Saturday, January 11, 2014

Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding Jan. 26

New Hope Church is well-named. A bright, cheerful, contemporary space, it was the site of the first Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding in January, 2013.

The second annual Interfaith Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding will be held at New Hope Methodist Church in Williamstown on Sunday, Jan. 26, beginning at 7 p.m. 

This will be an inclusive and supportive event in an informal setting. All are welcome.

New Hope is located at the corner of Main and Water Streets in the former TGL Photoworks building. 

Last year’s service was quite powerful and well-attended and this year’s service is shaping up to be the same. It will be led by the Rev. Dan Randall, the recently installed pastor of New Hope, who has planned the service. It will last about an hour. Refreshments will be available.

More than 40 people attended last year’s service, which was led by Pastor Kim Kie, who is now pastoring in Barre, Vt.

I am looking forward to it, and hope to see you there.

God Bless,


Ecu-Health Care at Jan. 17 Interfaith meeting

Michael Morelli speaks at our November Interfaith meeting, which generated much interest.

I have known Chip Joffe-Halpern, of Ecu-Health Care, for many years. First, writing about health access issues years as a reporter for The Advocate, pretty much from the time the program started on.

More recently, Chip helped both my mother with her prescriptions health benefits and later on me with managing some of my hospital bills after a major operation.

He is a great guy, very passionate about helping people get access to affordable health insurance. So I was very pleased and called me recently, wishing to present at one of our Interfaith Action Initiative public meetings.

The Friday, Jan. 17, meeting of the Northern Berkshrie Interfaith Action Initiative will feature Chip, who is the executive director of Ecu-Health Care.

The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. All are welcome. He will speak about health access issues and opportunities such as the Affordable Care Act.

Ecu-Health Care is a local nonprofit health care access organization, located in the Doctor’s Building on the campus of North Adams Regional Hospital.

The organization, which has been connecting uninsured and underinsured residents with affordable health care for the last 18 years, was recently named as one of 10 Navigator sites by the Massachusetts Health Connector.

One of the great things about Ecu-Health Care is that it started as an ecumenical effort!

November meeting well-attended

Our November meeting featured Michael Morelli, benefits paralegal with Community Legal Aid in Pittsfield, talking about SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Some 18 people attended this meeting of them, several for the first time.

About us

The Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initative is a group of
people of different faiths and denominations work together with others of goodwill to find ways to serve our community. It runs the
Friendship Center Food Pantry in North Adams, an emergency voucher system in Northern Berkshire, and holds monthly meetings to discuss topics and programs of civic and religious concern.

For more information, call Mark at 664-0130 or visit our page on Facebook.

Many Partners Make for Productive Service

Michelle Sylvester of WIC made healthy treats at the Eagle Street Room recently.


Since we at the Friendship Center started about a year ago to have our visiting friends sign up first at the First Baptist Church of North Adams Eagle Street Room, the number of other programs that have come to help there have been amazing.

The Family Place of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition started visiting our people before this move, and the Food Bank of Western Mass. even did a food demonstration from the vestibule of the former Papyri Books store.

Both organzations have since come down to the Eagle Street Room, most frequently the Family Place. Another Coalition-sponsored program, Mass in Motion, has since come to the Eagle Steet room several times to encourage healthy eating.

The WIC program (see photo above) has had a presence at the Eagle Street Room, as had Bryan House of the Reconnect program aimed at young adults and run by the Berkshire Community Action Council.

One of the services we are most excited about is the presence of nurse Barbara Cariddi (photo below) almost every Wednesday at the Eagle Street Room, for such things as blood pressure checks and flu shots. And not only for our visiting friends but for us volunteers, too. In fact, I got my flu shot there from Barbara this fall.

She talled up here services between Wednesday, Sept. 25, and Wednesday, Nov. 27, and she saw 140 people, with a high number of 31 on Oct. 23.

Most recently, we have had Sherry Dunne from Louison House vist on a recent Wednesday to chat with our guests to see if they or anyone they know is homeless. Sherry is great and was an early attendee when the NBIAI was getting started nearly four years ago now.

Most recently, this past Wednesday, Jan. 8, in fact,, we welcomed Maryam Kamangar, commmunity development manager of Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires Inc. to the Eagle Street Room. She was informing people about Goodwill’s SuitYourSelf program, which helps people get suitable clothing to apply for and keep employment.

Maryam has spoken to me and others, and we feel there are some great opportunites for collaboration between our groups.

All of these collaborations are exciting and are part of what makes all this work a joy.

God Bless



Nurse Barbara Cariddi is available most Wednesdays during our first session at the Eagle Street room. She sees patients in a very accessible but quite private side room.