A staffing shake up at the Northampton Senior Center is causing a beloved program to end this week.
Mary's Bistro was more than just a place to grab a bite. It was a blended community served by inmates looking to make a difference.
Now, some volunteers are speaking out about the tie-in to a decision not promote a key member of the staff.
Heather Cahillane has acted as assistant director of the Northampton Senior Center for five years.
"For the second time, Heather Cahillane had to step-in as director, but the mayor did not hire her as the full-time director," said volunteer Marlene Marrocco.
After being passed up for the director position twice, Cahillane decided it was time to hand in her resignation to the mayor's office.
However, that also means there will be no one qualified to keep Mary's Bistro open.
"It was her idea, her baby," Marrocco explained.
It's a unique cafe where inmates are the chefs and helps build bonds in the Northampton community.
"This has become a micro-community within a community," said volunteer Susan Maguire.
However, volunteers said that specific food prep certifications are required and without Cahillane, they will not be able to continue service at Mary's Bistro past Thursday and the community is disheartened to see it go.
"It's a great gathering place. I am alone, so I come in every day they are open," said volunteer Mary Listowski.
Mary's Bistro was first reopened back in October. It gave inmates a chance to develop a trade and make a difference in the community.
"I love working with the guys from the jail and they have been extraordinary. This has given them an experience," Maguire added.
Lyn Simmons, chief of staff to Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, told Western Mass News, "it's upsetting to learn that Mary's Bistro at the Northampton Senior Center is closing this week due to sudden, short-notice staff resignations."
"She gave her standard two-week notice," Marrocco noted.
Simmons said that "it is unfortunate that the sustainability of the program was not planned for by training additional volunteers and staff...I am confident that the incoming new director will be able to quickly resume this important collaboration between the city and Hampshire County jail," Simmons added.
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