Monday, December 28, 2015

A tribute to Stan Owczarski – A Strong and Generous Man

Stan lifts a bucket of donated food collected during a recent annual Letter Carriers Food Drive. Taking his photo is Joan Bates, North Adams postmaster.

Many of you likely have heard by now the very sad news of the untimely and unexpected passing on Saturday of Stan Owczarski, food pantry volunteer, NBIAI Board member, good friend.

Stan was a strong, noble, humorous and compassionate man.

He showed up to volunteer at the Friendship Center one day during the first year of the food pantry in 2011 and gradually took on increasing responsibilities. He became our second volunteer coordinator two years ago and joined our board of directors and finance committee.

Stan and his wife, Joan, also introduced, developed and produced the name tag lanyards our volunteers wear.

Stan doing the grilling at the 2015 Friendship Center volunteer picnic he held at his home.

As volunteer coordinator Stan did many important things. For the last two years he and his wife, Joan, hosted our annual volunteer cookout at his home in North Adams. Stan for the past two years also coordinated concession volunteers from the Friendship Center at several SteepleCats baseball games to raise funds.

In recent years, Stan became the captain for the front of the Friendship Center during the daytime session on Wednesdays. As such, he kept the flow of pantry visitors going, oversaw cab and volunteer rides, and generally insured safety and a positive, friendly atmosphere. I always knew things were in good hands.

Safety was important to Stan, a longtime member of the Ski Patrol and he made sure we have a good stock of emergency medical supplies on site. Early on, at the invitation of our first volunteer coordinator, Denise Krutiak, Stan gave the volunteers a useful instructional workshop on safety.

Stan had a great rapport with our food pantry guests, and they will miss him as much as we will. To help make the Friendship Center a welcoming place, he worked with Louise Zocchi to regularly update our front display window area to reflect the seasons with well-done decorating.

Part of my personal shock on hearing the news was that Stan was such a vigorous man. The term “force of nature” comes to mind. He was an outdoorsman, a bicyclist and a skier, as noted above. It may have been during the summer about a year ago, I was driving south down Route 8 in Vermont in the virtually uninhabited area of south Readsboro and north Stamford. All of sudden, there’s Stan on his bicycle, miles from North Adams. I knew he’d have no trouble getting home, so I didn’t stop!

Stan in his Yankee hat with our friend Keith the mailman.
One thing about Stan that kept things interesting was that he was a very passionate New York Yankee fan among mostly Red Sox fans. This insured a continuing running battle of quips and insults over the merits of the rival baseball teams — all in good fun, of course!

I was planning to write a post this week about happy things such as our last public meeting, new board members, big donations and the Friendship Center’s upcoming fifth anniversary. And I still wish I was, because it would mean that this good man would still be among us.

I met Stan, a fellow Roman Catholic, about 10 years ago, when St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church was trying to restart its St. Vincent de Paul Society local conference. I didn’t know him very well and neither of us became longtime members of that group. But Stan became one of many people I have come to know and love through the six years of the NBIAI and the Friendship Center Food Pantry.

Not that he and I always saw completely eye to eye, but we always worked things out, quickly and without rancor. Stan's generosity helped a lot. He saw I carried around important NBIAI/food pantry papers in a crummy old, ripped satchel, so he found me a nice new one. He thought I could use a laptop for NBIAI/Friendship Center business and found me one that has worked out very well.

So, sometimes goodbyes seem to take forever; other times you don’t get to say goodbye at all. This was one of the latter. But I – and many others, I am sure – are grateful for having to gotten to know Stan, and I thank God for that.

Our deepest condolences to Joan, their children and grandchildren and the rest of Stan's family and many friends.

Goodbye, Stan. Thanks for everything. Hope to see you on the other side. 

Stan takes a break with Steve Green during a recent Letter Carrier Food Drive. Below, Stan and Anne Nelson at the front desk at our original location at 43 Eagle St. in North Adams.

Above is a photo of Stan, me and fellow NBIAI/Friendship Center board member and volunteer Corinne Case at a health fair that was organized at St. Elizabeth Parish by Denise Vigna. Stan went around to every table, talking to people and collecting pens, information and other goodies. Judy Bombardier took this photo for us with my phone.

Here, Stan, in red jacket, standing sideways to the camera, is ready to help unload the truck with food one Tuesday. What makes this photo especially moving is that the man with his back to the camera in black jacket is Henry Bounds, another of our great-hearted volunteers, who also passed away suddenly. We also fondly remember Rose Maynard and Jim May. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

E3 Students Design Cookbook for Friendship Center Food Pantry Members

The cover of the cookbook. Below, Mayor Dick Alcombright at left talks with the E3 students on Tuesday. (Thanks to Bert Lamb with help on photography during the press conference).



(Press Release from the E3 program)

NORTH ADAMS -- On Tuesday, December 15, the E3 Academy of Drury High School will present its latest creation to the Friendship Center: E3 COOKS, a cookbook for users of the Friendship Center food pantry. The cookbook features 27 recipes the students identified as healthy and that make use of ingredients available through the food pantry. They then tested all the recipes, using the kitchen at the UNO Community Center.

The cookbook is the culmination of months of hard work as the students studied the food system in general and food insecurity in particular. Beginning with field trips to local farms and the Friendship Center…to working at the Berkshire Food Project…to hearing from speakers from The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Growing Healthy Gardens Project…to researching and producing presentations of various aspects of the food system, the students have come to understand the food system and the impact of food insecurity on their neighbors as well as others throughout the world. With generous support from the UNO Center, which allowed us to use its kitchen, the students prepared and taste-tested recipes that made use of many of the foods available at the Friendship Center and incorporated as many vegetables as possible.

In the course of the project, the students practiced a variety of academic skills, including research, expository and persuasive writing, presentation and public speaking, fractions, measuring and scaling, calculating nutritional values and word problems, as well as life skills, including collaboration, decision making, consideration for others, making a positive contribution to their community, using positive communication skills, and conflict resolution. “And how to ruin a pan!” says Senior Charles Talis

The Cooking for (Real) Life project was funded by a North Adams Public Schools Service-Learning Mini-Grant.

WHAT: Presentation of the E3 Cookbook to the Friendship Center

WHEN: Tuesday, December 15, 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: The Friendship Center Food Pantry, 45 Eagle Street 

About E3 Academy

The E3 Academy, which stands for Effort, Employability and Essential skills and knowledge, is a competency-based program of Drury High School. The program features a non-traditional classroom setup for students at risk of leaving school. For more information about the E3 Academy, please call 413-662-3275 or email

About the Friendship Center

The Friendship Center Food Pantry is a program of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative Inc. Located at 45 Eagle St., in North Adams. the Friendship Center serves families in need in
North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida and is open every
 Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. In November it served an average of 172 households per week.

Open since 2011, the program has evolved into a true “Friendship Center.” A few years ago, to avoid long lines outside of the food pantry in all kinds of weather, the organization started using the Eagle Street room at the First Baptist Church of North Adams for a sign-in and waiting area. After their turn to sign in, pantry members proceed down the street to pick up their food at 45 Eagle St. This process provides the opportunity to bring in more services for them, including a nurse and representatives of numerous local social services organizations.

For more information about the Friendship Center, call 413-664-0123 or email