2021: looking ahead – the only way from here is up

Feb. 15, 2021 | Payton North
pnorth@thereminder.com

For the past three years we at Reminder Publishing have been bringing our readers their Community Outlook – a guide and a resource for our subscribers to read about what’s happening in their communities and neighboring towns over the course of the upcoming year, what projects are starting, underway or near completion, and what new businesses are coming to the area.

Last year in my welcome column to readers I discussed the many plans that our towns had in store and construction projects that were beginning. I noted that we talked with small business owners and how they felt that “people need people” and how they were working to thrive in an industry that has rapidly changed over the years due to the internet. I touched upon discussions of local health departments that were discussing vaping, as it was a large issue at the time.

What none of us predicted, however, was a global pandemic. Readers definitely didn’t see anything about that in our 2020 Community Outlook.

People certainly need people now more than ever.

In this year’s 2021 Community Outlook, we revisit many of the same industries that were featured in last year’s Community Outlook: local government, construction, education, entertainment, tourism, restaurant, retail and more. While the purpose of the Community Outlook is to look ahead at the year, it would be foolish to deny how the past year affected these industries.

One must confront the past before we can move ahead.

Throughout our interviews with local colleges, government officials, restaurant owners, small business owners, transportation industry leaders and health experts, the sentiment remained the same: we will get through this.

For instance, Dr. Joan Lesser, mental health expert and state Sen. Eric Lesser’s mother, shared with Reminder Publishing how to emotionally recover in a healthy manner, and what psychological resilience is – noting that collective trauma can cause people to come together to assess need and alter and expand resources as needed.

Local banquet halls and event venues found ways to pivot or to cope for the past year – Hampden’s The Starting Gate at GreatHorse created elopement packages and a micro-wedding package for people who still wanted to get married but couldn’t have a big wedding due to COVID-19. In a note of optimism, The Starting Gate Director of Catering Cathy Stephens said that they are “looking to get back in it and I think people are going to really, really celebrate when this all gets lifted. I think it’s going to be great.”

East Longmeadow business Bohdii Boutique opened mere months before the pandemic hit, and today, owner Justice Pellegrino prepares for an expansion, opening her second location in south Boston.

Both South Hadley’s new Superintendent Dr. Jahmal Mosley and Western New England University’s new President Dr. Robert E. Johnson expressed that they’re looking forward to getting to know their respective communities more, and seeing through the remainder of the pandemic. In fact. Both Mosley and Johnson noted they are planning on remaining working for their respective organizations – the South Hadley School District and Western New England University – for the long haul.

Though the pandemic has caused significant loss, stress and has had immeasurable effects over the past year, as we look forward to 2021, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine distribution. We hope that our Community Outlook brings hope, and encourages our readers to look to better days ahead.

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