Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lots of Great News of All Kinds

In this post: We blow away second-hand smoke Nov. 16; A nutritional boost; Friends glean produce for Friendship Center; NB Youth Mentoring Program at meeting and on TV; Williams Blitz visits Friendship Center; More help from some friends; Mental Illness awareness and support; St. Francis Pledge.

A nutritional boost

Gordon Clark of the Western Mass. Food Bank and Mark Lincourt of the Friendship Center Food Pantry help distribute healthy soup to our neighbors. Food Bank nutritionist Diane Alpern made and brought the food and provided our members information and recipes.

In an arrangement set up by our Food Distribution Coordinator Mark Lincourt, Diane Alpern, nutrition coordinator at the Food Bank of Western Mass., came to the Friendship Center on Wednesday, Nov. 7, to talk to our visiting members about nutriton. But she did more than talk; she brought some tasty soups and plenty of nutritional information, much of which I hope to share here in future posts.

Diane set up in the foyer of the former Papyri Book store next door. I particularly liked her display of how much sugar there is in popular drinks, made by filling empty bottles of these drinks with the amount of sugar in them.

Our friend Gordon Clark, Berkshire County capacity builder for the Food Bank, was also present to help Diane with this pilot project. They observed what seemed to work and what didn't, and overall it seemed like a very worthwhile effort.

Nutritionist Diane Alpern. Below: Part of the great setup in the foyer of the former Papyri Books.

We blow away second-hand smoke Nov. 16

At our next Interfaith meeting will be held on Friday, Nov. 16,  at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams..

Joan Rubel from Berkshire AHEC’s Tobacco-Free Community Partnership will talk with us about secondhand smoke and why it’s important to reduce exposure to it, especially for children, elders and people with compromised immune systems.

She’ll tell us about local initiatives to increase the amount of smoke-free housing that’s available and about steps that the City of North Adams is taking to protect people from secondhand smoke. She’ll also share free resources that are available to support smokers who want to protect their children from secondhand smoke. All are welcome to this meeting, which will include announcements, a moment of silent prayer and faith sharing.

Please use Eagle Street entrance to the downstairs meeting hall at First Baptist.

This should be an interesting discussion. I know that Joan is passionate about this issue and I'm also interested in what North Adams is doing about this issue.

And fear not! Even if you go to the Mass in Motion Kick Off event earlier that morning, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., as I plan to, you can still make it over to First Baptist in plenty of time to hear an important presentation on another public health matter. We will no doubt be talking about other important issues, plus conducting our moment of silence and faith sharing.

Friends glean produce for the Friendship Center

Here's some of the produce ready to unload.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, I opened up the Friendship Center for a delivery of produce "gleaned" from a field at Ioka Farm in Stephentown, N.Y.

The delivery consisted of 18 boxes of such produce as pumpkins and squash and various kinds of gourds. We also received one box of decorative gourds. All of these were quite popular the following Wednesday at the pantry. 

In addition to Kathy Keeser, a great friend of mine and the Friendship Center, others participating the project included Kathy Tremblay, Kim McMann, Jeanne Feder, Erik Romano, Avie Kalker, Darlene Ellis, Paula Foye, and Gordon Clark.

We must have received about 800 lbs. in this delivery. We have received more produce from local farms and gardens this year than last year, and no doubt this will increase in the future. I hope in the near future to publish a summary of all the produce donations the pantry received this growing season.

I know that our friends at The Kitchen Cupboard in Bennington were getting in and giving out 1,000 lbs of produce a week during this growing season. I'm sure that we can build similar capacity in the future.

Kathy Keeser sorts out some of the decorative items.

NB Youth Mentoring Program at meeting  and on TV

Rachelle Smith, Alex Lenski, Pastor Kim Kie, and Corinne Case at the October Interfaith Action Initiative meeting.

We had a great discussion at our Oct. 19 Interfaith meeting with Rachelle Smith and Alex Lenski of the new Northern Berkshire Youth Mentoring Project. Rachelle and Alex also were our guests on our cable TV program, “In the Company of Friends.” This can be seen on Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp's Channel 15 during November on Fridays at 5 p.m. and Monday's at 1 p.m.

