AROUND THE VALLEY
Baker Signs Sewage Public Notification Law
This week, Lawrence-based Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC), a nonprofit conservation group, applauded Gov. Charlie Baker for signing into law a bill that will require sewage plants to quickly inform the public whenever they release untreated sewage into a river.
The bill was first proposed nearly a decade ago, but failed to attract momentum. That changed in late 2017, when a major sewage release into the Merrimack River caused public concern and began raising questions about the state’s decades-long practice of not requiring that the public be notified when sewage discharges occur. MRWC credits an extraordinarily strong push by Merrimack Valley residents, political leaders, and media with providing the impetus that catapulted this issue to the front page and led statewide leaders to act.
“We’ve heard many comments from the Statehouse that the Merrimack Valley was the squeaky wheel that got this legislation passed,” said MRWC Executive Director Matthew Thorne. “The MRWC took a leadership role in pushing for this legislation, and we are so happy to see that it’s finally become law.”
If you would like to learn more, Thorne will be the guest on this week’s edition of The 495, MVM’s community and culture podcast. The podcast airs live on Merrimack Valley Magazine’s Facebook page every Wed. at 12:30 p.m., and is available on major streaming platforms.
Photo above by Dan Graovac.
NECC Receives Grant That Will Help Expand Health Care Programs
Northern Essex Community College (NECC) is expanding its health care programs with the help of a $400,000 grant which the college recently received from the Massachusetts Skills Capital Program.
The grant was part of $11.7 million awarded by the Baker-Polito administration this year to help high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions invest in the most up-to-date training equipment in fields including construction, engineering, hospitality and health care.
The college will use the funding to replace the 40-year-old dental assisting lab located in the Dimitry Building on Franklin St. in Lawrence with a new state-of-the-art lab and add an Evening Dental Assisting Program option to the existing day option.
In addition, the college will purchase three new manikin simulators, and, for the first time, offer high-demand microcredentials for area health workers who are required to update their credentials regularly.
Idea for Smart Knee Brace Wins UML Student Entrepreneurship Contest
UMass Lowell (UML) students developing a smart brace that can track a patient’s recovery time from a knee injury have won the university’s annual engineering pitch contest for budding entrepreneurs.
The concept for the brace, called ConnectKnee, topped a field of 17 entries in UML’s 17th annual Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition. The contest asks student teams to pitch an innovative product or service before expert judges and awards seed money to help make the winning ideas a reality.
ConnectKnee is a brace fitted with biosensors that monitor the patient’s muscle activity and track the range of motion in the knee. Information gathered by the device links to a smartphone that allows the patient and attending doctor or physical therapist to assess the wearer’s recovery time, according to biomedical engineering major Alyssa Mulry of Rutland. She came up with the concept for the product after her cousin dislocated a knee cap during a lacrosse game.
Fellow UMass Lowell students working with Mulry to develop the brace include mechanical engineering major Jackson Kelley of Walpole and biomedical engineering major Tiffany Miller of Hooksett, N.H.
With the win, the ConnectKnee team received $2,500 to develop the brace and landed an automatic berth in the DifferenceMaker $50,000 Idea Challenge, the program’s largest pitch competition, to be held in the spring. The students are veterans of the challenge, having won the Contribution to a Healthier Lifestyle prize of $4,000 in that event last year, also for ConnectKnee.
MRT Receives $100,000 Mass Cultural Council Grant
Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) recently received a Cultural Organization Economic Recovery grant of $100,000. This program is administered by the Mass Cultural Council, in partnership with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, as part of the Baker-Polito administration’s economic recovery plan to support cultural nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic caused the theatre to close its doors last March and cancel the final two shows of the 2019-20 season, which resulted in a deficit of more than $600,000. This past fall, MRT created a series of new play readings on Zoom and a fully produced video release of “Fannie Lou Hamer: Speak On It!” The nonprofit hopes to produce a limited series beginning in late March.
Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union Awards $1,500 to Greater Lawrence Family Health Center
Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC) is the latest nonprofit organization to be awarded a $1,500 donation from Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s We Share a Common Thread Foundation, as part of the fourth quarter Give-a-Click program.
The Give-a-Click program runs quarterly on the We Share a Common Thread Foundation website. Community members visit the site, learn about the worthy non-profit contestants, and cast their vote for the organization they would like to support. The nonprofit with the most votes at the end of the quarter is awarded a $1,500 donation from the foundation.
