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Editorial: Riverside Industries’ palette of skill-building changes clients’ lives

Caitlin Dow, left, a Springfield College intern, works with Hollie Motyka during a  photography class  at Riverside Industries in Easthampton.

Caitlin Dow, left, a Springfield College intern, works with Hollie Motyka during a photography class at Riverside Industries in Easthampton. Purchase photo reprints »

When it was founded 40 years ago, Riverside Industries was known as the Occupational and Vocational Developmental Center for the Handicapped. As its name suggested, the agency’s goal then was to provide people with disabilities the skills they need to live and work as independently as possible.

That hasn’t changed, but along the way the Easthampton nonprofit expanded its mission, developing a multi-faceted approach geared to giving its clients tools beyond those needed for being as self-sufficient as possible. The agency’s evolution shows it to be committed to improving people’s lives by helping them develop a range of skills — economic, artistic, physical and otherwise.

Six years ago the organization added an art program for clients. And last summer, the agency kicked off its Community Based Day Service that offered classes led by community volunteers. The classes focus on leisure and educational activities, such as exercise and nutrition, as well as creative pursuits.

The most recent addition is a photography class that has its six clients clicking away inside and outside Riverside’s One Cottage Street building.

For 37-year-old Matthew Lamorie, who has cerebral palsy, the camera he now wields allows him to create art despite his physical disability, which makes holding a pencil impossible.

“I feel this has opened up a whole new world for me,” Lamorie said, talking recently about what the photography class means to him.

Indeed, Riverside’s broader mission recognizes the need to nurture the full range of its clients’ talents so they can live productive and fulfilling lives.

At the same time, engaging volunteers to share their skills and knowledge with clients fosters a better understanding among people with different abilities and, ultimately, a stronger community.

One of Lamorie’s photographs was already chosen for an Easthampton 2013 wall calendar. We look forward to seeing more of the photographs, art and other projects being produced by Riverside clients, at the agency’s gallery at One Cottage Street, and, we hope, at exhibits throughout the Valley.

More luck than you can tally

According to the National Weather Service, the odds of being struck by lightning during your life are 1 in 5,000.

Odds of getting struck in any given year? They are 1 in 700,000.

Considering those stats, it’s clear lightning doesn’t hold a candle to the winning ways of Easthampton resident David A. Czarnik.

Czarnik defied the odds in a big, big way with his $1 million win from a scratch ticket in February — his second in the last five years.

If you want to quantify how rare Czarnik’s feat is, you’ll have to do the math, though.

A spokeswoman at Massachusetts State Lottery office in Braintree said it hadn’t calculated the odds of Czarnik’s double win. But she did have the odds for netting each $1 million ticket.

The first ticket Czarnik won in 2008 came in at 1 in 1,247,400; the second, a “50X the Cash” ticket, had odds of 1 in 1,680,000.

Making his win even more extraordinary, Czarnik bought both tickets at the same store: College Highway Variety.

The spokeswoman said the state lottery has had a number of two-time million-dollar winners, but only a handful who bought tickets from the same retailer.

Despite his remarkable luck, Czarnik has his feet solidly on the ground. He plans to invest his latest winnings — $455,000 after state and federal taxes, on his children’s college educations and, maybe, an addition on his house and a new car for his wife.

He’s also not counting out win No. 3 — who would? — and plans to continue to play the lottery.

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