News from our members

North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation approves financing for Katallage Wellness Center

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the economic development arm of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, recently provided financing of $50,000 to Katallage Wellness Center, located at 73 Front Street in Shirley, to support the startup costs of opening the business. The funding will help create five full-time and two part-time employees.

The Katallage Wellness Center is a holistic wellness center dedicated to improving the well-being of patients by helping to achieve a sense of balance and harmony in all aspects of life, including physical, emotional and mental health, spiritual growth and personal development.

The center was recently founded by Henri Balaguera, M.D., a physician with a strong medical background who immigrated to the U.S. from Columbia in 1993, following completion of his medical training in Bogata. Under Dr. Balaguera’s leadership, the center will provide complementary, integrative and multimodal health care treatments to identify and address the root causes of chronic diseases to help promote the whole person’s health and well-being.

“With the support of the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, I have the opportunity to become a business owner in my community and to offer evidence-based treatments, therapies, acupuncture and yoga as a complement to their health, mental health to achieve optimal results,” said Dr. Balaguera.

As a microloan lender, NCMDC can provide loans to small businesses up to $250,000 for working capital, real estate, equipment, inventory, expansion and working with our banking partners to provide gap financing for the final piece of a project.

Air Methods’ Life Flight, City of Fitchburg Host Groundbreaking Event

Ceremony Marks Importance of Air Ambulance Service in Fitchburg, Worcester County

Air Methods’ Life Flight 2 air ambulance program partnered with the City of Fitchburg to host a groundbreaking event at Fitchburg Municipal Airport to ceremoniously recognize the importance of fast, reliable air medical services in the community.

Earlier this year, Air Methods partnered with the City of Fitchburg to ensure critical health care access to Worcester County and beyond. Life Flight 2 is a community-based program providing lifesaving services 24/7/365, responding to emergency medical and trauma events including heart attacks, strokes, pediatric emergencies, burns, and other critical incidents—essentially serving as a flying emergency room and intensive care unit. Additionally, the team provides interfacility transport services when patients need to move between hospitals for specialized care.

“Throughout the state, we’ve seen an increased need for air medical service over the past year,” said Air Methods Regional Director Aidan O’Connor Jr. “We are grateful to be able to serve the communities of Leominster, Lunenburg, and the great City of Fitchburg and develop this partnership with the city and their beautiful airport. Partnerships like these ensure we are meeting the needs of the communities in northern Worcester County and southern New Hampshire and Vermont.”

Life Flight 2 not only has provided life-saving services since opening this spring, but they have also supported the community in many events and activities, such as the police cadets summer program, training with local EMS/Fire partners, and assisting requestors whenever called upon.

“Since opening, Life Flight 2’s services have been invaluable for our residents,” said City of Fitchburg Mayor Stephan DiNatale. “It’s reassuring to know that when there is an emergency, we now have a complete ecosystem of emergency medical care for our community.”

Equipped with industry-leading equipment and medical devices on every flight, the Life Flight 2 team carries whole blood to positively increase patient outcomes through collaborative pre-hospital care.

The Life Flight 2 team — a crew consisting of a pilot, critical care nurse, and critical care paramedic, and maintainers — all receiving annual state-of-the-art specialty training. Pilots are trained using Level D Full Flight Simulators, the highest fidelity flight simulator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, representing the most sophisticated and accurate simulators used by most commercial airlines. Clinicians receive hands-on training through Air Methods Ascend, an in-person and online training program that allows clinicians to perform at the top of their licensure. Ascend is also available to medical personnel across the country.

Life Flight 2 is based at the Fitchburg Municipal Airport, ensuring response times are rapid when dispatched. To mark the importance of air medical service, the program worked with the city and the airport to receive approvals to construct an aircraft hangar and living quarters for the flight crew. The anticipated completion of construction is January 2024.

