Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fun, service and perspective — A MEGA-POST

In this post: 1). Cothing Sale a solid success; 2). the Northern Berkshire Youth Mentoring Program the main discussion topic at our Friday, Oct. 19, Interfaith Action Initiative meeting;  3). our September discussion with Kathy Quinn of NAMI Berkshire County; 4). and with the Williams Winter Blitz weatherization project; 5). Aleta Moncecchi on ‘In the Company of Friends’; 6). More help from our many friends: 6a). Sam Gomez Classic, 6b). New Hope Methodist Pork Chop Dinner; 7). 11 more Clothing Sale Photos.

                    Clothing sale a financial and human success

The last of a long line of first customers comes into the gym where the sale was held. Below, the jewelry table, watched over by Pat Cumberbatch, seated in white shirt, was quite popular.

Our clothing sale fundraiser for the Friendship Center on Saturday, Oct. 6, was a solid success in many ways.

“We cleared $1,780, provided a real service to the community, and learned a lot,” wrote Stuart Crampton, our treasurer, in an email to many of us after the event. “Congratulations all around.”

Stuart highlighted the significance of the sum as an amount, for it covers the $1,718 we paid to the Western Mass Food Bank for food the month of September.

We had expected to make somewhat more money, but as I noted in response to Stuart:

“Thanks...Stuart, for pointing out the significance of the money we made today. Actually, not a bad take from a week of very hard work.

“I’d like to add that on a human and public relations level, the event was an unqualified success, in my opinion,” I wrote. “We tried something new and learned a lot, we forged an alliance with the ABC sale, we deployed several new volunteers, we had positive interactions with a lot of community members, and a lot of our Friendship Center members came to the sale, more than I expected. And Goodwill will put to good use the things we could not sell.”

As Sue Walker noted, a lion’s share of the credit for what we accomplished goes to Fran Berasi and her sisters, Liz Boland and Bert Lamb. They were the ones getting the biggest things done at the heart of the sale. Fran stepped into the leadership role for this event and did a fantastic job.

Fran directed special thanks to Carolyn Behr, who does an incredible job running the massive and profitable ABC Sale every year in Williamstown, who let us take the leftovers from last year’s sale, and whoe helped us and gave invaluable advice.

Here is a scene from the height of the sale, not long after we opened the doors. See below for more photos from the preparations for and from the event itself.

Our next meeting: The NB Youth Mentoring Program

At our October monthly meeting on Friday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams, our main discussion topic will be the Northern Berkshire Youth Mentoring Program.

Alex Lenski, an AmeriCorps Ambassador and program coordinator, spoke briefly at our meeting and gave out brochures about the program. We will have a more in-depth discussion on Oct. 19.

It’s worth noting here that Big Brothers Big Sisters is no longer active in Berkshire County. This new program, aimed at youth ages 8 to 14 is intended to fill the gap, through individual-to-individual mentoring and perhaps small group “curriculum-based” mentoring in which an adult may present activities on certain interests of the young people.

According to the program brochure, “After 42 years of successfully mentoring youth in the Berkshires, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Berkshire County dissolved in December 2011. Feeling a huge gap in the community, Northern Berkshire United Way approached CCB to bid for a grant to meet the need for mentoring and provide transitional support to former BBBS match relationships.”

CCB secured the grant this February, and the program has been developing ever since.

According to the brochure, the program’s activity based mentoring model includes:

• 1-2 hours per week for 1+ year;

• 1:1 or 1:4 small group relationships;

• Matches are built upon interests, compatibility and strengths;

• Site-based meetings with a local school, youth or community center;

• Ongoing quality training, support, and communication.

I would hope that our discussion with this program would help it find mentors and others who could help it along. Providing a forum for imporant local issues and program is something the Initiative has been trying to do since its founding.

The Child Care of the Berkshires website is: www.ccberkshire.org. The program itself has its own Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Northern-Berkshire-Youth-Mentoring-Program/291999320907495?fref=pb

Our September Discussion with NAMI Berkshire County

Kathy Quinn family advocate with NAMI Berkshire County, speaks at our Sept. 28 Interfaith meeting.

We were pleased to welcome Kathy Quinn a family advocate with NAMI Berkshire County to our Sept. 28 Interfaith meeting. 

