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December 2023

Ed Caisse

December 14 2023

Virtual Networking Meeting

Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative
Meeting Notes

Date: December 14, 2023
Time: 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Place: Zoom Meeting

Mission Statement: The Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative is a partnership between local, state & federal law enforcement; city & state government; civic & human service organizations; faith based organizations; the business community; education providers; property managers; and residents coming together with a goal to create safe, healthy & economically viable neighborhoods through information sharing, identifying at-risk youth, referrals and community efforts in specific Holyoke neighborhoods.

Welcome & Introduction 1:00pm - 1:05pm

Therese Ross: Rick’s Place 1:05pm - 1:20pm
Thank you for inviting us to share about our organization. Before we present to a group, we actually encourage people just to take a moment and center themselves. Take a few breaths and settle into the presentation and time together. Ours can be a topic that is activating for folks because we are a grief support organization. So we just like people to breathe for a minute, and then we jump into what we do.

We are called Rick's Place, and we are located in Wilbraham. We are a grief support organization, and we serve children ages five to eighteen, and their caregivers after the death of a parent, sibling, or close family friend. We are named for Rick Thorpe, whose picture you see here [Presentation]. Rick grew up in Wilbraham and he died in Tower Two on 9/11. His family recognized that there wasn't a lot of support for families who had experienced a death, and they knew that kids benefit from having caring communities that can hear about their loss experiences and provide connections and support for the caregivers and for the youth who've experienced the death.

Our onsite programs in Wilbraham are free for families, and we'll talk a little bit more down the road about the other things that we do. But we just want to give people a little bit of background information about what grief looks like and how prevalent it is. Rick's Place serves this wider community, we predominantly serve Hampden County. We have had some virtual programs in Berkshire County. We have families that come to us from Hampshire County, and we get a lot of phone calls from a lot of other counties.

It's projected that one in twelve children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the time they turn eighteen years old. We know that during COVID there were significant numbers of deaths. In fact, seven-hundred-thousand youth experienced the death of a parent nationwide, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it's not just the death of that person that is such an impact, there are nine bereaved who are left behind after a COVID death. So the ripple effects of loss are really significant on our communities.

Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an increase in a lot of other causes of death. The increase in the homicide by gunshot increased in deaths by suicide and COVID-19, and accidental overdoses those increased even after the 2020 impact of the pandemic. As the pandemic continued, and experts have been hopeful that the Fentanyl crisis would recede after the COVID-19 pandemic, but in fact, the national statistics are showing that one hundred and ten people have died of drug overdoses in the twelve months ending in June 2023. That was a climb of 2.6% over the prior year, so the impact of death is really significant.

What we want folks to recognize is that grief is not an illness; it's a natural and healthy response to death. And while it's a common experience, it's also important to remember that the grief journey is unique to each person. People most often think of grief as impacting just one's emotions, but in fact, it is a full body experience. Kids and adults often struggle with physical issues after someone dies. We often hear from school nurses in schools, or even teachers in schools, that kids are going to the nurse much more often and they can't understand why. We recognize because it's not just the emotional response to a loss, but there's often the physical. Then, there are the social changes, the young people who withdraw from connections. And then the cognitive impact is really significant, and we'll touch on that a little bit more.

This is just an image that sort of depicts the five stages of grief which I'm sure many of you are probably familiar with [Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance]. These five stages were designed by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who actually did not design them initially for grief after a death. They were really designed around people who were actively dying from terminal illness, who were going through a lot of these emotions and changes. She was able to see, ‘hey, you know what these actually do apply to grief.’

However, they're not five stages. Grief is not a linear process. There are not little check boxes that you can just mark off and say, ‘okay, I'm done grieving.’ Everyone's grief process is individual. You may feel some of these emotions; you may feel other ones, and not those. So just remember that every person has their own individual coming into their grief experience. This is what it really looks like, most people in our grief groups when we show them this image [Image of a tangled ball of different colored yarn] they say, ‘wow! That really depicts how I feel. I am a tangled mess. I am confused. I don't know what's up and what's down. I'm feeling all different emotions all at once, or I'm not feeling anything at all,’ which is also very confusing. So we like to show this, just to normalize that grief is not a linear five stage process.

This image [Image of a heart with a band aid on it] kind of shows that the pain of grief does not go away when you've lost someone very significant, you will grieve that person for the rest of your life. You'll grieve all with all the changes that come along. But you eventually can learn how to live a meaningful life despite the loss, and you can grow around that. So you'll see the grief stays the same, but you figure out how to build your life around that loss or that change.

These are some of the possible grief reactions that you may see. Seeing physical challenge with kids; we might see headaches, we may see bed wedding, we may see stomach pain a lot more often, and they may be extra clingy and not want to separate from caregivers because they're afraid if my caregiver walks out that door, will they die too. Fear becomes a really big part for some kids, and they really need to know that they're safe and going to be taken care of. So these are some of those changes that we can see.

This is just another good image [Image of a list of factors; age, how others are grieving, personality, developmental stage, nature of the relationship, previous loss history, and the amount of support] that just kind of shows some of the factors that affect children's grief. So again, it's not a one size fits all, every child or teen that you potentially come in contact with who has experienced a death, they're going to bring in their own circumstances and their own histories and relationships with the person who's died, which changes how their grief impacts them.

So all of these factors should be considered, and one of the things we know is that the better adults manage the loss experience and their grief process, the better it is for young people. At Rick's place when we provide our grief support for youth ages five to eighteen, we also hold groups that support their grown up because we know that parenting is a difficult experience. Parenting a child or children who are grieving is exponentially more difficult. And then, if you yourself are grieving, wow! It's overwhelming.

