Community leaders feted in online ceremony 

  • Dr. Khama Ennis GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Dr. Marty Nathan GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Christian Ciolkos GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2021 12:55:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Valley residents who were exemplary for their volunteerism and dedication to making their communities better were recognized for their contributions on Tuesday morning.

Nearly 133 people joined a “coffee cup celebration” on Zoom for the announcement of this year’s winners of the Daily Hampshire Gazette and United Way of Hampshire County Person of the Year, Young Person of the Year, and Frances Crowe awards. A committee of Gazette, United Way and community leaders reviewed all nominations before selecting this year’s honorees.

The winners were recognized for their selfless acts and rising to the challenges during the past year, and for being beacons of hope during a tumultuous pandemic. This year’s Person of the Year is Dr. Khama Ennis, the associate director of the emergency department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital; the Young Person of the Year is Christian Ciolkos, a freshman at Hopkins Academy recognized for his tireless volunteerism and personal initiative; and the Frances Crowe award recipient is Dr. Marty Nathan, a dynamic activist for issues on immigration, inequality, racism and environmentalism.

John Bidwell, executive director of United Way of Hampshire County, called Ennis’ efforts during the early weeks and months of the pandemic “remarkable” for her ability to address the escalating pandemic.

“Dr. Ennis was able to get involved with the hospital early on in the pandemic to make sure that the emergency room was set up in such a way that it reduced the number of infections, keeping everybody safe, and really helping out in the community big time,” Bidwell said.

He also noted that her leadership has gone beyond the hospital.

“Not only that, but Dr. Ennis has been a voice in equity across the country, she has spoken out at various events and conferences, and written editorials that have helped highlight equity, especially in health care. Something that is vitally important and she has used her position to really leverage these issues,” he said.

In response to winning the Person of the Year award, Ennis said, “I was not expecting anything along these lines … Anything and everything that I do, and that most of us do, is entirely a team effort.” She thanked her team at the hospital, her kids and family, some of whom were attending the celebration.

This year’s Young Person of the Year was recognized, not only for his years of volunteerism but for his independent drive to collect food donations during the early months of the pandemic for the homeless.

Bidwell called Ciolkos a “wonder of a volunteer at the age of 15,” who has been doing an incredible amount of volunteering not only in the community but also overseas.

“When the nominations came in, it was really clear to us that Christian was a wonderful example of a young leader who really gives back on different levels despite all the hardships that have been going on, especially as a student, during this time,” Bidwell said.

Along with the honor, Ciolkos is receiving a $250 cash award, which he is contributing in entirety toward Meghan’s Light, a nonprofit in honor of Meghan Zoll, who died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 39.

“I look forward to doing more things in the future and helping the community in many ways,” Ciolkos said. “Thank you, and I am very honored.”

In its second year, the Frances Crowe award is in honor of “Frances’ life, and what she stood for,” Bidwell said of the legendary Northampton anti-war and environmental activist who died in 2019 at the age of 100.

“I really appreciate this award coming from two of the real jewels of institutions in our town,” Nathan said. “I am so grateful to all the people I work with at the Markham Nathan Fund, the Cliniquita Fund, Climate Action Now, the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, and all the anti-war folks and the Latin America solidarity committee.”

In addition to the three awards, United Way of Hampshire County bestowed its own recognitions: 2021 Kay Sheehan Spirit of the Community Award recipients are Craig’s Doors of Amherst and Tara Brewster, the vice president of business development at Greenfield Savings Bank; the 2021 Community Champion Award recipient is Jack Hornor, a member of United Way and a co-chair of the Development Committee of MassEquality; and the 2021 Workplace Campaign Award recipient is Peter Whalen, of Whalen Insurance in Northampton.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at
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