Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grants may end, but the work continues

Berkshire United Way has been proud to be a recipient of a Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant for the past ten years.  This grant has supported the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership which has been actively working to unite the community in creating a healthy environment for our middle and high school youth by reducing and preventing youth substance use. Through this collaborative effort with our community partners, we have reduced 30-day usage of alcohol for 8th graders by 19%; for 10th graders by 29%, and for 12th graders by 13% (2007 -2016 Prevention Needs Assessment).   

A critical protective factor in reducing and preventing youth substance use is providing recognition and positive rewards to youth for their engagement in their schools and community.  The Pittsfield Prevention Partnership recognized the importance of highlighting youth by starting the S.A.Y It Proud (Supporting and Acknowledging Youth) awards in 2012. We have a catalog of 100 recipients since its inception.

Say It Proud Awards at the Gather In on July 22, 2017; Rich Johnson, former coordinator of Pittsfield Prevention Partnership (right in photo).

Unfortunately, the Drug Free Communities grant has come to an end, but many of the activities of Pittsfield Prevention Partnership will live on in our revived Positive Youth Development Impact Council (PYDIC). We will strive to create healthy, positive opportunities for all our Berkshire County youth.  If you would like to help develop strategies to support our youth in staying on a path to college and career join us on October 18th from 3 - 4:30 p.m. at the Family Resource Center, 480 West Street in Pittsfield.  I hope to see you there!

Kat Toomey
Coordinator of Positive Youth Development

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kindergarten readiness – it takes a community

I am very excited to be a part of Berkshire United Way’s efforts to ensure that every Berkshire County child arrives at kindergarten ready to learn.  

Kindergarten readiness involves many things, including social and emotional development, language and communication development, health and wellbeing, readiness to learn, as well as cognitive and general knowledge.

According to the National Association for the Education on Young Children, “School readiness must be broadly defined and flexible.”  Young children develop at very individual rates. Some may be strong in language, cognitive, and general knowledge and weaker in social development, due to shyness or lack of peer relationships.

Other children may excel in social, emotional, and communication skills, but show less interest in or received less exposure to cognitive skills such as writing, identifying letters, counting and classifying objects, or understanding book concepts. 

What is most important is for children to have a positive attitude toward learning and a community that supports them by providing opportunities for positive, healthy interactions with the adults in their lives. 

Our community partners at Wee Read Pittsfield offer suggestions on ways we can do that – I invite you to visit their Facebook page for inspiration.

Stephanie Adornetto
Coordinator of Early Childhood Development

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fun-filled family events

The transition from summer to fall is always a beautiful time in Berkshire County and with it comes two exciting events that will help build a stronger community while also benefitting Berkshire United Way!

On Saturday, September 9th Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort will hold a Community Day, offering local residents and visitors to the Berkshires, the opportunity to purchase an All Park Pass for the one-day special price of $39 -including a hot dog, bag of chips and bottled beverage, while supplies last. That’s a savings of up to $26 per ticket!  Jack Waldheim will be performing live music throughout the day as well.  All proceeds from the day will benefit Berkshire United Way
The following Sunday, September 17th will be the 41st Josh Billings RunAground, a combination bike, canoe/kayak, and running race that winds through the towns of Great Barrington, Stockbridge and Lenox, finishing at Tanglewood.  Participants compete as teams as well as ironpersons who are brave enough to tackle all three legs on their own. 

The Live United team poses for a photo following the 2016 running of the Josh Billings RunAground.
Over the past decade, the Josh Billings has contributed over $70,000 to Berkshire United Way’s mission of building a stronger community together.  I invite you to stop by and watch the race, it is an amazing Berkshire County tradition!

Duffy Judge
Development Manager

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let’s Get To Work

In 2015, over 46,000 Berkshire County residents worked less than full time or did not work.*

While connecting families to income boosting benefits such as SNAP, Transitional Assistance and Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) is important in the short term, our belief is that we need to move from short term program interventions to long term, systems strategies that result in increased income and assets gained from employment.  This also supports the workforce development needs we have in our community.

