What is purpose and how do we find it?

By Caitlyn Dever, Social Media intern

This month members of the LEAP Program are tackling the fundamental idea of purpose. This may seem like too broad of a topic, or more likely an overused phrase that people use to describe everything in life. But it is true that everything has purpose. There is not a single entity in this world that doesn’t serve some sort of purpose to another entity, or to its own self. Everything from stoplights to cashiers, flies to bicycles: they all are interconnected to the world surrounding them. It’s easy to pick out what purpose an inanimate object or animal has because we can look at them through a third party lens. Where it gets harder for people is when you start thinking about the individual’s purpose.

Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists. This can be a very scary definition when you apply it to humans. We were ‘created’ to accomplish something; there is a reason we ‘exist’. However, when you boil down that definition, it becomes quite clear. If you genuinely believe that everyone has a purpose, that means that no one is arbitrary. No one doesn’t matter; no one’s actions are inconsequential; no one can go through life without affecting something somewhere. It is your choice to come up with what your effect is going to be. Only you can decide how to live your life. That’s why finding and defining your purpose is so important. It ensures maximum effort, keeps us focused, generates power, and gives us unique competitive advantages. When you identify what you want to live for, your goals are made more clear.

Purpose becomes exceedingly important when it comes to leadership. How can you be a strong, effective leader if you don’t even know what you’re leading for? John F. Kennedy once said “efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” Without a sense of why, you will never get to the how or the what. In order for something to work, you need to know why you want it to work in the first place. At LPV, we suggest asking yourself this question when finding your purpose as a leader: “What is it time for right now?” While being a leader does require you to be able to think on your feet, this question can help narrow down that thought process. All it takes is to focus your mind on the foundation of your actions: the purpose. By finding your purpose as a leader, you will inspire all those who you lead to find their’s as well, which can only result in a more productive environment.

In this crazy, fast-paced world we live in, it can be too easy for us to forget what we are living for. We too often get caught up in the idea that we are doing things to live, but why are we not thinking about it in terms of living to do things. Our purpose is not to live up to the expectations of the world around us. Our purpose is to be exactly who we want to be, say what we want to say, and do what we want do. You create your own purpose. The only purpose that is wrong is the lack of one.

LPV Welcomes Six New Board Members


Community Leaders elected for two-year terms

November 14, 2019 - Springfield, MA Leadership Pioneer Valley recently welcomed Michelle Barthelemy of Greenfield Community College, Dr. Calvin Hill of Springfield College, Gladys Lebron-Martinez of MassHire Holyoke and Holyoke City Council, Callie Niezgoda of Common Capital, Tony Maroulis of UMass Amherst, and Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates of Baystate Health to its Board of Directors. They also announced that Francia Wisnewski has been elected clerk. Each brings a passion for both the work of the organization and the continued success of the Pioneer Valley.


“We are delighted to have these dynamic community leaders join us,” said Lora Wondolowski, Leadership Pioneer Valley Executive Director. “They will bring important skills and experience to the board and will help to fulfill our mission of building and connecting more diverse, committed and effective leadership for the Pioneer Valley.”

Civic engagement is not an option, it is an obligation!

By Farah Achbabe, LPV Fellow from Morocco

There is an amazing quote hanging on “Leadership Pioneer Valley” office that caught my attention since my first day and pushed me to question the answers I have managed to arrive to during the years I spent considering myself as a person “civically Engaged” in Morocco. This quote which seems to be a simple motivating quote is, actually, more to it than that.

The quote from Margaret Mead said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. “

Farah at Franklin County CDC

In fact, this quote undeniably stresses the importance of civic engagement in small groups that are aware by their responsibility and roles towards their communities and how working hard, continually and consistently as teams could do miracles and touch positive change.

De facto, I have learned from the people I met during official meetings and Galas in West Massachusetts that they have become civically engaged when they realized that having a good job and a salary are not enough to feel good about themselves.

