Sunday, November 2, 2014

2,000 lbs. of Food Donated in One Day


Saturday, Nov. 2, was a great day for the Friendship Center Food Pantry. We received more than 2,000 lbs. of donated food.

First, the Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) conducted its second annual Harvest Haul to gather donations for those in need. They again this year set up at the North Adams WalMart. A little after 1 p.m., a van rolled up to the back door of the Friendship Center and our friend Aleta Moncecchi of BCAC and two helpers gave us 216 lbs. of donated groceries.


Here's Aleta at the BCAC van. Below, the items we received, 216 lbs. in all.
 
 

Later in the day, Rich Davis, our food service coordinator, and Kathy Keeser of Hoosac Harvest, and other volunteers brought in a giant haul from gleaning at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock. Rich Reports that we received 1,407 lbs. 0f squash and 410 lbs. of small cooking pumpkins. Wow!



All these donations are greatly appreciated, as this October 2014 was the busiest month we've had since opening in February 2011. In fact, the last Wednesday of that month we served 203 households. More on this in an upcoming blog post.

More help from our friends, who are friends of our friends -- if you know what I mean -- is coming in November with an art exhibition at St. John's Church in Williamstown, where 25 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Friendship Center Food Pantry. Additionally, Project 351 and the Abbot School in Florida are again organizing a food drive for us and the Oh, Be Thankful Apple Pie Contest at the American Legion in North Adams.

The art exhibition will open on Friday, Nov. 14, and the Apple Pie Contest will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 25. There will be much more on the blog and on Facebook on both of these events before they occur.

Two thousand pounds of food donated in one day! Wow!

God bless you all,

Mark


 
 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Revived CROP Walk a Fine Success


The Walk proceeds across Ashland Street and down Main Street in North Adams.

On Sunday, Oct. 19, the first Northern Berkshire CROP Walk was held since 2009. It was a great success. It was lots  of fun and I hear that $2,700 was donated the day of the walk and another $300 is likely on its way. I'd say that more than 50 people walked. 

(The NBIAI raised $215 for the walk — thanks to those who donated!)

Spirits were high and fellowship great as we gathered together beforehand in the hall at First Congregational Church, where the Berkshire Food Project offers lunch to those in need.

The Rev. Ann Killam has led the revival of the walk. Internationally, CSW, Church World Service uses funds from the Crop walks to support hunger-fighting development efforts around the world. One-third of the money of each walk stays locally. This year the local recipients are Hoosac Harvest and the Growing Healthy Gardens Program.




Ann Killam rallied the people inside, with her dynamic and inspiring leadership style.




The CROP walkers start out from the church.






Above and below, walking down Main Street.







Up American Legion Drive





Ann Killam, center, walks down Ashland Street.




Proceeding down Ashland Street.





Pastor Dave Anderson of First Baptist North Adams, left, provided water and apples along the route.



The Rev. Mark Longhurst, center at carriage, brought along his child. He is past of First Congregational Church in Williamstown.



The walkers cut through the MCLA campus at Bond Street and headed north on Church Street.

After the walk returned to First Congregational, a good number of them continued on to the second half of the North Adams walking loop, going as far west as Brown Street and coming back toward downtown on West Main Street.

It's great having this inspiring interfaith event back in North Adams!

God Bless,

MR

Monday, October 6, 2014

CROP Walk Against Hunger Oct. 19


The last CROP Walk in Northern Berkshire was held in 2008. Walk is being revived this year thanks to Rev. Ann Killam and others. Come walk with us!!!

Next Meeting on CROP Walk


The next meeting of the Interfaith Action Initiative will be on Friday, Oct. 17,  at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. All are welcome to attend.

We will be discussing the North Adams CROP Walk, which will take place at Sunday, Oct. 19, from the First Congregational Church of North Adams, beginning at noon.

Teams and individuals will then walk their choice of loops on the recently established North Adams Walking Trail after the 1 p.m. kick-off. 

The Interfaith Action Initiative will have a team in the walk, which hasn’t been held here in several years, as will several other churches and organizations.

For more information, call me at 664-0130.
 
For more information on the CROP Walk, visit crophungerwalk.org. To join the NB Interfaith Action Initiative team or make a donation, visit  http://hunger.cwsglobal.org/goto/NBInterfaithAction

The way it works, 75 percent of the total donations go to Church World Service for its great international programs to fight hunger. Some 25 percent of each walk go locally. This year the local recipients will be the Growing Healthy Gardens Program and Hoosac Harvest.

The Growing Healthy Gardens Program (with Jen Munoz) helps relieve hunger through helping people in North Adams neighborhoods and public schools learn to grow food.  The neighborhood garden harvest is shared by all neighborhood participants who cooperatively grow their organic garden.  Food grown by students in North Adams Public Schools is donated to the Berkshire Food Project for their free community lunch.  Participants of all ages and abilities participate in this gardening program, and all activities are free to participants.

Hoosac Harvest is an all-volunteer organization, which works towards wider access to healthy fresh produce, through the Subsidized Shares program, the Share the Abundance Programs, and community events. Any funds donated go direct to the programs.  As an all-volunteer program, it has a modest budget and the proceeds from the Crop Walk, could enable it to meet the final funds needed for 2015. 

Hoosac Harvest has helped the Friendship Center Food Pantry greatly in recent years getting extra for local farmers markets for the pantry and also by gleaning what is left unpicked in local farm fields at the end of the growing season and giving the results to us and others. 

The CROP Walk has not happened here in about 5 or 6 years. Thanks to Rev. Ann Killam and others for reviving it. It is a great interfaith effort and way to work together.

Internationally, CSW, Church World Service uses funds from the Crop walks to support hunger-fighting development efforts around the world. 

CROP Hunger Walks help to provide food and water, as well as resources that empower people to meet their own needs.  From seeds and tools, to wells and water systems, to technical training and micro-enterprise loans, the key is people working together to identify their own development priorities, their strengths and their needs — something CWS has learned through some 67 years of working in partnership around the world.

20 attend September meeting on Addiction



That's Lois at right at our September Interfaith meeting.

At our September public meeting, Lois Duanis, co-chair of the NB21 North Adams/RX Heroin work group, spoke to us about the extent of addiction in our area. A total of 20 people attended.

Lois does great work and is a great friend to the NBIAI and FCFP. 

New food pantry record!



As the green line indicates, we've had our busiest September ever and have generally had more household visits each month compared to last year.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, the Friendship Center Food Pantry set a new record by serving 212 households total. During our 10 to 2 p.m. session we served 154 families — also a first session record — and 58 families in our second session. During the first session, there was no break in the activity until 1:45 p.m. 

The last week of September seems to be a very busy date, as we set our previous record of 204 on Sept. 25, 2013. We matched that amount on Nov. 20, 2013. We also added 16 new members. Despite being so busy, we enjoyed interacting with our friends and things went smoothly. 

At the Eagle Street Room, we were joined by representatives of the Food Bank of Western Mass., the Elizabeth Freeman Center, the Family Place and our BMC nurse, Cindy Croce. Thanks to all our wonderful volunteers and all those who contribute space, funds and food to make it happen. 

In other developments:

• Through the efforts of Food Service Coordinator and NBIAI Board member Rich Davis, we received a grant to replace old refrigeration units with four new upright freezers with more capacity.

• Through the efforts of acting Treasuer and NBIAI Board member Fran Berasi, we now have all of our pantry registration records on computer, with five of our volunteer staff trained to enter new records and update existing ones during pantry operations.

• We are getting a good response to our 2014 Letter Campaign to support the food pantry operation. Those who didn’t receive a letter but who would like to donate, may do so by sending a check made out to the Friendship Center Food Pantry, c/o The Friendship Center, 43 Eagle St., North Adams, MA 01247. All donations are tax deductible through our fiscal agent.

