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    The Northampton-based Mass Humanities announced a new round of funding for projects opening dscussion about a variety of issues effecting Massachusetts communities, including rascism, homophobia and even economic displacement, as a means to help strengthen democracy.

    Northampton-based Mass Humanities announced it has distributed a new round of funding for a variety of programs designed to spark discussion of issues within specific communities in the state. 

    "We were impressed by the range of relevant, dynamic projects in this round of applications," Executive Director Brian Boyles said. "Organizations around Massachusetts are responding to their communities through new approaches to the humanities. They're asking big questions, reaching new audiences and shedding new light on our shared history and culture."

    The National Endowment for the Humanities-affiliated non-profit has distributed approximately $475,000 during 2018 to a variety of humanities projects.

    In the latest round, Western Mass recipients included Historic Holyoke at Wistariahurst which received $14,500 for an oral history project and exhibit examining the lives and experiences of black residents during the second half of the 20th Century.

    Eggtooth Productions was awarded $7,500 for support a two-day event in Turners Falls focusing on issues of race, age, gender, religion, class and cultural identity that has been surppressed.

    The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights Institute received $12,209 for a teachers institute on the holocaust, genocide and human rights to be held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. 

    The UMass Amherst Labor Center received $15,000 for a film project to, "help local workers see their work lives as worthy of attention and part of a historic trajectory in which they are agents," according to the agency. The event includes a three-day digital storytelling workshop, conference and website showcasing the videos. 

    Greater Boston recipients receiving fundind were: the UMass Boston CANALA Institute was awared $14,047 for a five-day summer teacher workshop "highlighting historic sites in Boston where communities of color struggled for recognition and inclusion in the social contract," the agency announced. Those communities include Deer Island, Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, Chinatown's Quincy Grammer School and Villa Victoria.

    Interlock Media in Cambridge received an award of $13,500 to support distribution of a documentary film called "CodeSwitching" exploring the cultural shifts students bused from urban to suburban schools as part of Boston's Metco program needed to negotiate.

    Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge received $3,000 for a series of after-event conversations about one-act plays written by the cemetery's Playwright Artist in Residence Patrick Gabridge. 

    In central Massachusetts the Worcester Historic Museum received $15,000 for a project on the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the city, including oral histories and creation of an LGBTQ+ archive and educational program. 

    The American Antiquarian Society was awarded $14,935 for an educational website on Isaiah Thomas, printer and American revolutionary.

    Clark University in Worcester received $14,998 to support ESL teachers in learning "Poetry Inside and Out," a translation-based approach to literary interpretation.

    On the South Coast of Massachusetts, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center was awarded $6,960 to explore how changes in fishing technology affected the town's fishing community over time.


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    Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who was indicted on federal fraud charges earlier this year, is using a new website to criticize a Massachusetts reporter.

    Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who was indicted on federal fraud charges earlier this year, is using a new website to criticize a Massachusetts reporter. 

    Herald News reporter Jo Goode tweeted Friday that a series is in the works regarding the mayor's legal troubles. 

    "Confirmed!" Goode wrote. "Mark Wahlberg and HBO are doing a series on our own MayorJFC! Thanks Jasiel for keeping us on the media map."

    To which the mayor responded with a URL featuring the reporter's name, a redirect to a gif of President Trump saying "YOU ARE FAKE NEWS." 

    Federal investigators say the 24-year-old mayor spent more than $230,000 - roughly 64 percent of the money invested in his company SnoOwl- like a "personal ATM." Reported uses of money include a Mercedes Benz, thousands of dollars of jewelry and adult entertainment, according to federal prosecutors. 

    He was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns in October. 

    The Fall River City Council voted last week to take the next step in a recall effort against Correia. The mayor has until Wednesday to resign. If he refuses, the City Council will schedule a recall election. 

    Correia has refused calls for his resignation, repeatedly stating that he's not guilty of the charges.

    After tweeting the website featuring the reporter's name, Correia said "Most reporters are fair and a few are fake news.. simple as that #fakenews." In another tweet, he described his actions as trolling. "Where's the rule about not trolling from official political pages."

    The Herald News published a story regarding the website, quoting Lisa Strattan, vice president of news for GateHouse New England, condemning the mayor's actions. 

    "It's simply stunning to me that the mayor has chosen to align himself with President Trump's sophomoric assessment of legitimate news-gathering operations by creating a 'site' about one of our hard-working reporters," Strattan said. "While I appreciate the mayor's candor in admitting he is the person who created this nonsense in our reporter's good name, that makes it nonetheless outrageous that the chief executive of the city is engaging in such childish and spiteful behavior. If it weren't for The Herald News it's unlikely our citizens would be aware of the full extent of the predicament in which the mayor is now embroiled. The mayor ought to be celebrating the solid local reporting The Herald News delivers, not undermining it in one of the most juvenile manners possible. We stand steadfastly behind our Staff Writer Jo Goode and the level of professionalism and expertise she brings to her job and the community on a daily basis."


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    Under a new trial, men will massage a gel into their shoulders after they shower.

    A new trial for male birth control is underway, but men won't be popping a pill once a day. Instead, men have to massage a gel into their shoulders after they shower. Some are extremely excited by the prospect of a new and easy form of contraception -- one that might take some of the pressure off women to take the Pill. Others are outraged at the fact that a birth-control gel is being created for men and not women. Is this male privilege in gel-form?