Eric Wilson, who is interested in participating as a mentor, help Mark Lincourt and Mark Rondeau co-host the program.

The Youth Mentoring program is following a different model than Big Brothers Big Sisters, which has ceased operations in Berkshire County after many years. 

The Child Care of the Berkshires website is: The program itself has its own Facebook page at am/291999320907495?fref=pb Or call Rachelle Smith at 663-6593, ext. 39. Email

Williams Blitz visits Friendship Center

Lexie Carr, Jeremy Markson, and Spencer Moser at the Friendship Center on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Lexie Carr and Jeremy Markson from the Williams Blitz winterization project also visited us on Wednesday, Nov. 7. In about an hour and a half on the move they managed to round up about 9 households looking for the free service, which will be provided on Saturday, Nov. 10, by student volunteers from Williams and MCLA. It's short notice at this point, but if you live in North Adams, Williamstown, Clarksburg and Florida, own your own home, and are interested, call or email ASAP 413-889-1735 or e-mail

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. Lexie, Jeremy and  Chaplain Rick Spalding also came to our Sept. 29 Interfaith meeting to talk about the program.

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. 

On Wednesday, we first spoke to Friendship Center members in line about the program, though many couldn't because they don't own the place where they live. So I took walk with Jeremy and Lexie down to the Spitzer Center on Ashland Street, where we spoke with a family friend of mine who works there and offered to pass out the flyers for people coming in for the "brown bag" program that day.

Then on the way back, we stopped at the Ashland Street office of the Berkshire Community Action Council, where the students spoke to and got some leads from Aleta Moncecchi and Darlene Ellis.

We visit Aleta at the Berkshire Community Action Council office on Ashland Street in North Adams,

More help from some friends

We get so much help from so many people, that my experiences here represent only a fraction of those we could pass along. Here are some recent experiences:

I opened up the Friendship Center one recent Sunday morning for Kate Annecharico's 6th grade from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church. I told the group of about 12 about what we do there and answered some questions. They left us cans of peanut butter and tuna fish, which I told them we needed. It was a very enjoyable experiences. We have also hosted children's religious education classes from First Baptist NA and The First Congregational Church of North Adams.

Spencer Moser, who works with students at MCLA, has been a real help. Last week he called me and I went down to the college and picked up several bags of winter clothes for us to give out at the Friendship Center. Then this Wednesday, he stopped by the Friendship Center to drop off more clothes, which was fortunate, because he also ran into the students on site to promote the Winter Blitz and they discussed the state of the plans so far.

I plan to present more news on how MCLA students and staff are helping us in a future post.

 Mental Illness awareness and support

New Hope Methodist Church in Williamstown.

We continue to look forward to sponsoring a mental illness and awareness and support event in January. Pastor Kim Kie of New Hope Methodist Church has offered to provide the place for the event and help us plan and present it. Her storefront church, pictured here, would be, I think a perfect, and non-threatening setting for this event. The church is now located at the eastern corner of the intersection of Main and Water Streets in Williamstown. 

Our September Discussion with Cathy Quinn of NAMI Berkshire County, when she presented us with some ideas for marking Mental Illness Awareness Week.

We will provide more details as we move forward with this. 

Our Steering Committee

The NBIAI is governed by a Steering Committee which meets once a month. At its October meeting, the committee added two more members, Fran Berasi and Steve Green. In addition to them, the committee members are Corinne Case, Denise Krutiak, Sue Walker, Stuart Crampton, Mark Lincourt, Al Nelson, and Mark Rondeau. That’s a total of nine.

St. Francis Pledge

And though it doesn't relate directly to any current work of the NBIAI, I wanted to share this from the Catholic Climate Covenant,

"All across our country, Catholics are taking the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor and joining the Catholic Climate Covenant. The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by
Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations and institutions to live our faith by protecting God’s Creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change. To join the Covenant, you commit to act on each of the five elements of the St. Francis Pledge.  Find resources to promote the St. Francis Pledge here."

Here is The St. Francis Pledge

I/We Pledge to:
PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations-contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
ADVOCATE for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.

God Bless You All,