Porchlight VNA in Lee is merging with another visiting nurses association, Chicopee VNA. Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Porchlight VNA in Lee is merging with another visiting nurses association, Chicopee VNA. Thursday, March 20, 2014. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)
This story has been amended to correct the breakdown of employees and the length of time the two organizations have been operating under a single CFO.

LEE - After a year of discussions, Porchlight VNA/Home Care of Lee is merging with a similar nonprofit organization in Chicopee.

The new entity will still be known as Porchlight VNA/Home Care, because Chicopee VNA is being absorbed by the Berkshire County organization. The new organization officially goes into operation on April 1.

Both the Porchlight and Chicopee VNA boards of directors voted unanimously to approve the merger on Monday. The new organization will be headquartered in Lee.

"It should be a seamless transition," said Chicopee VNA CEO Judy Cote, who will become the COO of the new organization.

Holly Chaffee, chief executive officer of Porchlight, will remain CEO with the newly merged company. Pat Lamont, who had been serving as the chief financial officer of both organizations, will be the CFO of the new entity.

Chaffee has headed Porchlight, formerly known as Lee Regional VNA and Berkshire Home Care, since 2009. The nonprofit changed its name to Porchlight in 2012. Cote has headed the Chicopee VNA for two years.

Between them, Porchlight and Chicopee VNA have around 300 employees - 100 of those in Chicopee. Chaffee said all the Chicopee VNA employees will become part of the new organization, and that no layoffs will occur on either side.

"Some details of people's jobs will be changing," Chaffee said. "But we have absolutely no interest in getting rid of any employees whatsoever. This is a challenging environment, and growth is the way to survive."

Chaffee and Cote have known each other for the last six months, when Porchlight began sharing its CFO with Chicopee. After Lamont began working for both organizations, the two entities began sharing services to be more efficient, Chaffee said. Talk of merging the two organizations started with that partnership.

"That's how it came about," Chaffee said. "This isn't something we've done quickly or lightly. We've done our due diligence in this process, which took about a year."

Founded in 1912 as Lee VNA, Porchlight provides services to 35 communities in Berkshire County and in the hilltowns of Hampden and Hampshire counties. Founded 70 years ago, Chicopee VNA serves 17 communities in the greater Hampden County region, although Cote said 73 percent of the agency's clients live in the city of Chicopee. The Chicopee VNA also operates out of a building that has more than 16,000 square feet, and once served as a mess hall for Westover Air Force Base.

Both organizations have previously been awarded Home Care Elite status by the National Research Corp., a national rating service. Porchlight received the honor in 2012.

The Porchlight and Chicopee VNAs also have home care divisions, which are known as Porchlight Home Care and Great to Be Home Care, respectively. The services provided by those businesses also are being merged into Porchlight.