    PERSPECTIVES

    A worldwide trial for a new form of male birth control kicked off in late 2018. Similar to the birth control pill for women, this method does involve a daily routine: after men shower, they will rub birth control gel into their shoulders. At least 420 couples around the world will participate in the trial. Business Insider's Hilary Brueck reports:

    The gel works by inhibiting a man's natural testosterone production. Using a combination of progestin (Nestorone) and testosterone, the treatment interrupts the normal hormone-production processes in the testicles, thereby preventing men from producing viable, mature sperm.
    The gel, which takes about eight to 12 weeks to become fully effective, is administered in a single pump on each shoulder. Study leaders suggest that men apply it after they shower, then wait to swim or bathe again for at least four hours (even though the goo dries in about five minutes).

    According to Brueck, there are a number of biological and physical reasons why commercial male birth control has not come to fruition yet. 

    For one, pharmaceutical companies have focused on developing birth control for women because it's easier, biologically speaking, to block one or two eggs per month than it is to stop millions of sperm from coming out of men's bodies.

    This study could be revolutionary. The gel reportedly has fewer side effects than the Pill does for women, and given that condoms are only 85 percent effective, this gel could successfully equalize the responsibility of contraception between male and female partners.

    'The goal of the whole field of male contraceptive development is to try and create choices for men and for families,' [Dr. Stephanie Page], who's been working on male-birth-control solutions for roughly a decade, previously told Business Insider. 'A lot of women can't use contraceptives, and men want to share the burden of contraception.'

    But many women feel that a male birth-control gel is the epitome of male privilege. The Pill causes side effects like increased risk for depression, weight gain, and suppressed libido, yet women rely on it in order to live their sexual lives freely. PopBuzz's Jazmin Duribe sums up this group's feelings, saying: 

    This could be a much-needed scientific breakthrough and will hopefully take the pressure and responsibility off of women. The only question worth asking is, where the hell is our gel at!?!

    Female options for birth control are expensive, risky and taxing on the body, yet this trial provides men with contraception that is straightforward. Soon, men will be asking for shoulder massages to rub their birth control in! 

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

     

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    The dispensary served nearly a thousand people on opening day, said CEO Mark Zatyrka. Watch video

    EASTHAMPTON -- When the cannabis dispensary known as INSA opened its doors to recreational sales on Saturday, dozens were already lined up to buy -- and by all counts, the line moved quickly and efficiently.

    Over the course of the day, INSA served around 1,000 patrons "with little to no wait times," said CEO Mark Zatryka in an email.

    "I expect our customer base to continue to grow every day as word gets out about our fast-moving lines and premium products," Zatyrka said.

    The dispensary maintained separate queues for medical and recreational patients, and operated an express line for those picking up online orders. Traffic was directed to enter the mixed-use mill district parking lot via Pleasant Street, and leave via Ferry Street.

    The smooth rollout in Easthampton contrasted with congested first-day operations in Northampton and Leicester. At New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton and at Cultivate in Leicester, patrons on Nov. 20 waited in line for hours and traffic clogged local streets. Cultivate served over a thousand patrons that day, and shut down its parking lot around 2:40 p.m. with hundreds still in line.

    Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti confirmed that he had received no complaints about INSA on Saturday, and that vehicular and pedestrian traffic moved right along.

    "There were no issues at all," said Alberti. "Traffic flowed smoothly, and our extensive planning was a success." He said the department had crafted a traffic management plan, and that INSA itself would continue to hire outside traffic details as needed.

    Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said her office had met with INSA and Alberti to craft protocols for handling any potential problems at the 122 Pleasant St. dispensary.

    "Nope," said LaChapelle in a text, when asked Monday if her office had received any complaints about the INSA cannabis operation.

    "We couldn't be happier with the rollout," said Zatyrka. "We will continue to work closely with the city and our neighbors to ensure our business has a positive impact on this community."

    INSA is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will close at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and shut down for Christmas and New Year's Day. Its dispensary in Springfield remains reserved for medical marijuana patients.


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    Former Hampshire College student and immigrant rights activist Eduardo Samaniego remains held at an immigration detention center in Georgia while he awaits a bond hearing, according to a representative from the Northampton-based Pioneer Valley Workers Center where Samaniego had worked.

    NORTHAMPTON -- Former Hampshire College student and immigrant rights activist Eduardo Samaniego remains held at an immigration detention center in Georgia while he awaits a bond hearing, according to a representative from the Northampton-based Pioneer Valley Workers Center, where Samaniego worked.

    And according to a message on the center's Facebook page, senators, mayors and city councilors have penned more than 150 letters in his support for his motion for bond. The center is asking anyone interested in sending a personal letter to email lettersforeduardopvwc@gmail.com.

    A GoFundMe campaign to help pay his legal fees has raised more than $16,000, surpassing the $14,000 goal.

    The Pioneer Valley Workers Center reported earlier this month that Samaniego "went to family and friends for some needed rest, but instead has been caught up in the unjust immigration system. We are going to need all hands on deck to free him."

    Samaniego is reportedly being held in the Robert A. Deyton facility in Lovejoy, Georgia. The facility is used by both the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A spokeswoman from the marshals office said she had no record and that Samaniego likely was being held by ICE. No one from ICE has returned a request for comment. 

    According to an online post from a friend in early December, Samaniego "was arrested in mid-October for a misdemeanor, stemming from a misunderstanding with a taxi driver, and has been in jail in Georgia ever since. He was embarrassed and opted not to reach out to his community until only days ago. He is now asking that we share this story more broadly and ask for your help. We need to raise money for his bond and legal fees."