Civic Engagement lunch discussion with LPV Alumni from left: Adam Gomez ’18, Kelvin Molina-Brantley ’12, Will Reichelt ’17, Giselle Vizcarrondo ’17, Lorenzo Gaines ’12, Shayvonne Plummer ’18 and Farah Achbabe (not pictured Justin Hurst ’17)

Civic engagement is an inclination to periodically question reality, look for alternatives and try to figure out new solutions for what matters most.

In fact, people who are civically engaged have the guts to implement positive ideas, to bring positive change and solve the social issues they may encounter in their Neighborhood, Town, City or state given that they are all concerned. It obviously goes without saying but what is good for the community is good for the individuals and vice versa.

Civic engagement is not an option, it is a moral obligation towards the nation we belong to.

Farah with Margaret Tantillo, Dress for Success

On the one hand, civic engagement is not at all about hoping to change the world but it is about taking your courage in both hands and going from grand to the ground: It is time to stop waiting for someone to save us and get involved in community.

On the other hand, being civically engaged is about to set the bar in a high level, keep anyone engaged, being mindful of the differences, cross boundaries and most importantly try continually to overcome ourselves by bringing positive and concrete change to the table. That goes hand and hand with challenging the process while sharing inspiring vision with everyone who wants to help at this time.

Civic engagement includes communities that are taking advantage from their differences and diversity and working together in both political and non-political actions in order to address public concerns and promote the quality of the community.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Martin Luther King Jr. the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement once said to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. The man who sacrificed his life to lead one of the most successful revolution in the 20 century in order to free people from segregation and slavery stressed that civic engagement is all what makes a life worth living. Indeed, it is the only thing that matters .

New Year, New Workplace Trends

By Emily McGuinness 

New Year, New Workplace Trends 

Recently CNBC posted an article forecasting workplace trends for 2019, stating that “more employees will want to align with employers that have a social mission.”  At Leadership Pioneer Valley, we see a desire among our LEAP program participants to connect with a deeper purpose in their work, and we are excited to see this growing trend.   

We recently updated our organization’s vision statement to “we strive to create a vibrant Pioneer Valley with accessible, inclusive networks of inspired individuals who are leading and connecting the communities in which they live and work.” Our organization stands on an important social mission. Engaging more leaders in the workplace who are creating social responsibility in their workplaces, and our communities is both exciting and essential.  

In another article posted on Wrike, they anticipate a higher emphasis being placed on work-life balance. With mobile devices like cell-phones and tablets making work accessible 24/7, the ratio of work to life is typically unbalanced for most people. 2019 is the year that many will be evaluating how to create more of a barrier between these two worlds, and LPV stands behind this initiative willingly. 

Self-care is crucial, even for working professionals that do not feel as though they have the time for it. Eating lunch away from your desk, leaving your work at work, taking that 30 minute break you pretend you don’t have, leaving after your shift is actually over, or even taking a minute to breathe at your desk in between tasks. All of these simple things can help improve a work-life balance and can easily be done right in the office.  

Our last LEAP session covered practicing resilience as leaders. A person must know their limits while pushing themselves.  Pushing yourself too far is not what you want. It can be easy to get caught up in projects or large undertakings, we get it! But, we are excited to see that there may be a higher value placed on the individual and their personal balance of work and life this year. What are the ways you restore yourself?  What are things that you can say “no” to this year? 

LPV Seeks Development Associate

Leadership Pioneer Valley Seeks Tech Savvy Development

Leadership Pioneer
Valley works to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the
region.  The core of the organization is
a well-regarded 9-month regional leadership development program for existing
and emerging leaders from non-profits, businesses and government.  Working under the direct supervision of the Executive
Director, the Associate will assist with implementing strategies essential for
LPV’s growth.  S/he plays an important
role in participating in outreach, fundraising, event coordination, including
gift acknowledgement and data entry, online campaigns, direct mail appeals, and
grant tracking.

