Coffee and Community

Wed Dec 5, 2012

Thanks to the advice from his friend, accounting major Jon Coyne '12, education major Brendan Reed '13 decided to sign up for some business classes for his final year at Elms College.

Through his business professors, Brendan learned about ENACTUS (an abbreviation of "entrepreneurial" "action" and "us"), an international non-profit organization that works with colleges and businesses to strengthen communities and encourage socially-responsible business leaders. The organization was new to Elms this year.

When Brendan looked at a list of local business that had shown interest in ENACTUS and what they were looking to do, he was drawn to a small bakery in a part of Springfield everyone knows as "the X."

As owner of Sal's Bakery, Salvatore Circosta wanted to turn his business–located in the Forest Park part of Springfield–into a European-style model where community members gather to discuss local matters instead of just purchasing their food and leaving.

"Sal is really big on community outreach. One of the key ideas was to have an open forum night in which local politicians and dignitaries can come and speak freely," Brendan said.

Putting the Plan in Action

Brendan began meeting with Sal and planning whom to contact and how to promote the forum. They agreed that the most important element was transparency. They would invite politicians from both sides of the political aisle to discuss matters important to the community and create an opportunity for dialogue that does not exist in most town hall sessions.

"We live in this age where everything is a text or a Facebook message. People don't look each other face-to-face anymore and just discuss," Brendan said.

Brendan, State Representative Angelo Puppolo, and Sal.

Brendan went to work writing to local politicians and quickly received a response from Massachusetts State Representative Angelo Puppolo, who wanted to speak at Sal's Bakery. The bookings kept rolling in: City Counselors Mike Fenton and Kateri Walsh, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, and Penn National Gaming, Inc. and MGM Grand to discuss plans to build a casino in Springfield. Massachusetts State Senator Jim Welch even called Sal himself to ask why he hadn't been invited yet.

"It goes to show that people want that interaction, they want to be able to talk and participate," Brendan said.

Aside from community outreach, business has been good for Sal. Representative Puppolo's event saw 25 people packed into the bakery, purchasing coffee and pastries and taking home Sal's menu. In addition to other politicians, Sal and Brendan plan on booking members of the police department and having a local college night where college presidents discuss the goings-on at their respective schools.

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