    Samaniego, an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 16, graduated with honors as president of Junior Achievement of Georgia, president of the Hispanic Honor Society and the only National Society of High School Scholars gold medal winner in his class.

    Samaniego said in an earlier interview he couldn't go to college because he didn't have a Social Security number. In 2014, Hampshire gave him a four-year scholarship.

    Earlier this year Samaniego and 10 others marched 250 miles from New York to Washington as part of the National Walk for the DREAM Act, calling for legislation that can protect him and hundreds of thousands of others from deportation.

    .


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    "Walmart was surprised at the pushback related to their intended donation to the City," Police Chief Jody Kasper wrote in an email to Mayor David Narkewicz.

    NORTHAMPTON -- Walmart has withdrawn the $13,000 ammunition donation it offered to the Northampton Police Department, Police Chief Jody Kasper wrote Monday in an email to Mayor David Narkewicz.

    Kasper told Narkewicz the withdrawal was "communicated verbally" to one of the police department's firearms instructors Sunday morning.

    "Walmart was surprised at the pushback related to their intended donation to the City," Kasper wrote in the email, which Narkewicz forwarded to City Council President Ryan O'Donnell and shared with The Republican. "I can't blame them. This donation would have saved the City money, and would have ensured that this unwanted ammunition was used for the critically important purpose of police training."

    Kasper also said she was frustrated with the "continued pushback against the efforts" of the police department. "Within City Council chambers, matters involving the police department quickly shift to aggressive anti-police rhetoric from a small number of community members," she wrote.

    "Despite our dedication, recognition, and leadership in the field, we continue to experience a growing anti-police narrative in the very community that we serve so well," she wrote.

    Narkewicz told O'Donnell that he was formally withdrawing the measure to accept the ammunition donation that was discussed at the council's Dec. 20 meeting, adding that he fully supported and endorsed the concerns Kasper raised.


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    Western Mass. natives of a certain age will remember Hatch as Uncle Ed of "Uncle Ed's Fun Club.'

    LONGMEADOW - A proud Army veteran, and Purple Heart recipient.

    Survivor of a V-1 rocket attack in London during World War II.

    A local broadcasting pioneer who entertained children on live television in early days of WWLP.

    Samuel Edward "Ed" Hatch, a Longmeadow resident, was known as many things in his long life.

    To Alex Schneider, he was all of those things but more importantly he was Grandpa.

    "I remember him with his gray knit hat playing with us kids in the snow," he said. "He was a great grandpa in that sense."

    Hatch died over the weekend at age 93. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Freda Hatch. Funeral services were held at the Kodimoh Cemetery in West Springfield on Monday.

    People of a certain age may remember Hatch from his work on WWLP TV-22 in the early days of the local station. In the station's earliest days, Hatch was the host of "Uncle Ed's Fun Club," a daily children's show that was broadcast live Monday through Friday at 5 p.m., just before the network showing of Howdy Doody.

    In the early 1960s, he transitioned to to the role of a news anchor on WWLP for the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. nightly news programs.

    By 1963, he moved on from television and started a career with the Social Security Administration in Holyoke where he would work for more than 20 years.

    Hatch's daughter, Tracy Schneider, was born in 1962 and never saw her father in the role of Uncle Ed of Uncle Ed's Fun Club.

    "But I have cousins who are 10-15 years older who fondly remember him, and sitting and watching him," she said. "People of a certain age remember his show."

    He would draw sketches, tell stories, do simple skits. She said growing up, she imagined his show was like another, more famous, children's show, and that her father was similar to its star. "He was a kind of a Mr. Rogers," she said.

    She recalled visiting her parents from college when she was in her 20s. They would go out to eat somewhere, and other patrons of the restaurant would recognize him and come over to ask a question.  

    "Aren't you Uncle Ed? Weren't you on TV?"

    Well into his 70s, she said, her father had "a very distinctive voice for radio and television."

    Alex Schneider said his grandfather loved to tell stories.

    "He would say 'old soldiers never die; they just keep telling war stories," Schneider said.

    Some of them reflected were about the early days of television and revealed a goofy sense of humor that was likely a natural fit on a kid's show. ("If Mississippi wore her New Jersey, what would Delaware? Ida-no. Al-aska!")

    But other stories were pretty serious, like his experiences in the war with the Army's 130th Chemical Processing Company and his service around the world in England, France, and the Philippines.

    On July 3, 1944, just days before his 20th birthday, Hatch narrowly survived a devastating attack by a German V-1 flying bomb that struck in Sloane Court East in the Chelsea section of London.  It killed 74 members of his company include one of his good friends, Theodore Booras of Lynn. It was the greatest single loss of U.S. service personnel in a V-1 attack, and the second worst V-1 attack in England.

    The V-1, known as a "'buzz bomb' was an early form of a cruise missile. Launched by the Nazis from the European mainland, they would fly pilotless toward targets in England. From 1944 until the end of the war, they wreaked havoc on London.

    Schneider said that as his grandfather told the story, he and Booras had been assigned to clean-up duty for the week. They had agreed to alternate days of when each would haul trash to the basement of their building. On the day of the attack, it was Booras' turn, and Hatch went outside to board a truck to go to another detail. Only he was running behind by the time he got outside the truck was full and there was no room for him to get on.

    That's when someone yelled "buzz bomb!"

    Hatch would describe running to look for cover when the force of the explosion sent him flying into a building.

    Everyone on the truck was killed, and their quarters building collapsed, killing Booras.

    Schneider said his grandfather would always tell the story, expressing what would be called "survivor's guilt."

    "He would said 'It could have been me.' He always thought about it."

