AIS celebrated Manufacturing Month with events, educational sessions

The Leominster manufacturing company is also celebrating its 30th anniversary!

LEOMINSTER — AIS, the largest manufacturer of commercial office furniture and seating in New England, celebrated Manufacturing Month with a number of events and educational sessions throughout October.

Events included visits by Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, tours and discussions for local students, and an employee appreciation day.

The official national Manufacturing Day was Oct. 4 (held annually the first Friday of October) and AIS held events that day as well as throughout the month.

Manufacturing Month activities focused on the importance of manufacturing to the local economy. The events also helped AIS to mark its 30th anniversary. The company was founded in October 1989 by Bruce Platzman and Arthur Maxwell.

“When a local economy rests on a solid manufacturing foundation, local businesses of all sizes and industries benefit. We’re proud to be the largest employer and manufacturer in Leominster and proud to be celebrating 30 years,” AIS President and CEO Bruce Platzman said.

Manufacturing is 10.1% of Massachusetts’ total economic output and comprises 7.8% of the Commonwealth’s workforce (about 250,000 people in the state work in manufacturing), according to MassDevelopment.

With over 600 employees who work in manufacturing jobs at its headquarters location, AIS is one of the largest employers in traditional manufacturing in the state of Massachusetts. More than 250 women work at AIS’s Leominster location, and more than 30 countries are represented in the employee population. With 800 employees nationwide and annual sales of more than $220 million, AIS’s dealer-centric focus and network extends across North America. AIS has been awarded “Manufacturer of the Year” from the Office Furniture Dealers Alliance eight times since 2008.

Some of the Manufacturing Month Activities

Baker visited AIS on Oct. 9, touring the manufacturing floor, meeting employees and presenting a proclamation declaring October to be Manufacturing Month in Massachusetts.

AIS honored its employees with an appreciation day on Oct. 11 that included a picnic under a huge tent at headquarters catered by local food-truck companies. At the event, Platzman awarded the Barney Platzman Award to Francesca Jimenez Vega.

AIS hosted members of the Girls & Boys Club of Fitchburg and Leominster for a tour of the factory and the showroom. Submitted Photo

The award, given annually, is named for the CEO’s father and given to an AIS factory team member selected for his or her hard work and dedication. This is the first year that a woman has won the Barney Platzman Award.

“AIS thanks Francesca for her dedication, and we are so thankful for all the hardworking employees we have. We would not be where we are without them,” Platzman said.

AIS also hosted the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster for factory and showroom tours. The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation partnered with AIS to provide the experience for the club members.

On Oct. 25, State Sen. Dean Tran visited AIS and presented the company with a special citation honoring AIS’s 30 years in the state of Massachusetts. In 2018, Tran had nominated AIS “Manufacturer of the Year” for Central Massachusetts.

“AIS is a true partner in the region,” said Tran (Fitchburg).  “Not only are the company’s quality products unmatched in the industry, their involvement and volunteer work in the region are second to none. AIS’s commitment to the community is greatly appreciated.”

“AIS is committed to being a MassMade company that prides itself on its role in the local community, in the state and in our country,” Platzman said. “It’s been an incredible 30 years and there is so much more ahead of us!”

Club Alumni Changing the World: Laura Jenny

Laura Jenny

This former Club kid credits the Club for the support and care she needed, and now she wants to pay it forward. (Picture L to R: Donata Martin, Executive Director BGC Fitchburg and Leominster, Laura Jenny, and Jon Blodgett, Teen Center Director)


Posted 11/08/2019 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Alumni

This post is part of a “Where Are They Now” series highlighting Youth of the Year who have gone on to become leaders, innovators and problem-solvers who now shape our world.

Club alumni like Laura Jenny are using foundational skills they learned at Boys & Girls Clubs to make a difference in their communities and globally. As a Club kid, Laura’s love of academics, the arts and passion for social justice were nurtured through the diverse programming and caring staff at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster in Massachusetts.

Now a junior at Harvard University, the versatile 20-year-old is often found staring down the lens of a microscope in the university’s Naomi Pierce Lab, where she studies the role of pests in crop failure and food shortages. Or you may find her performing theatre- and film-inspired compositions as a violinist with the Harvard Pops Orchestra. Laura also recently visited Australia to study tropical biodiversity.

