A+ Awards Dinner 2021
View the 2021 A+ Awards Journal
Each year, the Amherst Area Chamber bestows A+ Awards to individuals and organizations that enrich the life of the community through their work in business, education, and civic engagement across the area that the Chamber serves: Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, Sunderland and the Pioneer Valley as a whole.
Celebrating excellence, impact and legacy!
I am enormously proud of this incredible A+ Awards slate. They dreamed big, acted creatively, demonstrated unwavering commitment, and stirred economic impact throughout the region despite a global pandemic. They provided hope through their resilience and we are a better community for them. These are truly the heroes of the time and they deserve our recognition.
The 2021 A+ Awardees have proven themselves as models to other business and community leaders. Their dedicated work is much appreciated and deserve our recognition and they are:
Legacy Award honors the memory of the late Andy Yee of the Bean Restaurant Group for his significant contributions to our entire Western Massachusetts region as a visionary pioneer of hospitality. Yee epitomized innovation as a leader, and he created a variety of dining experiences. He redefined strong customer service and stirred an enormous economic and community impact throughout Western Massachusetts and beyond. His personality was larger-tham-life and made him the most likeable and unforgettable local figure. Yee made a substantial and lasting impact on the local hospitality industry to be emulated for years to come.
Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes Todd Barron of Applied Mortgage for his significant contributions to our community as a long-time business owner and Amherst native, who has always found ways to give back to his community and beyond. His outstanding commitment to putting people first through significant public service work, especially through his work at United Way of Franklin & Hampshire Region and Amherst Boys & Girls Club to name a few, is a testament to his effective leadership. This is matched by the way in which he and his Applied Mortgage team have redefined how the Amherst Area lives and works. Barron expanded on his commitment throughout the pandemic by matching support of relief and resiliency programs for our small businesses across the Pioneer Valley. Barron has set an example of leading with integrity for generations of leaders to come.
Leader in Innovation Award recognizes Gabrielle Gould of the Amherst Business Improvement District for her significant contributions to the community through her tireless efforts throughout the pandemic to save downtown Amherst. From her advocacy for relief legislation, to her work on creating relief for small businesses, to finding ways to serve meals while providing restaurant relief, she built a resilient downtown. Together with her vision to create our first indoor downtown performing arts center, and her leadership as a partner on our Amherst Area Chamber’s destination marketing MOTT grant, Gould is making Amherst truly destination-worthy. Because of her unwavering support of our downtown, Destination Amherst WILL become a reality.
Leader in Sustainability Award recognizes Johanny Valerio of the Amherst Mobile Market for her significant contributions to creating and sustaining the Amherst Mobile Market throughout the pandemic. Through her tireless advocacy for her community, in collaboration with many of her neighbors, the Amherst Mobile Market is now a reality as a bilingual farmers market bringing affordable, organic fresh produce to Amherst's food desert neighborhoods. The Amherst Mobile Market is a community-driven project supported by the Healthy Hampshire initiative at the Collaborative for Educational Services, Many Hands Farm Corps, and a number of dedicated community residents. It not only makes affordable produce available within walking distance of residents who struggle to access healthy food, but also puts decision-making in the hands of low-income, BIPOC community members enabling them to take on leadership roles. She is also recognized for helping successfully deliver the Amherst Area Chamber and Amherst Business Improvement District Dinner Delights program, ensuring that families who were newly impacted by COVID received food they needed by assisting with meal distribution, onsite translation, and oftentimes delivering food to families herself, ensuring our meals were not wasted. Johanny set herself apart as a true sustainable food leader resting on the pillars of sustainble food security: availability, access, utilization and stability.
Young Professional Award honors The Center Dance and its leaders, Ashley and Caddy Carlisle for their significant contributions to the community as a wonderful and inclusive studio offering a variety of dance and choreography classes to the Amherst Area. According to their nominator, they offer what are the only ballet classes in Amherst designed exclusively for BIPOC children. Their exemplary leadership includes giving back to our community, empowering young women, and enhancing arts opportunities via performances and classes. Their unwavering commitment through a variety of virtual and in-person classes during the pandemic created access to wider audiences of all economic levels.
Community Service Award honors Sid & Isabel Ferreira for their significant contributions to Amherst For a Better Chance (ABC). As they step down as resident directors at ABC, they have left a legacy of involvement, support and advocacy. They were active spokespeople for raising awareness of the program, growing funds to operate the house and helping to keep the doors open to higher education with nearly 30 years of service. At a time when feeling safe and providing shelter could not be more important, we thank them for leading by example through extraordinary times. Together, with their volunteer leadership, their collective impact has been immense and felt across the community.
Chamber MVP recognizes Alex Sieracki of Mercedes-Benz of Springfield for his significant contributions to our Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce as an ideal Ambassador. Prior to becoming an Ambassador, Alex was an amazing connector bringing us in as partners to the Driven By Community work of Mercedes-Benz of Springfield. As the pandemic unfolded, he continued to take initiative, supporting our marketing gaps, continued connecting us to potential members and new partners, and steadily finding time to volunteer. His creativity came in many forms, from helping support our virtual events become a success, to creating our first Outdoor Cinema experience and series. He has truly been in our corner.
Please join us for the A+ Awards Dinner on November 10, 5-8:30pm at the newly renovated UMass Student Union Ballroom. New this year is our Mask-erade theme. In compliance with UMass indoor mask requirements, we will have to require masks, so our committee has decided to have some fun and incorporate them into our theme. Join us for a formal business attire evening and feel free to make your mask a formal one too! Proof of vaccination and/or negative testing may be required.
Many thanks to PeoplesBank for returning again this year as our Presenting Sponsor. This event would not become a reality without their express support, especially in this difficult year. They have proven to be incredible partners in all areas of support as a 2021 Amherst Area Chamber Champion. It's simple, we appreciate them.
Cooley Dickinson Health Care returns as our Scholarship Sponsor and Chamber Champion again this year with a generous contribution that provides $1,000 scholarships to local high school seniors attending a two or four-year institution in Massachusetts, in business and/or health care related fields.
New this year: In a year where challenges in schooling have been at their peak, Cooley Dickinson stepped up to add two new scholarships to offer four in total, totaling a $4,000 investment in our future. We will celebrate these scholarship recipients, each from one of the following schools: Amherst/Pelham Regional High School, Belchertown High School, Hopkins Academy and Frontier Regional High School – all representative of the geographic communities of businesses our Chamber services. Thank you to Cooley Dickinson Health Care leadership for continuing to put the health and welfare of our communities as their top priority.
Also, new this year, the talented Balazs Buszynak, of Seven-Roads Media will be creating video tributes for each awardee.