Our discussion centered around the role faith communities can play to acknowledge the issue and offer support to individuals and families. In addition we discussed ways our group might mark Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 7-13 — even after the fact.

NAMI Berkshire County is a grass-roots organization wose mission is to support, educate, and advocate for all those in Berkshire County whose lives are affected by mental illness. NAMI Berkshire County is an affiliate of The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The group’s literature notes that “one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year. That means one in 17 adults or 5 percent, lives with a serious mental illness such schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.”

That’s a lot of people. Kathy said that spiritual support can include just listening and letting them know you will hold them in your thoughts and prayers, telling them they will not walk alone. 

“If you say ‘I’m going to hold you in my heart,’ it will make a world of difference,” she said.

Kathy provided for us a PDF containing a “Mental Illness Awareness Week Faith Tool Kit,” with lots of good suggestions for observing the week. Such observances are not limited to just this week and can be held at other times, Kathy noted.

This information makes a number of suggestions on how a faith group can observe the week and create a significant event, such as a candlelight vigil.

“Raising awareness is rewarding and easy. Gather one or two other advocates, talk to your faith leaders and get permission to plan a simple event or service. By taking the initiative you will free up others to learn and talk about mental health issues which are often kept in the closet. You will bring hope and help to many people, some of whom may never have been given permission or words to speak about their struggles.”

And later, “By seeking God’s guidance we can recommit ourselves to replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and love in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.”

I hope that as an Interfaith group we can find some way to make such an observation part of what we do every year; after all, we are a faith-based group trying to serve those in need. I plan to keep pushing for us to find a way to do this.

Here’s the NAMI Berkshire County website: www.namibc.org.

The Williams Winter Blitz

Lexie Carr, in blue shirt, tells us about the Williams Winter Blitz winterization project.

Also at our Sept. 28 meeting, we discussed with Williams College students Lexie Carr, Jeremy Markson, and College Chaplain Rick Spalding the forthcoming Winter Blitz on Nov. 10, when Williams students will provide free winterization services for local residents.

They explained that this effort was started in 2008. Teams of 5 to 6 students will work on two homes during that day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They are targeting low-income housing, about 50 homes on a first-come, first-serve basis.

They will provide basic services such as storm window installation, pipe wrapping, weather stripping, door sweeps, gasket insulation, and caulking of cracks, but no sophisticated structural work. All supplies and other costs are covered by the Zilkha Center at Williams, so there is absolutely no cost for homeowners. 

Anyone interested should call 413-889-1735 or e-mail williamswinterblitz@gmail.com.

Aleta Moncecchi on ‘In the Company of Friends’

Mark Lincourt and Aleta Moncecchi of BCAC speak on "In the Company of Friends."

Mark Lincourt interviews our friend Aleta Moncecchi of the North Adams office of the Berkshire Community Action Council on the October edition of the NBIAI TV program, “In the Company of Friends,” which airs on Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp.’s Channel 15 on Fridays at 5 p.m. and Mondays at 1 p.m.

One thing she spoke of was the special benefit dinner at the Orchards in Williamstown (tonight!) — The BCAC Dinner Fundraiser to benefit its emergency services for senior citizens and those in need in Berkshire County. It is sponsored by the Orchards and its executive chef, Chris Bonnivier, along with several other Berkshire chefs participating.

It will be held (tonight!) on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. at the Orchards Hotel on Route 2 in Williamstown. Tickets are $50 per person (includes buffet and drinks). To buy a ticket, contact Barbara Bonnett at BBonnett@bcacinc.org or 413-446-5883.

On the heating assistance BCAC provides, which the above dinner will help fund, Aleta told Mark (who recently became a member of the BCAC board) that BCAC’s guidelines for fuel assistance have increased a small amount. “For a family of one, it’s gone up to $31,271; for a family of two, $40,893; a family of three, $50,515. And we go by your gross (income). But even if you think that you’re over our guidelines, still come in,” she said. “Because if you’re over our guidelines you may fall in to the Salvation Army’s The Good Neighbor Fund, so you still can get some help, either way. So please call 663-3014 and we’ll make you an appointment, we’ll sit down with you and if you don’t fit our guidelines, we can still try to get you some help.”

