Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Volunteers Give Back While Looking for Work

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
March 27, 2012 

(This story appeared March 28, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly site, and April 7, 2012, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

After 23 years working on the switchboard and later in access services at Beverly hospital, Linda Riley lost her job in 2010. During the first five months of unemployment, she struggled to find full time work and eventually took a part time shift at Stop and Shop in the evenings.

“It’s one thing when you have a job and are looking for another job,” she said. “It’s another thing when you don’t have one and you’re looking for something before unemployment runs out.”

But Riley, 59, of Beverly wanted to stay productive while looking for work, so she started to volunteer. Since then she has been volunteering at the Beverly Council on Aging where she serves as a receptionist and as a teacher in the computer lab.

“I really love helping elderly people,” she said. “They so appreciate the company and the help.”

Riley is one of many in the area who are looking for ways to contribute while still searching for work.
The benefits of volunteering are two fold, said Mark Whitmore, executive director of the North Shore Career Center. The Career Center—which has offices in Salem, Gloucester and Lynn—works with both job seekers and businesses to help both sides better understand what is needed and available in the job market. Whitmore said the Center constantly emphasizes the value of volunteering at job seeking events.

“As it gets further from the last job the individual had, they become somewhat unattractive to businesses,” he said. “Volunteering is a great way to fill that gap, to learn some additional skills, and to be able to contribute as an active member of that workforce.”

Whitmore said that besides helping to keep jobseekers marketable to potential employers, volunteering also has an intangible value.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Salem Dancers Jig to Belfast this March

Billy Petrocelli, center, with
Micoletta and Julianna Bremer at
the Bremer School
(Photo by Kate Goodale)
By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
March 8, 2012
(This story appeared March 9, 2012, in Boston Globe, Salem site, and March 15, 2012, in the Daily News of Newburyport.)

SALEM – This St. Patrick’s Day, keep an eye out for some of the world’s best Irish dancers here on the North Shore. Dancers from the Bremer School of Irish Dance in Salem will be performing locally to celebrate the holiday and six Bremer students will head to the World Championships in Belfast, Ireland.

Billy Petrocelli, 12, of Georgetown, has been dancing at the school, located on 87 Canal St. for seven years. Petrocelli has seen more of the world than most kids his age through his dance competitions, known as a feis (pronounced “fesh”) and he said Dublin is his favorite city he has visited so far. This year will be his third time competing at the World Championships (Worlds).

“I’m feeling excited mostly,” said Petrocelli. “It’s nerve-racking on the big stage, but it’s really fun. I like the sport and meeting people at the competitions.”

Maggie Osbahr, 19, of Nahant, Siobhan O’Neill, 15 of Lynn, Meghan Phelan, 15, of Lynn, Micoletta and Julianna Bremer, 11 year old twins of Swampscott are all students of the Salem school returning to Worlds.

Irish dancers compete for a regional title, in this case New England, before proceeding to the World Championships. Over 5,000 qualifying dancers ranging from ages 5-22 travel from all over the globe to dance and win the title of the world’s best. The 2012 Championships will take place in Belfast, Ireland, beginning March 31 and ending April 8.

“This is an extremely busy time for us,” said Sheila Bremer of Swampscott, teacher and owner of the school for 13 years. “We have St. Patrick’s Day performances, some of my students are trying out for a dancing documentary in Brooklyn and Worlds at the end of the month.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Women’s History is Good for Business

Bonnie Smith (courtesy photo)
By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
March 5, 2012

(This article appeared March 6, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Salem site.)
SALEM—For businesses wanting to increase sales, Bonnie Hurd Smith of Ipswich, historian and author of the book,
We Believe in You, thinks National Women’s History Month might be the answer. Featuring women’s history in your business, she says, can attract women clients, members, and donors, and Smith sees history as the key to success personally and professionally.

As a result in 2010, Smith founded History Smiths, a public relations and marketing agency that incorporates history in service to organizations, businesses, communities, and individuals on the North Shore.

She says every business or organization—for profit or not-for-profit—wants to attract customers and their loyalty as well as media attention while also developing a positive reputation. Many also want to make a difference in their communities.

“Getting involved with history can do all of that for you,” Smith said. “Studying women’s history makes us feel less alone. We can see the experience of women who succeeded and how they achieved their goals.”

To highlight such successes and to honor National Women’s History Month, Smith will explore the experiences, insights and relevance of women poets, essayists, abolitionists, and suffragists on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 pm as part of Salem’s Old Town Hall Lecture Series at 32 Derby Square in Salem. The series is sponsored by the Gordon College Institute for Public History.

Smith will discuss the lives of Anne Bradstreet, Judith Sargent Murray, Maria Stuart, and Lucy Stone, all women with links to the Boston area. But Smith sees these women as more than local role models; they were excellent writers, speakers, networkers and organizers with useful tactics applicable for today.

“From an early age all of these women had a sense of life purpose, what they were good at and who they were,” she said. “They had courage in taking action despite obstacles.”

In order to increase visibility and/or revenue, Smith suggests companies could celebrate such courage by sponsoring a women’s history talk at a local library or school. Non-profits could hold a women’s fundraising seminar, or retail stores could create a special sale event. At a women’s clothing store in the Boston area, for instance, Smith gave a talk on women’s history. The company provided refreshments, and offered items on sale. She says new customers came in for the first time, existing customers showed up, and the store increased sales and status.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Diving In: North Shore Proves a Hotspot for Scuba Culture

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
February 29, 2012 

(This story appeared March 5, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly site, March 6, 2012 in The Gloucester Times, and March 7, 2012, in the Salem News.)

BEVERLY—Instead of taking to the ski slopes this winter, Vinny Egizi took to the water. And not by boat.

“I like to get lobsters,” Egizi, 46, of Beverly said. “You go down and grab them with your hands from the back and put them in a bug bag.”

Egizi can be found on the weekends squeezing into his wetsuit, strapping on a diving tank, mask and flippers and submerging into Salem Harbor. He’s a certified scuba diver, and though the North Shore is far from the warm waters of tropical islands usually associated with scuba diving, Egizi said that’s not a problem for many in the area.

“There’s a big diving culture in the winter,” he said.

He should know. Egizi is the treasurer of the North Shore Frogmen’s Club in Salem, the oldest diving club in the country. Founded in 1957, the diving club currently has over 100 members. The “Froggies” meet every Thursday at Palmers Cove Yacht Club in Salem to socialize and talk about diving, listen to guest speakers, and plan future trips. The club goes on weekly dives every Sunday morning, and has special events like a New Year’s Day dive and an underwater Easter egg hunt.

Egizi—whose ‘real’ job is director of operations at MKS Instruments—loves the challenge of trying to catch lobsters (which he is licensed to do) without getting pinched. He also likes to look for antique bottles on the ocean floor, which he does regularly in Salem.

“It [bottles] was trash in the 1800s and now its treasure,” he said.

Egizi has gone on approximately 100 dives since he was certified in 2008, including trips to Cancun and river dives in Vermont, but 75 percent of those have been off the North Shore. He said he always enjoyed snorkeling, but after seeing a dive flag got curious about the sport.

“I was tired of seeing the tops of fish,” he said.

Meg Tennissen, 33, of Salem is an associate at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the president of the North Shore Frogmen’s Club. Certified in 2005, Tennissen said she fell in love with the sport while practicing in a pool.