Monday, June 16, 2014

Meeting topic: ‘Coping in a Chaotic World’

Rev. Jennifer Gregg, back to camera, led us in a retreat back in September, 2013.

‘Coping in a Chaotic World’

The theme of the Friday, June 20, Interfaith Action Initiative meeeting will be “Coping in a Chaotic World.”

Our presenter for this workshop will bethe Rev. Jennifer Gregg, priest at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield. The meeting will start at  10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams (Please use Eagle Street entrance). Call Mark at 413-664-0130 with any questions.

Here is a description of her presentation:
“Life pulls at us in a variety of different directions. When the demands and needs are the greatest, it is easy to feel as we have been pulled into a vortex of chaos. And yet, in the beginning God created out of chaos.”  

“From a formless void God spoke life into being, unleashing God's creative power. This workshop will invite participants to look at how they respond to chaos, consider change and chaos from the perspective of Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, and finally, given some hands-on techniques to re-center ourselves in the midst of an ever changing world.” 

Rev. Gregg, with the help of Sue Walker, led a great retreat meeting at the September 2013 Interfaith meeting. It was our first retreat meeting, and it was a great success.

The topic then was “Time Apart:  An Invitation to Rest after Feeding 5,000” and we relaxed and meditated up on the Gospel accounts of Jesus feeding a crowd by multiplying loaves and fishes. 

This topic — “Coping in a Chaotic World” — is I think a very timely one in the wake of what is going on the world, internationally, nationally and locally. From climate change in increasing chaos in the Middle East to gridlocked polarization and anger here to the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital.

BMC at our May meeting

Diane Kelly, right, chief operational officer of Berkshire Medical Center, and Sean Jennings, left, a vice president at BMC, at our May Interfaith meeting. 

Our May 16 monthly meeting was quite exciting. Diane Kelly, chief operational officer of Berkshire Medical Center, announced that a satellite emergency room would be reopening on the campus of the former North Adams Regional. We were the first group in Northern Berkshire to get confirmation of this.

With Kelly was Sean Jennings, a BMC vice president. Some 27 people attended the meeting. We had a wide-ranging and positive discussion of about an hour. Much information was shared. We thanked Kelly and Jennings for their continued support in providing a nurse each Wednesday for visitors to the Friendship Center Food Pantry. This was a service started under Northern Berkshire Health Systems and generously continued by BMC after the closing of NARH. 

In fact, this meeting with BMC was set up when Mr. Jennings came up one Wednesday to address concerns by some pantry members about their experiences at BMC and transportation to Pittsfield. We thank them for coming, all who attended, and Mark Rondeau, Corinne Case and Al Nelson of the NBIAI for setting up and facilitating the meeting.

“I’m a registered nurse, I’ve been a registered nurse at Berkshire for 30 years," Kelly told us.

She lives in in Dalton, the mother of three grown sons. "And I'm really happy to be here,” she said. “I will tell you, I acutally started, my first nursing job was at North Adams Regional Hospital. It was 30 years ago."

This occasioned some laughter because some in the group were nurses or staff there then, too.

“It was my first nursing job and I was in Labor and Delivery and I realized I was in way over my head. 21 years old, I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get out of there, this is too hard for me,’” she said with a laugh.

“I do know what it’s like to live in a small community. I’ve lived in Dalton my entire life. I was born there, my whole family is there, so I appreciate the importance and the  vitality of a community, how close knit." So very pleased to be welcomed.”

Jennings said he oversees many of BMC’s support services, “my primary function is the patient experience so I stay kind of connected to many different ways of listening to our community, both good and bad — we need both of those to improve and to recognize our staff when things are going really well.”

He’s from Pittsfield and been in the health system a long time, too. Most of his clinical work experience has been in psychiatry and psychology. His graduate work was in forensic psychology, so he’s spent a lot of time working on the mental health needs of Berkshire County. “It’s great to be here,” he said.

Less than two weeks later, we were gratified when in addition to a nurse a representative of the BMC Wound Center, Tammy Flynn, came to the Eagle Street Room on Wednesday, May 28, to inform our pantry members of this service.

Looking ahead, our Friday, July 18, Interfaith meeting will feature State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi talking about food security and state funding and more.

Tammy Flynn, from the BMC Wound Center, came to do outreach at the pantry on May 28, with Matt, visiting and observing from a hospital in Connecticut.

Letter Carrier Drive a huge success

Scenes from the Letter Carrier food drive.

