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Mediation agency celebrating its 30th anniversary

  • Atty. William C. Newman, Director of the Western Regional Office of the ACLU of Massachusetts, talks to those gathered for a Law Day talk at the Franklin County Justice Center. May 1, 2017

  • Attorneys William NewmanStewart 'Buz" EisernburgFreed prisoner Robert Matthews (submitted photo)


Recorder Staff
Wednesday, May 03, 2017

What began 30 years ago as a way to help people resolve disputes affordably, the Mediation and Training Collaborative will mark its anniversary Thursday with a celebration that’s open to the public, featuring food, music, a silent auction, and keynote remarks by ACLU Western Massachusetts attorney Bill Newman.

Thursday’s fundraising party will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Northampton Senior Center.

The Greenfield-based organization, which serves Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, will also recognize three trained mediators who have taken its basic training and have carried the skills of conflict resolution into the work they do for the larger community.

The collaborative’s 30th anniversary honorees this year include:

Jade Barker — former collaborative co-director, who is now a consultant with CDS Consulting, a nationwide co-op support organization, recognized for “leadership excellence” with Cooperative Consumer Managers Association Cooperative Board Service Award.

Kara McLaughlin — Former collaborative school-based peer mediation coordinator, who is now project director at the Gill-Montague Community School Partnership, for “building partnerships to support positive youth development and improve adolescent health.”

Michael Lewis — a basic mediation training graduate, program director of the Recover Project, for “creating a trauma-informed community and supporting recovery through the sharing of lived experiences.”

As a program of anti-poverty agency Community Action, the collaborative provides free or low-cost services for people with lower incomes. It has trained more than 1,000 adult mediators since 1987, and last year, with about 30 active volunteer mediators and 20 core mediators, the collaborative served approximately 750 clients.

The service offers divorce mediation for separating couples, as well as for parents involved in disputes and couples in different situations to address issues like division of assets and debts, child custody, support, and visitation. It also offers family mediation, consumer mediation, workplace mediation, housing mediation, and elder mediation services.

The collaborative also provides twice-yearly community mediation training as well as several continuing education sessions each year for mediators in specialized subjects. And it does training for organizations, business and community groups to help build communication, work through conflict and design processes that they can continue to use, said training specialist Debbie Lynangale.

“There is no better way for TMTC to celebrate its 30 years in the Pioneer Valley than to honor our mediators and the community we serve,” said Betsy Williams, collaborative program coordinator.

The collaborative offers mediation and facilitation support to individuals, schools, businesses, and community organizations, and provides mediation through local small claims courts and probate courts.

“With the Mediation and Training Collaborative’s help, families in our court have been able to resolve disputes while maintaining relationships with each other,” said Judge Beth Crawford of the Franklin County Probate and Family Court. The service, she added, “has given families an important option to litigation.”

Mediation is a voluntary process that helps people talk about issues and generate their own solutions, and the vast majority of parties reach agreement and report satisfaction with the mediation process. In the last year the collaborative has partnered with Hampshire College, the Western Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps, and a coalition of the town and school leaders in the Pioneer Valley Regional School District develop a process for ways they can work through financial issues.

The collaborative also worked last year with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Health and Medical Coordination Coalition.

The event is free, with a suggested donation of $30, although no one will be turned away.

More information at 774-7469, or mediation@communityaction.us.