We know that after the death of someone significant, 85% of children experience difficulty, sleeping academic challenges, lack of focus, changes in mood, angry outbursts, increases in anxiety and depression, and then changes. Also, it can be changes in social connections and relationships. Oftentimes it gets overlooked that a child has had a loss. In fact, if a child is in second grade, and has a parent or a sibling death, certainly by the end of second grade or the beginning of third grade, most people think the kid is over it right? And, in fact, that's not the case. They're living with their grief experience. It's going forward with them, and how they manage it is sometimes coming out not in the healthiest of ways.

We try to help folks recognize that lots of times behaviors that kids are having or exhibiting can be coming from an unprocessed loss experience. So this we just want to touch on very briefly, but we feel like it's really important to share, that children who've experienced the death are targeted frequently when it comes to bullying. Oftentimes they're targeted because they are vulnerable. Anytime we share with groups when we're presenting, people are always shocked that someone would use death experience to bully, but it happens.

One of the examples that we always like to share is especially around stigmatized losses. So if someone has experienced a stigmatized loss that typically means that it's something that's not really accepted by society. So you know, someone who dies by suicide or an accidental drug overdose, there's a different stigma for that than someone who died from a terminal cancer diagnosis. Sometimes kids will say, we heard about this happening to a kid on the bus where they said ‘your mom took drugs because she didn't love you and didn't want to be your mom anymore.’ So she took drugs, basically to die and just really targeting these kids.

We also know that they're already feeling a lack of safety and security, and they are feeling a lot of fear about the unknowns. When bullying is kind of added to their plate, it can be very overwhelming for kids. Oftentimes they do not tell their caregivers because they do not want to put any more stress on the caregiver that's raising them because they feel like they're already burdened enough with their grief. ‘I can't tell them what is going on; it will make them sadder or more upset.’

We've heard from kids as young as six, who have told us that they have been mistreated because they've experienced a death, and that they didn't want to tell their grown up because their grownup was already sad. We just like to bring this up to folks because it's so often overlooked. Nobody would recognize that this is what kids are managing. I just think it's important to point out to when deaths have happened many years ago, or say, the kid didn't know the person who died. It doesn't mean that they're not affected by that loss. We've even seen adults in the school system or in communities who will say, ‘well, they didn't even know that person, why are they this upset?’ That's a different level of I want to say bullying. But just like that misconception, and kind of putting pressure on someone to be at a certain place in their grief.

At Rick's Place we provide our support by having peer support groups, and there are a lot of benefits to having these support groups. It's opportunities for story sharing, and retelling and continuing bonds with the person who has died, and learning coping skills a lot of times. We just say, ‘well kids are resilient, they'll manage after their loss,’ and sure they're resilient, but it's nice when they don't have to be so resilient.

We work together with kids with our trained volunteers to help them make peer connections. They often feel they're the only ones who've had a loss. We try to help them feel less isolated and try to support them and provide validation. We like to share this quote, “It is not our job to fix a child's grief or take it away, our job is to be present to companion, and to help them find ways to cope with their loss.” So again, we know grief is not something that can be fixed, and so they just need a space to be acknowledged and heard, and to know that it's okay to unload all of the mixed up feelings that they're having.

Here's how we do that; we have our onsite groups which are held in Wilbraham two Tuesday evenings a month. As I said earlier, we work with kids’ ages five to eighteen.
We have grief groups that we offer in schools and we meet for six weeks or six, one hour sessions in the schools. Our school groups offer students an opportunity to share the challenges of loss during the day. So many times we hear from kids, ‘I can't get my mom or my dad out of my head when I'm at school, and coming to a grief group really gives me space to put those memories and those thoughts. Just so I can take a break for a little bit.’

If you think about the amount of energy that it takes to kind of internalize a huge emotion. Kids oftentimes they're doing that all day at school because they have to keep it together, and they're expected to keep it together. So often times too, educators will be afraid that. ‘Oh, well, you know, they're not going to be able to go back into school and function the rest of the day if you're talking about something sad.’ Actually, if they have that container and we help them feel supported in that space, we can transition them to actually be more effective and better students in the classroom because their emotional needs are also being met.

Families start with us no sooner than three months after a death. We recognize that because our programming runs for a semester at a time, they're often families who have a death mid semester and it's going to be a while until they can get into our group. So we have programs called “New Family Nights,” where we bring together families who've had fairly recent losses, just so that they can connect and see other families and begin to recognize that although it's their own journey they're not alone on this journey.

We do all of our worksite in Wilbraham, but we also provide professional development. We provide an introduction to grief and students for school administrators. We talk about the impact of grief on students to teachers and school staff and then we go. We can even do professional development on a deeper look at the impact on students with school counselors and clinical staff. We even at times train school counselors how to facilitate grief groups on their own in their own schools.

We also love getting out into the community as much as possible and just really spreading the work that happens at Rick's place. So just like today, thanks for having us and welcoming us here to talk to you about what we do, but we love to go to schools. This is a great example of an awareness event that was happening at a high school that we were able to be a part of but we've been on Mass Appeal and on Rock 102 and going to meet with local rotaries and superintendent groups. So we're really just trying to connect with as many people as possible so that families who need this support can find their way to Rick's place.

We also know that folks like you all actually support people. You're already engaged in the lives of young people, and so we always just offer a few tips about you being able to normalize and have open honest conversations, and use appropriate language about death with kids and support their coping skills and help them recognize that they do have the capacity to manage their grief and go on and live meaningful lives, right? We often encourage kids not to use the loss as a negative experience. We're not talking post traumatic growth. We're just saying that how can you learn to live with it and keep moving forward rather than continue to be brought down by it and make less healthy choices.