That’s all for now. Thanks and God Bless,

Mark





Saturday, September 6, 2014

Forging Ahead on All Fronts






The green line shows the number of household visits per month in 2014 to the Friendship Center Food Pantry. We’re busier than ever.


In this post: RX/Heroin addiction topic of Sept. 19 meeting; Letter Campaign Underway; LEAD Academy Visits; Recent Public Meetings; Volunteer Appreciation; Who We Are

Important Topic for our Sept. 19 meeting

The next public meeting of the Interfaith Action Initiative will be held on Friday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. All are welcome. Our guest will be Lois Daunis, chairwoman of the NB21 North Adams/RX Heroin Workgroup.

The meeting will be held in the Eagle Street Room. All are welcome to attend.

She will speak about the scope of the scope of the RX/Heroin issue in Northern Berkshire.

Lois is the grants manager for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. She and her husband, Mike, are also the landlords of 43 Eagle Street, home of the Friendship Center Food Pantry. They have been extremely generous to us over the years and continue to be so.

I am a member of the NB21 North Adams/RX Heroin Workgroup and it has done and is doing some important work. 

Upcoming on Tuesday, Sept. 30, from 7 to 9 p.m. will be a Candlelight Vigil at Noel Field in North Adams. The purpose of this will be to increase awareness of the disease of addiction, get resources to help someone currently addicted, provide a place for healing and remembrance for those who have lost a loved one due to a drug-related incident and celebrate the recovery of local residents.

Letter Campaign Underway

Mark Rondeau, Corinne Case and Al Nelson, all board members of the NBIAI, film “In the Company of Friends” on the topic of the need for funds to feed our Friends.

The NBIAI at the end of August began its annual letter fundraising campaign for The Friendship Center Food Pantry. 

Many of you who are reading this may already have received a letter in the mail asking for a monetary donation to support the food pantry, which serves residents of North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida.

Those who do not receive a letter but who would still like to make a tax-deductible donation, may make checks payable to The Friendship Center Food Pantry and send them to 43 Eagle St.. North Adams, MA 01247.

Need as expressed in the number of people showing up at the pantry every Wednesday is steadily increasing. In August, the Frienship Center Food Pantry served 163, 154, 189 and 198 households on successive Wednesdays. We served an average of 143 households per Wednesday in August 2013. This August we averaged 176 households per Wednesday.

In addition to increasing numbers, we also are facing some increasing expenses. None of our expenses are for salaries or any type of compensation, however  — we remain an all--volunteer organization.

Our mailing includes both a letter and on the back of it an information sheet.  Here are some of the infomation points that it contains:

• The Friendship Center Food Pantry is operated by members of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative (NBIAI), a group of volunteers, including people of faith and others of goodwill, seeking ways to serve our community. It was formed in May 2010. In our service activities we strive to reach out to our sisters and brothers with respect and affection. This is why we call our food pantry/headquarters “The Friendship Center.” 

• In 2013 we served 1,064 different households representing 3,423 different individuals, one-third who are children under 18. We distributed 230,000 pounds of food. The pantry is open to anyone in need living in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida, Mass., but we never turn anyone away. We are members of the Western Massachusetts Food Bank, which provides free government food and other food at good prices. Our monthly average spent on food is around $3,800.  

• Due to limited space (800 square feet) at the pantry site, we have been using the Eagle Street Room of the First Baptist Church of North Adams as an intake center every Wednesday. From there, our members go down to the pantry as space permits. 

• Use of the Eagle Street Room has allowed us to partner with Berkshire Medical Center to provide a nurse to our members nearly every Wednesday. In addition, Goodwill, the Food Bank of Western Mass., the Family Place, WIC, Louison House and other programs regularly are present to offer their free services to pantry members.

Just within the last month or so, we have added to this list The Elizabeth Freeman Center and Childcare of the Berkshires.


