Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
Greening the Sphere is an environmental education program that runs from November to May. This program offers opportunities for kids to learn environmental problem solving, listen to special guest speakers, go on field trips, and create repurposed art.
Greening the Sphere began as a grassroots movement to engage the community and educate kids on environmental issues. Shari Bitsis, founder, says the idea arose from a collective consciousness during a group meditation class that she led. This class included visual healing work directed towards the Earth. The six core members of that class became the founding members of Greening the Sphere.
Today the program has a full curriculum, open to middle school children in the East Bay. Shari describes the classes as using methods that utilize many genres, and experiential techniques that inspire whole brain creative thinking. In the first half of the program, children use strategic questioning to explore their relationship to the planet and investigate ways to improve that relationship. This is facilitated using fun activities that incorporate art and nature into class activities. During the second half of the program, children are asked to design an educational experience for the community. This experience will be on display at the annual Greening the Sphere Festival. Children are also activity involved in planning many aspects of the festival as well taking part in running it. Last year's festival included children's activities created from repurposed materials such as soda bottle bowling.
While the program is only open to middle school age students, high school and college students can participate as mentors and leaders. For more information about this program please contact Shari Bitsis at 401-465-4249.
By Beth Carter
Although there are several banks in the East Bay, Navigant Credit Union stands out because of the people working there according to Kathy Marabello, Vice President and Regional Branch Manager of the Warren, Riverside, and Rumford branches. She should know because Kathy has had a very successful career in banking for over 40 years. Kathy started as a teller at Citizens Bank while still attending Bristol High School. She moved up the ranks there and left after thirty-three years. Kathy did a brief stint in loan operations at Bank RI before joining Navigant nine years ago.
Currently she supervises four managers and 17 staff located in the three branches. Her engaging personality exemplifies the Navigant brand. When interviewing people to work for her, Kathy claims that although she cares about what is on a candidate's resume, she focuses more on their personality. "Being nice and empathetic to our members is the most important thing to me at the bank." That is why Navigant has been the recognized as the "Best Place to Work" for several years.
Kathy has learned over the years that confidentiality is very critical. To build solid relationships, one must be able to trust the people they interact with - both staff as well as with members. She feels that technology will continuously innovate banking but it is the personal touch that she wants her members to experience.
Kathy is very active in the community including serving on the Board of Directors of the East Bay Chamber of Commerce. Her strong work ethic, extensive banking knowledge, and her charm make her the one to go to with all your banking needs.
By Brian Barrett
Imagine Gift Store is located in historic Warren, RI. It is the largest gift store in New England! The building is located in the fully-restored Lyric Theatre. From the quirky, to the heartfelt, Imagine Gift Store has three floors full of every gift you could think of for that special someone or even yourself!
Remember that feeling you got when you first walked into a penny candy store? Re-live that experience with your children or grandchildren at Imagine Gift Store! Imagine Gift Store offers a wide assortment of over 500 different candies to choose from! Imagine also offers a seasonal 1950’s themed ice cream parlor! You can enjoy these tasty seasonal treats whenever you stop in starting April 1st!
With so many different flavors to choose from, we are sure to have your favorite frozen treat! At Imagine Gift Store, 4 Full-Sized Cows are featured on display both inside and outside the store, as well as miniature cows which can be purchased within the store! These cows come from the Cow Parade, the largest and most successful public art event in the world.
Michelle, the owner of Imagine Gift Store always had a vivid imagination growing up. However as far as specifically owning a retail business such as Imagine Gift Store, that is where fate jumped in. Michelle graduated from a college nearby Imagine Gift Store and during school the store quickly became her favorite gift shop. About five years after she graduated and heard the business was being sold she jumped on the opportunity and the rest is history.
Michelle cherishes the moments where she is able to meet and talk to her customers. She also looks forward to holidays every year and decorating the store. Imagine Gift Store also hosts many different events which Michelle loves participating in as well as community events. Be sure to check out the website to learn more about Imagine Gift Store!
Article by Beth Carter
Jeff Hirsch, owner of the Lobster Pot, is an artist in more than one way. Not only does his restaurant offer delicious food that is pleasing to the eye on the plate but he is also a jewelry designer. His love of design and his passion for making his customers happy has led to very happy moments and a great success as a business person.
