WESTFIELD — When Vincent Olinski learned that the Greater Holyoke YMCA was going to present him with a special award for his community volunteerism, the lifelong Westfield resident said he was “very surprised and shocked.”

Mary Lynch presents Westfield resident Vincent Olinski with the Greater Holyoke YMCA’s Louis F. Oldershaw Community Service Award. Lynch, a member of the Y’s Oldershaw Committee, is a longtime friend of Olinski and a former recipient of the award.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

Olinski received the 2024 Louis F. Oldershaw Community Service Award at the Y’s SneakER Peek event on April 6. The annual event celebrates the Y’s mission and honors those who give unselfish gifts of time and energy to the community.

According to Julie Chartier, the assistant executive director of the Y, the Oldershaw Award is given to individuals who have made significant volunteer contributions to the greater Holyoke community and emulates a high standard of excellence in their family life, professional achievements and community service.

“When Mary Lynch of the Oldershaw Committee contacted me, I just kept saying, ‘Wow.’ I never imagined I would receive such a great honor,” said Olinski. Lynch herself was honored in 2010 with the award, which is the highest honor given to a volunteer by the Y.

“I’m truly humbled and honored to be joining this outstanding group of friends and mentors who have received the Oldershaw Award. It is the highlight of my professional career,” said Olinski.

Olinski’s career in YMCA service began in 1972 when he was in his first year as a student at the University of Massachusetts. He started at the Westfield YMCA’s Camp Shepard and worked at the Westfield YMCA for 14 years before becoming executive director of the Greater Holyoke YMCA in 1986.

In addition to his time working for the Y, Olinski has served on the Westfield Parks and Recreation Commission for the past 37 years and has been a member of the Westfield Community Preservation Act Commission since 2003.

Westfield resident Juanita Carnes, whose family was active in the Westfield YMCA when Olinski worked there, has known him for 50 years. “He has always been wise, perceptive, caring and calm — except when playing Jenga. Vin is always willing to help whenever needed and his sense of humor and delivery is epic,” she said.

Carnes added that most of the Westfield community “knows, loves and respects” Olinski. “He has made in difference in more lives than he knows,” she said.

The Greater Holyoke YMCA — which has served the community for 125 years — significantly expanded its programs and community services during Olinski’s 21-year tenure. He also oversaw a $2.5 million renovation and facility expansion in the late 1990s. Olinski retired in 2007 after a combined 35 years of service at both the Westfield and Holyoke YMCAs.

Olinski continued his dedication to the Y following his retirement by becoming a volunteer. “The Y is a very special organization to me,” he said. “I’ve seen the positive impact it has had on the quality of life in our local communities, region and world. I believe ongoing financial support as well as availability to provide consultation enables me to remain connected to the efforts of the organization.”

For more than 20 years Olinski has represented the Y by volunteering his time and leadership on many boards and community organizations. They include the Holyoke Rotary Club, the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of the Pioneer Valley.

“My volunteer service for the Y has enabled me to be part of community and regional initiatives to develop and implement programs and services that had a wide-ranging positive impact,” said Olinski. “I enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside so many outstanding community and regional leaders.”

Olinski said the late Lou Oldershaw was one of the community leaders he worked with. “Lou was one of the kindest, most generous gentlemen I’ve had the privilege to know, work with and call a friend. He was an icon in greater Holyoke who was known for his outstanding volunteer service to both the Y and the community.”

Olinski said the Y is a nonprofit organization that operates with a unique volunteer and staff partnership tasked with identifying, developing and supporting programs and services that build healthy bodies, minds and spirits for all. “Volunteerism is a very rewarding experience in itself — recognition is a nice way to say thank you for your service and encourage others to become volunteers,” he said.

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