‘Driven’ to volunteer, Southampton’s Erin Couture named Gazette’s Person of the Year

  • Erin Couture of Southampton is shown March 28, 2018 at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County office in Amherst where she serves as president of the advisory board.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Erin Couture of Southampton at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County office in Amherst, where she serves as president of the advisory board. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

For the Gazette
Published: 3/30/2018 8:58:39 PM

AMHERST — Most people know what it’s like to scramble to find a balance between work schedules and family matters while squeezing in some personal time. It can feel like a Herculean task.

Erin Couture, 39, of Southampton, a mother of two and a commercial lender at Florence Bank, knows all about that. Even so, she still finds the time to be involved in her community because she has a passion for helping others.

“I think that you see what’s going on in the community, and if you are a compassionate person you want to help,” she said. “It’s realizing that you have more than somebody else and asking yourself how you can help people get to where you are by helping them in different ways.”

Along with her job and family commitments, Couture serves as president of the advisory board at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, chairwoman of the Southampton School Committee and on the Finance Committee for the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

It is Couture’s commitment to making her community a more open and welcoming place for everyone that has made her the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s fourth annual “Person of the Year.” Nominees for the award must live in Hampshire County and show “a profound commitment to helping others.” Nominations are reviewed by a committee representing the Gazette, its partner the United Way of Hampshire County, and other community members.

Gazette publisher Michael Rifanburg said the honor is meant to highlight “the people who do this good work but still manage to fly under the radar.”

Couture said she began doing volunteer work when her younger sister was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. She helped raise money with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society by helping to coordinate fundraisers.

“I feel like for somebody who volunteers, it’s just in you,” Couture said. “When people say they need help, I just say ‘OK.’ I’m just one of those people, I think.”

In 2011, she took interest in the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, an organization that connects children with volunteer mentors to foster stable relationships.

“Mentoring and children speak to me,” Couture explained. “The effects that it has on children are so profound. It was an easy organization to get involved with and stay involved with.”

As the president of the advisory board at Big Brothers Big Sisters for the past four years, Couture is proud of the work she and her co-workers have done to raise money and awareness for the organization.

“This organization, without our volunteers, wouldn’t be what it is. We have to rely on our volunteers,” she said.

Couture said that one of her favorite events to organize is the annual Daffodil Run fundraiser, where participants can enter themselves in a 5-kilometer walk/run or a 10K run. She has been working on this year’s run, scheduled to take place on April 29 at Kendrick Park in Amherst.

Couture said her roles on the Southampton School Committee and Northampton chamber are just as important to her, since they are avenues for change on a larger scale.

Those who volunteer with her say Couture is a strong, effective leader who sets a good example and that her constant energy and enthusiasm pushes them to get more done.

“Erin is one of the hardest working individuals I know and she is so driven,” said Jen Loebel, development director at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Loebel nominated Couture for the “Person of the Year” award. “Over time while you work with Erin you get to learn about all of the things she does, but she’s not parading that; it’s not on display. You just see her doing the work.”

“I think that she’s completely dependable, and you can just count on her and I’m certain that everyone who works with her would say the same,” said Jessie Cooley, director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter. “She’s a good example of just jumping in and helping. You don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect.”

Couture will receive a prize of $500, half of which will be donated to a charity of her choice. Her pick was an easy one — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County. Past recipients of the Person of the Year Award include Jack Finn, who founded A2Z Science and Learning Store in Northampton; Yvonne Freccero, past president of Friends of Hampshire County Homeless Individuals; and Barbara Black, the early childhood coordinator for the Northampton Public Schools.

Couture noted that anyone can be a volunteer and she hopes her story will inspire others to get involved in their communities.

“When you’re doing it, you’re not tooting your own horn, you’re not thinking of the stuff you’re doing, you’re just doing it,” she said. “I hope that younger people see that you can be involved, you can have kids, and your kids can see you being involved, because that turns them into citizens that help out.”

Tickets for the Gazette’s Person of the Year and Young Community Leader event, at which time the award winners will be honored at a reception, can be purchased for $28 per person at https://gazettepersonoftheyear .eventbrite.com.

The event will be held April 25 at the Hadley Farms Meeting House at 41 Russell St. in Hadley from 5-7 p.m.

Ticket proceeds will benefit the United Way of Hampshire County.

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