The May 10 Letter Carrier Food Drive was a great success in Northern Berkshire. We had the greatest number of volunteers than ever — more than 50 — in the four years we have been in charge of sorting the food, which we did again this year at 107 Main St. in North Adams.

In all, some 13,322 lbs. of food were collected from  North Adams, Clarksburg, and Florida. This is what we handled, some of which went to other programs in North Adams. Down in Adams, they collected 6,470 lbs. and in Williamstown, 5,522 lbs. Grand total in Northern Berkshire, five communities of 25,314 lbs. Thanks to Al Nelson for compiling these totals.

And thanks to the great folks of the post office, particularly the letter carriers. They go above and beyond and are a joy to work with. Speaking not only for myself, I can say that the day of the letter carrier food drive is one of the most of the year. Our food distribution coordinator, Rich Davis, has put together a great system for sorting the food.

Our numbers increase

Speaking of food, the chart above is a bit confusing when it comes to comparing May 2013 with May 2014, for this year May had 4 Wednesdays but last year there were 5 Wednesdays in May. Still, when you average out the weeks, last May we averaged we served an average of 137 households per week. By May 2014, this had risen to an average of 163 households per week. 

During our most recent week before this post was published — Wednesday, June 11, we served a total of 173 member households.

Presence around the community

Michelle Sylvester of WIC, left, Fran Berasi of the NBIAI/Friendship Center Food Pantry and Fran's sister Bert Lamb, of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, at the WIC open house. Below, Stan Owczarski, Corinne Case, and Mark Rondeau at the Health and Wellness Fair at St. Elizabeth Parish Center. Both events happened May 30.

On Friday, May 30, some of our volunteers attended two local events. For one, we paid a visit to our friend Michelle Sylvester and went to the WIC open house at its new home at 37 Main St., Suite 301, in North Adams Tel: 413-663-3012. 

WIC is an important nutrition program, the initials stand for Women Infants and Children.

Meanwhile, three of us staffed a table at the Health and Wellness Fair for older adults and caregivers at the St. Elizabeth Parish Center. This was organized by our friend Denise Vigna.

Several of us also were present at the SteepleCats game on Sunday afternoon, June 15, to work the concession. In addition to making some money for the program, this is a great opportunity to connect with the public. Thanks to our new volunteer coordinator, Stan Owczarski, for setting this up. We will be doing this a few more times during the summer.

Farewell to Stuart Crampton

Stuart Crampton, at left in blue shirt, with wife Susan next to him, at an organizational meeting of the food pantry, February 2011.

Stuart Crampton got on board with the NBIAI back in January 2011 when we were about to open a food pantry. He is the single person most responsible for the fact that the NBIAI/Friendship Center Food Pantry is financially in the black. He is the reason we oversee the ministry voucher system. He served as our treasurer for more than three years, resigning recently to get ready to move.

He and wife Susan will be leaving Williamstown in July to move to Ohio to be closer to family. Stuart will be missed, not only by by us at the NBIAI but also at the Berkshire Food Project, where he was a long time board member and also the treasurer.

In fact, the Berkshire Food Project recently held a dinner for Stuart, but as it was at a time when I work, I could not go. However, Stuart is still helping us and I got an email from him just this morning. Among other things, he has been trying to coordinate our collection of our produce shares at a local farm. He will probably doing something for us, the day before he and Susan head out of town.

Thank you and God Bless you, Stuart.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Letter Carrier Food Drive; BMC at monthly Interfaith meeting

We're Giving Out More Food Than Ever

The line in green shows that April was our busiest month in more than three years operating the Friendship Center Food Pantry.

This past April had the most total household visits in our 3+ years as a food pantry: 815 total visits. We averaged 163 household visits per week; in April 2013 we averaged 139 visits per week.

As for the first week in May, we had 152 visits on Wednesday, May 7, a large number for the first week of the month. By comparison, last May we served 114 households in the first week of May.

So far I am aware of 5 or 6 people who lost their jobs when the hospital closed who have come to the pantry. Otherwise, I thnk the increase is due to reduction in food stamp (SNAP) benefits and in the cutoff of long-term unemployment insurance.

We brought in more than 5,000 lbs. of food this past Tuesday.

So the annual Letter Carrier Food Drive on Saturday, May 10, is very important. We get donations from North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida. These donations are split among the Friendship Center Food Pantry, the Berkshire Food Project, the Salvation Army and the Dream Center, all of whom do great work.