We've kind of covered this throughout the presentation, but I think it's just really important to remind everyone again that we can't fix grief; it's really about our presence. It's about how we're showing up for these youth and families. Oftentimes certain teachers or other people don't want to ask the kid, ‘how are you doing? What's going on?’ because they're afraid that they're going to make the child more sad. But honestly, they're already thinking of it, and they're living in it. If you can open up your mind and just be a really thoughtful presence for them, that's what they need. They just need to know that you're a safe person and just follow their lead.

How do people refer families to Rick's place? So all of you who work for organizations might come across a family that has had a loss, and they can participate in our free programs at Rick's place, and there are no referrals. We don't take insurance. What has to happen is the family needs to reach out to us and talk with us about whether our programming is appropriate given their loss. We run our programs with volunteers who are extensively trained. We have the adult caregivers group along with the kids groups. Anytime anyone has questions they should feel free to reach right out to us.

We just want to conclude with a couple of quotes that we have from families’ youth and families that we have served. They've said things like, “it's a place we can feel alone together, and a place to come and remember you can let out your feelings. It's a place where I can unload mixed up feelings about grief and not feel judged. It's been like a life boat in a stormy sea. I always leave feeling better than when I came in.”

We end with how you can be involved with Rick's Place. You can refer families who are grieving a death. You can become a volunteer if you're interested in that reach out to us.
You can donate or find organizations that want to donate to us. We have sponsorship opportunities. We have a 5K in the springtime, the last Saturday in April, held at Minnechaug Regional High School. We have a memorial golf tournament held the third Saturday in September at Wilbraham Country Club. You can just be an ambassador for Rick's Place in your community, letting folks know that we do provide grief support that the impact of loss on youth is incredibly significant. And that we as a community, can learn to have the conversations that are hard to hold, but are most helpful to kids. Thank you all for giving us your time today.

Lasharie Weems / Tech Foundry 1:20pm - 1:25pm
Hello everyone, I am from Tech Foundry and the Tech Hub, Tech Foundry is in Springfield. They offer an eighteen week course to get started in a career in IT. I'm actually the coordinator over at Tech Hub in Holyoke. It's at the HCC building at 206 Maple Street in Holyoke, across from Veterans Park. We offer a variety of services that are wrapped around digital literacy and digital inclusion. So a little bit about us, we just opened in October at the end of October on the 25th, and our goal is to bridge the digital divide.

Some of the things that we offer are like tech support services. So if you have a device or a computer that's acting a little funky running slow. If it's broken, I mean there is a limit to what we can do. We have interns, but you can bring it down to us, or we could also help you troubleshoot it over the phone or over the internet, so there's tech support. Those are offered between one o’clock and five o’clock Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then, we also have literacy classes starting with the basics from like mouse and computer how to turn it on, all the way up to career development.

We teach Microsoft, we're working on Google suite. So there's a range of classes that we teach to the community. Anyone can come down; those are twelve o’clock to one o’clock Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and also five o’clock to six o’clock. This is our website, it's a If you go to sign up for one of our classes, you can actually see the curriculum. We'll have a list of what classes are being offered, and they're more like workshops than classes. You can just sign up. It helps when we have people sign up, so we know how many people are going to be there, and so that we don't go over our capacity. But you can also walk in as well anytime during our business hours.

So you can see, we have Gmail basics; Google Calendars, Google Slides, and it's going to continue to change as we go on and kind of get more feedback from the community as to what it is that they need or what they want to learn. We also offer one on one support. So during those hours we do tech support, you can also come down. So say there's something that you want to learn about anything regarding your device or the internet, and it's not something that we're currently offering for a workshop. You can also just come in or schedule a time to come in, and we can work with you one on one.

There's a lot of different possibilities there as to why you might want to do that. So maybe say, you got locked out of one of your accounts, and you're having trouble with getting in, or you want to learn something specific regarding like your email. You want to learn how to create a rule your email and filter them out. Those are just some examples of the things we can do. There have been instances where we help people with more personal things, and where they would want to do one on one as opposed to like a large group setting. You can always do that as well.

ACP, so we've been working with the community to help people sign up for ACP. Once a month we do, we just had our first one this week, where you can come down during the hours this week. It was four o’clock to six o’clock. You can actually sign up with ACP. We partner with other community organizations; Comcast was there. We have a few different ACP support programs that can come in. They actually sign you up while you're there. You can get a free computer. We do device distribution with laptops. You can come down and sign up for one of those and there are just a lot of capabilities.

All of our services are free to the community, and you can call us on our website. You can go to “contact us” or in our services at the bottom, we do have our help desk support number. You could also send us an email if you have any questions.

Agency Overview and Updates: 1:20pm - 2:20pm
Tori H: Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to school has been pretty busy this year. We are a help in schools with some walking school buses and we’re really prepping for winter walk and the yard sign contest in the New Year.

Thomas Elis: Center for Human Development
Hi everyone, my name's Thomas Ellis. I'm from CHD; I work with the Basic Center Program. What we do is offer emergency housing to run away, and homeless youth are at risk.

Shannon Burke: Holyoke Pediatrics
Hi, Shannon from Holyoke Pediatrics. Nothing to report today, have a nice Christmas and New Year.

Shakira Guzman: Planned Parenthood
Hi, Shakira Guzman, Community Specialist at Planned Parenthood. I don’t have any updates.

Sarah Lynn: MSPCC Prevention
Hi everybody, Sarah Lynn, from MSPCC Prevention. We have both the Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers Program, and are actively accepting referrals for both. I hope everybody has a holiday wonderful season, or at least a couple of days off.

Sandy Ward: Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts
I put my information in this chat. I'm a volunteer with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts. We assist people in learning about their rights and options as consumers, how to shop around and see what choices they have for burials, or cremation, and other alternatives. We're also monitoring some of new things that are coming in some other states and watching how our state legislature might be adding some environmentally friendly options to the ones that we already have. So we kind of monitor that, look in the chat, visit our website, lot of information there. Thank you.