Emergency Fuel Fund for North Central MA Households

MOC is dedicated to supporting low-income families through their Fuel Assistance program. Regrettably, benefits for many vulnerable residents have been significantly reduced from last year. The Emergency Fuel Fund has been a lifeline for many, especially families with children and the elderly. To ensure no one is left in the cold, MOC is asking the community businesses for support. Your generous donation will supplement the limited funds available and make a tangible difference in the lives of those they serve. Your support warms homes and hearts.

Every contribution can make a profound impact:

  • A donation of $250 can provide heating for an elderly neighbor’s home for a month.
  • A donation of $1,000 ensures multiple families don’t have to choose between warmth and food for a month.
  • A gift of $2,500+ will provide multiple families with warmth throughout the winter season.

Ways to Donate

Visit the Website:

Mail a Check to: Making Opportunity Count

601 River Street

Fitchburg, MA 01420

Dream It, Create It Grant Program Unleashes Imagination and Creativity in Fitchburg

The Dream It, Create It Grant Program is back, and it’s bringing dreams to life in Fitchburg! With a fresh wave of inspiration and creativity, this grant program is set to turn innovative ideas into reality.

The Dream It, Create It Grant Program is all about advancing Fitchburg as one of the most culturally unique and creative cities in America. In its second year, this grant program is poised to support projects that will directly involve and impact residents, visitors, and businesses in Fitchburg’s vibrant neighborhoods.


Year One Awardees: A Glimpse of the Possibilities

Year one of the Dream It, Create It Grant Program showcased the incredible diversity and potential of Fitchburg’s creative community. From Juneteenth celebrations to outdoor art displays, this grant program is a testament to the city’s boundless creativity. Here’s a glimpse of year one awardees and their innovative projects:

Fitchburg Cultural Alliance: Fitchburg Open Studios

Get Righttt Fitness: Get Righttt Fitness Field Day!

The Alignment Auntie LLC: FAM Late Night

MOC Making Opportunities Count: Gateway Rock Garden

Justin Tarbell: STREET ART POP UP

North County Land Trust: Quarry Lane Pocket Park

Centro Celeste: Centro Celeste Uruguayan Independence

Fitchburg Greenway Committee – Nashua River Watershed:Upper Common Fitchburg Poem Installation

Salem Pezzolesi: Dirty Kid Apocalypse

Shara Osgood: Lowe Park Chalk Art Festival

Luxurious Gina Studios: 1st Annual Artist Appreciation Runway Show

Thurston Consort: Thurston Consort Duo Ensemble Program

First Parish Church/Phillips Hall: Phillips Hall Restoration

The Yoga Co-Operative: Fitchburg Wellness Initiative: Yoga benefits every body

Artifakt Studios: Awoken Eye Mural Installation

Ryan Hart: Iconics: A queer dance party

Young Coff33 Productions: Live From Downtown Fitchburg

Grizz Gang Forever: Forever Working Workshop

This diverse array of projects demonstrates the incredible talent and innovation that Fitchburg has to offer.


Dream It, Create It – Round Two: Get Ready to Dream Big!

Round two of the Dream It, Create It Grant Program promises even more excitement and creativity. With a total of $60,000 available to invest in 3-4 projects, the possibilities are endless. Individuals, nonprofits, community groups, and for-profits are all eligible to apply.

The application period opens on November 1, 2023, and closes on December 1, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. Visit the website here ( and make sure to mark your calendar for the informational webinar on November 15, 2023, and take advantage of the weekly office hours throughout November.

Ginny’s Helping Hand accepts more than $9,000 donation from The Paper Store

Ginny’s Helping Hand, Inc., a food pantry and thrift shop, today welcomed The Paper Store employees to the non-profit’s Mechanic Street location to recognize a recent fundraiser supporting the non-profit’s mission to help those in the community survive and thrive.

