children first.
When we heard about this award at our Cabinet meeting last week, we immediately thought of Dick and his efforts to introduce recycling projects into the schools. He has spent many a day working with the head custodians planning with them to recycle milk cartons or to upgrade recycling barrels. Dick has presented recycling strategies to students on several occasions. It seems, no matter what the recycling effort, Dick is quick to pass it along to the schools.
In summary, we nominate Dick for his commitment to recycling in the town of Longmeadow and his relentless efforts to reach students with this information. If one were to interview Dick, he would be able to provide a litany of efforts he has spearheaded over the past 12-15 years. Dick deserves to be recognized as a Hometown Hero.
Jane and Don Cavanaugh
Nominated by Suzanne Herlihy
As citizens of the community Jane and Don Cavanaugh go "beyond the call of duty" for volunteering and helping anyone that needs help.
Jane started to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield in August 1998. Jane is always willing to help out with anything we ask of her. A weekly volunteer, a special events volunteer, and a supporter of all functions at the house are just some of her community service jobs. Jane has also volunteered for the Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Walk for the past 10 years and realizes how important this job is as Jane herself is a cancer survivor. Jane also drives neighbors to chemotherapy appointments, doctor appointments, and even to cook them a meal. That is Jane Cavanaugh.
Jane and Don have been living in East Longmeadow for 38 years. Jane is a wife of 41 years to her true and faithful husband, Don. She is a mother of three, two boys and a girl. She is a grandmother of 8, ages ranging from 3 to 11 years old. Jane's family is the most important thing in her life. She cares for her family and extended family daily; never thinking of herself, just of others.
Don Cavanaugh is always right by Jane's side. A calm and gentle man, he is also willing to help others whenever he can. He also volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and the Rays of Hope Walk. This couple deserves this award for the kindness they show, not only in their family and friends, but the community they serve, just by being great human beings.
Nominated by Stephen Kaplan & Eve Bois
With powerful vision and exuberance, Ms. Kaplan changes the lives of inner city children every day. Orphaned at an early age, Susan Jaye-Kaplan meets children were they live as the Founder of Go FIT, a walking, running, and mentoring program. She personally instills positive attitude, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging into her staff, volunteers and most importantly the children for whom the program exists.
Her smile and genuine good nature is inviting and reassuring to the hundreds of children who sit on schools steps and doorsteps waiting for her to arrive in after school programs, community centers and college dorms. She is armed with free running shoes, socks, t-shirts, water bottles and healthy snacks. The greeting is overwhelming and their experience together lingers long after the program's end. In six or eight short weeks the value of human relationship is elevated, as their heart rate, self-esteem, and their ability to cope with stress.
Ms. Kaplan delivers important role models for children to emulate and together they practice making good decisions, healthy menus, and a commitment to fitness as a deliberate alternative to stress, illness, and obesity. These short week clinics are just plain fun.
The mission of Ms. Kaplan's Go FIT, Inc. program is to provide health and fitness opportunity to economically underprivileged and underserved youth and women in inner city and rural settings, and to educate, via coordinators and mentors, this population and to the public at large the benefits of walking, exercise and running as a means of promoting health and general welfare.
Susan was awarded tone of the nation's Daily Point of Light Awards in national recognition of her efforts to make a commitment to connect Americans through service to help meet critical needs in the community and nation in July 2006. She received the President's Citation Award at Western New England College in May 2006 and has appeared in numerous articles and books such as: "Running for the Women's Soul "by Rodale Press, "Run for Your Life" by Deborah Reber, "The Strong Woman's Journal" by Miriam Nelson, PhD, and "Runner's World Magazine" in August 2006.
Nominated by April Mosher
Dianne Mitchell, what a gal. While she'll be the first to say that it takes the whole committee and all the volunteers to make it happen, it all starts with a good leader, and that would be Dianne. Dianne volunteers her time, and works tirelessly at the Boys & Girls Club's biggest fundraiser 'The Festival of Trees". She's there from set up to break down, and every day in between to see that everything runs smoothly. Dianne never snaps when interrupted (for the umpteenth time), and always has a smile on her face. Not only does Dianne chair the committee, but she also takes on the coordination of the entertainment that takes place during the run of the Festival of Trees. I'm not sure how she does it, but this year, I'm going to check the back room to see if Dianne has actually moved in a cot for cat naps during the long days she puts in.
Nominated by MaryAnn Langone
April Mosher is the most thoughtful and compassionated person I know. April organizes many benefits and chartable events. She is a fantastic dance instructor for The MaryAnn Studio of Dance in Springfield and Agawam.
April instills in her students the responsibility we have to enrich the lives of others less fortunate, and to have fun while contributing to their community by performing in and around the Springfield area. All of us find it gratifying to work with April as we bring joy and cheer entertainment at nursing homes, hospitals, and civic functions.
April makes flags to honor our troops as we march in the Memorial Day Parade. She makes Christmas ornaments to raise funds for the "Festival of Trees" supporting the Springfield Boys and Girls Club. For Halloween she collected used glasses to be distributed to underdeveloped countries. Flip tops from soda cans are being collected to donate to Shriner's Hospital. For many years she helped raise over $50,000 for the American Heart Association with dance performances and The Heart Walk.
April does all this out of the goodness of her heart. All of us at the MaryAnn Studio of Dance share her vision and appreciate her activity. We all enjoy working with her as a team, as she is always full of good ideas. If anyone deserves this award, April does.
Nominated by Donald J. Fletcher
"The importance of family" That's a phrase we hear often. This is the story of how an extraordinary family came to exist through the work of a hero:
Specialized Home Care, a division of The Association For Community Living, is a program that matches individuals with developmental disabilities with families in the community. One care provider, Gertrude Cox, has been working with The Association for almost ten years. She is a Hometown Hero who created a family for one of the most vulnerable segments of our population; in her home two young women with developmental disabilities are thriving.
Gertrude Cox had spent much of her life helping others and raising her sons and daughters, including her adopted daughter Cynthia, now a happy 28-year-old who is living with developmental disabilities.
She came to know Specialized Home Care through her work as a social worker, "I was a reunification social worker who worked with families trying to get their children with developmental disabilities back into their homes. Audell Green was one of my clients," a child she was unable to reunite with her family. Gertrude saw an opportunity to provide a loving home for Audell, so she became a care provider for Specialized Home Care, and Audell became a member of her family.
At the time Audell could communicate little with others. When Ms. Cox discovered that Audell could pick up sounds by ear, she encouraged her to take singing lessons. She now sings at area public events and participates actively in the community. Gertrude's loving care has provided Audell and Cynthia with a strong family foundation. Ms. Cox says "I have four daughters now. Two of them are living with me."
Nominated by Suzanne Herlihy
As a citizen and business person of this community, Jennifer Putnam is an asset to all the charities she is involved with.
Jennifer has been involved with the American Legion Auxiliary for the past 15 years, unit #275 in Chicopee Falls. Jennifer served as Director of Hampden County in 2001-2002 and was responsible for 15 units. She has also served as President, Historian, and is currently Treasurer of her unit.
Jennifer's dedication to the veterans that gave of themselves serving our country is a great gift to these men and women. One of Jennifer's projects, which are very important to her, is the gift shop in the Holiday Season that Jennifer organizes at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. This allows the men and women in this hospital to go to the gift ship and choose gifts for their loved ones. Each unit is responsible for purchasing gifts, a percent based on their membership. Each year Jennifer is the fist one at the gift shop to set up. Then the veterans are brought down from their bedrooms to choose their gifts. The gifts are then bagged, wrapped, and tagged for them to give to family members when they come to visit for the holidays. Another project Jennifer is very involved with is two picnics a year at the Veterans Hospital. She lugs and tugs food for these vets to enjoy as it is a big treat for them to have a grilled hamburger or hot dog, a real old fashioned picnic. Jennifer also helps each Tuesday of the month with a dinner at unit #275 to help raise money for auxiliary programs such as the Junior Program, Girls State Program, children, youth and community service projects, to name a few. So, as you can see, Jennifer gives of herself without complaint.
