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Gazette celebrates volunteer spirit with annual awards

  • Northampton High School senior Elena Frogameni, left, the 2018 Young Community Leader award recipient, and Erin Couture of Southampton, the 2018 Person of the Year award recipient, meet prior to the awards presentation at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Barbara Black, center, the 2017 recipient of the Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year award, talks with Northampton High School senior Elena Frogameni prior to her acceptance of the 2018 Young Community Leader award during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School senior Elena Frogameni, left, the 2018 Young Community Leader award recipient, and Erin Couture of Southampton, the 2018 Person of the Year award recipient, chat prior to the awards presentation at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School senior Elena Frogameni, left, the 2018 Young Community Leader award recipient, and Erin Couture of Southampton, the 2018 Person of the Year award recipient, chat prior to the awards presentation at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Bidwell, executive director of United Way of Hampshire County, speaks during a reception for the 2018 Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year and Young Community Leader at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi speaks about Daily Hampshire Gazette Young Community Leader award recipient Elena Frogameni, a senior at Northampton, during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Keith Barnicle, of U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern's office, speaks about Daily Hampshire Gazette Young Community Leader award recipient Elena Frogameni, a senior at Northampton High School, during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. As a freshman, Frogameni interned in McGovern's Northampton office. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School senior Elena Frogameni accepts the 2018 Young Community Leader award from Daily Hampshire Gazette publisher Michael Rifanburg during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School senior Elena Frogameni offers her remarks after accepting the Daily Hampshire Gazette Young Community Leader award during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jen Loebel, left, development director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, and Renee Moss, former director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, speak about Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year award recipient Erin Couture of Southampton during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Renee Moss, left, former director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, and Jen Loebel, development director at Big Brothers Big Sisters, speak about Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year award recipient Erin Couture of Southampton during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year Erin Couture, center, and her children Brandon, left, 12, and Gabriel, 9, of Southampton, listen as Southampton board of selectmen Charlie Kaniecki, right, and James Labrie present her congratulations from several state representatives during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Erin Couture of Southampton offer her remarks after accepting the Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year award during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Erin Couture of Southampton chats with well-wishers after accepting the Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year award during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Erin Couture of Southampton accepts the 2018 Person of the Year award from Daily Hampshire Gazette publisher Michael Rifanburg during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Daily Hampshire Gazette publisher Michael Rifanburg hosts a reception for the 2018 Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year and Young Community Leader at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Erin Couture of Southampton chats with well-wishers after accepting the Daily Hampshire Gazette Person of the Year award during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 4/25/2018 11:46:34 PM

HADLEY — Person of the Year recipient Erin Couture and Young Community Leader award honoree Elena Frogameni never expected to be lauded for their volunteerism — they became involved in their community because they knew it was the right thing to do.

Nonetheless, some 100 people gathered Wednesday evening at the Hadley Farms Meeting House as the Daily Hampshire Gazette presented awards to celebrate what the two women had accomplished. To standing ovations, Couture and Frogameni accepted their awards and prizes given in partnership with the United Way of Hampshire County of $500 and $250, respectively, half of which was donated to a charity of their choice.

After a dinner with loved ones and supporters alike, the night began with Frogameni, an 18-year-old Northampton High School senior with an impressive resume.

Her accomplishments include her role as a co-founder of an NHS weekly news broadcast called “The Transcript,” work as an intern for Congressman Jim McGovern’s office as only a freshman, service as a student representative on the Northampton School Committee, and creating the Student Union, the main body of student governance at the school.

“I can really think of no other student that has so embodied the behaviors and values of community and leadership,” Principal Bryan Lombardi said at the event. “In her four years at Northampton High School she has consistently engaged in opportunities that require leadership and involvement in our educational community … she has displayed skills in leading, organizing, empowering and role-modeling for our students.”

In the fall, Frogameni intends to study locally at Mount Holyoke College, where she will build her own major in journalism and communication. She intends to donate half of her prize money to the Northampton Education Foundation.

“From when I was just 2 years old until I was 12, I attended a Montessori school. There, among pink towers and geography maps and geometric solids, I learned to take ownership over my education, to declare the type of learning environment I wanted to be in ... I learned to own the institutions I was a part of,” Frogameni said in her acceptance speech.

“It is my closely held belief that in order for our decision-making bodies to truly work, they need to be infused with and informed by the voices of the people they serve,” she added.

Supporting Frogameni were her friends Ethan Cooper, Maggie Friel and Sydney White, along with her grandparents and parents.

“We are so very proud of her,” her mother, Laura Frogameni, said. “She cares deeply that good systems are in place. That balance of intelligence and her ability to collaborate with others — she just follows through.”

Couture, a 39-year-old commercial lender and mother of two, keeps herself busy in the community by getting involved in everything from charities to city politics.

Couture serves as president of the advisory board at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, is on the finance committee for the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and also serves as chairwoman of the Southampton School Committee.

“What a joy and a privilege it has been to get to know her. Talk about a person who is passionate, committed, hardworking, selfless and definitely under the radar. An unsung hero in our community, and truly a Hampshire County treasure,” said Renee Moss, former director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County.

As a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters since 2011 and president of the advisory board for the last four years, Couture’s charity choice was a simple decision to make. Half of her money would be going back into the organization and branch she works so diligently at.

“I am truly honored to receive the person of the year award,” Couture said. “My hope with winning this award is that I inspire others to get involved within their communities … I want to show people that you can find time for volunteering. Find something you’re passionate (about) and get involved, I promise that it will be rewarding for you and the organization that you choose.”

In attendance in support for Couture was her family, including her two sons, her husband and her sister. Also at the reception were people who had worked with Couture, including some who nominated her for the award.

“I don’t know how she does it, honestly,” said Darren Couture, her husband. “So sometimes I’m stuck with the kids and that type of stuff, but I know everything she’s doing is very important for the community and the town of Southampton.”

Even though she was recognized for her efforts, Couture said that she truly loves the volunteering that she does and that there still is much work left to be done.

“These organizations mean something to me, so when I spend time volunteering with them, it’s not time that is time-consuming, it’s rewarding,” Couture said. “And that reward has kept me involved year to year.”




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