New Greenfield Family Inn director looks to be ‘agent of change’
BY MARY BYRNE
THE GREENFIELD RECORDER
SATURDAY, MARCH 12TH, 2022
GREENFIELD — Nearly five years ago, Matt Montanaro received a phone call from Fran Lemay, then-director of the Greenfield Family Inn, looking for help at the shelter at 128 Federal St.
“I was living about an hour and a half away — I didn’t even know where Greenfield was,” recalled Montanaro, who was occasionally volunteering at the time for ServiceNet, the nonprofit that manages the shelter. “Fran called me and said, ‘We’re looking for people to help out; we’re really desperate.’ … I promised him I’d come by, so I did. He’s a charming guy; he sort of won me over, and I’ve been here ever since in different roles.”
From his role then as a fillin relief councilor, Montanaro moved up the ranks, becoming a site manager in Greenfield and later assistant director of the family shelter, he said. Late last year, he became director of the Greenfield Family Inn, following Lemay’s retirement after nearly 40 years at the nonprofit.
“I love helping people,” Montanaro said. “I’m really passionate about getting people the help where they need help the most, and providing a step up for them. It just feels really good to be that agent of change in someone’s life.”
His varied roles have allowed him to see “a bunch of different aspects” of the program, he said. “Everyone has been super helpful, from the top to the bottom,” Montanaro said. “I was lucky I had Fran to guide me. … It was an easy transition.”
Before joining ServiceNet, Montanaro worked in several different fields, from construction and landscaping, to retail management.
“I’ve always had my fingers in it, volunteering,” he said. “It was a jump from just filling in, to being more part of the management time. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Still, Montanaro said the experience of his past work has proved to be a benefit at the shelter.
“Pretty much all of it applies right here, one way or another,” he said. “We have a maintenance crew, but a lot of times they’re putting out fires; they have more (urgent) things to deal with. If it’s a small to medium issue, we try to handle it ourselves.”
With a few months under his belt, Montanaro is looking to build off what he feels Lemay started. He’s also navigating housing in the “new world of COVID-19” and taking stock in the voices of new hires who may have a different perspective to add.
“We’re trying to help as many people as we can, navigating a new world with COVID and the housing situation being … less friendly and able to insert a person with barriers into a housing situation than ever before,” Montanaro said.
He explained the threepronged system to housing: overcoming the barriers preventing a person from getting housing, finding the person housing, and then making sure they can sustain it.
The Greenfield Family Inn manages six apartment buildings, and has the overall capacity to house 16 families, he said. Typically, families stay anywhere from six months to two years. Since July 1, the start of the current fiscal year, the nonprofit has placed 13 families.
Montanaro emphasized the partnerships ServiceNet has with numerous local organizations that make the work his team does possible, especially given the increased challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It makes it that much more satisfying, once you can overcome those (challenges), and get the families where they need to be,” he said. “I think that’s why we’re here ultimately; we’re all devoted to being that agent of change. … I don’t think anyone comes into sheltering with the illusion that they’re going to be able to change everything, but taking a little part of it and making it better than when you got here, is very, very satisfying.”
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne