Saturday, June 30, 2012

Field of Flags at First Congregational Church

The Field of Flags at First Congregational Church in  North Adams.

In out last post, we noted that volunteers were needed for the Field of Flags at First Congregational Church in North Adams. The Field of Flags is now installed on the church lawn, where it will be for a month. It is quite powerful when one ponders that each flag represents the lost life of a service member – and that new flags will need to be added while the display is here.

Here is a history of the project available at the display:

History of the Field of Flags

The Field of Flags was dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005, at the Sommers Congregational Church in Somers, Conn. Members of the Memorial Garden Committee of that church placed 2,231 American flags, one for each American casualty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The flags were placed to honor those who have given their lives in the conflicts and to show that those who have died and their families and friends were remembered in prayer at our church.

The list of casualties, by state, was displayed on a name board by the Field of Flags showing the name and rank of each American casualty. A notebook was kept in the church building with the name, rank, town, state, and date of death of each American casualty.

The idea for the Field of Flags came about as members of the Memorial Garden Committee considered what our church could do to show support for our troops. Each casualty reminded us of the danger and increased the empathy we felt for the families of those who have died.

The Field of Flags had more impact than the committee envisioned, with the media coverage and emotional reaction from our community and beyond. People came from towns across the state and out of state to see the flags and view the name board. Individuals and families have found the display to be emotional, yet comforting to know that their loved ones have been remembered.

The Field of Flags is a silent, patriotic and poignant reminder of the cost of war. Each flag represents not simply one casualty, but all the family members and friends who have been touched by that life now gone. They represent our respect for those who have served and are currently serving in the military and our hope for peace in the future, for a time when no one is called upon by our country to give the greatest sacrifice. Please continue to pray for the safety of all our troops and for the families of the fallen heroes. ...

Here is a link to a video about the Field of Flags:


We had one of the most informative Interfaith Action Initiative meetings yet on June 29. I hope make more postings this week on what we discussed.

Friday, June 8, 2012

We churn through June with Power and Hope

In this post: June 29 Interfaith Meeting; Volunteers sought for The Field of Flags: A Powerful Tribute!; Stunning Friendship Center Attendence Statistics; Celebrity Chef and Family Try to Live on Food Stamps. 

Important Health Issue and Berkshire Dreams on June 29 

The next meeting of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative will be held on Friday, June 29, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. Please use Eagle Street entrance.

We will be featuring two important topics. First NBIAI Steering Committee member Corinne Case will make a presentation on harmful new tobacco products being sold to young people to hook them on tobacco at a young age. We also will be meeting with representative(s) of The Berkshire Dream Center, which is helping people in Berkshire County, including in Pittsfield and North Adams. 

I spoke to one of our friends at the Friendship Center last Wednesday about the Berkshire Dream Center and he was quite enthusiastic about them. This is a faith-based organization and has a very interesting blog at

Important events on the third and fourth Fridays of June led us to schedule this meeting on a fifth Friday. We should be back to our usual third Friday of the month in July.

Volunteers sought for The Field of Flags

Denise Krutiak sent along this exciting announcement for an event at the end of June. Mark your calendars. Volunteers are needed. A link to a video is located at the bottom of the press release. Here is the release:

NORTH ADAMS  — The First Congregational Church of North Adams is pleased to invite you to participate in the installation and dedication of the first appearance in Massachusetts of the national traveling installation, The Field of Flags. It consists of well over 6,000 flags -- one for every service person killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A sign accompanying the exhibit lists the names of the fallen.

It will be up on the lawn of the Church from June 29, through July 4, until around July 13.

We are still waiting to confirm the date for the dedication of the installation, based on the availability of the Governor to attend, but the dedication will be either Saturday June 30 or Sunday, July 1. Further information will follow. A special service of honor and remembrance will be held at the Church at 10 AM on July 1.

Approximately 20 volunteers per hour will be needed, from 8:30 AM on Friday, until 1:30 PM on Friday. We invite all members of the community, especially veterans' groups and service organizations to join in this salute. Please call 663-9940 to sign up for a time slot. A cookout for all installation volunteers will be held around 12:30 PM that same Friday. The church also seeks color guards and members of the armed service, active or retired, to participate or attend the special Sunday Service as well as the dedication. Please watch the video of the installation in Maine, below, to learn more. 

Here is a link to the video: 

Stunning Friendship Center Attendance Statistics

This chart shows the increase of Friendship Center Food Pantry attendence by month, starting from when the pantry opened in February 2011 and running through our most recent complete month, May 2012.

Here are some eye-opening statistics about attendence at the Friendship Center Food Pantry I was able to compile while I recovered from surgery in May:

All figures are through May 2012, our most recent complete month. For those who aren’t familiar with the Friendship Center Food Pantry, it is open every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

1). Average Wednesday Attendence, Oct. – Dec., 2011 (13 weeks):

Morning session: 71
Eveninig session: 25
Total: 97

Average Wednesday Attendence, Jan. – May., 2012 (22 weeks):

Morning session: 85
Eveninig session: 38
Total: 122

A dramtic increase!

2). Total number of visitors per month: 2011: Feb., 27; March, 189; April, 230; May, 263; June, 372; July, 359; Aug., 457; Sept., 401; Oct., 380; Nov. 487; Dec., 391; Jan. 2012: 432; Feb., 548; March, 494; April, 534; May, 677.

A variable in these totals is whether a month has four or five weeks. The photo above shows the upward trend in graphic form.

3). Top Totals:

Morning Session:

120 April 25, 2012
105 Jan. 25, 2012
99   March 28, 2012
98   June 29, 2011
96   May 30, 2012

Evening Session:

63 May 30, 2012
56 May 23, 2012
53 March 28, 2012
46 March 21, 2012
46 May 9, 2012

159 May 30, 2012
155 April 25, 2012
152 March 28, 2012
144 May 23, 2012
134 Jan. 25, 2012

As our accumulated totals indicate, our busiest Wednesdays are usually on the last Wednesday of the month. No surprise there. We keep adding anywhere from 8 or 9 to 15 or 16 new member households each week and we now have more than 900.

Celebrity Chef and Family Try to Live on Food Stamps 

I want to thank Valerie Schwarz of The Berkshire Food Project for sending me a link to an article on the Huffington Post co-written by celebrity chef Mario Batali, in which he describes his family’s attempt to live on a budget comparable to that of a family receiving Food Stamps.

The article also highlights that this program may well undergo drastic cuts by Congress. Here are the first two paragraphs followed by a link to the article, titled “Believe It or Not, You Need Food Stamps":

“Recently we lived on a food budget of $31, spending less than $1.50 per meal, the same amount as the average food stamp recipient. We did this because Congress is currently threatening to cut billions of dollars from the Food Stamp program over the next ten years -- a program that is the single most important investment we have in the fight to end hunger. That's money that would directly help the poorest among us. And now it could be taken away.

“To put those cuts into perspective, we spent one week on the current allotment of food stamps: $1.48 per meal. This opened our eyes to hunger relief on a whole new level. We had grown accustomed to accessing quality food at any time, and though we have spent countless hours working with and volunteering at soup kitchens and food pantries, neither of us quite grasped how much we take our hunger-less lives for granted.”

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