Around Amherst: Town PDs begin holiday gift drives

Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2021

AMHERST — Annual holiday gift drives coordinated by the Amherst and Hadley Police departments are getting underway as Thanksgiving approaches.

In Amherst, people can bring unwrapped toys, books, winter apparel and gift cards, as well as wrapping paper, to the 111 Main St. police station between Nov. 22 and Dec. 20.

All items collected will then be provided for distribution to agencies such as the Amherst Survival Center, the Bridge Family Resource Center and Jessie’s House.

Those interested in learning more should contact Detective Marcus Humber at 259-3355 or humberm@amherstma.gov

In Hadley, the department, for the second year, is sponsoring the Angel Tree Program that allows families to apply by sending email to records@hadleyma.gov, and provide the name and age of children up to 18, sizes of clothes, colors they like and other interests. Items will be distributed in December. Community angel sponsors can assist with cash or toy donations at the 15 East St. police station..

The department will also be doing a toy drive at the annual Hadley Celebration of Lights, taking place Nov. 27 at around 5 p.m. at the gazebo outside Hopkins Academy.

Monte’s March set for Thanksgiving week

During Thanksgiving week, WRSI radio personality Monte Belmonte will be leading a 43-mile walk through the region to end hunger and raise financial support for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Belmonte is taking inspiration from U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, who is urging the federal government to convene a White House Hunger Conference, a bipartisan meeting to address food, nutrition, hunger and health in the United States

“There may be no better time than now to make a major commitment to the people of this land and, as Congressman McGovern has long said, to end hunger now,” Belmonte said in a statement.

As in past years, the walk, which takes place Nov. 22 and Nov. 23, will pass through Hadley, Amherst, Sunderland and South Deerfield. The march will make a stop in downtown Amherst at 9 a.m. Nov. 23 and around 10 a.m. that day at the Amherst Survival Center.

The walk comes a day before the survival center distributes about 300 Thanksgiving meals from its site on Sunderland Road. On Thanksgiving Day, meals will be available at the Not Bread Alone soup kitchen at the First Congregational Church on Main Street.

Former IT director dies

Kristopher Pacunas, who spent more than a decade as Amherst’s information technology director, died in September at Baystate Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer. He was 42.

Pacunas began his tenure in Amherst in 2001, leading a department that launched a public Wi-Fi network throughout downtown Amherst and made improvements to the town website, with many self-service aspects. Pacunas was instrumental in improving broadcasting abilities from Town Room at Town Hall for Amherst Media and transitioned the town to electronic postings of meetings, with large monitors at the entrances to Town Hall and the Bangs Community Center.

He also pursued several revisions to the town website as it went from a few hundred pages to more than 10,000 pages of information. During that time several new features were created, including open checkbook, which allows the public to see all the bills municipal departments have paid, and copies of old town reports.

Even after departing in late 2014, Pacunas stayed on as a part-time consultant and also chaired the Cable Advisory Committee in 2015, prior to the town renewing its contract with Comcast.

Oil pump research

University of Massachusetts Amherst assistant professor Xian Du, mechanical and industrial engineering, has received an $810,000 grant from a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company to support development of sensing technology used to monitor strain on critical oil-pump equipment.

The grant was awarded by Aramco Services Company, a division of Saudi Aramco. Du will complete his research on what are known as vertical crude charge pumps.