This $1,500 award will allow GLFHC to help meet the needs of underserved communities in the region and move closer to achieving its mission of providing health care services to the Merrimack Valley. The awarded funds will be used to help renovate and expand GLFHC’s Lawrence clinic, which is their largest clinic and accounts for 33% of their annual patient visits.
Tiny Arms Coffee Brings the Art of the Handmade to the Loading Dock at Western Avenue Studios
Western Avenue Studios in Lowell has announced the opening of Tiny Arms Coffee in their main loading dock lounge area. Owners Jon Santos and ceramic artist Kate Cutlip recently moved into Western Avenue Lofts, where Cutlip also moved her ceramic practice, Tiny Arms Ceramics.
Tiny Arms Coffee will open in Western Avenue in February, where customers can purchase coffee to go or hang out on the loading dock. The cafe will be roasting and selling beans wholesale and retail and through online subscription.
NECC Student Literary Magazine Receives National Awards
Parnassus, Northern Essex Community College’s (NECC) student literary magazine, has received two national awards, making it one of the top magazines of its kind in the country. The 2020 issue of Parnassus, which was published last spring, received the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker Award in the literary arts magazine category for the third year in a row and was named a Crown Finalist in the print literary magazine category by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Parnassus is a student-run publication consisting of short fiction, poems, creative nonfiction and art and photography. It was started in 1965 as a way for creative Northern Essex students to share their talents.
Power of Flowers Project Receives Grant From Dana Home Foundation
Power of Flowers Project has received a $7,100.00 grant from the Dana Home Foundation (DHF) for the purchase of two new Floral Coolers. Funds will support the organization by allowing it to expand outreach efforts to seniors and veterans through bouquet deliveries and flower therapy workshops.
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Carl Howell Promoted to Chief Program Officer at Community Teamwork
Howell has been with Community Teamwork since 2010, most recently as Division Director of Housing and Homeless Services. Howell joined Community Teamwork in 2010 from Catholic Charities of Baltimore County, Maryland, where he managed Christopher’s Place Academy, a workforce development program for homeless men. He currently serves on the boards of Common Ground, an affordable housing subsidiary of Community Teamwork, Homes for Family Policy Action Team, Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership, EOHHS MA Youth Commission, and the DEI consortium, among others.
Pentucket Bank Announces 2021 Officer Promotions
Karl Denu to Pentucket Bank Chief Financial Officer
Denu has been promoted to chief financial officer after most recently serving in the role of senior vice president. Denu has been with Pentucket Bank for eight years and has almost twenty years in the financial services industry. Denu volunteers with the Granite United Way Income Tax Assistance Program. He resides in Derry with his wife and their two children.
Eric Landers to Pentucket Bank Credit Risk Officer
Landers has worked at Pentucket Bank for over seven years and brings fifteen years of experience to his role. Landers is an active volunteer with the Pregnancy Care Center where he serves as treasurer of the board. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus. Landers lives in Andover, where he enjoys writing, playing music and spending time with his wife and their three children.
Melissa Kindig to Pentucket Bank Mortgage Loan Processing Manager
Kindig has over 22 years of industry experience, and has been with Pentucket Bank for nine years where she has established herself as a regular community volunteer by serving community meals and volunteering in both the VFW Santa Parade and Budget Buddies. She is also a board member for the Stevens Bennett Foundation. Kindig lives in Salisbury and has one adult son. She enjoys reading, exercising and spending time with her husband Brian, family and friends.
Jody Ronayne to Pentucket Bank Mortgage Loan Officer
Ronayne came to Pentucket Bank four years ago and has a total of 15 years of experience in the banking industry. Ronayne is a volunteer with the Salvation Army and the Hampstead Kiwanis Club. She lives in Pelham with her husband Paul and their three children. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping and reading.
Jose Pino to Pentucket Bank Digital Marketing Product Manager
Pino has been with Pentucket Bank for six years, most recently in the role of marketing & community relations officer. Jose has over thirteen years in the banking industry, and isPino is an avid community volunteer serving on the boards of HC Media, Community Inroads and Fidelity House/CRC, as well as volunteering at the Riverside Church in Haverhill. He lives in Methuen with his wife Edelyn and their two dogs, Mia and Max. Pino enjoys traveling, attending concerts and playing the drums.
Therese Chahine to Pentucket Bank Branch Manager of Merrimack Street Branch
Chahine has served almost four years at Pentucket Bank in various retail banking roles. Chahine brings diverse retail banking experience paired with her strong operational background and team coaching strategies to the branch. Chahine volunteers with Bread and Roses and the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. She is a resident of Methuen with her significant other and her two sons.
