Rice’s Fruit Farm Receives MHA’s “You Matter” Award

It seems everyone in Wilbraham has a Rice’s story. Some have deep roots: “I used to pick apples in the orchard” or “For the holidays we’d come to Rice’s for pies, then down to Bennett’s for a turkey.” Others are more recent: “We bring the kids and the dog for ice cream” or “My morning commute always includes a stop at Rice’s for coffee.” Rice’s continues to be a Wilbraham institution in large part due to the commitment of its owners, the Maloni family.

“I’m not from Wilbraham originally,” Anthony Maloni, points out. “I knew about Rice’s but I didn’t realize how important it was to the town. When we bought Rice’s and opened our doors, some folks were happy right away. Some were skeptical. We keep trying to find that balance between updating Rice’s while staying true to the traditions. It’s rewarding to see so many people appreciate this place as much as they do.”
“Since coming to Wilbraham, Anthony has become part of the fabric of the community,” says Wilbraham resident Kimberley A. Lee, VP Resource Development & Branding for the Mental Health Association (MHA). “When COVID hit, Anthony was there with Rice’s discounts for MHA’s staff to show that they are essential workers. He’s been there with gift cards for our program participants to recognize a job well done. These incentives mean a lot and everyone at MHA appreciates his generosity.”

On January 19, 2021, MHA presented Maloni with the organization’s “You Matter” award, acknowledging his generosity and continuing support of MHA and the community at large.

“MHA does good work for people who need some help,” Maloni explained. “I’m glad to support them. Much of what we do to help doesn’t get noticed, really, and that’s OK, it’s not why we help. Our community is good to us, so we give back. That can mean providing 20 pies to an association of senior ladies, or filling a pickup truck with food for a soup kitchen, or hosting local musicians and artists and artisans, or getting all our T-shirts from a local supplier.”

Lee said MHA helps people live their best life, and central to that goal is the importance of positive mental health. This impacts folks across the community, including children, seniors, folks with disabilities, individuals and families struggling with addiction, veterans and others at risk for suicide, and anyone who wants to feel better emotionally.

“Mental health seems to get more attention now, as there’s less stigma around getting help,” said Maloni. “I’m glad that MHA does so much to help. I like to think I’m helping, too, by creating an atmosphere at Rice’s that feels like family. The kids who work here aren’t my kids, but I look after them. I want this to be an environment where they can feel safe, and where their parents feel safe having them here. From an employer’s perspective, I think it’s important to create a culture where employees can feel comfortable to talk about how they’re feeling.”

Looking ahead, Lee and Maloni have started to plan events, such as hosting Celebrity Scoopers to serve ice cream as a fun way to raise funds and awareness. “I really enjoy that kind of thing,” said Maloni. “I’m less a CEO of Rice’s the business than I am a steward of Rice’s the institution. I need to help preserve what’s historic while making sure it keeps moving forward for the long run in a way that’s sustainable for the people in town. I want people to think of Rice’s and think, ‘good products and good service and I love their coffee,’ but there’s more. There’s an emotional attachment to this place. We’re always figuring that out. Supporting programs like those at MHA are another way for us to make and keep an attachment with our community.”