Rosalyn Rodriguez: YWCA
Hi I’m Rosalyn Rodriguez. I am the program director for the Teen Parenting Program. No updates.

Roberto Tito Martinez: Union Capital Springfield
Hello everyone, Roberto Martinez, I go by Tito, director of our Union Capital Springfield. Really quick, we are a community rewards based app. We incentivize the community for different acts of volunteerism, or and we're really trying to promote social capital and civic engagement. If anyone has any other questions or would like to know more feel free to reach out. My information will be in the in the chat.

Mandy Goulet- Hope For Holyoke
Good afternoon everybody. My name is Mandy Goulet, I am the peer outreach coordinator at Hope For Holyoke Peer Recovery Center. I'm also a recovery coach on the parent project for the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery. So we have an outreach scheduled for Friday at eleven o'clock at Cabot and High Street right across from Sam's. We're going to be giving out gloves, socks, hats, and soup. So that's Friday, this Friday, tomorrow eleven to two o’clock. We're also having a community potluck dinner on the 23rd at eleven o’clock.

We have a Highway to Hope Program that's still up and running. We offer transportation free of charge with a recovery coach to any detox or MAT facility. We have the Parent Project here, which is a recovery support group for families that have DCF involvement or criminal justice involvement, and need help navigating the systems. Thank you.

Luby O'Connor: Health Care For All
Hi, my name is Luby O'Connor. I am the community engagement coordinator here at Healthcare For All. I got no updates, I'm happy to be here with you all.

Lorraine Ceaser: Valley Opportunity Council
Hi everybody, my name is Lorraine Caesar. I work at Valley Opportunity Council. Currently, we offer CDL classes for ESOL students. We offer ESOL classes. We also have adult basic education classes for students looking to obtain their GED or Highset, and we also offer help with preparing people for citizenship.

Morad Majjad: West Springfield Public Schools
Hi everyone, I work as a multilingual family liaison at West Springfield Public Schools. I'm happy to learn about all the resources you guys are offering. I serve a wide diverse community here in West Springfield, where many languages are spoken. So I have nothing that I can share, but I'm very happy and thankful for all the resources shared by all the folks today. Thank you everyone.

Lindsey Rothschild: Holyoke Hockey Club
Hello I'm Lindsay. I'm part of a founding group starting the Holyoke Hockey Club. Our mission is going to be to provide youth underrepresented in the sport of hockey, and I am a hockey enthusiast. I started playing as a young girl in Detroit, Michigan. We want to provide opportunities for youth that are underrepresented. So that's kids of color, that's girls, that's non binary kids, that's economically disadvantaged kids, an opportunity to play hockey with no costs in a safe and fun environment in Holyoke.

We're in our founding stages. So if you're interested in getting involved and helping out, we're looking for people to get involved. You don't have to have any hockey experience to get involved. You just have to want to provide fun opportunities for youth. Thank you. You'll be hearing more from us.

Liam Russell: DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps
Hi, everyone! My name's Liam Russell. I'm a DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps member serving at Lighthouse, Holyoke. Currently my TSP Project, our team service project is serving in Hampden County. We're starting to put together an event centering around youth in Hampden County, specifically in Springfield and Holyoke. We're going to try to do a few field day resource fair events. So if your organization is centered around youth, I'm going to put my information in the chat. If that sounds like something you want to be a part of please reach out.

Laura Jansen: Baystate Family Advocacy Center
Hi, I'm Laura Jensen from Baystate Family Advocacy Center. We are a child trauma clinic. We serve children zero to twenty-four who have been impacted by trauma and homicide bereavement for their lifespan. We currently do have openings for therapy. So zero to twenty-four trauma and life span for homicide. You can email me; I'll put my email again in the chat if you have any questions.

Juan Anderson-Burgos: Legislative Aide for Representative Duffy
My name is Juan Anderson Burgos, I'm the Legislative Aide for Representative Duffy. We represent Holyoke and Ward 3 in Chicopee. I don't have any updates, but I will tell you all that anybody that has issues with the RMV getting their license or unemployment issues, I mean really honestly, there's nothing I can’t tackle. I love to help people, so just send them my way, anybody in Holyoke and Ward 3 Chicopee. Thank you so much for everything you guys all do to help the community.

John McCarthy: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
A good afternoon everyone, and happy holidays. I'm from USCIS, I’m the community relations officer. I've left my information in the chat. My function is to provide information to any group of vendor immigrants or people who serve immigrants that have an interest in learning about immigration benefits. If you have any interest, please get in touch with me. Again, my information is in the chat. Thank you.

Jac Essing DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps
Good afternoon folks, happy to be here with you and see so many faces on the call. I'm Jac Essing, I use she/they pronouns. I'm with the DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps. And so Liam is one of my AmeriCorps members, so I'm so excited to have him on the call because I'm going to share that we have just opened our applications for site partners. If you'd like to host an AmeriCorps members who would serve at your site thirty-two to thirty-five hours a week, working directly with youth and providing and expanding your opportunities and programming. Please be in touch with me.

We also just opened up our applications for AmeriCorps members. So if you know anybody who would like to serve in their community, being trained, receiving a living stipend, receiving an education award, and being part of a community of support, please, please, please reach out to me, and please do also reach out to Liam about this field day opportunity. I'm so excited to see that come to fruition. Thank you all.

Iris Sosa: Boy Scouts of America Western Massachusetts
Hello everyone and my name is Iris Sosa. I'm working with Boy Scouts of America Western Massachusetts Council. I'm glad to say that we have a meeting tonight in the library at 5:30PM. If you know any kids that want to know more and participate in scouting, please send them our way to the library today. We have a group from kindergarten all the way up to eighteen. We have boys and girls, everybody's welcome in our group.