“My Club gave me opportunities to [practice] science and math and fostered curiosity and a love of learning,” says Laura, an Integrative Biology major with a secondary focus in Global Health and Health Policy. “It [also] gave me a safe space to practice violin and express myself artistically.”

Club mentors inspired Laura to stand up for what she believed in. In high school, she co-founded a program that taught kids how to interact safely with police and reduce tensions between the two groups. In 2016, she was named Massachusetts State Youth of the Year for her leadership and volunteerism in the Boys & Girls Club and service to the community.

Laura Jenny

“The Club instilled in me the desire to give all I can to others and take initiative,” she says. “A village of people gave me and so many other Club kids their time and care. Because of this, I would like to spend my life giving to others what was given to me.”

Laura continues her social justice work as a Cheng Fellow in Harvard Kennedy School’s New World Social Innovation Fellowship. Through her work, she hopes to provide youth with tools to overcome aftereffects of trauma and affect public policy dealing with juvenile justice and child welfare. She is currently developing a survey to document sources of youth trauma. She plans to use data collected by the survey in collaboration with the nonprofit Strategies for Youth to develop a curriculum to teach youth about trauma and how to respond to triggering situations.

She also serves as Chair of the Community Service Board for Eleganza, Harvard’s largest student-run event with over 50 board members, 60 models and dancers and a sold-out crowd of over 1,500 attendees each year who gather to celebrate fashion, dance, music and expression through the innovative show.

Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier youth leadership program, honoring extraordinary young people and their achievements in leadership, service, academic excellence and leading a healthy lifestyle. Learn more at


Boys & Girls Club Summer Blast Program gets underway

Gardner News

This week at the Boys & Girls Club Summer Blast Program, we are having a great time. We are doing many activities including science projects such as the volcano experiment, strategy board games, hands-on activities, and funny games like German Baseball.

During this time you can have fun, but it is also good to educate yourself sometimes. That’s why we did volcano experiments. In this project you and your team build a volcano with paper and plastic bottles. After that a staff member pours red vinegar and baking soda into the volcano to make a slight explosion. The students here had an amazing and educational time during this experiment.

Playing board games is fun, but have you ever made your own? Here, as part of our Summer Brain

activities, each team made and created a board game. There was a team of kids who won first place. It was a bit tough, including the fact that we could only use some materials and everyone has to agree with a plan. During this project lots of students learned teamwork skills. This activity was fun and educational.

Another activity that is still going on is the Mars Project, part of our Space Exploration Program. A group of two makes a poster of what you think the environment on Mars looks like. During this activity I learned that Mars was cold instead of hot. Other students here were cooperating and participating, which made the activity even more enjoyable.

Playing the same sport over and over again isn’t as fun, so we learn new ones such as German Baseball. In this game your team has to hit a ball off a cone, then run to the other side of the gym. The other team is lined up, and if they hit you, you are out. We all liked learning and playing this game.

The after-school program starts on Sept. 3 and located beginning this fall at Gardner Middle School. The fee is $30 per month, dismissal to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. For registration information, call Mio at 978-534-8358, ext. 10 or visit

99 Restaurant & Pub Opening

The ribbon is cut to formally open 99 Restaurant & Pub in Gardner Thursday. (Donata Martin, Executive Director, pictured center left)



Carl and Pat Wilbur of East Templeton were some of the first patrons to enjoy the grand opening of the Ninety-Nine Restaurant in Gardner on Thursday, Aug. 22.

Learning to succeed in the digital age with the Geek Squad at the B&G Club

 The Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster hosted the Geek Squad Academy at the club on Wednesday and Thursday, August 14 and 15, 2019. Geek Squad Academy is a no cost two day, hands-on technology program designed for youth ages 10-18. When attending, youth become “Junior Agents” and get hands-on experience with some of the newest and coolest technology, with instructors from Best Buy and Geek Squad. This two day camp experience allowed students to explore technology like: coding. programming, film production/photography, 3D-design, digital music and digital citizenship. Some student created some 30 second stop action movies with Lego’s during the academy. Helping the student work the camera is Anthony Rodriguez. From left listening to him is Semy Kim, 16, Alexiss Edmonds, 13, and Nicole Robinson, 15. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE

By Daniel Monahan  | Sentinel & Enterprise

LEOMINSTER — In the digital age, becoming familiar with and understanding new technologies is important for people of all ages and students at the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster rolled up their sleeves Wednesday to start on their own technology journey.

