Wednesday, September 26, 2018

FREE play groups offer so much more than play!

Did you know…that talking to babies right from the start and carrying on conversations with young children can result in a higher IQ, verbal comprehension, and language processing for children up to 10 years later!  Results of a 10-year longitudinal study by Lena researchers further shares that two-way conversations with children from 18-24 months are particularly important.

Berkshire United Way’s aspirational goals include making sure every child in Berkshire County enters kindergarten with the skills needed to be successful in the years to follow. Berkshire United Way partners and supports many programs that foster parent-child relationships, increase knowledge of child development, and help connect families with community resources.

One such program, the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) supports five regional community-based programs that promote family engagement. Each region hosts a variety of monthly literacy-based activities designed for young children and their families. Recognizing parents as a child’s first teacher, parents can work with their children to build on strengths, encourage creativity, and have fun meeting new friends. FREE for all families, programs offer playgroups, parent education classes and workshops, and connections to local resources. Some programs have free diapers, a clothing exchange, and most offer monthly family events.

A participant in a play group held at the The Family Center in North Adams, expresses her inner artist!

Check out the links below to find a playgroup near you and please share this blog with a family you know!

Community Health Program CHP Playgroups

Talk to you again soon -
Coordinator of Early Childhood Development

Friday, September 21, 2018

Resilience and hard work pay off

16-year old Pittsfield High School student, Kyle Pullaro-Clark has been a remarkable mentor and advocate. On Thursday September 6th, nearly 20 staff members and young people gathered at Berkshire Children and Families to honor Kyle with the S.A.Y It Proud (Supporting and Acknowledging Youth) award for outstanding involvement in community and school activities.

Sarah Lampro, Youth Coordinator at the Family Resource Center, Kyle Pullaro-Clark, S.A.Y. It Proud recipient, and Kat Toomey, Coordinator of Positive Youth Development at Berkshire United Way.

As a member of Live Out Loud, an LGBTQ+ youth support group hosted by Berkshire Children and Families’ Family Resource Center, Kyle has demonstrated outstanding leadership and efforts in addressing and raising awareness about issues surrounding youth and the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to mentoring young people in Pride Play and Fun, a group for LGBTQ+ youth under the age of 12, Kyle volunteers his time and puts his energy into community events such as the LGBTQ+ Annual Conference and Pittsfield Moves.  He also provides a youth voice on panels advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.

In addition to his great work in the community, Kyle works hard in his school, home and work life, holding a job in the community for the last couple years. Sarah Lampro, Youth Coordinator at the Family Resource Center, who nominated Kyle for the award said, “I have been fortunate to watch him grow into an extremely well-rounded, hardworking and great young man who I am confident will go on to do many remarkable things in our community.”  

Established by the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership in 2012, the important work of recognizing middle and high school students with S.A.Y. It Proud awards has been continued by our Positive Youth Development Impact Council (PYDIC).  

If you’d like to learn more about PYDIC or nominate a young person aged 11-19 for a S.A.Y It Proud award, please contact me at or 413.442.6948 ext. 15. I look forward to hearing from you!

Kat Toomey
Coordinator of Positive Youth Development

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fun fall activities

Fall is in the air as children are returning to school and Berkshire United Way is grateful to be the beneficiary of two great events as we work with partners throughout the county to prepare children for kindergarten, help teens develop a college or career path and put money in the pockets of working families.

Saturday brought cooler temperatures making it a perfect day for outside activities and we’re so grateful to our friends at Jiminy Peak for hosting their second annual community day to raise money for Berkshire United Way.  Children and families enjoyed discounted admission to the adventure park, and the opportunity to spend time at our crafts table, enjoy a story walk, receive balloon animals and have their faces painted courtesy of Balloon Ben and his daughter. 

Thanks to some creative thinking by Race Director Patty Spector and the Josh Committee, the 42nd Josh Billings RunAground will go on!  The race takes place this Sunday, September 16th, with a new route that culminates on the familiar grounds of Tanglewood.

Following the main race is the always popular kids race, which draws more than 100 participants and is a fun, competitive way to put a wrap on the day of competition.  For those children interested in registering, you can do so the day prior to the event at the Arcadian Shoppe or on the day of the event at Tanglewood.

For many years proceeds from the event have been donated to Berkshire United Way to help our organization ignite the collective power of individuals and organizations to build a stronger community together. 

Berkshire United Way is fortunate to have such great community partners in our efforts to make Berkshire County a dynamic, engaged community with opportunities for all.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Prosperous Partnership with AmeriCorps

Greetings! My name is James Swinchoski and I am the current Economic Prosperity VISTA at Berkshire United Way – in partnership with the AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program. The VISTA program is a national service program designed to help end poverty. My tenure will be from August 2018 to August 2019 as a part of an AmeriCorps year of service.

James Swinchoski, AmeriCorps VISTA intern in Economic Prosperity.

I am a recent graduate of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. I held concentrations in Psychology and Sociology – with a double minor in Social Work and Social Justice Studies. My aim with wedding these programs together was to learn about community organization on a micro and macro level as well as creating positive change our community.

I previously interned with the North Adams Friendship Center – helping them survey those in need of meal support and social services. I also helped them with web development and assisted with the food pantry, while I honed my grant writing skills and so much more.

In the coming year, I will be working with Berkshire United Way on their Economic Prosperity Impact Council (EPIC) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, assisting our with free tax preparation and recruiting young people to the Berkshires and helping them get the training they need to thrive here (EPIC).

I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to build a stronger community and have had a great couple of weeks here at Berkshire United Way. I will be posting updates from time to time, so expect to hear more from me in the weeks and months ahead!

Warmest regards,
James, VISTA Volunteer