Jeff grew up in Barrington and now lives in Warren. In his 20's, he had the opportunity to buy the Lobster Pot that had already been in existence for almost 60 years. Jeff had worked in restaurants while in high school and college but admits that he "tried to talk himself out of doing this". He does credit others who provided sound advice and support to buy this famous restaurant. Once he took ownership, he did a major renovation to "refresh" the place. He also kept it open year round (previously it was only open eight months of the year) and expanded to include having a lunch service and private event functions.
One thing that stands out when talking to Jeff is that he is very customer service focused. He really enjoys talking to customers to get their feedback and ideas. He incorporates those into new menus that he has several times of the year. He feels he is also perceptive and describes himself as the "quarterback" of his restaurant.
When asked what advice he would give others who want to get into the business, Jeff replied "follow your passions and be sensible." He recognizes you have to be business savvy but if you don't like what you are doing it will not matter.
by Brian Barrett
Tavdi Company, Inc is a very interesting business on the East Bay with a strong international presence. Ismail Saltuk, Ph.D. Eng and his wife Leyla Saltuk have been making their mark in a niche market within the chemical engineering/manufacturing field. Both were born in Turkey and Ismail was educated at Robert College. Robert College is located in Istanbul, Turkey and is the oldest American school in existence outside of the United States. Work originally brought them to the Ocean State and after some research it was clear to them that the East Bay was the best place to plant their family’s roots in America.
The Tavdi Company has a patent on a unique rubber testing device, the Advanced Yerzley Oscillograph (AYO-IV). This product helps manufacturing companies test the parts within their machines. The Tavdi Company also designs rubber related products. They are very active in the import/export relationship between the United States and Turkey and provide consulting advice to companies looking to expand internationally or international companies looking to get into business in the United States. Ismail and Leyla have been active member of the Chamber of Commerce for years and are a great example of the diversity within all the incredible businesses/people that make up the East Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Studio Rios is an architectural firm servicing Rhode Island, Southern Massachusetts, and Eastern Connecticut. It is locally owned & operated out of Barrington, RI by Hector Rios. Hector came to East Bay RI 27 years ago to attend Roger Williams University, fell in love with the area and never left.
Hector is passionate about providing highly customized service.
“I sit down with all my clients and have a free one-on-one consultation to determine what their needs are.”
He takes time to collect photos, magazine clippings, or pictures of family heirlooms to get a feel for his clients style so he can make sure his designs match their personal aesthetic.
When he is not busy designing, Hector & his wife Gail (a "feisty red-head from upstate NY") regularly go ballroom dancing. Married for 30 years, Hector notes the secret to a successful marriage is to always have a date night. He describes their relationship as "The Ricky & Lucy of the new millennium."
Most people think architects are too expensive and their work is unattainable. Because of this Hector makes sure to lay out a clear scope of work & pricing schedule in the first consultation with a client. He realizes sometimes the process can be overwhelming and often people need some help and guidance along the way.
Hector finds joy in the personal connection with his clients. Some of his favorite moments he shared with me were attending a clients open house after a project is complete, or getting Christmas cards from families he's worked with.
“If I get invited back for dinner or a housewarming party, I know I've done my job well”.
Hector also finds joy in being outdoors. He regularly cycles 60-80 miles enjoying the scenic East Bay region. And you can often find him & Gail out and about in town eating and drinking at local restaurants.
By Dena Davis
PR & Marketing Team
The Bayside Family YMCA is a charity committed to strengthening the health and wellness and transforming lives in the communities of Barrington, Bristol, Riverside and Warren. For over 50 years, the Y has responded to community needs with programs and activities focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. YMCA members are able to participate in health and wellness programs, utilize child care and be part of a community of diverse and engaged individuals working together to support each other. Our goal is simple- to strengthen the health and wellness and transform the lives of people in the communities we serve.
Bayside’s Focus on Youth Development
The Y has long been known for programs that keep kids safe and engaged. At the Bayside Family Y- we offer a variety of youth programs that teach skills
• Swim Lessons- The Y is the nationally-recognized leader in aquatic safety. We provide over 100 swim lessons each week for ages 6 months- 90! These lessons are focused first on preventing drowning and then on skill development.
• Child Care
• Summer Camp
• Teen JOIN (for families who have a child with excess weight) are all evidence-based programs designed to help individuals and families meet pressing health needs.
• Camp iAm (in partnership with The BAY Team – East Bay’s Prevention Coalition)
The Bayside Y is proud to be a strong community partner. Working together with local school departments, municipalities, businesses and non-profits leverages our resources and strengthens our communities.
