Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#GivingTuesday, what’s it all about?

We are so excited to be participating in #GivingTuesday for the first time! What's it all about? #GivingTuesday is a global movement that encourages people to donate to their favorite charities, become involved in a new one, or start giving for the first time. Falling right on the heels of Thanksgiving, the start of a holiday season that includes caring for our community, #GivingTuesday takes place on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.

So, please save the date! On November 27th, we’ll need your help in two ways. First, please give - whatever amount feels good to you. And second, please help spread the word via text, social media, email and word of mouth. Ask your family, friends, neighbors, to join us in this special day of giving.

Your donation will help give 11,000 kids the magic of words and every single gift counts! The ability to read proficiently by third grade is a proven indicator of a child’s future academic success.

Currently, early childhood programs funded by Berkshire United Way are serving 1,100 kids, that's one out of every 10 Berkshire County children under the age of nine. We need to reach more of our children to ensure they experience the magic of words.

We’ll share more information about #GivingTuesday on this blog, our Facebook page and our website as we get closer to November 27th, so be on the lookout. What better way to begin the season of giving than to provide a brighter future for the kids in our community?

On behalf of our county's youngest residents, thank you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

You're invited to see your investment in action!

Did you know that a team of Berkshire United Way staff, board members, and community volunteers visit every program we fund, each year, to observe that program in action?  These monitoring visits help ensure our donors’ gifts are making a real impact! Those who participate find the experience incredibly rewarding as reflected in the stories below.

“I think I have been doing monitoring visits for about 10 years.  I love getting to see all the wonderful local programs Berkshire United Way partners with. Seeing the passion the program staff and volunteers have for what they do and their commitment is amazing.  I also review Requests for Proposal (RFPs), so it is great for me to read about the programs early on and then see them in action.  Every time I visit I get emotional about the stories they share.  Sometimes it's hard to leave them!” 
 - Jaime Campbell, Financial Analyst, Controller's Office, Williams College

“I have been monitoring human services programs in Pittsfield since 2013. It has been valuable for me to partner with Berkshire United Way on the programs that are also City funded, and collaborate on the expectations, results and goals for these programs.  I am always amazed at the good work being done in Pittsfield, every day. I have found that everyone doing this work is passionate about what they do and about how to make Pittsfield a thriving community. I am always in awe of the stories staff members share about the progress they make and the impact their services have on people’s lives. Site visits bring the program and services to life for me and I am able to bring that information back to our Human Service Advisory Council, the 11-member board that reviews City proposals. Berkshire United Way has always had a staff member on this Council, this partnership means that common funders can work together for agencies’ benefit.” 
- Justine Dodds, Program Manager, Community Development, City of Pittsfield

Local students were observed during a recent monitoring visit at The Mastheads. The Mastheads Fireside Poets program is funded by Berkshire United Way.  
These are just two stories from monitoring visit volunteers. There are many more like them and we couldn’t do this work without community members like you! If you’d like to participate in upcoming monitoring visits, or learn more about what’s involved, please contact Rae Langsdale at rlangsdale@berkshireunitedway.org or 413-442-6948, ext. 35.

We look forward to hearing from you!
Julie Singley
Program Manager, Community Impact

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Power of Mentoring and Meaningful Work

“Through Roots Rising, I’ve become really interested in farming...I want to go grad school and hopefully buy a piece of property with a house, fields, and woods…I’d like to start an herb garden and maybe make some money as an herbalist, and then after finishing school start up a farm and my own CSA.”

The above was shared by Aviva, a high school student who is part of Roots Rising, an agriculture-based program of the Alchemy Initiative. Roots Rising pays teens to work on farms, in community gardens, and in local food pantries, but it’s not just a job. Berkshire United Way partners with organizations like the Alchemy Initiative to give young people the opportunity to explore careers and develop the work readiness skills they need.

Teens plant vegetables on a local farm through Roots Rising, a work readiness program that focuses on giving youth the tools they need to successfully enter the workforce.

Experiences like these are often enhanced by a mentor or positive role model who can support the young person in their challenges and aid in their growth. Through programs like Greenagers, another work readiness program supported by Berkshire United Way, young people not only gain crucial work experience, but are supported by mentors in the form of program staff, peer leaders, and local community members.

Donovan worked with Greenagers for four seasons and used that experience to secure a job working with Race Mountain Tree Services while enrolling in evening classes at Berkshire Community College.  The staff at Greenagers counseled Donovan through the financial aid process and continue to support him as he progresses through his professional and educational life.

Through programs like Greenagers and Roots Rising, young people can explore careers in related fields and secure employment in the Berkshires, just like Donovan. Others are given employability skills that can be applied to any line of work. The key ingredients to helping ensure our youth successfully transition to higher education and/or the workforce are opportunities for meaningful work and positive role models to help along the way.

If you’re interested in becoming one of these positive role models, please reach out to me for a list of opportunities. As they say, it takes a village!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Kat Toomey, Coordinator of Positive Youth Development

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Investing in innovation

One of our core values at Berkshire United Way is innovation - the act or process of introducing new ideas, or methods. As our community needs evolve, we are committed to partnering with new local agencies to implement cutting-edge solutions together and have established an Innovation Fund to help support this important work.

We are currently looking for new community partners who have started new programs and are looking for some support. In addition to funding, our team is available to assist with capacity building for these programs, or the process by which programs develop and maintain the knowledge, tools, and other resources needed to operate at a greater capacity (larger scale, larger audience, larger impact).

Detailed information, including the application for Innovation Funding is available on our website. Applications will be reviewed and grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, pending available funding.

These small grants will help us determine what works well, and if successful, replicate to provide early education opportunities, so more children enter school ready to learn; give more young people the tools they need to make healthy decisions and develop a plan for college or a career; and help more working families increase their income and assets.

To learn more about our Innovation Funding, please email me at jsingley@berkshireunitedway.org or give me a call at 413.442.6948 x32.

I look forward to hearing from you!
Program Manager, Community Impact

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A driving force in moving our community forward

Hello! My name is Gregory Dieterich and I am a loaned Workplace Campaign Executive here at the Berkshire United Way. Greylock Federal Credit Union and the Berkshire United Way have always had a strong relationship, and this year Greylock donated my time to Berkshire United Way to assist them during their 2018 campaign. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to serve my community. While I have participated in many fundraising efforts for Berkshire United Way, this role will allow me to reach more people, and ultimately create more support for such an essential organization.

I have been directly impacted by two programs that receive funding from the Berkshire United Way, so it’s always been very easy for me to see the impact that they have on the community. When our daughter was born, Berkshire Nursing Families visited our room almost immediately to assist my wife and me. We had many questions and concerns, and they were there to make sure we were equipped with the information we needed to make nursing successful. Not only were they there after the delivery, they offer routine follow up visits. Without the support of this program, I truly feel we would not have had such an amazing experience.

The second organization we worked with was Childcare of the Berkshires. Among the many things they do, Childcare of the Berkshires hosts play groups for children of all ages. The groups are structured with activities designed to prepare children for the next steps in their lives. When our daughter was 2, I began bringing her to these groups where she learned social skills, and a love for reading through story time. Childcare of the Berkshires also taught me HOW to read to my daughter in a way that would ensure her comprehension of the story. These reading habits have put my daughter in a position to succeed, and I am extremely grateful for that.

The driving force behind me in this campaign is the joy I received from the efforts of these organizations and Berkshire United Way. I look forward to opening the possibilities for stories like mine to occur in other families throughout Berkshire County and invite you to learn more by reading the weekly posts on this blog.

Gregory Dieterich
Workplace Campaign Executive