Gloria Penagos: Holyoke Community College
Hello, Feliz Navidad! Please eat a lot of the sweet things that usually we do at this time. Yes, a couple of updates. We are recruiting for the line cook program and hotel. We will start on January 16, and then January 17. So this cohort will be one during the day and one during the night, and the hotel will start on January 23. Culinary will be for the spring. I will put together this information, and I will send that on an email. That will be all from me now, thank you so much.

Faith Sarisley: CrossPoint Clinical Services
Happy to be here! My name is Faith, and I'm from the CrossPoint Clinical Services marketing team. I've left my contact info in the chat as well as our website link. At CrossPoint, we continue to provide faith based and traditional mental health counseling from our four locations from Massachusetts. Our closest one is West Springfield, so not too far. I want to quickly highlight a few things we have coming up this winter that are all taking place virtually over zoom and in person.

We are starting the wellness revelation on January 18, and that is a nine week online journey to physical and spiritual wellness for the New Year, kick off the New Year right. We're also having a “saving your marriage before it starts” workshop for eight weeks, starting in February. So please share this information with any newlyweds you may know who are getting married soon. Then, we also have some new life coaching and personal training programs that are really fun open to anybody for you, or any of your community members you may know. You can learn more and sign up for any of these events and programs in “the events and coaching” section of our website, which is in the chat as well that I listed on. We have a new app too, so you check it all out on the app as well. Thanks everybody.

Dr. Nadeem Sikandar: Valley Opportunity Council
Hi everyone, I’m Nadeem Sikandar with Valley Opportunity Council. My colleague Lorraine has mentioned few things; I just wanted to add to this, I am the director of Continue Education and Career Development at VOC. We are looking to get some of the youth who somehow got out of school and wanted to get back in it. We help them with the HiSET and the GED program. If you know someone who's looking to get that opportunity, with the short term employment and some career readiness I put my information as well as the link how to register for the classes in the chat box. So let us know, we're here to help. Thank you.

Deputy Liandro Gonzalez: Hampden County Sheriff's Office
Hello everyone, Liandro Gonzalez Hampden County Sheriff's Office, nothing to report at this time.

Deputy Ernst Jean-Louis: Hampden County Sheriff's Office
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Ernst Jean-Louis from the Hampden County Sheriff's Office, working at the Holyoke Police Community Center, nothing to report at this time. Hope everybody have a blessed and a safe holiday. Thank you.

Dean Santiago: Holyoke Public Schools
Hi everyone, I'm Dean Santiago, I'm the transportation manager for Holyoke Public Schools. I am working closely with Tori, for safe route. I just wanted to pop in and say that you guys know that we are really trying to get kids attending school, and take out the barrier of them not being able to safely walk to school.

What schools have started to do is having volunteers and staff does like a walking train throughout the neighborhoods. And what they do is they pick up students that parents aren't able to walk with them that are little. Mostly we focus on kindergarten through third grade, or even preschool. We all walk together to the schools. So we do have quite a few schools that need some volunteers. So if you know anybody or would like to volunteer, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'm also posting on our website for jobs. We're in need of crossing guards. So if you know anybody interested, please send them that way.

Charlene Rivera: Holyoke Pediatrics
Hi, I'm Charlene Rivera care coordinator at Holyoke Pediatrics. I have no new updates.

Carl Borden Western Massachusetts Boy Scouts of America
Hi I’m Carl Borden with the Boy Scouts of America. As Iris said, we have a Cub Scout Pack meeting this evening up in the Holyoke Public Library in the community room. We also have our career enrichment exploring program that's been taking off. We're in three schools in Springfield and we're hoping to expand into more schools throughout the Pioneer Valley.

We do need some volunteers to help us with those different locations, and we do need some sponsors to help us with some of the behind the scenes paperwork that needs to be done in order for us to have these events throughout all the different school systems.

Brett Fortin: US. Department of Labor
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Brett Fortin; I'm with the US Department of Labor, OSHA. Our mission is to help enforce workplace safety and health regulations, provide training and training resources to small employers and employees, assist whistleblowers. If there was retaliation for complaints on unsafe workplaces we also provide technical and compliance assistance to individuals and employers on how to keep their workplaces safe, and if they have questions about how to keep them safe. Thank you for your time.

Angelique Rodriguez: Holyoke Community College
Hi everyone, my name is Angelique Rodriguez. I work as the community outreach admissions counselor at Holyoke Community College. Specifically, in my role I work to admit and enroll our adult learners, so people who are non-traditional students and above the age of twenty-five most times. Just two things I'd like to share out about HCC and what we're doing.

The very first is something that I mentioned last time, it's a new initiative called “Mass Reconnect”, which is offering free college to adults who are twenty-five plus and don't have degrees yet in the state of Massachusetts. If you want to inquire about that, or you're willing to have me maybe present to your organization about it, I've been doing some community outreach and talking about it to different employees across the area.

The very second thing that I'd like to also add is that HCC is having a school counselor and community based organization breakfast held in this upcoming January 31, Wednesday to be more specific from 8:00AM to 10:00AM. We're welcoming you to our culinary arts building off on Race Street. I'm going to be dropping the link in the chat. If you would like to attend we're going to have the President there, El Centro which is our Latino student support group, and just a couple of other community members from HCC who are going to share more about different resources that you could offer to potential students. Thank you everyone.

