United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region Presents Awards

 In Client Press Releases

It Takes a Village, Dr. Martin Wohl, and Greenfield Savings Bank celebrated

NORTHAMPTON—United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region held its annual meeting online last week, offering two awards in partnership with the Daily Hampshire Gazette and three awards from the United Way alone.

The United Way’s Kay Sheehan Spirit of the Community Award was presented to It Takes a Village, a nonprofit in Huntington. The Community Champion Award went to Dr. Martin Wohl, a dentist from Northampton who is a longtime global and local activist and advocate, and Greenfield Savings Bank was named the 2022 Workplace Champion.

In conjunction with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, United Way honored Robin Bialecki, executive director of the Easthampton Community Center, as the 2022 Person of the Year, and Lilly Fellows, of Orange, was named the Young Community Leader.

“Our annual meeting is always a wonderful opportunity for us to express gratitude to our partner agencies, donors, volunteers, and the community at large, and we are honored to also be able to present awards to activists in the community who offer so much support and ask for nothing in return,” said Geoff Naunheim, United Way’s interim executive director.

Before offering the awards during the lunchtime Zoom meeting, outgoing Executive Director John Bidwell gave a brief overview of the year in review, and Naunheim offered a look ahead.

Bidwell talked about the highlights and efficiencies of the recent merger between the Franklin and Hampshire county United Ways and said the increased need brought on the agency by the pandemic may be beginning to ease. “That doesn’t mean our work is done,” he said. “Agencies continue to face shortages and continue to scramble to find donations, items, and volunteers. The needs have not abated.”

Naunheim gave an overview of upcoming fundraising campaigns and recognitions.

Claire Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, presented the Kay Sheehan Spirit of the Community Award to It Takes a Village, a United Way partner agency that encourages and supports parents and caregivers in developing their own postpartum networks, decreasing the isolation that is common in rural areas, and improving connection to communities.

The agency also provides family resource kits containing safety supplies and information, provides families with specialized car seat loans for premature infants, and it operates a Home Visit Program and The Village Closet in Huntington, this year’s winner of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s Nonprofit Excellence Award in the Small Nonprofit category. 

In the past two years, largely due to the pandemic, It Takes a Village saw a dramatic increase in need as families ran into COVID-19-related challenges due to missed work and lack of childcare.

“The school site housing The Village Closet program in Cummington was shut down,” Higgins said. “Within a matter of days, they transformed the program into a delivery-only model that focused on their most high-risk families. The first month of this new model resulted in over 80 deliveries to homebound and hospitalized clients. That number was double the total number of deliveries in 2019.”

The Community Champion Award, presented to a local individual or group that contributes to the United Way mission and creates positive, lasting change in Franklin and/or Hampshire counties, was presented to Dr. Martin Wohl by his daughter, Dr. Carina Wohl. 

Carina told meeting attendees that her father’s long history of service began in Washington, DC, in 1975, when he co-founded the Georgetown University School of Dentistry Children’s Dental Education Program. Two years later, Marty Wohl was commissioned as the founding dental director for the National Health Service Corps at Hope Medical-Dental Center in Estancia, New Mexico, where he worked for three years.

In 1981, Wohl and his wife, Marisa Labozetta, moved to the Valley, and Wohl was the founding dental director of the Worthington Health Center, which became the Hilltown Community Health Center. Later, Marty started the Wohl Family Dentistry in Northampton.

Wohl has led dental missions in Ecuador, served as adjunct clinical instructor and consultant for six years at the Dental Hygiene and Sciences Department of Springfield Technical Community College, led the Valley District Dental Society as chair, and he has been involved for two decades with United Way’s dental campaign.

“It is no surprise that Dad’s community support extends to other local organizations,” Carina Wohl said. “He is co-founder and endowment chair of the Northampton Education Foundation Endowment. He advises Grow Food Northampton, Center for New Americans, and Abundance Farm as well as a member of Local Roots Care, a giving group especially concerning sustainable food supply. In 2007, Wohl was given the Northampton Community Enrichment Award.”

Molly Mead, a United Way board member, presented the Workplace Champion award for running an exemplary United Way workplace campaign to Greenfield Savings Bank.

A longtime supporter of United Way, Greenfield Savings Bank has continually placed employees on United Way boards and committees and donated over $600,000 in the past decade. 

The bank made a generous gift of $10,000 to match the first 100 donors of $100 in June for the United Way’s 2022 $100,000 in Our 100th Year Campaign.

“These gifts are crucial, but giving back to the community is much more than cutting checks for Greenfield Savings Bank,” Mead said. “The bank shows up. It is common to see bank staff at events across the community. They are visible. They ask questions. They listen. They help.”

To learn more about United Way of the Franklin & Hampshire Region, its partners and mission, visit uw-fh.org.

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