Aleta added, “The nice thing about Fuel assistance is not only do we help you heat your home — however you heat your home — if it’s wood, if it’s coal, if it’s gas, if it’s electric, propane, oil, whatever source is your main source of heat. We’re also going to protect it, if it’s oil, your furnace. If your furnace breaks down and you’re eligible for fuel assistance, we’re going to go in, fix it, replace it if it can’t be fixed. We do weatherization, so definitely, come in and apply for fuel assistance. Give it a shot, see if you are eligible.”

More help from our many friends

Steve Green and MCLA seniors Kate Moore and Jason Brown sat at our welcome station at the Clothing Sale on Oct. 6. Kate was promoting the Sam Gomez Classic Road Race, proceeds of which will benefit The Friendship Center.

If I were to set out to list all of the many individuals and groups who have aided the Friendship Center Food Pantry during it’s year and two thirds of existence, I would hardly know where to start. But here are two upcoming benefits you should know about and perhaps participate in:

1). Proceeds of this year’s annual Sam Gomez Classic 5K Charity Road Race will this year be given to the Friendship Center Food Pantry. The race is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 21, at 11:30 a.m.

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Student Government Association presents the race, and MCLA senior Kate Moore, the race coordinator, attended our clothing sale, making information about the race available to all who came to the sale.

We have a lot of race flyers and runner applications that she dropped off. Anyone interested in participating in this event should contact me or go online to http://www.mcla.edu/Student_Life/samgomez/ for registration and forms. You may also call 662-5401 for entry information.
Many great organizations have been the recipients of the proceeds of this annual race over the years and it is an honor for the Friendship Center to be chosen this time.

Registration for the 5K race costs $13 for pre-registration, and $15 on the day of the race. Free t-shirts will be given to the first 100 runners. (For those of you out of shape, I’ve been told that walking the course is permitted.)

2). The New Hope Methodist Church, working at the First Congregational Church Kitchen 134 Main St., North Adams, will host an eat-in or take-out dinner to benefit the Friendship Center Food Pantry on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 5 to 6 p.m.

The menu will be Baked Pork Chops & Rice with Broccoli, Applesauce, Corn Bread and Halloween Cake for Dessert. The price will be: Adult, $9; Child, $4.50. Proceeds from this Dinner to Benefit The Friendship Food Pantry. To attend or pick up, please enter through Summer Street kitchen door.

They will also DELIVER to Adams, North Adams, Clarksburg and Williamstown Please reserve your dinner in advance by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Call 413-663-7585 for reservations Leave a message on the answering machine with your name, telephone #, number of dinners, if you will eat-in or pick up. If you need delivery, please also leave your address and phone #.

That’s it for now. Hope to see you at our Oct. 19th meeting, if not before. God Bless you all,


Here are some more photos from the Clothing Sale:

Bert Lamb didn't want her picture taken.

Neither did Fran, though Pat didn't seem to mind.

Mark Lincourt tried on some belts.

I tried on a hat, which somebody must have bought because I couldn't find it after the sale.

Kathy and Barb were two new volunteers who were a big help.

Our friend the irrepressible Eric Wilson was a big help before and during the sale.

Carrie Crews came to the sale.

Spencer Moser not only donated some great stuff for the sale, he came to it the next day.

Amy Hubner helped out greatly with transportation and minding the coats.

Friendship Center volunteers Tony Pisano and Rich Davis. Rich was a huge help during this sale, and even helped me and my cousin Evelyn sweep the gym floor at the end of the day on Saturday, before we locked up the Parish Center.

Sue Walker, with back to camera, and Carolyn Behr, in green, of the ABC sale, who made our sale possible.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We Prepare for Saturday's Clothing Sale

On Tuesday morning a group of very hardworking volunteers moved clothing for our sale to benefit the Friendship Center Food Pantry from Pat Cumberbatch's house in Williamstown to the St. Elizabeth Parish Center in North Adams. Here, sale leader Fran Berasi-Boisjolie, carries many items into the center.

The sale will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. Elizabeth Parish Center. There will be an enormous selection of all types of clothes, linens and even jewelry!

Amy Hubner arrives, her truck loaded with items for the sale.

Rich Davis carries in two big bags of clothes.

This photo, with Rich Davis, Barbara Tassone, and Amy Hubner in it, shows the enormous amount of clothing still to be upacked and put up for sale. Don't miss it. It will be an awesome sale!

Here's a close-up of just one bag of clothes, filled to overflowing!