We Need Runners/Walkers and Volunteers for Our Frozen Yogurt 5K on August 25 in Northampton!

There is no better way to burn calories and get cardio exercise than training for a 5K—and running in—a 5K! Our 5K! Gándara Center’s 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on Sunday, August 25 at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Northampton.

Register today! Kids 12 and under run for free, and all runners—and walkers—get a free GoBerry Frozen Yogurt. Sign up by August 14 and you’ll be receive a free t-shirt.

Proceeds from this event directly benefit the individuals we serve. With over 40 service locations across the state, our agency is heavily funded through state and federal grants. While those dollars offset our operating costs, our clients’ needs go beyond the services we provide—needs that our contracted dollars don’t account for: summer camp scholarships; bus passes to help a single parent without transportation successfully get to their job; sensory tools for children suffering from severe emotional disturbances; basic apartment necessities for young clients moving into their first apartments; job interview outfits for women graduating from our residential recovery programs, and so much more.

We also run to raise awareness of mental health and addiction disorders and to put an end to the stigma surrounding these often misunderstood illnesses that affect so many of our friends and families.

We also need volunteers for the water stations to keep our runners hydrated, and to help at our registration table. We are also recruiting volunteers to be race monitors and be a part of our setup and takedown crew.

Leashed pets are also welcome to run for free!

Registration on race day will be available beginning at 8:00 a.m. Credit and debit cards will be accepted. The staging area is on the Courthouse Lawn across from the Calvin Theater. For GPS purposes please use 19 King Street Northampton, MA.

Our 5K is officially timed by RaceWire. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each of the following categories: Male, Female, 12 and under and 50 and over.

For any questions regarding the event—or for those interested in having their business sponsor this year’s race­—please contact Jade Rivera-McFarlin at 413-296-6214 or jriveramcfarlin@gandaracenter.org.

Read about last year’s race!

Frozen Yogurt 5K Route:





By |June 24th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on We Need Runners/Walkers and Volunteers for Our Frozen Yogurt 5K on August 25 in Northampton!

Hope for Holyoke Presenters Discuss Compulsive Gambling at Symposium

Gambling addiction is like any other addiction in that it can be difficult to overcome—and can eventually wreak havoc on one’s life. But, technically, how similar is compulsive gambling to substance use disorder? “Cravings in gambling addiction stimulate the same pathways in the brain as drug and alcohol cravings,” said Deb Flynn-Gonzalez (pictured above), director of our Hope for Holyoke recovery center.

Deb was speaking at the Recovery Celebration & Symposium on June 13 at La Quinta Inn & Suites in Springfield. The event, entitled “Having the Conversation: The Recovery Community & Problem Gambling,” was presented by the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG) and featured several presenters in the recovery field, including Dennis Gonzalez, a recovery coach at Hope for Holyoke; and James Maloney, a peer resource specialist at Hope for Holyoke.

“Pathological gambling” was first added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980, but the term was replaced by “gambling disorder” in the manual’s 2013 update, DSM-5. “This used to be considered an impulse-control disorder, but it was reclassified to one of the substance-related and addictive disorders,” said Deb. “That is a big shift. It used to be regarded a behavioral issue, giving the connotation that the behavior is your choice—that you can just stop. And many years ago that’s what they thought about substance use.”

Now, however, substance addiction is defined as a disease by the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, substance use disorder is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental, and biological factors.

Substance Use and Problem Gambling

Deb compared the similarities of substance use and problem gambling. Indeed, the signs of a gambling problem are often the same as the signs of other addictions. Deb listed the pathological features of both compulsive gambling and substance use disorder:

  • Preoccupation: Frequent thoughts about gambling or substance use experiences
  • Tolerance: The person needs to use increasing amounts of money—or drugs or alcohol—in order to achieve the “rush”
  • Loss of Control: Unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop
  • Withdrawal: The person is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop
  • Escape: Improving mood and escaping problems
  • Chasing: Attempt to win back losses in gambling—much like substance use: “Just this time and then I’ll get treatment.”
  • Lying: Lies to family members and therapist to conceal the problem
  • Illegal Acts to finance gambling or another addiction
  • Risked Significant Relationship or jeopardizing a job
  • Bailout: Relying on friends and family to “get me through this one”
  • Biological basis: Problem gambling is associated with other psychiatric disorders, including substance use disorder

Deb’s talk was followed by a Peers-in-Recovery Panel featuring “Stories of Hope” from attendees, including Hope for Holyoke members Sheri Borsotti and Phil Govan.

The Culture of Gambling

In an afternoon session, Dennis Gonzalez, a recovery coach at Hope for Holyoke, and James Maloney, a peer resource specialist at the same recovery center, discussed the cultural underpinnings of gambling: not only has wagering become more acceptable and accessible (e.g. online gaming) in our culture, it goes back to ancient times (China, 2300 BC).

