Friday, August 24, 2018

Collaborations result in a stronger community

In a recent blog post you heard directly from Charlotte Cahillane, Positive Youth Development intern here at Berkshire United Way.  One of the projects Charlotte worked on while she was with us was the Positive Youth Development Impact Council Resource Fair.

On July 18th, 14 different youth-serving programs from across the county took part in the Positive Youth Development Impact Council (PYDIC) Resource Fair held at the Hillcrest Center Campus Gymnasium in Lenox. The primary objectives of this event were to enable program staff who work with young people to connect, learn more about the community resources that are available, and strengthen their referral networks.

Participating organizations included: the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Berkshire Children and Families, Berkshire County Kid's Place, Berkshire Family YMCA, Berkshire Pulse, Boy Scouts, The Brien Center, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Child Care of the Berkshires, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, North Adams Public Schools, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Railroad Street Youth Project, and United Cerebral Palsy Association of Berkshire County. 

During the second part of the fair, local business community members joined us to learn more about youth-focused initiatives in the Berkshires and the various volunteer opportunities that are available. Activities like this are just one of the many ways Berkshire United Way impacts the community through resource coordination, or the idea that no one person, program or agency can do it all and our collaborations result in a stronger community.

Elizabeth LeSage from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) talks with Logan Malik from Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), as Sarah Lampro from Berkshire Children and Families looks over informational materials provided by BEAT.
To learn more about the Positive Youth Development Impact Council (PYDIC) or volunteer opportunities with young people, please contact Kat Toomey, Coordinator of Positive Youth Development at or 413-442-6948 x 15.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Back to School with the “1000 Backpack Challenge”

In a few short weeks, local youngsters will be crowding the stores in search of needed school supplies. While many families look forward to this as a sort of “rite of passage,” others struggle with the financial burden of getting their child ready for a new academic year. 

Berkshire United Way’s goal to create a pathway of success from cradle to career recognizes the important collaborations happening in our community.

In conjunction with The Berkshire Eagle, Greylock Federal Credit Union and numerous other sponsors, will distribute 1,000 backpacks to children in need throughout Berkshire County. Families may pick up their FREE backpack filled with school supplies at the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires at 7 Melville St. Pittsfield MA. on August 22nd from 3pm-6pm on a first-come-first-served basis.

The goal is for every child in Berkshire County to start school on the right foot with the supplies they need. In addition to the backpack giveaway, free haircuts will be offered from 3-5 pm along with a host of other activities, including health checkups, and financial tips for parents/caregivers.

Berkshire United Way is pleased to be an active participant in this event and will have a variety of new books on hand for children to tuck into their backpack and read throughout the year. As community partners join forces to support our children, we build a stronger community, together.

Stephanie Adornetto
Coordinator of Early Childhood Development

Friday, August 10, 2018

Building a strong foundation

Berkshire United Way collaborates with many community partners throughout the county, to help our children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, so they are reading proficiently by third grade.  Last year, we invested more than $134,380 in early education and care programs at Berkshire Children and Families, Child Care of the Berkshires, Lee Youth Association, and Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center. Together, we impacted more than 425 children’s lives.

These quality early education and care programs recognize what research has shown – that “children learn best” when academic learning, like language and literacy is intertwined with building social emotional skills, such as sitting quietly for circle time and sharing with others.

Children enrolled in Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center’s Early Childhood Education program listen to a story as they sit quietly during circle time.

The early education and care programs we invested in, report that 93% of the children they serve maintained or progressed socially and emotionally and 92% maintained or improved their language skills.  This is in comparison to 77% of children achieving comparable developmental milestones through investments made by other United Ways.

A young child who was referred to Lee Youth Association’s Busy Bee Preschool by the Department of Children and Families. Upon his arrival, he had absolutely no verbal skills, was walking on his toes, and had trouble forming attachments to adults. Program staff obtained services from the Pediatric Development Center, who came to see him two to three times a week and provided tools for the Busy Bee staff to continue his therapy within the classroom; teachers worked tirelessly with the child every free chance they had. As a result, he is beginning to talk in 2-3 word sentences. He has completely stopped “toe walking”—in fact he’s even running—and has become attached to all his teachers, who look forward to seeing what the future holds for this amazing little boy!

Impact like this is a collaborative effort that’s possible only through the generous support of our donors and hard work of our community partners and volunteers. A child’s earliest years set the foundation for later learning and life success.  The investment we make there now pays incredible dividends later.

We welcome volunteers who are interested in joining us in this important work. To learn more or support our work in early childhood development by giving to Berkshire United Way, please visit

Program Manager, Community Impact

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Legacy of Caring

On July 15th, I had the honor of participating in the dedication of a new Berkshire United Way Book House at the Dalton CRA in memory of William T. West.  Since 2016, Unistress employees and their friends have participated in the annual Bikers for Books ride—a motorcycle ride throughout the county—installing or repairing Berkshire United Way Book Houses along the way.  Bill West was part of this group prior to his death in May, and his friends and family chose to honor his memory in a way that also gives back to the children of our community.  As kids and their parents take a book and leave a book at the CRA, they will be greeted by Bill’s wonderful smile. 

Unistress employees gather around a newly installed Berkshire Book House at the Dalton CRA on Sunday, July 15, 2018.  The Book House, where children are encouraged to take a book and leave a book in its place, was dedicated to William T. West, a big supporter of the Dalton CRA, and contained his picture on the front.
Our community lost another good friend in May when Carolyn Sawyer passed away.  Carolyn was dedicated to Berkshire United Way’s Book Houses, spending her retirement biking a customized route to check on the many Pittsfield locations, and reporting back to us which houses needed books or repairs, and then filling them.  She spent hours sorting and organizing the many books donated to Berkshire United Way.  Carolyn and her family generously chose Berkshire United Way to be the beneficiary of gifts in her memory, and we have created a fund to support the Book Houses in her name.  In this way, Carolyn will continue to look over the Book Houses and our children as they experience the love of reading.

Our community is blessed by the legacies of so many kindhearted spirits, and it is an honor to be their steward.

Jennifer Kerwood
Vice President of Development