The fundraiser, which was held in July, offered the opportunity for community members to purchase VIP Early Access tickets to The Paper Store’s Warehouse Sale, with 100 percent of the early access tickets donated to Ginny’s Helping Hand. The sold-out event welcomed more than 250 people and raised more than $6,000 for Ginny’s Helping Hand. In addition to the financial donation, the organization also received $375 in donations from shoppers and non-perishable items. Additionally, six pallets worth of clothing donations were provided from The Paper Store following the sale to Ginny’s Thrift Store.

In the week following the historic floods in the City of Leominster, The Paper Store again reached out to Ginny’s Helping Hand to offer support. This time, the store donated a portion of its Leominster’s location proceeds in the week following the flood to Ginny’s Helping Hand, resulting in approximately $3,000 toward the organization’s flood relief efforts.

“We would like to thank The Paper Store for partnering with us and for their unwavering commitment to helping us provide much needed emergency resources for those in our community who need it most,” said Brandon L. Robbins, executive director, Ginny’s Helping Hand. “This support will go a long way in helping the more than 2,000 clients we serve each month.”

The Paper Store, which is located at Water Tower Plaza in Leominster, is a family-owned, specialty gift business offering an array of exclusive curated gifts, fashion, jewelry, home décor, kids’ toys, stationery and more.

“The Paper Store was thrilled to partner with local Leominster charity Ginny’s Helping Hand as the beneficiary of our first annual Warehouse Sale. We are proud over $9,000 is going back into the community to help families struggling with food insecurity and with the additional funds for those who were affected by the floods,” said Tom Anderson, president and CEO, The Paper Store.

bankHometown Supports Local Food Pantries through 20th AnnualNeighbors Helping Neighbors Fundraiser

Robert J. Morton, president and CEO of bankHometown, is kicking off the bank’s annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors fundraising drive for 2023 to help support local food pantries. The annual appeal is part of the bank’s charitable giving program, The Giving Tree, which reflects the bank’s commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves.

This marks the 20th year of the bank’s annual appeal, which invites bank customers, employees, and community members to donate money between November 1 and November 30 to help fight food insecurity. All donations up to $2,500 per customer will be matched dollar for dollar by bankHometown and the total raised will be divided among participating food pantries across Massachusetts and Connecticut in communities the bank serves. In 2022, through contributions and matching donations, the campaign raised over $66,000, and since inception has donated more than $331,000.

Donations of any amount are encouraged. As an added incentive to give, the bank offers those who donate the opportunity enter a drawing to win a $25 gift card, which will be awarded at each of its 16 locations.

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors shows how communities can come together to help others in need,” said Morton. “bankHometown is proud to lead this annual giving tradition. We thank everyone who selflessly gives each year.”

Those who wish to participate have until November 30 to make their donations. Checks should be made payable to “bankHometown Neighbors” and can be dropped off at any bankHometown branch or mailed to:

Mary C. Mulrenin

Executive Secretary


31 Sutton Avenue

Oxford, MA 01450


A total of 16 food pantries will be supported this year and include:

Massachusetts Food Pantries:

Athol Salvation Army Food Pantry

Auburn Youth and Family Services Food Pantry

CARE Food Pantry, Clinton

Food Share, Southbridge, Charlton & Sturbridge

Friendly House Pantry, Worcester

Ginny’s Helping Hand, Inc., Leominster

Millbury Senior Center Food Pantry

Oxford Ecumenical Food Shelf

Sutton Senior Center Michael A. Chizy Food Pantry

St. John’s Food for the Poor, Worcester

St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, Webster

Connecticut Food Pantries:

Community Kitchens of Northeastern CT, Killingly

Daily Bread, Putnam

Friends of Assisi, Killingly

Project PIN Food Pantry, Moosup

Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group

United Way of North Central Massachusetts Awards Nearly $800,000 in Grants to Local Agencies

Pictured left to right, Childcare Director Pamela Christian Ridings, Executive Director Lisa Welcome and School Age Childcare and Camp Director Chelsea deBettencourt.