    Hatch, over the years, would write several letters to the editor to the Lynn Item, Booras's hometown paper. In the letters, he recall who Booras was and the circumstances leading up to how he died. In 2013, a video was posted on Youtube of Hatch choking up as he recited a letter he had written about Booras.

    "I ask you to pause and honor his memory. He was a fine young man from lynn with great potential ... He was my friend and army buddy."

    Alex Schneider said that for as long as his grandfather was alive, he wanted people to remember Booras. It was very important to him.

    Hearing the stories of the attack from his grandfather led Schneider in 2010 to set up a web page, "A Memorial to Those who Served," that  details the attack 66 years earlier.  Details of the attack itself were not made public during the war due to wartime censorship. The website relies on Army records, the memories of Hatch and other survivors, and his letters to his family.

    Tracy Schneider said her father over the last several years experienced a decline in health that included dementia. In August last year, he was able to take part in a ceremony on the Longmeadow town green honoring town residents who had been awarded a Purple Heart. He was one of two World War II vets to take part.

    A photo that accompanied The Republican article shows Hatch, seated in a wheelchair, beside his wife. The Purple Heart is pinned to his jacket.

    She said her father was aware of the ceremony, and was thrilled to take part in it.

    "He was always proud. He was a very proud veteran," she said.


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    Wearing a hospital gown, leggings and socks, Brown disappeared from the hospital the day after the fire, prompting an intensive search by Westfield police and emergency personnel.

    WESTFIELD -- A Westfield woman charged with setting fire to her home has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

    Jordyn Brown, 28, was scheduled for arraignment Monday in Westfield District Court on a charge of arson of a dwelling.

    The arraignment was postponed after Judge William O'Grady ordered the defendant committed to the Worcester Recovery Center for an evaluation to determine if she is competent to face criminal charges and stand trial.

    Brown is due back in court on Jan. 11, when she will also face a dangerousness hearing. Assistant District Attorney Thomas McLeod requested the hearing in a motion stating that Brown posed too great a danger to the public to be granted pretrial release.

    Brown's court appearance came 10 days after the Westfield Fire Department responded to a fire at her home at 57 Bristol St.

    Brown fled the scene, but was located nearby and taken to Baystate Noble Medical Center. Wearing a hospital gown, leggings and socks, she disappeared from the hospital the next day, prompting an intensive search by Westfield police and emergency personnel.

    Westfield detectives, in a post on their Facebook page, said last Friday Brown had been located and was safe.

    Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for the state Fire Marshal's office, said Monday morning that a state trooper attached to that office arrested Brown on Friday in New Salem.

    Brown suffered minor injuries in the fire, which was extinguished quickly and caused only limited property damage; her father and step-mother were visiting when the fire started, authorities said.


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    For the last six years, the Hilltown Community Development Corporation has been the agency responsible for providing services and housing to people who are homeless in Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties, but that will change in the next fiscal year.

    For the last six years, the Hilltown Community Development Corporation has been the agency responsible for providing services and housing to people who are homeless in Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties, but that will change in the next fiscal year.

    The transfer of those functions to Community Action Pioneer Valley will come with a new look toward prevention and expanding housing opportunities at a time when low-cost housing is hard to find.

    Hilltown CDC Executive Director David Christopolis said the agency took on the Three County Continuum of Care contract six years ago because no one else was willing.

    "We're a small, rural agency ... it's a complicated grant, a hugely important grant," he said. 

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development grant holder contracts with providers to offer the housing services. Christopolis said there are 13 distinct funding programs the agency is overseeing.

    The city of Northampton had supervised the grant previously. At that time, the service area also included Holyoke, Chicopee and Westfield. But those communities became part of the Hampden County Continuum of Care when Hilltown took over.

    Community Action Pioneer Valley Executive Director Clare Higgins was Northampton mayor when the city first took over providing those services. Higgins said her agency sees the challenges of homelessness "every day with the clients we work with, the calls that come in."

    The agency, which has offices in Greenfield, Northampton and Orange, provides all kinds of services from Head Start to heating assistance help to youth programs. 

    Higgins said when Hilltown CDC made the announcement this fall that it would no longer administer the program, her agency began considering undertaking the administration of the grant. "We decided we should take this on as a challenge for us," she said. "It's needed for the region. We're seeing the challenges (of homelessness) every day with clients we work with, the calls that come in."

    As part of the Western Massachusetts Coalition to End Homelessness, adding the Three County Continuum of Care "was the next logical thing for us to think about," Higgins said.

    "It's a big grant," she said. But her agency is larger than the Hilltown CDC. "We have a little more capacity," Higgins said, noting Community Action Pioneer Valley already is involved with administering federal grants.

    The grant in the past has been worth more than $1.5 million, according to HUD

    Higgins said Community Action Pioneer Valley will use data to help make decisions on programs. "(We will be) focusing on shelter providers and will be thinking about prevention with the possibility of creating more housing," she said.

    She said it's imperative to have local leaders as part of the housing discussion. 

    She hopes Greenfield officials join in. A homeless encampment on the town common there this summer focused attention on the issue. At the time, the town did not have a representative working on the Continuum of Care board, said M.J. Adams, of the town's economic development office.

    "There are many demands put on municipal staff," Adams said. At the time, Mayor William Martin considered the problem for the social service world, but Adams said that changed this summer. 

    When asked whether Greenfield would participate when Community Action takes over the Three County Continuum of Care, she said Martin will make the determination. 

    The transition from Hilltown CDC to Community Action will begin in January and be completed by the end of June, when the current contract expires. 