With the promotional help of Mass in Motion, last year we processed 15,500 lbs. of food donations in 2013, two tons more than in 2012.

This kept us going and saved us from having to pay much for food for a month. Please be generous.

Anyone interested and able to help in sorting the food collected in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida should come down to 107 Main St. in North Adams (just west of the Mohawk Theater) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This takes a lot of volunteer power and is a lot of fun. Call the Friendship Center at 413-664-0123 if you need more information. Or you can email me at

BMC at May 16th Interfaith meeting

Above, our pantry nurses, Cindy Croce and Barb Cariddi now both work for Berkshire Health Systems/Berkshire Medical Center, headquartered in Pittsfield. Below, NARH sign on Route 2 — sort of covered up.

In response to some complaints from North Adams people on their reception at Berkshire Medical Center, on Wednesday morning, April 30, Sean Jennings, MA VP Berkshire Medical Center Support Services addressed pantry members in the Eagle Street Room and answered questions about their concerns.

When I spoke to him afterward and mentioned that we have a monthly meeting, he immediately expressed interest and said he would try to have someone address us. He will be coming to our May 16 Interfaith meeting at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams, Eagle Street Room. He said he was trying to get member/s of the Senior Team at BMC to attend also.

We will begin with our customary period of introductions, announcements, silent prayer and faith sharing.

Later, on April 30, I sent an email to Mr. Jennings. Here is what I wrote to him in part, answering his question about what we should discuss:

“As for topic, I think the concerns that were passed Barb Cariddi from our pantry members about transportation and the attitude they encountered would be good. It would also be great to have an update to the extent possible about BMC's plans for north county and the NARH building.”

I added,

“I think many of us, myself included, are eager to find ways to partner with and encourage BHS and BMC in their efforts to fill in the void left by the bankruptcy of our health system. I personally had a [test] at the Crane Center on Friday, the first time I had been a patient at BMC, and was quite pleased with my care and the attitude of the people providing it.”

Back to now: The fact that I didn't have a problem doesn't mean that others from North County didn't have problems. In fact, my contact with non-medical personnel was minimal and limited to one person. And I HAD private transportation down to Pittsfield, which many people up here don't.

Anyway, I am looking forward to an enlightening and civil discussion, much as was had at the April meeting of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition on the hospital’s closing.

God Bless,


Saturday, April 26, 2014

NB Interfaith Action Springs Ahead

Looking Ahead: Letter Carrier Food Drive May 10

Each year, our local letter carriers make a heroic effort to collect donated food from residents along their routes. This food then goes to local food programs.

Here is a press release by Al Nelson that we have ready to help announce the food drive:

On Saturday, May 10, our local food pantries get help from your letter carriers.
You can make their day and help those in need in your community by leaving a bag of non-  perishable food by your mailbox, your door, or business before your regular mail delivery to be  taken to Northern Berkshire pantries. 
The Berkshire County Letter Carriers’ Branch No. 286 out of  our post offices in North Adams, Adams, and Williamstown will come together with volunteers  from the Interfaith Action Initiative, and  Mass In Motion, the latter a  program of the Northern  Berkshire Community Coalition to help alleviate the increasing plight of food insecurity for many of our neighbors.  Lots of people in our area are in crisis. Families with children, the  working poor, and seniors. A visit to a pantry twice a month helps immensely to supplement  their meals with nutritious food.  And it’s always passed along by volunteers in friendship with  dignity and respect. 
Your generous donations will fill the shelves of the Friendship Center, Berkshire Food Project,  and the Salvation Army in North Adams.  In Williamstown, the Saints Patrick and Raphael Parish  and the Community Bible Church. In Adams, the Pope John Paul Charity Center has asked that  food in that area be directed to the Family Life Support Center Louison House. 
Your letter carriers see the problems face to face during their mail deliveries. They’re ready to  help in a big way on Saturday, May 10th. Bags of food from those who can give will make a difference to the hungry in our communities.

We are looking for volunteers for this drive. If you can help, email us at

Need for Food

This chart shows that the total number of visiting households this year was higher in March than in previous years. Green line shaped like a V shows 2014 trend.

The need for food remains steady. So far we have not seen a great increase in pantry members due to the unfortunate closure of North Adams Regional Hospital, though this may change. As was well-publicized in the local media, we did receive about 1,400 lbs. of food left over from the hospital. To call this donation “bittersweet” would be accurate.

It’s worth noting that the Food Bank of Western Mass. has been quite active in finding out whether they can be of any assistance in providing food aid to those who lost employment at the hospital, even asking our food service director directly if we have seen in an influx and needed extra help getting food. So far the answer has been no.

Still, with five weeks this year, April may prove to be our busiest month yet. Last year we averaged 139 household visits per Wednesday; this year we are averaging 157 household visits per Wednesday.

Some of the food given to the Friendship Center Food Pantry by the hospital.

The Friendship Center Food Pantry took part in a services fair at MCLA on April 11 for those who had lost their jobs at North Adams Regional Hospital. These women speaking to Steve Green did not need our services. Those who do are encouraged to call us at 413-664-0123 or stop by on Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or 4 to 6 p.m.

In some better news, our friend and original Eagle Street room nurse, Barb Cariddi, who lost her job with the VNA when the hospital closed, has been hired by Berkshire Medical Center and was up with us on Wednesday, April 23. Though she has other duties now, she told her new employers that she would be quite happy serving with us on Wednesdays. We should be seeing more of her in the future. Fortunately, we now also have the services of nurse Cindy Croce, who also has been a joy to be around and a blessing to us and our visiting friends.

Barbara Cariddi

Monthly meetings going strong

Debbie Vallieres, from Little’s Pharmacy, spoke at our March meeting. She was very knowledgeable and dedicated to the services she helps provide.

Since our last post, we have had two great third-Friday meeting monthly presentations.

At our March meeting, Debbie Vallieres, from Little’s Pharmacy, spoke about Medicare Part D drug coverage problems and solutions for people with financial need. She will also talk about Part B coverage, and medication compliance as a means to decrease hospitalizations and re-admissions.

She particularly impressed us with how the pharmacy goes above and beyond with its program to compile monthly packets of the pills its customers need. Each day has its own compartment. This is a nation-wide program that Little’s participates in and is quite impressive.

At our April 18 meeting, 13 people gathered for a reading on and discussion of Catholic Social Teaching led by Sister of St. Joseph and former Northern Berkshire Community Coalition employee Natalie Cain. In four years of monthly meetings, this was the first time most of those present stayed seated well past noon to continue the discussion.

We read as a group the 1975 pastoral letter of the Appalachian Catholic Bishops “This Land is Home to Me.” It is very poetic and incisive and we marveled at how much it in is relevant to the U.S. today and how much of it relates to very closely to our life in North Adams:

“Without judging anyone, it has become clear to us
that the present economic order does not care for its people.
In fact, profit and people frequently are contradictory.
Profit over people is an idol. And it is not a new idol, for Jesus long ago warned us.”


“In a country whose productive force is greater than anything the world has ever known, the destructive idol shows its ugly face in places like Appalachia. The suffering of Appalachia’s poor is a symbol of so much other suffering — in our land — in our world. It is also a symbol of the suffering which awaits the majority of plain people in our society
– if they are laid off,
– if a major illness occurs,
– if a wage earner dies,
– or if anything else goes wrong.

In this land of ours, jobs are often scarce,
Too many people are forced to accept unjust conditions
or else lose their jobs."


“Throughout this whole process of listening to the people, the goal, which underlies our concern, is fundamental in the justice struggle, namely, citizen control, or community control. The people themselves must shape their own destiny. Despite the theme of powerlessness, we know that Appalachia is already rich here in the cooperative power of its own people.”

Above, Sister Natalie Cain hands a copy of “This Land is Home to Me” to Eric Wilson at our April Interfaith monthly meeting. Below, some of those who attended reading the letter, which applied Catholic Social Teaching to the lives of ordinary people in Appalachia and the U.S.

The next meeting of the Interfaith Action Initiative will be held on Friday, May 16, at 10 a.m. in the Eagle Street Room of the First Baptist Church of North Adams. All are welcome
No topic for the meeting had been determined as of the writing of this post. Keep an eye out for upcoming announcements of what it will be.

Support the North Adams Lip Dub!

Annie Rodgers and Peter Gentile speak about the North Adams Lip Dub project on “In the Company of Friends.”

After a several-month absence, the cable TV show “In the Company of Friends” is back on Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp.’s Channel 15. This is 116-2 on my TV.

Our current show focuses on the North Adams Lip Dub project. 

Annie Rodgers and Peter Gentile were our guests. Annie is leading the project for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and Peter will produce and direct the Lip Dub.

