Monday, June 16, 2014

Meeting topic: ‘Coping in a Chaotic World’

Rev. Jennifer Gregg, back to camera, led us in a retreat back in September, 2013.

‘Coping in a Chaotic World’

The theme of the Friday, June 20, Interfaith Action Initiative meeeting will be “Coping in a Chaotic World.”

Our presenter for this workshop will bethe Rev. Jennifer Gregg, priest at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield. The meeting will start at  10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams (Please use Eagle Street entrance). Call Mark at 413-664-0130 with any questions.

Here is a description of her presentation:
“Life pulls at us in a variety of different directions. When the demands and needs are the greatest, it is easy to feel as we have been pulled into a vortex of chaos. And yet, in the beginning God created out of chaos.”  

“From a formless void God spoke life into being, unleashing God's creative power. This workshop will invite participants to look at how they respond to chaos, consider change and chaos from the perspective of Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, and finally, given some hands-on techniques to re-center ourselves in the midst of an ever changing world.” 

Rev. Gregg, with the help of Sue Walker, led a great retreat meeting at the September 2013 Interfaith meeting. It was our first retreat meeting, and it was a great success.

The topic then 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. 

This topic — “Coping in a Chaotic World” — is I think a very timely one in the wake of what is going on the world, internationally, nationally and locally. From climate change in increasing chaos in the Middle East to gridlocked polarization and anger here to the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital.

BMC at our May meeting

Diane Kelly, right, chief operational officer of Berkshire Medical Center, and Sean Jennings, left, a vice president at BMC, at our May Interfaith meeting. 

Our May 16 monthly meeting was quite exciting. Diane Kelly, chief operational officer of Berkshire Medical Center, announced that a satellite emergency room would be reopening on the campus of the former North Adams Regional. We were the first group in Northern Berkshire to get confirmation of this.

With Kelly was Sean Jennings, a BMC vice president. Some 27 people attended the meeting. We had a wide-ranging and positive discussion of about an hour. Much information was shared. We thanked Kelly and Jennings for their continued support in providing a nurse each Wednesday for visitors to the Friendship Center Food Pantry. This was a service started under Northern Berkshire Health Systems and generously continued by BMC after the closing of NARH. 

In fact, this meeting with BMC was set up when Mr. Jennings came up one Wednesday to address concerns by some pantry members about their experiences at BMC and transportation to Pittsfield. We thank them for coming, all who attended, and Mark Rondeau, Corinne Case and Al Nelson of the NBIAI for setting up and facilitating the meeting.

“I’m a registered nurse, I’ve been a registered nurse at Berkshire for 30 years," Kelly told us.

She lives in in Dalton, the mother of three grown sons. "And I'm really happy to be here,” she said. “I will tell you, I acutally started, my first nursing job was at North Adams Regional Hospital. It was 30 years ago."

This occasioned some laughter because some in the group were nurses or staff there then, too.

“It was my first nursing job and I was in Labor and Delivery and I realized I was in way over my head. 21 years old, I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get out of there, this is too hard for me,’” she said with a laugh.

“I do know what it’s like to live in a small community. I’ve lived in Dalton my entire life. I was born there, my whole family is there, so I appreciate the importance and the  vitality of a community, how close knit." So very pleased to be welcomed.”

Jennings said he oversees many of BMC’s support services, “my primary function is the patient experience so I stay kind of connected to many different ways of listening to our community, both good and bad — we need both of those to improve and to recognize our staff when things are going really well.”

He’s from Pittsfield and been in the health system a long time, too. Most of his clinical work experience has been in psychiatry and psychology. His graduate work was in forensic psychology, so he’s spent a lot of time working on the mental health needs of Berkshire County. “It’s great to be here,” he said.

Less than two weeks later, we were gratified when in addition to a nurse a representative of the BMC Wound Center, Tammy Flynn, came to the Eagle Street Room on Wednesday, May 28, to inform our pantry members of this service.

Looking ahead, our Friday, July 18, Interfaith meeting will feature State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi talking about food security and state funding and more.

Tammy Flynn, from the BMC Wound Center, came to do outreach at the pantry on May 28, with Matt, visiting and observing from a hospital in Connecticut.

Letter Carrier Drive a huge success

Scenes from the Letter Carrier food drive.

The May 10 Letter Carrier Food Drive was a great success in Northern Berkshire. We had the greatest number of volunteers than ever — more than 50 — in the four years we have been in charge of sorting the food, which we did again this year at 107 Main St. in North Adams.

In all, some 13,322 lbs. of food were collected from  North Adams, Clarksburg, and Florida. This is what we handled, some of which went to other programs in North Adams. Down in Adams, they collected 6,470 lbs. and in Williamstown, 5,522 lbs. Grand total in Northern Berkshire, five communities of 25,314 lbs. Thanks to Al Nelson for compiling these totals.

And thanks to the great folks of the post office, particularly the letter carriers. They go above and beyond and are a joy to work with. Speaking not only for myself, I can say that the day of the letter carrier food drive is one of the most of the year. Our food distribution coordinator, Rich Davis, has put together a great system for sorting the food.

Our numbers increase

Speaking of food, the chart above is a bit confusing when it comes to comparing May 2013 with May 2014, for this year May had 4 Wednesdays but last year there were 5 Wednesdays in May. Still, when you average out the weeks, last May we averaged we served an average of 137 households per week. By May 2014, this had risen to an average of 163 households per week. 

During our most recent week before this post was published — Wednesday, June 11, we served a total of 173 member households.

Presence around the community

Michelle Sylvester of WIC, left, Fran Berasi of the NBIAI/Friendship Center Food Pantry and Fran's sister Bert Lamb, of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, at the WIC open house. Below, Stan Owczarski, Corinne Case, and Mark Rondeau at the Health and Wellness Fair at St. Elizabeth Parish Center. Both events happened May 30.

On Friday, May 30, some of our volunteers attended two local events. For one, we paid a visit to our friend Michelle Sylvester and went to the WIC open house at its new home at 37 Main St., Suite 301, in North Adams Tel: 413-663-3012. 

WIC is an important nutrition program, the initials stand for Women Infants and Children.

Meanwhile, three of us staffed a table at the Health and Wellness Fair for older adults and caregivers at the St. Elizabeth Parish Center. This was organized by our friend Denise Vigna.

Several of us also were present at the SteepleCats game on Sunday afternoon, June 15, to work the concession. In addition to making some money for the program, this is a great opportunity to connect with the public. Thanks to our new volunteer coordinator, Stan Owczarski, for setting this up. We will be doing this a few more times during the summer.

Farewell to Stuart Crampton

Stuart Crampton, at left in blue shirt, with wife Susan next to him, at an organizational meeting of the food pantry, February 2011.

Stuart Crampton got on board with the NBIAI back in January 2011 when we were about to open a food pantry. He is the single person most responsible for the fact that the NBIAI/Friendship Center Food Pantry is financially in the black. He is the reason we oversee the ministry voucher system. He served as our treasurer for more than three years, resigning recently to get ready to move.

He and wife Susan will be leaving Williamstown in July to move to Ohio to be closer to family. Stuart will be missed, not only by by us at the NBIAI but also at the Berkshire Food Project, where he was a long time board member and also the treasurer.

In fact, the Berkshire Food Project recently held a dinner for Stuart, but as it was at a time when I work, I could not go. However, Stuart is still helping us and I got an email from him just this morning. Among other things, he has been trying to coordinate our collection of our produce shares at a local farm. He will probably doing something for us, the day before he and Susan head out of town.

Thank you and God Bless you, Stuart.