Through its Community Impact Fund for 2023-24, UWNCM awarded $616,335 to 31 agencies, funding 40 programs. The Community Impact Fund is a long-standing UWNCM initiative that supports critical programs in the areas of Early Education and Youth Development, Basic Needs and Economic Opportunity &
Financial Literacy.

The latest round of grants was awarded in year three of a four-year cycle and is expected to make an impact for over 97,000 households based on results from the previous year, which saw a 32% increase in households served from year one. Funding will be spread throughout the 22 communities in UWNCM’s service area and support a diverse array of programs.

YMCA of Central Massachusetts – Montachusett Branch in Fitchburg received grants for three programs that will provide enrichment opportunities for children from pre-K to youth as well as support services for families. The agency’s Executive Director, Lisa Welcome, says, “We are so grateful to UWNCM for their on-going support of our initiatives for children and families. This funding will go a long way to further our cause to strengthen the foundations of community through programs and services that support youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.”

UWNCM also recently distributed $182,810 to 13 agencies through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) After School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Program. Funds were made available through a $4.5 million grant awarded by DESE to a regional effort of United Ways located in Central, North Central and South-Central Massachusetts with the goal of helping after school and out-of-school time programs rebound from impacts of COVID-19.

The most recent distribution is the sixth round of grants awarded and will support after school programs for the 2024 school year, from enabling youth to learn about themselves through nature, to providing positive female role models to young girls in underserved communities. In total, UWNCM has distributed nearly $1.4 million in DESE grants to local non-profit organizations, public school systems and towns and municipalities, with additional rounds to come.

The Guild of St. Agnes, based in Worcester, received a DESE grant to bring the Snapology program, which introduces students to STEM topics through creative play, to the greater Gardner area.

Katie Sullivan, Director of Communications & Development, Guild of St. Agnes, says, “Our summer Snapology program supported by UWNCM was a huge success! The children love being actively engaged in STEM/STEAM teambuilding projects using toys from LEGO® and K’Nex along with programming technologies. This program is a highlight at several of our school age sites, and we are extremely excited to have them back during  this school year!”

Speaking about both grant programs, UWNCM Director of Community Impact Judy Tomlinson adds, “With these two initiatives, UWNCM is thrilled to support agencies that are tackling critical problems in our community by offering both well-proven and innovative solutions. As always, we are grateful to our donors, community partners and volunteers for joining with us to provide immediate relief to people in need while building a brighter future for all.”

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Pepperell, Lunenburg, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.

Main Street Bank Wins Banky Award and is Named a Top 3 Extraordinary Bank in Nation

Main Street Bank, a local Massachusetts icon, was just named among the top three extraordinary banks in the United States by The Institute for Extraordinary Banking. The bank has been honored with two distinguished awards: The Institute’s Banky™ Award for its unwavering commitment to community banking and the Overall Excellence Banky™ Award for exemplary performance in five critical areas of banking.

The Institute for Extraordinary Banking™, a leading authority in recognizing outstanding community banks, has selected Main Street Bank as a recipient of a Banky™ Award. This accolade is bestowed upon exceptional community banks throughout the United States, with the aim of helping consumers identify the best banking institutions in their local communities.

The Extraordinary Banking™️ Awards emphasize the indispensable contribution community banks have on their communities—how deeply woven into the fabric of the community they are. Their role in elevating the national economy is profound yet often misunderstood. Community banks are the beacon that illuminates their local communities and the pillar of small business success.

Main Street Bank’s exceptional dedication to community banking is evident through its continuous support and engagement within the local Massachusetts communities it serves. This award underscores the bank’s commitment to fostering strong relationships with its customers and making a positive impact on the communities it serves.