Primary Job Responsibilities:

  • Timely donation processing and gift acknowledgement
  • Management of LPV’s Donor Database- including accurate
    data entry, record maintenance and reporting.
  • Coordinate general fundraising activities, such as
    appeals, online campaigns, grant proposal writing, and foundation
    relations tracking.
  • Help coordinate fundraising events
  • Perform donor research and help coordinate donor
    solicitation campaigns
  • Manage and help implement social media fundraising plan
    (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in collaboration with other staff
  • LPV website updating and general management
  • Other duties as requested


  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Exceptional attention to detail and experience organizing
  • Competence working with databases
  • Comfort with updating website content
  • Proficient in MS Office Suite, databases, mail merges, and
    social media
  • Ability to communicate effectively and to work well with

  • Bachelor’s degree or
    equivalent experience
  • Knowledge of the Pioneer
  • Ability to attend off-site meetings including occasional
    evening and weekend events; valid driver’s license


Leadership Pioneer Valley values collaboration, inclusivity, trust, and


The Development Associate is a part-time position with a salary
commensurate to experience.  We do not
provide benefits but do offer paid time off. 
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resume via e-mail
by March 22 to:

Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director, lwondolowskiATleadershippv.org

LPV does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin,
gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability in
employment or the provision of services.

LPV Announces New Program Name

Leadership Pioneer Valley Announces New Program Name: LEAP

SPRINGFIELD, MA-Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) announced it’s new name and logo for their signature nine-month leadership development program: LEAP. Although LEAP is not an acronym, it is designed to have members interpret it in their own way. The first LEAP class is challenged to leap to places they have never been before and test their limits. T

“Leaping is different than running, it is leaving the ground with both feet which is risky, and so is leadership,” remarked Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

Each year Leadership Pioneer Valley welcomes new participants who are taking a leap of faith into the program. Nearly 250 other leapers have completed the program landing in amazing new places since graduation and the Class of 2019 will do the same. They are the first LEAP class, but not the first class to leap to higher skills.


“Ramps of Inclusion”

Our board has just finished the process of creating a vision statement for Leadership Pioneer Valley. I am proud of the inclusive and deliberative process that we undertook. At the end of the process, a board member commented that they couldn’t think of a single word that they would change. Our new vision is for a “vibrant Pioneer Valley with accessible, inclusive networks of inspired individuals who are leading and connecting the communities in which they live and work.” As we developed the statement we had a discussion about some of the key words and their meanings. Many of the small groups spent time on the words “accessible” and “inclusive.” There were some very powerful discussions on the differences between these two words. For some, it was not immediately apparent that they are different. As the daughter of a parent in a wheelchair, accessibility was always on our minds. Much of the world in the 1970’s and 1980’s was not accessible. There were places and activities that were simply not available to my dad. In some instances we were able access places if we were willing to carry my dad up a flight of stairs and endure the humiliation of the spectacle. In other instances, we would reserve a handicapped room and discover upon arrival that although we were able to enter the motel, the bathroom wasn’t accessible. I learned that there are degrees of accessibility. As the American’s with Disabilities Act came into effect, my dad began to have access to more establishments. But access did not equal inclusion. Many handicapped sections were in the back of the room or in the aisle. The majority of store clerks and wait staffs that we encountered did not include my father. They chose to speak to other members of the family instead of him. As a woman, I have also seen this first hand. There are several “men’s” leadership groups in the area that meet regularly-I and other women will never have access. Additionally, there is another group that is open to women but has never accepted one in its ranks. One board member remarked that there are opportunities she didn’t even know that exist. I know many other groups have similar experiences. The conversations of our board members as they navigated the importance of both accessibility and then inclusion underscored the responsibility of inclusion. Black history month reminds us that this country has made great strides towards accessibility. We have struck down laws that divide us and added others to increase accessibility for all. Yet inclusion is much harder to tackle. Women and folks of color are increasingly able to be at the table, yet are not always made to feel welcome. We may have built the handicapped ramps but still put the seats in the back of the room. I look forward to listening more for the voices of those that still don’t feel included and find ways to make our board rooms, offices, and communities more inclusive for those that we have invited to participate (that’s assuming that we are accessible). This is how we will make our vision a reality for the Valley.

Written by: Lora Wondolowski

Link to Article Online