Keeping the shelves full takes money as well as volunteer power. 


MCLA LEAD Academy Visits



Here are the students from the MCLA Lead Academy who volunteered during the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 6. They were a joy to have around.

For the fourth year, the Friendship Center Food Pantry was pleased to welcome students from the MCLA LEAD Academy, an introductory training program for especially motivated new students. 

On Monday, Aug. 4, we welcomed two groups of the new students. Al Nelson, Rich Davis and Mark Rondeau explained the NBIAI and the operations of the food pantry to them.

Then, on Wednesday, Aug. 6,  a smaller group of the students came and helped us on pantry day. They were a special help that Wednesday, because we did not have access to the Eagle Street Room for our visiting friends to sign in.

As I wrote on Facebook, these students were a joy to have around, and it’s great to have them in North Adams for their college studies.


Here are the two groups of students from the MCLA Lead Academy who visited the Friendship Center on Monday, Aug. 4.


Recent Meetings


The Rev. Jennifer Gregg, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield, presented on “Coping in a Chaotic World” at our June public meeting.

It’s time to catch up on our public interfaith meetings over the summer. In June, the Rev. Jennifer Gregg, of St. Stephen’s Church in Pittsfield, presented to us for a second time. At our suggestion, she addressed the topic “Coping in a Chaotic World.” 

She offered us insights from Margaret Whately on science and chaos theory and human interaction. Rev. Jen always goes above and beyond and we greatly appreciate her presentations.

At the July NBIAI public meeting, we welcomed State Rep. Gail Carriddi, who informed us on many aspects of what’s been going on with the Legislature. This included the recent state minimum hike to the highest in the nation, $11 by 2017. Gail also talked about funding for food. This was one of our best attended recent events, with 18 people present. Gail was very gracious to come and happy to answer everyone’s questions.


State Rep. Gail Cariddi, in striped shirt, spoke on many topics at our July Interfaith public meeting.

Volunteer Appreciation


Photo taken toward the end of the well-attended volunteer appreciation pot luck at Joan and Stan Owczarski’s home in North Adams on Aug. 21

On Thursday, Aug. 21, Stan and Joan Owczarski hosted a covered dish supper at their home in North Adams. It was a great and well-attended event. One of the best things was it helped introduce those who usually volunteer during the pantry 10 to 2 shift with those who volunteer 4 to 6 p.m. There’s not a lot of overap. And then we have the Tuesday crew, who help bring the food up from the depot in Pittsfield. 

The food was great, the fellowship enjoyable. Tuesday and Wednesday volunteer Kevin Tyree met his ALS ice bucket challenge (video of which you can find on our Facebook page) and others did it, too, including Stan.

Stan has served as our new volunteer coordinator for several months now. It’s also worth mentioning the great work of our interim treasurer Fran Berasi. In addition to handling and coordinating the tasks of treasurer, Fran has led in the integration of our pantry records of friend visits into the Oasis system database.

Fran has also been training other desk volunteers in the use of the system and has been working at both shifts for the past several weeks.

Hats off to Stan and Fran and all the rest of our great volunteers.

Who We Are

Some of this information is above, but in case you missed it....

The Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative is a group of people of different faiths and denominations working with others of good will to serve our community. We operate the Friendship Center Food Pantry at 43 Eagle St. in North Adams. We also manage an emergency voucher system through various sites in Northern Berkshire. We organize an interfaith service for mental illness recovery and understanding each year.

We also have a television show, “In the Company of Friends,” on NBCTC cable access channel 15

Our public meetings are held the third Friday of every month at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams (use Eagle Street entrance). All are welcome. 

For more information, check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northern-Berkshire-Interfaith-Action-Initiative-Friendship-Center/100392236707183?ref=bookmarks or call Mark Rondeau at 413-664-0130.

Thanks for Your Interest and God Bless,

Mark








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.

Mark



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 markrondeau@earthlink.net.


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 along...to 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,

Mark