Saturday, September 28, 2013


A U-Haul filled with bagged clothes arrives Saturday at All Saints Church in North Adams. The sale will be held in the church hall.

The second annual Clothing Sale to benefit the Friendship Center Food Pantry will be held on Saturday, October 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church in North Adams. (Between the NA Post Office and the big parking lot).

Donations of clothing, including children’s clothes and  winter clothes, are still being accepted. In addition to the many donations we have been receiving, we’re again getting a large amount of the clothing left over this year from the ABC Sale in Williamstown.

Prices will be quite reasonable. All proceeds from the sake will benefit the Friendship Center Food Pantry, which serves more than 1,400 member households in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida. Need is great and the pantry served a one-week record 204 (just revised) households on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, a great group of volunteers helped us fill a U-Haul with fine clothes left over from the ABC Sale.

Those who helped, whose names I know, include Fran Berasi, Bert Lamb and Liz Boland (aka, the Amazing Berasi Sisters). Also, Sue Walker, Al Nelson, Ed Oshinsky, and Mark Rondeau. Greatly appreciated are the efforts of two recent MCLA LEAD Academy Graduates, Ben Hoyt and Nichole Klemchuk. More thanks go out to Carolyn Behr, who does an awesome job leading the ABC Sale and who has been most gracious to us; thanks, tooo, to Jack Hockridge at All Saints. Thanks, too, to Corinne Case and her group of teens.

Finally, we thank those, students and others, who were at the ABC Sale and helped us bag the clothes and fill the U-Haul. It was hard work but fun. Here are some photos:

We started loading bags downstairs at the ABC Sale, and at first it seemed kind of daunting. But the odd items in this room lifted our spirits. Above: Fran Berasi and Sue Walker. 

Bert Lamb at a rack of costume clothes. If you want graduation gowns, we now have several.

With Dozens of people working, it didn't take long to bag the items in the big hall upstairs. Pictured here is only a fraction of the bags, however.

Ed Oshinsky drove the U-Haul and helped load and unload, too.

Ben Hoyt from MCLA was a huge help in Williamstown and North Adams.

We unload the truck at All Saints in North Adams. Bert in the truck holds a pair of ice skates, which weren't put in a bag because of the sharp blades.

Nichole Klemchuk of MCLA was a great help when we unloaded the truck in North Adams.

We appreciate All Saints letting us use their fine facility.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


This chart shows the monthly totals for visits to the Friendship Center Food Pantry for every month since we opened in February, 2011, to August, 2013. 2011 is illustrated in pencil; 2012 in blue ink and 2013 in red. The 2013 September resullts, which just came in with Wednesday’s totals, are 582 in four weeks. This compares to the total households served during September 2012, 558 in four weeks. This is in keeping with us running at somewhat higher numbers over last year but not greatly so.

This week we trucked in and unloaded thousands of pounds of food to feed hundreds of people. We also offered a new service for the first time: the presence of a nurse.

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the Friendship Center Food Pantry served 135 families in its 10 to 2 session and a whopping 67 families in its 4 to 6 session for a record total of 202 families served for the day.

Our previous record for one day was 186, which we achieved once. Treasurer and pantry evening shift supervisor Stuart Crampton said, “It was a bit too much but not much too much....We ran out of many, many things, but everyone got quite a lot.  Less produce than last week, but we had two good looking beets left.”

We also signed up 13 new members. We now have served in 2.5 years of operation more than 1,400 families in North Adams, Clarksburg, and Florida.

Our volunteers are wonderful and continue to amaze.

Also on Wednesday, Amanda Chilson of Mass in Motion visited to offer healthy food samples from the types of foods we offer at the pantry. We also have a pretty consistent presence at the pantry from The Family Place, another intiative that has grown out of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

In an extremetly exciting development, nurse Barbara Cariddi came to the Eagle Street Room, where we sign people in for the food pantry and they fill out their menus, to offered people blood pressure checks, other screeenings and information about programs such as Ecu Health Care.

Barbara will be visiting frequently and at some point will offer flu shots as well.