On June 12, 2017, Berkshire United Way took action by engaging the Tamarack Institute to host a Let’s Get To Work: Building a Pathway to Sustainable Incomes Collective Impact workshop.

The 53 individuals in attendance represented a variety of sectors, including corporations, non-profit organizations, education, government, and community members with lived experience.  An overview of local data was presented to attendees and priorities for building employment pathways to economic prosperity for all were identified during the workshop.

One of our strategies is to connect individuals to career pathways so that they can obtain, retain, and advance in their jobs. Next steps include further mapping our existing assets and gaps and engaging directly with employers and potential employees.

We invite you to contact us at or give us a call at 413.442.6948, if you are interested in sharing your time and talent in creating economic prosperity for all.

Program Manager, Community Impact

*16-64 year olds, based on American Community Survey (ACS)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

S.A.Y.-ing It Proud

On Wednesday, May 24, I had the privilege of presenting S.A.Y. It Proud (Supporting and Acknowledging Youth) awards to five amazing students from Reid Middle School. A second ceremony, recognizing two outstanding young members of our community took place during the Gather-In on Saturday, July 22. 

Pittsfield Prevention Partnership Coordinator Rich Johnson and Principal Linda Whitacre pose with Say It Proud Award winners Caitlyn Mayhew, Kileigh McGann, Gianna Arace, Ellianna Christopher,
and Ben Vengalil.

S.A.Y. It Proud is a campaign, which unites young people, parents and community leaders in recognizing youth for their positive contributions to our community and for making healthy choices.

The S.A.Y. It Proud campaign is just one of many strategies used by Pittsfield Prevention Partnership to prevent youth substance use. To nominate a youth for a S.A.Y It Proud award, simply email or call 413-442-6948.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Coordinator of Pittsfield Prevention Partnership

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Let's Talk About Words

Words are important!  In school and in life, much of learning happens through language.  Whether listening to a teacher’s instructions, reading a book or sharing experiences at the dinner table, words will be key to children’s growth and development.  That’s why a rich vocabulary is essential to success in school and beyond! 

Thanks to our community partnerships and volunteers, we are growing a community of young word learners. Here’s how: Words are best learned in hands-on ways, in the places where they are used. The Word Project is helping our community partners to join parents, caregivers and young children in building the vocabulary and experiences that will prepare them for kindergarten!

This month, employees at Carr Hardware on Main Street in Great Barrington, have become Word Coaches.  They are ready for young children to bring their Word Cards to Carr, search for and learn all about TOOLS, then receive a sticker of a tool at the check-out counter for their card.  Together, we can all have a long lasting, far reaching impact on our youngest community members.  To learn about becoming a Word Coach wherever you go, watch this short video and visit our website for the next location kick-off date!

South County Community Liaison

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Who is Duffy?

My name is Duffy Judge and I am excited to introduce myself as the new Development Manager here at Berkshire United Way (BUW). One of my primary responsibilities is to provide support to over 150 Workplace Campaigns that take place at our corporate and business partner locations throughout central and southern Berkshire County. 

These campaigns, which serve as the lifeblood of our organization, play a crucial role in fulfilling our mission of building a stronger community together.  The monies raised support children and families here in the Berkshires from cradle-to career—promoting early childhood literacy and development, giving youth the tools they need to make healthy decisions, and helping families become financially stable.

I am a native of Williamstown, MA and currently reside there with my wife, 2 children and 2 Labrador Retrievers.  I have professional experience as a college administrator, insurance agent and golf pro and I am very energized by this new opportunity at BUW.  I’ve volunteered on many non-profit boards in the past and the prospect of being involved day to day in the effort to spur lasting and meaningful change in Berkshire County is something I consider a privilege.

I look forward to meeting many of you during the 2017 campaign, and thank you all for your support of Berkshire United Way.