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    The St. Patrick's Committee of Holyoke will accept applications for the upcoming Grand Colleen Pageant until Dec. 27. The pageant takes place Jan. 5 at Holyoke High School.

    HOLYOKE - The St. Patrick's Committee of Holyoke closes the application process this week for the upcoming Grand Colleen Pageant.

    Applicants must submit their application to the pageant committee by Dec. 27.

    Judges will choose the five finalists during the Jan. 5 pageant, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Holyoke High School Auditorium. The application and eligibility requirements are at holyokestpatricksparade.com.

    Tickets for the pageant cost $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and are free for children under 12.

    The parade committee will celebrate the pageant's 70th anniversary, according to Kathy Dulchinos, who co-chairs the Grand Colleen Committee. As the host city for the annual parade, only Holyoke crowns a Grand Colleen.

    Agawam, Chicopee, Westfield, Springfield and West Springfield hold separate colleen pageants, which includes a court of four women.

    "I've been doing this job, which I love, for over 30 years," Dulchinos said in a statement. "It's a lot of work, but it's a labor of love. I feel privileged to be able to meet, showcase and mentor the most accomplished and talented young women in our community.

    "I get a joy from seeing how much they grow and change, in a good way, from this experience. I'll continue to do this for as long as I can," she said.

    After the pageant, the finalists move on to the Feb. 16 Grand Colleen Ball held annually at the Log Cabin. The finalists, who wear matching gowns, are escorted to the stage, where the host asks a question.

    The judges then tabulate the scores and announce Holyoke's 2019 Grand Colleen.

    The 2018 Grand Colleen, Madelynne Kelleher, of South Hadley, and Court Members Carly Costello, Kassidy Lawrence Erin Hebert and Bridget Higgins will grace the stage for the final time shortly before the crowning.

    Brenna Morgan Fogarty held the title of Miss Congeniality. 

    For questions about the pageant or the ball, call Dulchinos at 413-592-4945.

    The 68th Annual Holyoke St. Patrick's Parade takes place March 17, and the 44th Annual St. Patrick's Road Race March 16. Visit the parade committee's Facebook page for news, photos, and discussions.


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    For 32 years, police have collected and delivered toys to homeless shelters and poor neighborhoods in the city. This year, they expected to give gifts to about 1,000 kids Watch video

    HOLYOKE - When Rebecca Arroyo heard the sirens Christmas morning, she thought something was going on in her Oak Street neighborhood. 

    But the sirens were not a sign of trouble. They were to alert everyone that Santa was there with toys for all the kids living at the family homeless shelter.

    This was the first stop for Santa - who was really Holyoke Police Detective Jared Hamel - and his police colleagues on the annual toy run. For 32 years, police have collected toys and delivered them to homeless shelters and poor neighborhoods in the city.

    "It was a nice surprise," Arroyo said. The mother of five has been living in the shelter for five months. 

    And while she managed to get her kids a few gifts, the extra toys brought a smile to 6-year-old Izsac Rosario, who was waiting with his mother and 3-year-old sister Jazlyn Rosario. Her other kids had managed to snag toys on their own. 

    Many people ran from their shelter and neighboring apartments to wait line wearing their pajamas or flip-flops. They didn't mind the cold.

    "It's good for the people in the community to get this service from the police department," said Gloria Martinez, who lives in the Franklin Street area, the second toy delivery stop.

    While her kids are grown, she has temporary custody of four grandchildren who knew all about the tradition, she said. "They love it," she said. She was wearing a red bathrobe over one-piece pajamas and said she was perfectly warm. 

    The toy run gets bigger every year, said Sgt. Daniel Reardon of the Holyoke Police Department Narcotics Bureau, which organizes it. 

    "We've got truckloads of donations," he said. People were donating even through Christmas Eve, he said. He expected police were giving out toys to about 1,000 kids. And it wasn't just one or two things, but armloads of toy cars and dolls, games, basketballs and other toys sorted by age group.

    More than a dozen officers participated along with wives, husbands, and kids. Detective Tony Brach, who was heading the toy run, said officers don't mind giving up Christmas morning because of the joy the drive brings. 

    "Some of these kids in the shelters have nothing. It's great to see their eyes light up when they see Santa and get a couple of things," he said.

    Hamel, who was playing Santa for the second year, agreed. So did his daughters Marion, 15, and Julia, 11, who were helping out.

    "It's a way to give back to the less fortunate. To see these kids' faces light up, it's nice to see," Hamel said. "Kids living in the poor areas don't get much."


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    The female driver suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

    CHICOPEE -- A rollover crash has closed part of Grattan Street on Tuesday.

    One person was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Western Mass News is reporting.

    The crash occurred at about 2 p.m. when the female driver struck a parked car, causing her vehicle to flip over. None of her passengers were injured in the crash, Western Mass News said.

    The street is closed around the intersection of Ward Street while police investigate.


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    Anne Dugas said her grandfather Tom Smyth came up with the recipe for the farm's eggnog. "It's made with milk, heavy cream, spices including nutmeg, vanilla -- and sugar, of course," she said.

    SPRINGFIELD -- On the Saturday before Christmas, bottles of eggnog produced by Smyth's Trinity Farm of Enfield were flying out of the coolers at the winter farmers market at Forest Park. By noon, there was only one gallon of eggnog left at Smyth's outdoor stand at the market.

    Anne Dugas, who co-owns the fourth-generation family-owned farm with her brother Sam Smyth, said she hasn't had time to tally up how many bottles of the creamy holiday beverage have been sold this year. But she thinks it will be a banner season.

    "We'll probably figure it out when we're sitting around the table at Christmas," she said.

    Eggnog production begins the second week in October and continues through the second week in January, Dugas said, adding that the butter churning operation ceases during the holiday period when heavy cream is diverted for eggnog.

    Dugas said her grandfather Tom Smyth came up with the recipe for the farm's eggnog. "It's made with milk, heavy cream, spices including nutmeg, vanilla -- and sugar, of course," she said.

    The farm at 4 Oliver Road in Enfield is home to a herd of 72 cows, which the family "raises from birth to death," she said, adding that some cows live up to age 40. The barn at the farm dates back to the 1930s, Dugas said.

    Smyth's Trinity Farm offers a variety of dairy products produced on site from their own cows. "Individual cow comfort and a grass based diet is the core of our product quality," according to the company's website

    The Trinity Farm store is open from Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    In addition to Forest Park, Smyth's sells its milk, cream, yogurt, eggs and butter at farmers markets in New Haven and Ellington, Connecticut.

    The farm now has a home delivery operation, with trucks making stops in East Longmeadow, Longmeadow and northern Connecticut communities, Dugas said. "We have trucks and full-time drivers."

    Besides to regular milk, Trinity Farm sells chocolate-, strawberry- and coffee-flavored milk and plain and fruit-flavored yogurt.

    The barn at the farm dates back to the 1930s, Dugas said.

    Belle-Rita Novak, who runs the Forest Park winter market, said Trinity Farm is one of 15 vendors that sell products and produce during the winter season. They include Rainbow Harvest Farm of Greenfield, Red Fire Farm in Granby and the Ripley Farm in Granville. Besides dairy products from Trinity, the market sells maple products, root vegetables, jams and jellies and handmade items.

    The winter market, formerly run out of the old "monkey house" building, which is being renovated, recently moved to new quarters in a building just inside the Sumner Avenue gate to the park.

    It runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays each month through April.


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    According to the documents provided by the selectmen's office, PLH LLC, the landowner, filed the actions in state Land Court in Boston

    WARE - The town was recently hit with two lawsuits after officials said no to an 8-megawatt solar project near Beaver Lake that the developers said would require chopping down 55 acres of forest.

    According to documents provided by the selectmen's office, PLH LLC, the landowner, filed the actions in state Land Court in Boston.

    The project was proposed on about 140 acres off Coffey Hill and Monson Turnpike roads.

    The Ware Planning Board approved a site plan for the Ecos Energy solar project on Oct. 17. The board also voted 3-2 in favor of granting a special permit. But since a supermajority of four votes was needed, the proposal was defeated.

    The lawsuits allege that the Planning Board had no reason to deny the special permit, and that it therefore should have been approved, saying it would not negatively impact the community.

    "The denial of the special permit, and the prohibition on constructing a ground-mounted solar energy system on Plaintiff's Property flatly violates" state law, one of the lawsuits says.

    One of the lawsuits accuses the board of acting in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner, and states that a member voted against the solar project "without any basis in the law, engineering knowledge or scientific knowledge."

    Prior to filing the lawsuits, Ecos had asked the Planning Board to reconsider the special permit vote. The board did so with the same result. The Nov. 26 vote was 3-1 in favor of the special permit, with one member absent.

    The lawsuits were filed by the new landowner, PLH LLC, against Ware Planning Board, and the five members of the board: Chairman Rick Starodoj, Fred Urban, Chris DiMarzio, Joe Knight, Edward Murphy III and Josh Kusnierz. Kusnierz did not participate in either the October or November voting.

    Thomas Melone, of Allco Renewable Energy Ltd. in New York City, is the lawyer representing PLH. Allco's website lists Ecos and PLH as part of the company.

    Hampshire County Registry of Deeds records show PLH purchased the land from Gusto Enterprises LLC for $449,900 on Nov. 16. No mortgage related to that transaction has been recorded.

    Records filed with Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin's office show PLH, on Dec. 11, filed to register in the state as a "Foreign Limited Liability Company," for the purpose of solar development.

    Galvin approved the application the same day, and the records show the company paid the $500 fee.

    PLH organized in the state of Indiana as a "Domestic Limited Liability Company" in 2012.

    The acreage where the solar farm was proposed was previously owned by the town, which took possession of it more than a decade ago when the previous owner failed to pay property taxes. The town sold the land to Gusto Enterprises in 2005 for $720,000.

    Records from Galvin's office show Gusto was formed in 2005, and that its manager was listed as John M. Guasto, with a business address at 69 Coffey Hill Road.

    The records show Gusto was dissolved by court order in 2013.

    The records also show that, on Nov. 11 of this year, annual reports from 10 previous years were filed with the secretary of state, and that on Nov. 13 Gusto notified Galvin that "the grounds for the administrative dissolution have been eliminated." Galvin approved the reinstatement on Nov. 15.

    During a Planning Board hearing in September, Ecos, based in Minnesota, estimated the town of Ware would receive about $112,000 annually for the next 20 to 30 years should the municipality approve the solar facility.


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    Donald MacLeod, 28, of Westfield, has no criminal record or history of restraining orders, court records show.

    WESTFIELD - A judge has ordered a mental health evaluation for a Westfield man charged with attacking a family member with a hammer and straight razor.

    Donald K. MacLeod, 28, will continue to be held without right to bail until a hearing on Jan. 3 to determine if he is competent to stand trial, Judge William O'Grady ruled Dec. 18.

    MacLeod is charged with attempted murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a family member. The charges were filed after MacLeod allegedly used a hammer and straight razor to attack a 67-year-old family member during the afternoon of Dec. 11.

    The victim was struck multiple times on the head with a hammer and his throat was slashed with a razor, Assistant District Attorney Maglia Montes wrote in a motion to hold MacLeod without right to bail.

    The victim suffered deep lacerations to his throat, the side of his head and his left hand, plus injuries and profuse bleeding from repeated hammer blows to his head, according to the arrest report.

    He was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where his prognosis was listed as guarded, the report states.

    Following the attack, MacLeod called 911 to report that his family member had been attacked by a masked intruder. When Westfield police arrived, he was questioned and eventually arrested, according to the report, which neither mentions a motive for the attack nor lists the address where it took place.

    At the prosecutor's request, MacLeod was held without right to bail for a dangerousness hearing last week. During the session, O'Grady ordered an evaluation to determine if MacLeod is competent to stand trial and continued the case to Jan. 3. The judge also rescheduled the dangerousness hearing for the same day. 

    MacLeod is being held without right to bail at the Hampden County House of Correction in Ludlow. He has no criminal record or history of restraining orders, court records show.


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    Several other communities -- including Agawam, West Springfield and Chicopee -- and the state have filed similar lawsuits.

    SPRINGFIELD -- The city has filed a lawsuit in Hampden Superior Court against pharmaceutical companies, seeking to recover the city's costs related to the opioid epidemic.

    Springfield's suit names Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and a number of other companies as defendants.

    "A pharmaceutical manufacturer should never place its desire for profits above the health and well-being of its customers," Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said in a prepared statement echoing allegation within the suit. "Drug manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are accompanied by full and accurate instructions and warnings to guide prescribing doctors and other healthcare providers in making treatment decisions."

    Several other communities -- including Agawam, West Springfield and Chicopee -- and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have filed similar lawsuits.

    Springfield, within its suit, states the opioid epidemic is "man made," and caused by "pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, board members and executives."

    "It has been created, fueled, and continues to expand by the persistent unlawful conduct of the defendant pharmaceutical manufacturers (Manufacturer Defendants) and pharmaceutical wholesale distributors (Distributor Defendants)," the lawsuit states.

    Springfield announced plans to file the suit a year ago, hiring a national law firm, Scott+Scott Attorneys at Law LLP to pursue the civil case.

     

    The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with similar suits brought by the city of Worcester and other communities including Haverhill, Framingham, Gloucester, Salem, Lynnfield, and Wakefield, also represented by Scott+Scott.

    Under the terms of the agreement announced last January, Springfield will not be responsible for attorney fees or expenses. Instead, Scott+Scott will seek 22.5 percent of Springfield's total recovery in the opiod litigation, officials said.

    "Executives of a pharmaceutical company have a legal obligation to ensure that their company conducts itself in a manner compliant with the law that is designed to protect rather than harm patients," Sarno said. "Defendants broke these simple rules."

    The suit states that Springfield is experiencing a "stark increase in the number of residents who have become addicted to prescription opioids and heroin, and a stark increase in opioid overdoses."

    When the city's plans for the lawsuit were announced last year, John Parker, a representative of the Health Care Distribution Alliance, stated that distributors understand the tragic impact of the opioid epidemic, "but we aren't willing to be scapegoats."

    "We don't make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines, or dispense them to consumers," Parker said.

    The lawsuit states that Springfield has been "struck particularly hard by the influx of opioid drugs and resulting boom in the number of opioid addicts."

    The court filing states that Springfield's opioid-related deaths have climbed from 26 in 2012 to 40 in 2016.

    City costs include hospitalization and related health care costs, neo-natal care costs, expenses related to opioid education and training, emergency treatment costs, law enforcement costs, community outreach expenses, and diversion costs related to city employees, the suit states.

    The city listed its "causes of action" against the companies as including: negligence; negligent misrepresentation; public nuisance; common law fraud; unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of state law; unjust enrichment; and civil conspiracy.

    The city does not specify the dollar amount of damages being sought, but asks the court to order injunctive and equitable relief, attorneys' fees and costs, and interest.


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    The two women are suspected of passing cashing more than $10,000 in fraudulent checks at local banks.

    AGAWAM - Police are seeking the public's help in identifying two women who are suspected of cashing more than $10,000 in fraudulent checks at area banks.

    Police released photos of bank surveillance footage from a drive-up ATM in Easthampton. The photos show two women, one with blond hair and the other a brunette.

    They may be operating a maroon Nissan Murano with Connecticut plates.

    Agawam Police Lt. Edward D. McGovern said anyone who recognizes either woman is asked to call the Agawam Detective Bureau at 413 786-1717.


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    State Rep. Aaron Vega and State Sen. Donald Humason appeared before the Holyoke City Council's Development and Government Relations Committee, where the legislators outlined their statehouse priorities for the 2019 session.

    HOLYOKE - State Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, and state Sen. Donald Humason, R-Westfield, provided updates recently to the City Council's Development and Government Relations Committee, reviewing projects underway and a look ahead to the upcoming legislative session.

    Vega and Humason periodically appear before the committee, which Ward 3 Councilor David K. Bartley chairs. Councilors Peter Tallman, Jossie Valentin and Michael Sullivan joined Bartley for the Dec. 19 meeting.

    Bartley said the updates allow Vega and Humason to offer their perspectives on issues that affect Holyoke and the commonwealth.

    Vega said the Legislature's formal session draws near, with a new term starting Jan. 2. Vega and his colleagues, who include many freshmen lawmakers, will take their oaths before the new session begins.

    He said he spoke recently with Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials about ongoing and future road projects. MassDOT expects work on Exit 15 of Interstate 91 will finish May 7.

    MassDOT will hold a public meeting Jan. 8 at the Senior Center related to Kelly School. Vega said the Safe Route to School Project would include increased lighting, clearly painted traffic lines, sidewalk improvements and work on an underpass near Lyman Street.

    For the upcoming term, Vega said he will direct his efforts on Chapter 70, or education, funding and price variances related to private insurers' payments to community hospitals in Massachusetts.

    He said community hospitals in the region receive less than half of what their counterparts are reimbursed in metro Boston. For example, a private insurer might pay Holyoke Medical Center $12,000 for a hip replacement surgery while a community hospital in Eastern Massachusetts receives double the rate.

    "That's been hurting our hospitals for decades. We're one of the last few community hospitals," Vega said.

    Beside medical costs, Bartley said Holyoke drivers get hit with high auto premiums by insurers. "It's completely upside-down. It's not the same throughout the commonwealth," Bartley said.

    Vega said he continues a push for an increase in the per-student allocation for Holyoke Community College students, who receive less than students at other community colleges in Massachusetts.

    Seventy-five percent of HCC students take remedial math and English courses their first year, according to Vega. Only 25 to 35 percent of those students complete their degrees, he said. Vega will seek additional funds for added academic support.

    Forty-five percent of incoming transfers at Westfield State University are HCC students. "We're doing the right thing, and we just can't get it to everybody. That's the issue," Vega said. He said HCC's enrollment rate remains stable.

    Humason, whose district includes Holyoke, said the theme for the 2019 legislative session is "change," especially with an influx of new members in the region's delegation.

    "The Western Massachusetts delegation, of both Democrats and Republicans, work well together, because it's us in Western Massachusetts and the four counties against the whole delegation of Boston," Humason said.

    "The thing that changes this year is that we lost a whole lot of seniority with members who retired or left the Legislature," he said.

    The delegation lost senior members in Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley, and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, who resigned as Senate president after an ethics scandal.

    Humason, who represents 11 communities, said he and Vega would mentor the newest legislators on procedures and the machinations of Beacon Hill. He expects his Senate colleagues will re-elect Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, as president.

    The House and Senate will appoint new chairs of the powerful Ways and Means committees, the bodies that draft the budgets. And several executive branch members will not return for the 2019 sessions, including Jay Ash, the state's Housing and Economic Development secretary.

    "Secretary Ash has been in Holyoke many, many times, usually brings good news in the form of a check or grant for the city to undertake some project," Humason said. "His new replacement will rapidly become our new friend because we'll be on the phone with that person quite a bit."

    Humason, who serves on Ways and Means, said the committee held a recent meeting with finance officials from the Baker-Polito Administration and outside economic experts. The discussions centered on "consensus revenue" for fiscal year 2019 or the amount the Commonwealth will collect in fees, taxes, tolls and fines.

    "The sense from almost everyone who met that day is that things are starting to slow down economically, we're not going to have the rate of growth in new revenue. We won't have as much economic activity," Humason said. "Things, not cooling off altogether, will not be as hot as they've been."

    He said he will keep an eye on new or current state programs heavily reliant on revenues.

    Gov. Charlie Baker will release his version of the state budget shortly after his annual address to both houses in January. The House and Senate committee will meet to hash out their budget versions, which may or may not include elements from Baker's draft.


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    Amherst Police Department Capt. Jennifer Gundersen will soon take command of the South Hadley Police Department, the department's first woman police chief.

    SOUTH HADLEY - Jennifer Gundersen will take the oath of office as South Hadley's next police chief during a Town Hall ceremony in the Select Board meeting room Jan. 4 at 9 a.m. A reception will follow.

    Gundersen, who becomes the town's first female police chief, will replace Steven Parentela, who announced his retirement in the fall. After 30 years on the department, Parentela will retire Jan. 3.

    The incoming chief, a captain in the Amherst Police Department, brings 30 years of service to the job.

    "We are all very excited about Chief Gundersen starting a new phase of her outstanding career here in South Hadley and how it will create positive synergy for the community," Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan said in a statement. "Her experience and education will serve her well in the Town of South Hadley."

    After an extensive search, Sullivan announced Gundersen's appointment in November. Over 25 applicants from the region and nationally vied for the position.

    Assistant Town Administrator Jennifer Wolowicz, Town Accountant William Sutton and Northampton Police Chief Jody D. Kasper headed the search committee. Gundersen appeared before the Select Board shortly after her hiring.

    At the time of Gundersen's appointment, Sullivan said the new chief had a "solid reputation" in the region and was highly regarded by colleagues.

    Gundersen, who served 24 years in Amherst, holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Stonehill College, a master of science in criminal justice administration and a master of liberal arts in public administration. She lives in Easthampton with her wife and two children.

    In November, Sullivan stated that although Amherst is a larger community, Gundersen understands the need for working in a diverse college community or "town/gown" relationship. "Captain Gundersen's experience is very scalable and significant for the department," he said.

    At the time, Sullivan thanked Parentela for his dedication and service to the department and the community. He credited Parentela and Wolowicz for providing "great insight and guidance to the appointment authority."

    During a public symposium on the hiring process, Sullivan spoke about South Hadley's ongoing commitment to community policing. 


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    Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Here are the obituaries published Wednesday in The Republican:

    Obituaries from The Republican, Dec. 26, 2018

     

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