The Geek Squad Academy, in a partnership with Best Buy, was hosted at the club with the goal of exposing students to different technologies and arts.

“Because most of the jobs for the future are not in existence now, it’s a great way for kids to start learning about all the different types of technology,” said club Executive Director Donata Martin.

Justen Bristlin, signature programs specialist with Best Buy, said this is the 13th year the academy has been hosted.

Bristlin said the program gives students the tools necessary to succeed in the 21st Century.

Instructor Steve O’Day helps Amelia Carboni , 10, make some digital music at the academy. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE

“One of our goals is to bridge the digital divide,” said Bristlin. “The idea is to get kids involved with technology and to be content creators instead of consumers.”

To get students started off on the right foot, the event offered coding projects, stop-motion tutorials, and activities that combined music and technology.

Students who participated in a Star Wars themed coding activity said they were excited to be learning the skill because they might use it in the future.

“We’re doing small coding puzzles right now and it’s really fun,” said Fitchburg resident Conor Elliot.

Jalen Leider, who was coding a project involving famous robot R2D2, said he was potentially interested in coding and computers, but added that he’d have to learn eventually.

“Coding gives kids a basic idea of how logic works,” said instructor Kieth Porazzo. “Coding is the foundation of everything we use from our cellphones to browsing the web.”

Another instructor, Elena Valdez, added that “children are going to be our future and that our future is going to be technology.”

Students also participated in an activity where they made their own stop-motion videos.

Working the camera is Alexiss Edmonds, 13. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE

Stop-motion is a type of film making that requires painstakingly moving puppets, or in this case Lego pieces, and snapping hundreds of photos until it makes a cohesive, short movie.

Alexis Edmonds, 13, said they had to plan out a scene using Legos and repeatedly move them centimeters at a time while taking photos of every move.

The skit was about two characters that were fighting over their girlfriend, she said.

“It’s fun because you can be creative with our story and we tried different things with the Legos,” said Edmonds.

Bristlin also said it’s important for parents to get children learning about technology whenever possible, adding that he thinks students learn more with hands on activities.

Martin said Geek Squad staff members will be volunteering at the club over the next year to hopefully add to students’ learning.

Subaru shifts funds to Boys & Girls Clubs of Lunenburg and Fitchburg-Leominster

Sentinel & Enterprise


LUNENBURG — Subaru of America, Inc. and North End Subaru presented a check for $26,233 to the Boys & Girls Club of Lunenburg and Fitchburg-Leominster as its hometown charity choice for the 2018 Subaru Share the Love Event.

The check was presented by Martin Babineau, dealer principal.

 Posing with the check being presented to the two local Boys & Girls Clubs are, back row, from left: Rocco Spagnuolo, Jesse Manning, Martin Babineau, Michelle Belleza, and Joe Aotavilla; second row from left: Brett Houck, Charlotte Ludy, MacKenzie Belleza, and Molly Belleza; front row, from left: Rochelle Jules, Jennie-Lynn Abdurraheem, Jayde Caraballo, and Suhaly Rosado. SUBMITTED PHOTO

From Nov. 15 to Jan. 2, customers who purchased or leased a new Subaru vehicle selected from a list of charities to receive a donation of $250 from SOA.

For the third year in a row, there was no cap on the total donation from Subaru of America to its Share the Love charitable partners.

At the culmination of this year, SOA and its retailers hope to exceed a grand total of $140 million donated nationally since the creation of the Share the Love Event to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the event.

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Chalk art comes to life at Central MA Science Festival

By David Dore

Apr. 15, 2019

Several days’ worth of learning, drawing, coloring and shading led to the moment Saturday afternoon when the classroom-sized work of art was completed.

This creation, though, was not meant to last — although it will be remembered through photographs and in the minds of the students and artists who worked on it.

People who stopped by Saturday’s sixth annual Central MA Science Festival at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster could see the 3D chalk art piece take shape. Appearing to come out of a pond was a pair of green dragon-like creatures with pink fins, based on the two giant serpents from Greek and Roman mythology that killed the Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons.

Working alongside the teenagers throughout the day were two world-renowned chalk artists, Kurt Wenner and Julie Kirk Purcell. Wenner is considered the innovator of 3D pavement chalk art, and is credited with bringing the art form to the United States. He and Kirk Purcell have traveled the globe creating 3D chalk pieces.

Wenner and Kirk Purcell spent a few days in Leominster with Denise Kowal, founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida, passing on the history, tools and techniques of 3D chalk art to Boys & Girls Club members and students from Leominster High School and its Center for Technical Education Innovation, and the Sizer School and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg.

According to Kowal, 3D pavement chalk art is a perfect fit for a place like the Boys & Girls Club, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. It incorporates math through understanding geometry and perspective, she said, and chemistry through knowing how the products that are used “mix together.”

Kowal said she likes the unique nature of making 3D pavement chalk art, for both the artists and the people who are seeing them create.

The artists, she explained, are “being very vulnerable. They’re allowing people to watch them as they are sitting here creating. The art form is a very interactive art form. I think they’re the most creative and the most giving artists in the world because they are willing to put themselves out there, and before they even know how their products are going to turn out, and it’s all ephemeral. At the end of the day it is chalk, and if it rains it goes away.”

Saturday’s project, originally supposed to be done outside, was moved indoors because of rain. And it’s something that Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Donata Martin has wanted to bring to the Central MA Science Festival for a couple of years. It took a couple of board members meeting with Kowal in Florida to make it happen.

Kowal and Wenner “wanted so very much to work with Boys & Girls Clubs,” Martin said, noting that Wenner is a Boys & Girls Club alum from California.

“When he was approached by Denise, who runs the Sarasota festival, to do this, he really wanted to do this to give back to the Boys & Girls Club,” Martin said. “Having him here, having Julie, and then Denise coming up, who organizes the two big events, it’s more than what we could possibly have imagined doing.”

The hope, Martin said, is to make 3D pavement chalk art a permanent part of the science festival.

For this year’s participants, Kowal said, “they’ve already had an experience that they will remember forever. That’s what our goal is, is to create the experience and a learning opportunity. And in the end, if they end up with a beautiful 3D pavement painting to show the world, then that’s just icing on the cake.”

This work of art really sticks out

By Daniel Monahan



LEOMINSTER — The right combination of pastels, geometry, and perspective will produce a beautiful 3D illusion that makes the artwork appear to spill off of its canvas.

A group of Boys and Girls Club members, and local high school students, added the finishing touches to their 3D street painting at the 6th Annual Central MA Science Festival on Saturday.

Joined by world-renowned chalk artists Kurt Wenner, of Italy, and Julie Kirk-Purcell, of California, the students worked diligently on the piece to make a dragon look as though it was leaping off of the floor.

Wenner invented 3D pavement art in 1984, which is distinguished by images which appear to rise from, or fall into the ground. To accompany his art, he also created a new geometry that avoids a specific distortion that occurs in other forms of 3D art.

During the 2014 Sarasota Chalk Festival, Wenner and Kirk led a team of 30 artists to set a Guinness Book of World Record, creating the largest 3D pavement art piece. The piece, which depicted the now extinct megalodon shark, covered 22,747.6 square feet and took 10 days to complete.

Wenner was a member of a Boys and Girls Club when he was younger and joined the project in large part due to his passion for the organization. Kirk has been involved in street painting for 19 years, and an expert in 3D painting.

The project is part of a larger initiative to teach students seldom explored art forms and to encourage collaboration with their peers.

“Our first priority has been to teach them,” said Denise Kowal, who founded the Sarasota Chalk Festival which sponsored the chalk project. “We want to get them thinking, to get their brains working, and to start using tools that they have never been exposed to.”

To create a believable 3D illusion, students were exposed to elements of chemistry, science, math, and art, said Kowal.

“Our goal is to create a program where students can learn the art form correctly,” said Kowal.

The process began with learning about the history of art, she said. There was a lot of work with geometry and an emphasis on learning the techniques of the different materials.

“This is an education program in which we’re teaching perspective, the use of pastels, collaboration, working large, and drawing,” said Wenner. “I enjoy it, and I think it’s going as planned so far.”

With the knowledge of the art form bestowed upon them, the students successfully brought to life an intricate image that utilized color, creativity, and geometry.

“The kids are doing great,” said Kowel. “It’s a really fun experience to see them all come together, but we feel kind of sad that it’s going to end today.”

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Boys & Girls Club awarded National Science Foundation grant

Posted Mar 18, 2019


The Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, with clubhouses in Leominster and Gardner, received the news that its application to the National Science Foundation will receive grant funding to pilot and enhance its Career Launch program.

The enhanced career and workforce development program will be STEM CareerLaunch.

Increased exposure to STEM content and career pathways during out-of-school time contexts can significantly extend STEM learning and aspirational interests among middle and high school youth. Using a collective impact approach, the STEM CareerLaunch pilot project tests the feasibility of redesigning a widely used, national youth and career focused program for and by the National Boys & Girls Clubs of America to extend STEM learning and promote awareness, interest, and readiness for STEM-related occupations among youth.

STEM CareerLaunch integrates extant STEM programs, such as First Robotics, Girls Who Code and Jason Learning, with newly developed STEM content and opportunities to create and test a comprehensive STEM learning and career program for youth. The results of this pilot will inform a more expansive effort to bring STEM CareerLaunch to an already networked 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs, reaching more than 4 million youth from predominately underrepresented groups in STEM, and youth participating in other afterschool/summer program throughout the United States.

Approximately 100 youth and informal educators at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster will participate in this pilot feasibility study. A five-pronged approach will be instituted, including high quality out of school time STEM programming, connected STEM career education, mentorship, professional development for the informal educators, and incentives such as internships and field experiences for youth participants. The developmental evaluation will focus on program implementation, participant outcomes, and scale-up. Data collection methods will include quantitative and qualitative approaches such as baseline student data, project tracking logs, retrospective surveys, focus groups, staff interviews, and observations. A summative evaluation will also be conducted.

This endeavor is led by a collaborative partnership between the National Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Mount Wachusett Community College, Fitchburg State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s STEM Center, Becker College, The Central Mass STEM Network, the Fitchburg and Leominster Public School Districts, the North Central Massachusetts and Nashoba Valley Chambers of Commerce, MIT, Harvard University, UMass HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, and others.

STEM Career Launch is primarily funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. It is also co-funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program which is committed to better understanding and promoting practices that increase students’ motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM).

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Boys & Girls Club to host world-famous chalk artists

On Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster will hold its Sixth Annual Central MA Science Festival at the clubhouse, 365 Lindell Ave., Leominster.

This year’s festival will feature a 3D street painting illusion that will make the pavement appear to dip inward and objects project outward. Attendees will be allowed to step onto the 3D illusion for photo opportunities or try their own pavement chalk art skills, using supplied chalk.

“Megalodon Shark” in Venice, Florida, a Guinness World Record designed by Kurt Wenner, and created by Julie Kirk-Purcell with a team of 30 volunteers.

The unique chalk project will be led by internationally renowned innovator of the 3D pavement art form, Kurt Wenner of Italy, and 3D pavement artist Julie Kirk-Purcell of California. During their visit here, the celebrated artists will create the 3D art piece with a group of Boys and Girls Club members, and local high school students. The piece will be completed at the Saturday Science Festival, which is free and open to the public.

Before the Saturday Science Festival, on Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse, the visiting artists will give a free, in-person presentation about their work.

Wenner and Kirk-Purcell have created 3D chalk art across the globe. During the 2014 Sarasota Chalk Festival in Venice, Florida, they led a team of 30 artists to set a Guinness World Record, creating the largest anamorphic pavement art piece. The now-extinct Megalodon Shark covered 22,747.6 square feet and took 10 days to complete.

The Sixth Annual Central MA Science Festival is produced in collaboration with local organizations and companies, and provides a hands-on, multifaceted exploration of STEAM that makes science accessible, interactive and fun for people of all ages. The festival includes more than 20 STEAM-related activities, demonstrations, and exhibits. Workshops entail Lego robotics, veterinary and health science, astronomy, and more. The addition of 3D chalk art provides a uniquely creative approach to using geometry, mathematics, visual perception, and the tools of perspective and illusion in art.

The Chalk Art events are made possible by a partnership with Denise Kowal, founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival, and by corporate sponsorships from Enterprise Bank, Girouard Tool Corp., Heat Trace Products, IC Federal Credit Union, Mount Wachusett Community College, Polar Beverages, Select Engineering, Inc., and Wachusett Mountain, and generous patrons Ronald Leger Jr. CPA, Dan Asquino and Rick Hoeske.

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