Ana Gerena: Girls Inc. of the Valley
Hi everyone. I'm just going to start too with happy holidays, and hope everyone gets lots of rest this upcoming season. My name's Ana Gerena, I'm the special project and volunteerism manager at Girls Inc. of the Valley. If you're unfamiliar, we're a nonprofit that's based in Holyoke, but we serve Chicopee and Springfield as well, in schools and provide after school programs.

Currently, I have no new updates. In the coming year we are going to be looking for what we're going to be calling mentors to come in and work with some of our youth. As we've gone back from the pandemic, we've noticed a significant academic decrease with our kids. So we're looking for readers or just folks that could sit with them and work on some of those things that they're struggling with. More information will be coming out in the New Year.

Alyssa Golden: Community Legal Aid
Hi everyone, Alyssa Golden. I'm the senior supervising attorney for the criminal records and re-entry unit at Community Legal Aid. So a lot of you are probably familiar with us as an organization, but we're the free civil legal services provider for Central and all of Western Massachusetts.

The unit that I supervise represents people in a variety of civil legal issues related to the criminal court system. So we represent people in the various processes of stealing and expunging criminal records. In appealing denials of public and subsidized housing and housing vouchers because of their criminal record, as well as employment denials because of their CORI, so that would include if someone wants to get a job working with a population that's considered vulnerable. So working with kids, or adults with disabilities, or elders they have to pass a state level agency background check and folks with records often face denials of those, we represent people in those appeals.

We also help people who have a duty to register with the sex offender registry board, who are eligible to seek a reduction in their classification level, or termination of their duty. We help them with the initial motions getting them out the door. We don't represent people in the actual hearing proceedings, because folks who can't afford to hire an attorney have a right to court appointed council. We just help people identify whether they're eligible and file the initial motions.

We also do a lot of know your rights trainings and trainings for direct service providers who might be well positioned to issue spot for these sorts of things. I'm happy to talk, I put my information in the chat. We set up direct referral systems with a lot of community partners to sort of cut down on barriers to accessing CORI and re-entry unit. I will my information in the chat. Thank you.

Alicia Thomas: Pa'lante Transformative Justice
Hey all, I'm Alicia. I'm the director of Youth Organizing and Leadership with Pa’lante, Transformative Justice. I'm super excited to share that we've moved into our house. We bought a beautiful vintage old mansion. You know the ones that are on Beech Street and Linden. We're located at 220 Linden Street, now it's a black house. It's very recognizable. Our drop in space is housed on the third floor of that house.

The drop in space is open to youth ages fourteen through nineteen. We have daily programming, free snacks, warm light meals, and we also have academic support tech if they need it; TV, games, relaxing items. I also want to remind you all that we still offer our Mindful Rage Series. It's a youth created series that addresses court ordered anger management classes. I'd love to talk to you all more about that, I'm going to put my email in the chat. Please reach out if you have any questions about Mindful Rage or our drop in space. Thank you.

Aida Rivera: Holyoke Public Schools
Hello everyone. My name is Aida Rivera, and I work for the Holyoke Public Schools as a homeless education service assistant and enrollment clerk. My update is we are giving out clothes for everyone that lives in Holyoke. Also, we have some donations of bags of clothes as well that we are giving out to Holyoke. So if you guys know anyone that needs a coat or clothes, we also have some gloves. And we also have hygiene products as well.

Abbie G: Western Mass MOMS
Hello, Good afternoon everyone. My name is Abbie. I just wanted to first thank Tech Foundry and Rick's Place for their presentations. Those are both beautiful organizations that we have sent families to, so thank you for that. For those of you that are new, welcome to the group. For those of you that are returning, welcome back. But if you don't know me, my name is Abbie, and I do represent the Western Mass MOMS Program at Viability.

We provide an opportunity for mothers to come together to address what makes being a parent stressful. We're part of a study, so I just had a team huddle this morning with my team and was reminded that we only have six more months to enroll. So basically, we had a two year period to enroll a thousand moms. There are only less than four-hundred slots available. So we are trying really hard to get as many moms in as possible. We do serve Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke and all surrounding communities, any cities or towns that touch any of those. So our service area is pretty big. But we, as always, would love to be part of any resource, fairs or community festivals, presentations, family nights, anything like that where there might be moms.

If you're a mom, if you know any moms that might be in need of services, it's a great opportunity to come together and just meet others facing similar challenges. That's really what it's all about. We know that being a parent is stressful, so we want to address some of that stress, but more importantly we also connect to resources. So that's why I love being here. Thanks Eddie, for another great meeting, but it's a great opportunity to hear about what's out there. Happy holidays everyone, and again I'm Abbie from the mom's program. I'm joining remote, so a little hard to work the chat, but I will make sure that I put my name and information into the chat. But, you know where to reach me, and I hope to connect with you soon if I haven't already. Thank you.

Art Lobdell: Holyoke Rotary Club
Today, I'm representing the Holyoke Rotary Club. You've already heard enough about my business, so just wanted to shout out to everyone here that we just finished up the “Eat, Drink, and be Holyoke.” A great fundraiser we had in City Hall. We were able to raise just about $20,000 that will be going to various Holyoke area charities and our scholarship fund and all that. So we wanted to give a shout out for that. We are looking to continue that and grow it next year. This is the first event since 2018; I believe that we've had in person. We had a couple online events. So certainly just stand by and be ready for news about that next year.

The next project that the Rotary Club is launching is, we will have a “Flags for Heroes Program.” That will be up at the Holyoke Library grounds in May and be up through July. So you'll be hearing more and more about that. If folks are interested in having American flags go up for whoever their hero is, there is not any requirements that it be anyone related to the military, though some will recognize folks that have a military background, others will just be recognizing heroes from the community.

