Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It’s EPIC!

If you attended BerkshireWork’s recent Job Fair, you may have noticed the Berkshire United Way table and wondered what we were doing there. My colleagues, members of our Economic Prosperity Impact Council (EPIC) and I were surveying employers and job seekers to gather data that will inform our Economic Prosperity work.

One young woman spoke with us about the barriers she is facing in finding a job, because she doesn’t have a college degree.  We know there are many people in our community just like her.

Julie Singley, Program Manager of Community Impact at Berkshire United Way attends BerkshireWorks’ annual job fair on Wednesday, October 18, 2017.  

That’s one of the reasons Berkshire United Way held its first EPIC meeting on September 22, 2017. There were 20 individuals in attendance, representing for-profit businesses, health, government, education, and non-profit organizations.

EPIC is a countywide, coalition led by Greylock Federal Credit Union, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Berkshire United way, which aims to build pathways to sustainable incomes for individuals and families in the community. Over the next six months, consultant Brittany DeBarros, will work with EPIC to identify shared goals and clear action steps as coalition members work together to:

  • Develop and implement strategies to get more people to work and fill vacant jobs
  • Create strategic work groups as needed based on additional data collection and mapping/identifying existing resources
  • Develop collaborations and partnerships to change the way we work to successfully reach our goals
  • Identify additional resources
  • Assist in developing investment recommendations for final approval by Berkshire United Way Board of Directors
  • Develop and monitor performance measures with reports from community partners on:
    • Employment Match Maker (Family Sustaining Employment/Pathways)
    • Adult Work-Based Experiences
I invite you to email me at or give me a call at 413.442.6948 x32, if you are interested in sharing your time and talent to create economic prosperity for all.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Program Manager, Community Impact

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Talk With Your Kids Often

You may have heard us say that young people need caring adults to be positive influences in their lives; science and research support this idea. The Search Institute, a leader and partner for organizations around the world in discovering what kids need to succeed says, “Regardless of age, children need parents. Indeed, across multiple studies, it appears that the quality of the parent-child relationship is one of the more important factors in determining what kind of behaviors and attitudes adolescents adopt across domains such as health, education, reproductive behaviors, social interactions, and problem behaviors.”

It is important to appreciate that adolescence is its own distinct time between childhood and adulthood, and that it’s important to honor this developmental stage. Young people often hear confusing messages like “Grow up!” or on the other end, “You’re still just a kid!” when what they really need are caring and supportive role models who share their expectations and focus on the positive things our young people are doing.

A billboard depicting local youth engaged in conversation with Katrina Mattson of Tapestry. This is one of three billboards in Pittsfield, which are a part of Berkshire United Way’s, “Talk With Your Kids Often,” campaign.

I hope by now some of you have seen the billboards throughout Pittsfield, which are part of our “Talk With Your Kids Often” campaign.  For tips and resources on how to keep the lines of communication open through the adolescent years, please visit our website.  

For information about local workshops and support groups please contact me via email - or give me a call at 442-6948 x15.

Kat Toomey
Coordinator of Positive Youth Development

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Learning how one word leads to many words

Our mission at Berkshire United Way is to ignite the collective power of individuals and organizations to build a stronger community together. Through the Chapter One: Our Towns, Our Kids, Our Future early childhood development and literacy initiative, we are fulfilling this mission with The Word Project. Together, we’re determined to ensure that every child arrives to kindergarten ready for success in school and life.

The Word Project was created to ensure children acquire the language skills necessary to be successful. Children need lots of connected, play filled experiences with words and stories. On Sunday, September 24th, parents and grandparents, volunteers and business leaders, children and youth, storytellers and actors kicked off The Word Project at The Triplex in Great Barrington. Children wrote or dictated stories with our partners in the lobby then the Word Project’s Improv Troupe (Rebecca Honig, Josh Briggs, and Rachel Seigal, with support from musician Sunwha Reiner) brought them to life with music, and each young author was celebrated with a round of applause. Our community partners at Flying Cloud joined us with a robotics activity, and Head Start teachers did face painting.

The Word Troupe comprised of actors Rebecca Honig, Josh Briggs, Rachel Seigal, and musician Sunhwa Reiner rehearse prior to The Word Project event on Sunday, September 24, 2017.  The troupe brought children’s stories to life before their very eyes.
This month learn all about produce at Big Y, Price Chopper and the WIC office in Great Barrington.  We look forward to sharing our children’s stories at the next Word Project family event.  We are changing our little corner of the world for the better, and we’re having fun while we do!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Be part of the change

Late September in Berkshire County brings with it the changing of the leaves on the trees as well as the kickoff of the Berkshire United Way 2017 campaign.  There are many ways to support Berkshire United Way and we greatly appreciate all that our community does to help us pursue our mission of igniting the collective power of individuals and organizations to build a stronger community together.

You can donate to the 2017 campaign in several ways.  Many local businesses have a campaign within their workplace where you can use payroll deduction to support our work.  If your place of employment does not conduct a campaign, you can make a gift to Berkshire United Way by visiting our website,, calling us (413.442.6948) to make a pledge or payment by phone or mailing your gift to our office at 200 South Street, Pittsfield, MA.  We would welcome a visit to our office from you as well, at which time you can fill out a pledge form or make a gift by check or credit card.

Support of our mission doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary, there are many volunteer opportunities throughout the year where we could use assistance.  You can find out more about Berkshire United Way volunteer activities here -

Volunteers from Unistress take a moment to pose with Bob Van Olst and his grandson Orion at the Berkshire Book House in Housatonic during their second annual ‘Bikers for Books’ ride on Sunday, September 17, 2017.  The volunteers built a new Book House prior to the ride, then took a scenic motorcycle ride to Housatonic to replace and restock the much loved and well used one located in the Park.

Thank you for your support of Berkshire United Way, with your assistance we will reach our vision of Berkshire County being a dynamic, engaged community with opportunities for all.

Development Manager