The Lip Dub would be a great project for community spirit, but time to fund it is running out. This would be a music video promoting North Adams, filmed downtown in September, with people saying the words to a locally written song. 

The video would be filmed in one take, with no cuts. You’ve likely seen one, whether you realize it or not.

To find out more, visit here. Or watch the program on NBCTC Channel 15 on Sundays at 7 p.m., Mondays at 7:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 3 p.m. The Monday and Tuesday times will not apply during the first week of May.

To those who would say that such a project is not appropriate at this time of hospital and job loss, I say not doing it will not bring back jobs or medical services. On the other hand, all the money spent on this will stay here, locally. A successful project will provide a boost to the economy and the city’s image as a resiliant place.

The message to the world would be not another version of: “Poor North Adams reels from another hit” but “North Adams, the tough little city that just won’t quit.” Think about it — then please donate if you can!

God Bless All of You,


Monday, March 17, 2014

Lots of Pantry and Interfaith news to share

Come to our meeting on Friday


We have a lot of news to catch up on.

First, I want to announce that our next Interfaith public meeting will be held on Friday, March 21, at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. Please use Eagle Street address. All are welcome.

Debbie Valieres, from Little's Pharmacy, will speak about Medicare Part D drug coverage problems and solutions for people with financial need. She will also talk about Part B coverage, and medication compliance as a means to decrease hospitalizations and re-admissions.

Come and see what we're up to! We will share announcements, insights and provide a time of silent prayer.

Some new pantry statistics

On Thursday, Jan. 30, the Friendship Center for the third year in a row welcomed the latest class of community outreach workers from the Northern Berkshire Neighbors program of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

As I write this on March 17, the Friendship Center Food Pantry (FCFP) has served so far in 2014 an average of 133 families per week, on average 95 families in our 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. session and 38 in our 4 to 6 p.m. session. Volunteer support remains great. So does agency support at the Eagle Street Room. We regularly have a nurse from Northern Berkshire Healthcare there every Wednesday, Barbara Cariddi, and Maryam Kamangar from Goodwill also. Frequent visitors also are Sherri Dunne from the Family Life Support Center/Louison House; people from the Family Place; and Amanda Chilson and others from Mass in Motion. We also have at times representatives from WIC, Community Legal Aid, the Food Bank of Western Mass, the Reconnect Center and more...

Stuart Crampton has compiled and shared with the board some fascinating statistics. Summarizing, in 2013 the FCFP served 1,060 different households, representing 3,413 individuals, about one third of whom were children.

It is interesting to see how many households came only one time (214), two times (116) or three times (103). Households visits multiplied by the number of times they visited gives a measure of the total amount of food distributed to households that came that number of times. Crunching his numbers, Stuart concludes that "the households that come regularly account for only a small proportion of the food distributed. Evidently, most households come only in emergencies."

Of the roughly 230,000 lbs. of food the FCFP distributed, free government food from the Food Bank accounted for 96,424 lbs. and other free food from the food bank provided 30,095 lbs. Local food drives and gleaning provided another 41,721 lbs. of free food. We bought 47,338 lbs from the Food Bank and another 13,012 lbs. from local businesses. Total free food was about 75 percent of the total by weight. Nevertheless, we spent $45,685 for food.

It takes lots of donations — food and money and volunteer effort — to keep the pantry operation going, and we thank you all!

Plates for Increased state Food Funding

This is my plate. Both volunteers and pantry members are filling them out.

Speaking of funding for food, we at the pantry are participating in a paper plate campaign, organized by the Food Bank of Western Mass., to let our legislators know — and help make the case to their colleagues — that we need increased state funding for emergency food. The plates have a space to fill in your name and address and plenty of room to write a message. We will start sending the plates to Representatives at the beginning of March (like now) and to Senators at the beginning of April. Here is part of the info sheet from the food bank for volunteers and pantry friends in support of the effort:

Paper Plates for More MEFAP Food!

The Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) is an important food resource for many food programs, including this one (the Friendship Center Food Pantry). Each year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sets aside money for food banks, like the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, to buy MEFAP food. Then that food goes to meal
sites and food pantries. Last year, the Massachusetts legislature decided to increase the funding for MEFAP to $14 million, which was helpful. However, that was the first time in many years that the funding for MEFAP had increased. That means that $14 million still doesn't buy enough food.