Amanda McCafferty to Pentucket Bank Branch Manager of Stadium Branch
McCafferty is responsible for the overall management of the Pentucket Bank Stadium Branch team. She also oversees the operational and compliance related responsibilities of the branch. McCafferty lives in North Andover with her husband Patrick and, when not traveling, enjoys spending time with their dog, Reese.
Kerry Beaton to Pentucket Bank Branch Manager Westgate Branch
Beaton has been with Pentucket Bank for a year and a half, starting out as the assistant branch manager for the bank’s Westgate location. Beaton is responsible for the overall management of Pentucket Bank’s Westgate Branch team. Beaton has spent time volunteering with Cradles to Crayons. She is a resident of Plaistow and outside of work she enjoys attending concerts, arts and crafts, and traveling with friends and family.
Check out the latest episode of The 495 Podcast!
Check out our latest episode of The 495 with host Doug Sparks! This week we’re joined by Purple Carrot Bread Co. owners Alaina and Doug Brackett to discuss how their Lowell bakery is hanging on (barely) in the age of COVID, and ways you can help local business. Listen to the podcast here.
If you think buying art doesn’t fit into your budget, you haven’t visited Lowell’s Western Avenue Studios or Helen Thomas Simply Smashing in Andover.
Western Avenue Studios (WAS) is located in an enormous complex of former mill buildings. It houses 300 artists in 250 studios and 50 live/work lofts.
Paintings, woodworks, photography, jewelry, letterpress creations, blown glass, sculptures, scarves, soaps and more can be found within this balanced community of emerging and well-established artists.
On the first Saturday of each month from noon to 5 p.m., visitors can observe the artists in their natural habitat and purchase pieces directly from them. An artist reception follows in the Loading Dock Gallery, a space on the second floor where multiple artists sell their work.
“You can build a personal relationship with the artists,” gallery manager Nan Hockenbury says of the Saturday events. “If you can’t afford original work, buy a print and work your way up.”
“Start with something as simple as a greeting card,” says Arlene Hammel, a member of the Western Avenue Studios Artist Association. “You may see the original on the wall, but I have seen people frame the cards, as well.”
Artist Denise Rainis, who paints beautiful acrylic landscapes and abstracts, offers her work on canvas or as $20 pendants and rings. Linda Dunn’s bookmarks cost $3. In glassblower Aaron Slater’s studio, you can pick up a unique glass ring for as little as $25. An experienced art collector with a larger budget can find a wide range of original paintings, sculptures and fabric art for sale.
“We have a full range of media, sizes and prices. It’s an experience unlike any other you’ve ever had,” says Hammel, adding that a visit to WAS can be an all-day adventure. Navigation Brewing Co. has a taproom downstairs for visitors looking to quench a thirst, and food trucks are often parked outside.
Helen Thomas Simply Smashing in downtown Andover may not be as expansive as WAS, but owner Lisa Schiavone has created an artist community that’s just as lively.
“I wanted to do handcrafted products from local artists and really support the community,” says Schiavone, who opened the Main Street shop in 2000. “You can buy everything online. I wanted to do something different.”
The artists whose work is sold in the shop have started collaborating. Stephanie Deady’s whimsical paintings of cows, whose eyes exude personality, can be found on pillows created by Lisa DiAntonio’s Green Park Studios.
“Because the artists are local, anything can be custom made,” Schiavone says. “And there is something for every style and budget.”
There are affordable cards and prints of artist Janet Hamlin’s paintings of Andover landmarks and special places, traditional watercolor landscapes by John Mulcahy, Michele Boshar’s eye-catching cowgirl-themed mixed-media collage that hangs on a wall, and a cocktail table that boasts another of Boshar’s collages — inspired by 1940s era illustrations — that is sure to be a conversation piece. Well-known local speed-painter and performance artist Rob Surette’s portraits of Albert Einstein and Taylor Swift bring light and whimsy to the shop.
At Helen Thomas, you can furnish a home with beautifully made rugs by Dash & Albert or have a decorative sign made to display your favorite quote. You can awaken your chakras by slipping on one of artist Marylee Fairbanks’ Chakras Yoga bracelets.
Schiavone, who displays boundless energy and quickly builds a comfortable rapport with customers, points out one of her favorite pieces, a pillow made by Green Park Studios that’s adorned by a quote from director Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”: “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
Western Avenue Studios
Helen Thomas Simply Smashing