Anyone who wishes to help us to continue to do what we do is encouraged to take part in our benefit clothing sale. Here is the announcement I sent out for the bulletins of houses of worship this week:

Benefit Clothing Sale Seeks Donations: The second annual Friendship Center Food Pantry Benefit Clothing Sale will be held on Saturday, Oct. 12, at All Saints Episcopal Church hall (located next to the North Adams Post Office) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Organizers are seeking donations of all types of clothes and particularly children’s clothes and winter clothes. Donations may be dropped off at the offices of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition 61 Main St., Suite 218, North Adams between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.; at the Friendship Center Food Pantry between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, or you may call Mark at 664-0130 and leave a message to arrange pick-up. All proceeds from the sale will benefit the food pantry, which in 2.5 years of operation has served more than 1,400 households in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida.

Hope to see you at the sale!


Amanda Chilson of Mass in Motion offered a crock pot of health soup and more information about healthy eating choices. Below, we offered apples at the Friendship Center itself.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Retreat Meeting a Great Success

Sue Walker and Rev. Jennifer Gregg lead the retreat, while Stuart Crampton looks on. Below, the circle we started out in. (More photos below post).

The Friday, Sept. 20, meeting of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative broke new ground — it was our first retreat meeting — and was a great success.

Some 15 people attended the mini-retreat, which was led by the Rev. Jennifer Gregg, pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield, and Sue Walker, a member of our steering committee and regular Friendship Center volunteer.

The topic 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. The mini-retreat was meant for those who serve, particullarly those involved with the Friendship Center Food Pantry.

Using the technique of “lectio divina” — or sacred reading — each was us picked out some word from the text that particularly spoke to us. We spoke of its impression on us and were then invited to express this is some creative way.

I chose the word “mountain” — the place to which Jesus retreated to pray after the miracle. My painting chose to illustrate Him going up the mountain. Others chose to draw, mediatate or free associate.

Rev. Gregg has offered and will likely facilitate further meetings for us.

Our Oct. 18 NBIAI monthly meeting will feature Bear McHugh, of Berkshire AHEC, who will give a presenation on youth suicide prevention. The meeting will start at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. (Please use Eagle Street entrance).

God Bless You All,


We broke out into different activities to express the insights of our reflection. The people at the table are drawing or painting. Below, I did a painting of Jesus ascending a mountain to pray alone after feeding the 5,000.

Peak of Vegetable Season

Various succulent vegetables in the window of the Friendship Center on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Below, at the same time, we had bags of lettuce and more available at the Eagle Street Room at First Baptist Church.

The amount of produce we have been giving out at the Friendship Center Food Pantry has increased exponentially in this, our third growing season of operation.

In addition to having bought shares at Caretaker Farm, we receive generous donations from other local farms, including Many Forks Farm and Square Roots Farm. Some of these donations come from what is left over every week from the Williamstown and North Adams Farmers Markets. The local organization Hoosic Harvest helps us do this, particullarly at the NA Farmers Market.

Local activiist Kathy Keeser is a leader of Hoosic Harvest and a real go-getter on her own in gleaning at farms and giving the results to food programs such as ours. Most recently, she made sure we were able to  give out to our friends a fine assortment of locally grown apples.

In this account, I am sure I am leaving some names out, particularly of farms. For instance, I know of one farm from Washington, Mass., which comes to the NA Famers Market and has given us produce, but I can’t remember the name!

The whole idea behind this is to give our friends the opportunity to get their hands on fresh produce, which of course is healthier and can be significantly more expensive than less nutritious foods.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, we had all types of vegetables available both at the pantry and at our staging and sign-up site in the Eagle Street Room of the First Baptist Church of North Adams down the street.

To help give ideas on how to prepare all this produce, our friend Amanda Chilson of the Mass in Motion program locally headquartered at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition will be giving a presentation on foods and recipies at the Eagle Street Room during pantry hours on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Thanks to all who have helped make this explosion of produce happen!



Cynthia Davis did a good job of getting our visiting friends to take vegetables on Sept. 18.