Also, we are looking to reinstate next fall a service above self awards dinner again. In the past the Rotary had brought together multiple organizations to recognize folks in Holyoke in various sectors that had been long time volunteers. And so that will be back in October, and I'm looking for folks to join and help me on a committee to put that event together. So again, Art Lobdell, from the Holyoke Rotary Club, and I'll be attending these meetings ostensibly in this year of as the Rotary Club, and my staff will take care of scouting business. Though, if you have a question for me you can send me that too.

Mike Pratt: Hampden County Sheriff's Office
Hi everybody! I'm Mike Pratt, I'm from the Hampden County Sheriff's Office, and I also work with the Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative. We just started a new program partnering with the Holyoke High School men's basketball team in an effort to keep every student-athlete on the team academically eligible during the season. So we're excited to give the team the support that they need. Thanks.

Edward Caisse: Hampden County Sheriff's Office
I heard at least one person mentioned about doing outreach in the community. We hold family fun nights every month. We don't market it too heavy, because we don't want a ton of people down there, and I don't mean agencies. But certainly it is a space we typically get about a hundred-fifty. I know Anna, who's on the call, she's part of our ward two planning team.

Tomorrow we're having our event, we do need to know ahead of time, if an agency wants to come and set a table down there. So we serve a dinner every month, and we have activities and just things happening for the family. So it is cool to have agency representatives in the back, the space is small. We can probably handle two agencies a night. If you're interested in doing that type of outreach, just send me an email and we'll get you guys connected.

We did have the Boy Scouts there last month. It's great to have different agencies. The United Way is going to be there tomorrow night. I too want to say on our Friday night Basketball League, and I know some of you have been there, we're always looking for speakers that come in on a Friday night. We're trying to expose the third & fourth, and fifth & sixth graders of the possibilities of career opportunities. Even at that age, we want them to know that there's a lot of different roads that they can take to career pathways.

What we do is we bring in speakers every Friday night. So that's another one, If you're interested in sharing with youth and families about career opportunities, maybe how you got to where you're at and how there could be a possibility for some of them to be in that type of a career pathway. So if you're interested in that, Karen Legace from the US Attorney's Office actually controls all the speakers that come in on Friday night. She schedules everybody. I just wanted to throw that out there.

I know someone asked me today about the Holyoke Hub. Just briefly, I just want to share that the Holyoke Hub is trying to identify getting different agencies to identify people that they're working with in the community that are really struggling and really in an acutely elevated risk situation. So what the hub does is it has a bunch of agencies at the table every Tuesday, and when situations are brought to the table we build a “filter four team” for each situation with many different agencies based on the risk factors that the individual or the family is dealing with.

Sometimes it's mental health, sometimes it's housing issues, sometimes it's substance use issues. But whatever the issues are, if people are at acutely elevated risk, we really want to get them to the table on Tuesdays, where we can then try to build a team of agencies working to collaborate, to get them out of that acutely elevated risk state. So I just wanted to throw that out there.

I was so overwhelmed right before the meeting but listening to you guys and being reminded of all the different agencies, and so many people doing great work, and for us that are working with youth and families that we know we have places that we can send them. So for us in the basketball leagues, and the family fun nights, it's about us trying to develop relationships with the youth and families. Through those relationships, people start to drop their guards and start to open up about what their struggles are. That's why your agencies are so important to us that when we identify that community residents can actually use services from your agencies, making those connections is very important to us.

I just want to say thank you for the work that you guys are doing. If you can think of other agencies in the community that are not on this space, please consider inviting people, so we can just get more people to the table. One of the things we do is we'll look through the notes, like especially after a hub meeting. A couple of weeks ago, we did a data analysis on the first sixty situations that came to the Hub table. And when you look at the risk factors and the data analysis, and you see the resources that youth and families need to get connected to, we trying to get those agencies to this space, so we can develop relationship with them and get them working with us to try to get agencies connected to more youth and families. It's really important work, and it's been really great. So I just want to say, thank you again for all what each of you do. Have a great rest of the week, have a good weekend and we'll see you guys next month on January 11th, and have a great holiday as well.

Shannon Burke
Medical Home Care Coordinator Holyoke Pediatrics.

Faith Sarisley
CrossPoint Clinical Services, Inc.

Molly Aber
Community Action Pioneer Valley Head Start and Early Learning Programs,

Carl Borden W.Mass BSA
Western Massachusetts Council Boy Scouts of America.

Laura Jansen
VOCA Project Specialist Baystate Family Advocacy Center

Adair Medina
Holyoke Pediatric Associates

Alijah Leombruno MSPCC/ELiot
LICSW, Clinical Supervisor with MSPCC/Eliot, In Home Therapy and Therapeuic Mentoring Services

Shaundell Diaz
(she/her) 3COC/CAPV
Shaundell Diaz (she/her) Three County Continuum of Care, Coordinated Entry Coordinator.

Rosalyn Rodriguez
YWCA Program Director Holyoke Young Parent Program.

Charlene Rivera
Care Coordinator Holyoke Pediatrics.

Molly Jane Thoms
education law staff attorney at Community Legal Aid,

Sarah Lynn-MSPCC Prevention MSPCC Prevention-- Healthy Families, Parents as Teachers, and Fathers and Families Network

Abbie G
Western Mass MOMS at Viability, INC

Ami Jackson
Staff Investigator
Committee for Public Counsel Services
Youth Advocacy Division - Springfield
1350 Main St, 6th Floor,
Springfield, MA

Roberto Martinez(Tito)
Director Union Capital Springfield

Angelique Rodriguez
Community Outreach Admissions Counselor at Holyoke Community College. I work to recruit and admit our adult learners to HCC. You can contact me at or (413)552-2243.

Ana Gerena
Girls Inc. of the Valley
Special Projects and Volunteerism Manager, Girls Inc. of the Valley

Sandy Ward
volunteer with nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Mass. Our website provides information about rights and options, tips for saving $, and a comparative chart of prices charged by funeral homes in our region. We answer questions from the public via a 24/7 voice-mail service (413-376-4747) and our email at and we can do presentations to groups. No charge for our services. We do welcome donations.

Shakira Guzman
Community Outreach Specialist at Planned Parenthood (413)459-1252

Gloria Penagos-HCC
HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute
Join us on FaceBook
Follow us on Facebook:

Brett Fortin
U S Department of Labor- Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Our mission to ensure workers are provided with Safe and Healthy work environments. 413-785-0207

Jackie Willemain
Morad Majjad West Springfield Public Schools - Multilingual Family Liasion - - 413-285-9211

Nia Johnson
Western Mass Community Engagement Coordinator for the Attorney Generals Office. Phone # 413-867-1619. Email

Luby O'Connor
Community Engagement Coordinator at Health Care For All.
The Health Care For All HelpLine is a free multi-lingual statewide resource to help consumers with health coverage.
Click to call 800 • 272 • 4232 (English, Haitian Creole, French, Portuguese and Spanish).
MassHealth Redetermination campaign resources

Lindsey Rothschild
Holyoke Hockey Club
Founding Board Member
No cost hockey program for under-represented youth in the sport of ice-hockey (BIPOC, girls, non-binary, economically disadvantaged)
In beginning organizational phase
If you’re interested in being involved - call or text me at 917-520-2593. No ice hockey experience necessary. Only an interest in providing this fun opportunity for youth!

Dr. Nadeem Sikandar (VOC)
Nadeem Sikandar, Valley Opportunity Council - Director of Cont. Education and Career Development. At VOC, under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, we enroll youth who are out of school and need help completing their high school in our GED/HiSET program.
We will help them finish high school and prepare them with some career readiness with a partner employment opportunity so that they can learn and earn simultaneously.
Resource link

Abbie G
Therese and team!! Great presentation and program!!!!

Shannon B Holyoke Pediatrics
Thank you. what a wonderful program.

Jac Essing
DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps Program; she/they;
We have opened up our applications for both site partners (host an AmeriCorps member!) and for members (serve your community!)

Roberto Tito Martinez: Union Capital Springfield
Thank you. Great presentation and awesome work!

Faith Sarisley
Such an amazing resource for the community, thank you for sharing! 👏

Edward Caisse: Hampden County Sheriff's Office
Therese and Betsy, great information, thanks so much.

John McCarthy
USCIS Community Relations

Abbie G
Lasharie!!! Great information! Thank you so much!!!

Nia Johnson (AGO)
I have to head to another meeting, but please email me if you’re interested in connecting!

john mccarthy
john McCarthy USCIS

Carl Borden
W.Mass BSA
Who provides your syllabus for the various career opportunities? Have you considered speaking with the BSA Exploring division for help. That's me or Heather MacInness

Lasharie Weems
Tech Hub. My contact information

Shakira Guzman
if there are any events your orgs. would like Planned Parenthood to be a part of please don’t hesitate to reach out! (413)459-1252

Roberto Tito Martinez:
Union Capital Springfield
Roberto Martinez (Tito)
Director Union Capital Springfield

Mandy Goulet Hope for Holyoke (413)561-1020 ext 5125

Thomas Elis
Lifelong hockey player and red wings fan. I coach at Pope Francis and would love to get some information on the hockey program!

Thomas Elis
Please send me an email if you can!

Roberto Tito Martinez:
Union Capital Springfield. All are welcome to join. If you’d like to host a table talk please reach out to me. Thank you.

Lasharie Weems
Tech Foundry's Tech Hub
Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center 206 Maple St, Holyoke, MA 01040
(413) 340 - 1105

Laura Jansen Trauma Services 0-24, Homicide Bereavement-Lifespan

Jac Essing
DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps Program; she/they;
We have opened up our applications for both site partners (host an AmeriCorps member!) and for members (serve your community!)

Dean Santiago
Holyoke Public Schools - Dean Santiago, Transportation Manager - Website to search/apply for Holyoke Public School employment opportunities. In need of Crossing Guards. Thank you!

Iris Sosa
Boy Scout of America Western Mass Council. Email:, 787-512-1375. We have a scout meeting today at 5:30 in Holyoke Library. Scout is for all youth from Kindergarden and up. Is always opportunity to join in and have fun. We have financial assistance form available to whoever need it for registration.

Carl Borden
Western Massachusetts Council Boy Scouts of America - Career Exploring Program needs help with volunteers and with Sponsors.
Any youth who want to join we have financial aid available

Angelique Rodriguez

Alicia Thomas:
Pa’lante Transformative Justice. We are a youth led nonprofit that works to use youth power to transform the community. UPDATE: We just moved into a new community space, 220 Linden St. It’s a beautiful large home that we renovated! Please come check out our drop in space on the 3rd floor, open to youth ages 13-19!

Abbie Germain
Western Mass MOMS

Jac Essing DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps
would be very interested in sharing about career opportunities, could bring an AmeriCorps member too..

Art Lobdell: Holyoke Rotary
May 18 is Day of Community Service if people want to participate doing community service. ( it may or may not be possible to request specific projects to meet Holyoke needs).
Day of Service is a Rotary led program

Mike Pratt: Hampden County Sheriff's Office Care Coordinator

Lindsey Rothschild She/Her
This is such a fabulous group.

Abbie Germain
This is my favorite monthly meeting. Thanks Eddie for bringing us together.
• Next Meeting is a special meeting on Thursday, February 8th on Zoom.

Contact Information:
Edward Caisse
Hampden County Sheriff’s Department
(413) 858-0225
Friend Request us on Facebook @ Shsni Holyoke

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