Dennis and James called on symposium participants to recall their own first gambling experiences—and in most cases they occurred in childhood. For example, Pogs, a children’s game in the mid-1990s, was a form of gambling. In an arcade’s claw crane machine, a child essentially bets money to win a prize. The list went on: pitching pennies, shooting marbles, flipping baseball cards. “Today, there are mobile apps have hidden gambling elements in electronic games,” said James, pointing out that children “buy” with money or in-game currency, items or privileges, making them susceptible to compulsion. Dennis agreed: “They are setting kids up to get addicted,” he said.

Gándara Center and the Fight Against Problem Gambling

Recovering from compulsive gambling can be challenging, but over the years people have found help through Gándara Center’s counseling services at 85 St. George Road in Springfield. Also, many of our counselors at our Outpatient Clinic in Springfield have attended training sessions run by the MCCG.

In a new program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services, a peer support model known as the Ambassador Project trains men of color who are in recovery to have gambling prevention conversations with other men of color with a history of substance abuse. The Ambassador Project’s pioneering approach to gambling education is taking place in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS)-funded peer recovery support centers that include Gándara’s PIER Recovery Center of Cape Cod, our Stairway to Recovery center in Brockton, and Hope for Holyoke.

Research has shown that men are at a significantly higher risk than the general population for gambling, as are people of color and people with a history of substance use. Dennis, who is currently the Peer Gambling Ambassador at Hope for Holyoke, discussed how ingrained gambling is in our national and local culture: Massachusetts citizens legally played the State Lottery, scratch tickets, Bingo, Keno, 50/50 raffles, etc. long before a resort casino was first opened in the state—in Springfield—last year.

This fall, Gándara Center will begin an after-school Youth Problem Gambling Prevention Program at the South End Middle School in Springfield. The effort will be funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services.

The Recovery Celebration & Symposium, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services, was the second that Hope for Holyoke has presented with MCCG. The first was held a year ago. “I’d like to thank Hope for Holyoke for this celebration of all types of recovery and an informative exploration on problem gambling,” said Odessa Dwarika, chief program officer at MCCG. “You have been an amazing partner with us and you do so much for your community.”



By |June 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Hope for Holyoke Presenters Discuss Compulsive Gambling at Symposium

Read our June Newsletter Online!

Gándara Center’s June Newsletter is now online. You can view a video profile of Lianette Rivera, our in-home behavioral services director, as well as photos of our Mother’s Day roses initiative for our Gándara moms

Read about our agency being chosen as a Big Y Community Bag Program beneficiary for the month of June, our NOEL program conducting an educational session on breast cancer prevention and screening, and a fundraiser benefiting our Esperanza Women’s Transitional Support Services.

You can also read about our Henry’s Next Aventura! Event raising $3,528 for our children and teens summer camp scholarship.

Also, check out Thomas Miklovich’s column on the opioid crisis in the Hampshire Daily Gazette. Thomas graduated from our Hairston House in Northampton and moved into a house in the same city run by our agency.

Read the newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/38742755e76c/june-news-employee-video-profile-of-lianette-rivera-and-more-2369653.

By |June 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read our June Newsletter Online!

#GandaraAtWork Episode 11: Lara Quiles, Supervisor, CSP/RSN Programs

On #GandaraAtWork episode 11, meet Lara Quiles! Originally from Puerto Rico, Lara made Massachusetts her home but it wasn’t love at first sight. When she first visited she thought she’d never come back. But Lara recently bought a house where she enjoys spending time with her kids and new puppy, Luke.

Lara supervises the Community Support Program (CSP) and Recovery Support Navigator (RSN) program. She oversees seven case workers who receive referrals from various service providers. They provide guidance, community resources, and housing and transportation assistance to clients seeking mental health or substance use treatment.

Lara has been with Gándara for more than seven years.

Thanks for all of your hard work, Lara!


By |June 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on #GandaraAtWork Episode 11: Lara Quiles, Supervisor, CSP/RSN Programs

A Dozen Gándara Center Employees Celebrate Important Work Anniversaries in June

Some Gándara Family commemorations: below are some noteworthy work anniversaries of employees at the agency in the month of June.

20 Years
Kimberly Ritter, Maple STARR (Springfield)

15 Years
Betty Zamudio, Patterson Residential (Springfield)

10 Years
Chris Ezzo, CSA/CBHI, and Intensive Family Support Services
Omar Irizarry, CSA Services (Holyoke/Springfield)
Lismel Luciano, CRS Community Support
Priscilla Seibles, Holyoke STARR

5 Years
Misty Cameron, Alternative Options (Chicopee)
Emily English, Supportive Housing
Anthony Grandoit, Fort Pleasant (Springfield)
Lydia Lorenzano, Mooreland STARR (Springfield)
Kelia Santiago, CSA Services (Holyoke/Springfield)
Xiomara Torres, Norman Street (West Springfield)

Congratulations everyone!

By |June 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A Dozen Gándara Center Employees Celebrate Important Work Anniversaries in June