Jennifer is also a volunteer at the Rays of Hope, a walk towards the cure of breast cancer, where she has worked registration for 10 years. She also volunteers many hours at the Ronald McDonald House where she is employed 40 hours a week and volunteers as many hours as she works.
Jennifer has also taken guardianship of her great niece. A wife, mother and grandmother who did her job as a parent took her niece because she cared and wanted to support and love this child as her own. So for the past three years Jennifer has been "Mom" again when she should be enjoying adult children and grandchildren. She is back to having a teenager. Jennifer is a super person with many good qualities, some of what I have mentioned. A kind, caring, loving citizen to all.
Nominated by Suzanne Marotta
Ruth Willemain is a teacher by training and began her career in 1953. Upon retiring in 1999, the window of opportunity opened as she was called to become a hospice volunteer.
This is really where the story begins. Hospice volunteers serve people who are dying. Ruth has given thousands of hours to hundreds of patients as a companion, nurturer, Eucharistic Minister, and vigil team member. She advocates for them and provides for their dying wishes with her own money. She attends their funerals, and supports their family once their loved one passes. Her contribution is of course "priceless" making her a heroine daily, to the terminally ill and their families. For this work alone, she deserves recognition as a Hometown Hero.
As you know, we cannot avoid death, but how one dies makes a difference. Over the past four years, Ruth has been inspired to bring to fruition a dream of a place, a shelter where compassionate care can be given to terminally ill people, and so began the creation of Harmony House.
Her passion serves as an inspiration to us all.
Nominated by Kris Kos Lecca
Henry Jennings has served his country in both the Air Force and in the Army. His wife Wilma also served in the Army. When they finished their tours hey came to Holyoke where Wilma taught school and Henry worked for O'Connell Construction. They raised two beautiful daughters and were very active in our community. They were both active members of the NAACP until Wilma's passing. Henry was the first Afro-American to serve on the Holyoke City Council. He has been a member of American Legion Post 25 for over 40 years, serving as a Post Commander, County Commander, Dept. Sergeant at arms and a National Sergeant at arms. He currently is serving on the War Memorial Commission as Chairman, a non-paying job. His dedication is outstanding. At 83 years old he works everyday at the War Memorial Building donating his time and talents. I can never remember anyone in this community, veteran, church organization; anyone in need that Henry Jennings hasn't helped. He's an outstanding human begin and an asset to the city of Holyoke. Did I mention he work on the project to bring Mikhail Barysnikov to perform at our War Memorial?
Jeanne Proulx Hebert
Nominated by Marie Meder
When Jeanne Proulx Hebert was a four month old infant, the nurses at Holyoke Hospital cradled her in their arms. Little did she know that 50 years later, she would be returning the favor. Being allergic to milk caused many health problems for baby Jeanne. On top of that, a bout with bronchitis landed her in the hospital where she was placed inside a breathing tent. Once released, her mother, Edna Proulx, in desperation, attempted to feed her goats milk, which had been suggested by a friend. Lo and behold, it turned out to be a miracle cure and Jeanne steadily gained her health.
Jeanne Proulx Hebert's soft cuddling arms serve as her tools- a safe, secure haven for her little charges. Jeanne's special mission was born from her desire to give back to the Baystate Medical Center Community. In thanksgiving for her good health, she felt compelled to help others in need. Jeanne's life-long love of babies propelled her to become a volunteer. Upon completion of classes, she was directed to Baystate Children's Hospital and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where she has remained for the past seven years.
In the capacity of a "pedi-pal", Jeanne performs many duties including playing with the children, making rounds with the game cart and cleaning the play areas. On any given Friday, Jeanne can be found feeding, rocking or holding infants, sometimes staying beyond her hours so as not to disturb their rest. With her calm, peaceful demeanor, babies seem to sense Jeanne's overflowing heart of love. Sometimes, she is the only one who can stem a baby's tear, cajole them to drink their bottles or lull them to slumber in her protective embrace. Her soft voice offers comfort and encouragement.
As a volunteer, Jeanne has received a 500 hours pin, a 1,000 hours pin and been nominated and recognized for her efforts with the "Baystate's Best" award. Co-workers and parents have expressed appreciation of her natural nurturing abilities. What a better gift could one hope to give than that of love.