Some examples of groups the Bayside Family Y partners with are:
• As part of our commitment to social responsibility, we believe that membership in the YMCA should be open to all individuals and families regardless of their ability to pay. In order to fulfill this commitment, we conduct an Annual Support Campaign to raise awareness and money for the YMCA Financial Assistance (YFA) program. This program subsidizes membership and program fees for YMCA members, and is at the core of our mission.
By Beth Carter
PR Team Member
When you first meet Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro, he will tell you that he has two missions in life - making an impact on the next generation and having fun.
What may not be as clear at first glance is that he has an impressive background having earned a PhD from Ohio State University, having taught at several colleges, being recognized as a Fellow in several professional organizations and having served 23 years working for IBM in various capacities.
Through his Education by Entertainment programs Ron creates content that makes learning fun for a wide variety of groups including businesses, schools, and academic institutions. He designs programs that emphasize one's strengths but also discusses how one compensates for weaknesses. Surprisingly a 75-90 minute program can have thirty different activities, even using game show formats. This successful model incorporating lots of things to do has kept all his audiences engaged - at any age! The activities are so much fun that Ron is also pleased to offer them as part of a social event such as a birthday celebration!!!
Ron is a careful observer of people as well. He is always working on ways to improve his programs or tweak them for different audiences. He feels that in general most people react too quickly and it is important to see the value of slowing down and really learning. Ron encourages people to think differently by asking interesting questions like "what do you do at a green light?" immediately after asking them spell SPOT fast five times (many people think "red light" because they are not given the time to process the question correctly). Check out Ron's monthly articles in the Rhode Island Small Business Journal (RISBJ) for more examples of his learning activities.
Ron's meets new clients mostly through professional organizations and word of mouth. He enjoys interacting with students, parents, teachers, psychology professionals, engineers, as well as corporate leaders to make learning more enriching and memorable which in turn makes for a more positive environment for all.
Warren has long been a foodie attraction, and now wine connoisseurs can delight with the addition of Merienda Tapas, Cicchetti & Wine Bar. This hot new restaurant is a fitting add-on to Water Street’s eclectic restaurant scene.
Located at 125 Water St., formally The Old Nathanial Inn, Merienda’s is a perfect place for a romantic bite to eat with a loved one; yet also provides a comfortable atmosphere to catch up and relax with friends. This is the first restaurant and wine bar featuring authentic tapas and cicchetti style-dishes, with an accompanying savory yet affordable wine list - five different European wines available at just $25 a bottle.
Craig Corsetti, executive chef and owner, has years of experience in the industry holding various positons all over the world. He’s worked in the kitchens of Florence, Italy, and under James Beard Award winning chefs is Washington, D.C. Pair that up with his 18 years of experience at The Newport Vineyards and it’s no wonder Merienda’s is such a delectable place. His passion for authentic cuisine and extensive knowledge of wine is evident in this charmingly unique venue.
For those of you who don’t know – I didn’t either – cicchetti is a Venetian term meaning savory snacks or small side dishes, typically served in a bar or informal restaurant. Similarly, tapas means small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar. What this translates to is that there’s a great new spot to try delicious small plates paired with thoughtfully selected imported wines or craft beer. So get out there, try something new and support your local businesses. Tell Craig that the East Bay Chamber of Commerce sent you. Cheers!
First impressions mean a lot, especially in a business setting. When you first meet Yulian, you know by her smile and genuine enthusiasm that she is very engaging and dedicated. She has a unique background and is not your typical personal financial consultant.
Yulian's educational background focused on biology, clinical laboratory work, and nursing. When she came to the Untied States from China, she worked for over 16 years at Women and Infants' Hospital in several different roles. Although she finds the work gratifying, Yulian started at World Financial Group because she wanted a better opportunity with a better retirement plan. "For my entire life, I have always worked hard for money, but now I wanted to learn how to make my money work hard for me."
Not only is Yulian providing consultant to her clients but she also wants to introduce opportunity to people willing to work with her. They can grow the business together to help more people achieve financial independence. She gives presentations in which she talks about her life's experiences, and how she can relate to those who do not have a retirement plan or large savings. Her goal is to change the way people perceive their finances, which means being open to opportunities to educate themselves and feeling more comfortable talking about their financial future. World Financial Group's motto is "no family left behind," and Yulian is determined to reach as many people as possible. "I want my clients to have a piece of mind with their savings!"
Yulian is always willing to help people, especially in the financial services area. With a smile and perseverance, she truly believes that "together, we can each achieve more. "