Main Street Bank’s CEO, Walter Dwyer, expressed pride in the recognition, saying, “At Main Street Bank, we’ve always believed that our success is intertwined with the prosperity of our community. This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team, who go above and beyond to ensure that we remain a trusted partner for our customers and communities. We are deeply committed to supporting local businesses, providing outstanding customer service, and promoting financial literacy in our region. These values drive our mission to be an extraordinary community bank.”

Main Street Bank has also been honored with the Overall Excellence Banky™ Award, recognizing the bank’s outstanding performance in five key areas: philanthropy, customer service, thought leadership, workplace culture, and financial literacy education. This prestigious award underscores the bank’s holistic approach to banking excellence and its multifaceted contribution to the well-being of its communities.

“This recognition renews our inspiration in our mission to serve the people and businesses of our communities and invigorates us to continue delivering an exceptional banking experience. We are committed to ensuring that Main Street Bank remains the bank of choice for our customers, where excellence is not just a goal but a way of life,” says Ellen Dorian, Main Street Bank’s President & COO.

Roxanne Emmerich, Chair and Founder of The Institute for Extraordinary Banking™️, proclaimed during the awards ceremony: “Community banks recognize aspirations, dreams, and silent hopes of small businesses and individuals within their communities. The heart and soul of an extraordinary community bank is the visionary blueprint for the community’s success and ability to enact that plan. Those banks were chosen to receive this year’s Banky awards.”

Main Street Bank is proud to be recognized for its unwavering commitment to excellence in community banking. The bank’s dedication to its customers and communities continues to be at the forefront of its mission, and it looks forward to further strengthening these bonds in the years to come.

Fitchburg to host Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The City of Fitchburg Health Department will again partner with the Fitchburg Police Department to hold Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 28, 2023 from 9am -11am in front of the Fitchburg Legislative Building, 700 Main Street.

This initiative offers a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused prescription drugs and get them out of circulation. Residents are urged to gather unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs and drop them off – you may “drive up and drop off” without leaving your vehicle. Although not required, labels containing personal information may be removed or blackened out. All materials are collected anonymously and will be taken directly by the Police Department to a regional drop off site to be incinerated.  Residents are also reminded that there is a permanent kiosk located in the lobby of the Police Station located at 20 Elm Street which is accessible 24/7.

Held twice a year across the nation, Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s Take Back Day events provide an opportunity for Americans to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths. At Fitchburg’s Take Back Day in October of 2022, 113 pounds of medication was dropped off for disposal.

Fitchburg Outreach & Prevention will have substance use disorder information available as well as Narcan. Concurrent with this event, the Outreach & Prevention division will be holding a drive to benefit students at Fitchburg Public Schools. Residents are invited to drop off new, in the package underwear of all sizes. These donations will be given to the Fitchburg Public Schools for students in need.

For information please contact:

City of Fitchburg Receives $450,000 Massworks Grant

This morning, the City of Fitchburg was honored to attend the One Stop for Growth Awards event with Governor Healey, Lt. Governor Driscoll, and administration officials to receive a $450,000 Massworks Design Grant from the Commonwealth. These funds will pay for the design work for the Moran Square Improvement Project. Moran Square is a heavily traveled intersection and gateway to downtown where Main Street, Summer Street, Lunenburg Street, Myrtle Avenue, and Sawyer Passway intersect.

The Project design will look to reconfigure the intersection for safer vehicular and pedestrian use, upgrade sidewalks and crosswalks and support the connection of the Twin Cities Rail Trail terminus with Main Street. The final construction project will include upgrading water and wastewater infrastructure, specifically the replacement of aged water line and sewer pipe relining to support the on-going growth of the area. The funding will be combined with the FY2024 State earmark of $125,000, received through Representative Kushmerek’s office to improve storm-water management including potential green infrastructure, as this intersection has experienced recent flooding during extreme rain events.

 “This long overdue funding positions the city, in a future round of grants, to receive a Massworks construction grant to implement this design. With the increased development in downtown, and the significant flood events we continue to experience this project is desperately needed,” said Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale.