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JoAnna's Room opens in shelter

The Buoniconti family (left) look around JoAnna's room during the opening with Springfield Day Nursery President Joan Kagan.
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD - A collaboration between the YWCA of Greater Springfield and the Springfield Day Nursery has resulted in a singular service to the area's victims of domestic violence: the area's first early education and care program inside a battered women's shelter.

"JoAnna's Room," as the four-room complex is named, was officially opened on Wednesday at the YWCA's facility in Springfield. The education center was named for JoAnna Buoniconti, the seven-year-old daughter of State Senator Stephen Buoniconti (D-Springfield) and his wife Anna.

Mary Reardon Johnson, the YWCA's executive director, explained that Senator Buoniconti has been very helpful in securing state funding for the organization and wanted to honor his efforts by naming the center after his daughter a child who loves both to play and go to school.

Springfield Day Nursery personnel will develop curricula for infants, toddler and pre-schoolers who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence and will operate the education center. The center can accommodate up to 20 children.

The YWCA's domestic violence shelter was opened in 2005, and Johnson said that for the last two year's the shelter's staff has been working on an educational component since, she noted, most of the people occupying the 48-bed shelter at any time are children.

The education center has areas for infants as well as more structured classroom areas for older children.

Johnson thanked a number of people and organizations and people who made the center possible including Springfield Day Nursery President Joan Kagan, Commissioner Ann Reale of the Department of Early Education and Care and the Davis Foundation. Steve Bradley, the vice president of government affairs for Baystate Health System, attended the opening with a ceremonial $10,000 check. The donation was used to purchase educational supplies and furniture for the center.

State Representative James Welch (D-West Springfield) presented JoAnna Buoniconti with a proclamation from the House of Representatives and said the use of her name for the education center was "a perfect match."

JoAnna herself thanked the Johnson for the honor and said, "Not a lot of children get the chance for a room to be named after them."