Make me a match! Dating service links area singles

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Before the launch of any life-changing plan, consulting a specialist or professional is often the safest and most effective way to be successful.

So, if you want to find your one true love, the indisputable first step for a layperson-lover is to make an appointment with your local matchmaker. Right?

"Even the most confident people do not feel that they're an expert on dating," said Lanie Delphin, co-founder of Mass Match, a Massachusetts-based dating service. "Most people are not professional daters."

But Delphin and her husband, Bud, are professional matchmakers. Since their own meeting in 1999 through a national dating service, they've been on a mission to provide a personal and private dating service, a usable and effective way to sort through all those fish in the sea.

Similar to eHarmony.com or match.com, Mass Match creates love connections based on compatibility, personality and lifestyle.

"I learn all about them and their story," Delphin said. "I take a lot of factors into account."

Like other social network services, Mass Match examines lifestyle choices, politics, moral values, religion, desire to have children, interests, age and so on to search for compatible people.

Mass Match, however, is for local love. Members are residents of Western Massachusetts, with a few traveling clients from parts of New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

"(My husband and I) met through a national organization called Socially Concerned Singles," said Delphin, who at the time was commuting from the North Shore in Boston to Western Massachusetts, where Bud Delphin, now her husband and business partner, was living. "We decided to create something that was local for people who feel like a part of the community."

Though Mass Match has a Web site, it is not Internet dating. Rather, the service is comparable to old-fashioned matchmaking, assisted by technology.

"We get a lot of people who are tired of Internet dating," Delphin said. "We operate differently. We're personal, we're private, we're not all over the Internet — and I personally make the connections."

Through interviewing and personal coaching with her clients, Delphin, a self-proclaimed Emma Woodhouse of the 21st century, creates matches for them. "Everybody (who joins) wants a relationship; they're all on the same page. My job is to get people to meet with people, to get to know them and to not waste their time," she explained. "My job is to get (my clients) people who make sense for them."

Jerry Posner, of West Stockbridge, was a Mass Matcher who was looking for a perfect fit. "The people didn't have to be perfect, but the fit did," said Posner, who is to be married in October to his Mass Match fiancée, Lynne O'Keefe.

"I wanted to see what was out there," said Posner, a motivational speaker. "I travel a lot in my business and meet a lot of people, but thought it might be better not to date the people that I work with."

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His match with O'Keefe was timely, aligning with the release of his book, "Attention Late Bloomers: You're Right on Time."

"My story is a typical 'late-bloomer story' because I was in my 50s and single," he said. "I didn't have any expectations. I just wanted to see if I would meet someone to date or have a relationship with. At the end of my year, I got an e-mail from Lynne."

They've been together for 16 months and Posner "could not be happier."

Mass Match is different from popular Internet dating sites in several ways. First, users do not sort through or search for their own match.

"They meet with me, and I operate as a matchmaker," Delphin said. "They don't have to pick and choose, they don't correspond back and forth. I do the matching, and they quickly set up coffee dates to meet."

Where match.com and eHarmony.com are computer-based dating networks that create matches through computer algorithms, Mass Match connections are made through Delphin herself.

Clients sign up online, fill out a questionnaire and then meet with Delphin personally before they create their semi-public profile. Users later get a number and a password so they can view the profiles of matches Delphin has chosen for them.

And, unlike MySpace.com or facebook.com, two of the fastest growning Internet social networks, Match Mass users cannot view or be viewed by strangers.

"Professional people who don't want students or clients or patients to see their personal information do not have to worry," Delphin said.

Mass Match also caters to a small geographic area. eHarmony.com, as of August 2007, has more than 13 million users nationwide, and match.com is the largest global dating site, serving more than 42 million singles around the world.

Since its inception in August 2002, Mass Match has had more than 2,000 clients in Western and Central Massachusetts who range in age from 20 to 80, with most of them between the ages of 30 and 60. Expansion is not an option.

"I meet everyone in Northampton," Delphin said. "I can't imagine expanding because, geographically, it's not the point."

"The overwhelming majority of clients come to sit down and talk with Lanie," said her husband, Bud, who is the director of programs and services at Career Point in Holyoke. He writes for Mass Match and "feels comfortable working with words" rather than people. "It would be a lot for me to say that I'm the 'male matchmaker,' " he said. "I help out occasionally with responses in the mail, the male point of view and talking Lanie through relationship questions. She is their support system, and she invests in their life."

"Most people can meet someone but to meet just the right person is really, really hard," Delphin said. "One person may find them uninteresting and the next may find them fascinating. We work to make matches that make sense."


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