This year, the governor's budget proposes the same level of federal funding for MEFAP as last year. Since food prices keep going up, that money buys less food than it used to. At the same time SNAP [food stamps] and Unemployment benefits have been cut, so there is more need for MEFAP food. We are asking our state senators and representatives to increase the amount of money for MEFAP this year from the $14 million the governor proposed to $16 million. The $2 million increase would be spent on more food across Massachusetts that would be distributed through programs like meal sites and food pantries.

The paper plate is one way that you can tell your state senator or representative that you support an increase in funding for MEFAP. Legislators care about what the people they represent think. [The rest of the message tells ways the plate(s) can be delivered to the legislators. We at the Friendship Center are mailing/delivering them.] This is the first time we have done this kind of advocacy — which by the way is full compliant with the non-profit status we seek — and the plate campaign has started slowly. We feel confident, however, that we will be able to submit to our legislators all 50 of the plates we receive filled out by pantry members, volunteers and supporters.

Service for Mental Health Recovery and Understanding

North Adams Mayor Dick Alcombright reads at the second annual Service for Mental Health Recovery and Understanding Jan. 21 at New Hope Methodist Church. At left, sits Rev. Dan Randall, pastor of New Hope. Below, NBIAI Co-Director Al Nelson lights a candle during the service.

Our second annual Service for Mental Health Recovery and Understanding was held on Sunday evening, Jan. 27, at New Hope United Methodist Church in Williamstown. About 30 people attended this ecumenical service of readings, candle-lighting and support. We thank the Rev. Dan Randall for planning and leading the service. Dan, by the way, is a volunteer on the Wednesday evening shift at the Friendship Center. Addressing the group at the opening was Marilyn Moran of the Berkshire Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and yours truly on behalf of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative.

Though attendence was a bit down this year compared to last, we plan to continue this event, as it is an interfaith endeavor to reach out to friends and neighbors in need.

We don't need justification for our focus on this issue, but I note with interest that mega-evangelist Rick Warren is now venturing into this field, one year after the suicide of his son. According to a recent article by the Associated Press,  "Warren, founder of Saddleback Church and a best-selling author, will team with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to host a daylong event next month focused on helping church leaders reach parishioners who are struggling with mental illness.

"The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church grew out of private conversations Warren had with the local Catholic bishop, Bishop Kevin Vann, after his son's death and his own writings in his journal as he processed his grief. Matthew Warren, 27, committed suicide last April after struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts for years."

Marilyn Moran speaks about NAMI at the service. Below are most of those who helped plan and/or present the service. Rev. Peter Elvin, Rev. Mark Langhurst. Kathryn Remillard, Rev. Dan Randall, Carrie Crews, Eric Wilson, Mayor Dick Alcombright, Mark Rondeau, Corinne Case, Marilyn Moran. Below (Al Nelson and group photos courtesy Robert Scott)

Our January and February meetings

Above, Chip Joffe-Halpern of Ecu-Health Care (left), with Al Nelson. Below, Paul Austin of Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

It's been a while since we've caught up here on our monthly meetings. We've had two good and informative ones so far this year. On Friday, Jan.17, we welcomed Chip Joffe-Halpern of Ecu-Health Care. He spoke to us about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Massachusetts. On Friday, Feb. 21, we hosted Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity. Paul Austin, John Case and Habitat homeowner Alecia Briggs gave a great presentation. We dicussed as a group ways to get our local faith communities more involved and to cooperate as an Interfaith group with Habitat.

Alecia Briggs speaks about her family's experience with Habitat. More faith congregations in Northern Berkshire should see the presentation NB Habitat offered us at our meeting!

Donations in memory of Henry Bounds

In the four years of this blog, the most popular post — more than 1,300 views in less than a month — was the one above this post about Henry Bounds, who passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 22. Henry’s church, Florida Baptist, and the Friendship Center Food Pantry were listed in his obituary as places to send memorial donations. So far, we have received more than 50 generous donations from individuals, families, businesses and institutions honoring Henry. 

I did not find out until after his death that Henry had written an autobiography, “The Secret of The Black Onion (God’s Cure for Cancer).” I ordered a copy from and have found it to be both an entertaining and inspiring book. (See ) I wish I had known about this book a year ago.

Well, we certainly miss Henry. His passing reminds me that we’re all just pilgrims on this side, whether we recognize it or not. Anyway, I will here end with a quote from Pope Francis:

“The encounter with God in prayer again pushes us to ‘come down from the mountain’ and back down into the plain where we meet many brothers and sisters weighed down by fatigue, injustice and both material and spiritual poverty.”

God Bless,