Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A rewarding volunteer opportunity!

Do you want to make lasting changes in our community? As we begin a new year, it’s rewarding to look back and see the impact we made together.

Thanks to the support of our generous donors, we were able to invest more than $2 million in a broad range of local programs last year. Our commitment to donors is to do the research and invest your money where it is needed most.

Every two years, local nonprofit organizations, whose work aligns with our community goals, are invited to apply for funding.
A team of more than 30 trained community volunteers work with experienced Berkshire United Way staff members to review each proposal, then deliberates to make funding recommendations to our board of directors.



According to one of our experienced proposal reviewers, Judith Douville, “Reviewing funding requests has afforded me the opportunity to become more knowledgeable regarding the programs that are being offered to individuals and families.  It has been an awesome and informative experience for me knowing that I am part of this process.” 

Together, with our donors, volunteers and funded programs, we helped more than 17,000 neighbors here in the Berkshires last year. Most of you probably know someone whose life has been touched, in some way, by one of the programs supported by Berkshire United Way.

If you are interested in reviewing funding proposals this spring, please email me at jsingley@berkshireunitedway.org or give me a call at 413.442.6948 x32.

This is a great opportunity to help build a stronger community here in the Berkshires - I look forward to hearing from you!

Julie Singley
Program Manager, Community Impact

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mentoring changes lives

You may have noticed an increase in mentoring stories on your social media feeds the past couple of weeks. January is National Mentoring Month – a time when we focus even more on the need for mentors and celebrate mentoring and the positive effects it can have.

Mentoring plays an important role in Berkshire United Way’s positive youth development work– increasing high school graduation rates, reducing teenage pregnancy, and ensuring young people have the support they need to graduate high school with a college or career plan.

The following story is from one of the four local mentoring programs Berkshire United Way invests in. Last year, those programs provided mentors for 281 young people. “Upon completing the culinary program at Railroad Street Youth Project, a mentee realized s/he wanted to focus on a possible future as a chef or baker and was matched with a professional pastry chef as a mentor. The pair worked together weekly in a local restaurant kitchen, where the mentee learned first-hand how to bake complex baked goods including crème brulee, panna cotta and rosemary lemon cake.”

Mentoring changes both lives, making it the ultimate two-way street, yet it’s often seen as a one-lane highway. Something that often goes unnoticed when someone considers becoming a mentor is the new knowledge and experience you will gain. I can say from my own experience in a mentoring relationship with a young person, I have become more patient, open-minded, and understanding of the challenges youth are facing today.


Every young person deserves a caring adult in their lives. To view a list of mentor opportunities in the Berkshires, visit this link and simply type in your zip code to view programs in your area. You may also reach out to me to learn more about mentoring opportunities by calling 413.442.6948 or sending an email to ktoomey@berkshireunitedway.org.

Kat Toomey
Coordinator of Positive Youth Development

Monday, January 7, 2019

Keeping our promise to give every child a successful start

Six years ago, Pittsfield Promise introduced us to story of a young child named Marquis born to a young, single mother, named Tina. Tina was living with her grandmother and had limited access to resources in the community, and very little support at home to help raise her child.  Marquis arrived at Kindergarten lacking many of the skills needed to be successful in school; he was significantly behind his peers.  

If Marquis were born today, Tina would have immediately been connected to a home visiting program by the hospital.  The home visiting program would provide intensive weekly sessions with Tina, providing her with parenting skills, and knowledge about child development.  They would connect her to housing, and food pantries to meet some of her basic needs.  As Tina’s confidence grew as a parent, along with the promise to secure a better life for her child, she’d decide to go back to work; she’d be connected to a training program and child care.  The child care center would provide monthly family nights; Tina would build friendships and a support network with the families there.  Reports from teachers would show that Marquis was progressing nicely and offer some suggestions to continue his development at home.  Tina would carve out an extra 30 minutes in her day to read to him daily, and on weekends, they’d attend the library, museum, and free community events. As Marquis entered kindergarten he received a screening during his first week of school and scored in the in the 80th percentile of his class.  

Cynthia Segui, Coordinator of the Berkshire United Way funded Parent-Child Home Program at Community Health Programs, reads to a local child during a home visit.
Since 2012, we have mobilized community partners to assure our young families have a strong start, yet less than 50% of our students reading proficiently by 3rd Grade. What have we missed?  Berkshire United Way is working with a nationally recognized research firm with support of a grant from the Tri-Mix Foundation to help answer this question.  Through a mix of anonymous parent surveys, focus groups, interviews with key stakeholders, and research of national models, we plan to understand what is working for our families and what is not.  We want to keep our promise, to make sure that every child, like Marquis, has a successful start in life.  

Please join us at our next Pittsfield Promise meeting on January 11th at 8:30 am at the Family Resource Center to us build a family strong community.  Contact Karen Vogel at kvogel@berkshireunitedway.org for more information.

We look forward to seeing you there!
Stephanie Adornetto
Coordinator of Early Childhood Development

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Volunteers contribute to our success

The arrival of a new year brings with it hope and opportunity; it also marks a threshold that invites us to reflect upon our successes during the past year.

A key factor in the success of Berkshire United Way’s efforts to make Berkshire County a dynamic, engaged community with opportunities for all is the dedication and commitment of our hardworking volunteers. This is especially true during our workplace campaign—which takes place each fall in more than 150 Berkshire County businesses—where volunteers serve as ambassadors for Berkshire United Way.

These volunteers, commonly referred to as Employee Campaign Coordinators (ECCs), wear many hats in support of our fundraising efforts. In addition to overseeing their company’s annual Berkshire United Way fundraising campaign, ECCs plan special events throughout the year, which raise money to support our investments in the community. Examples of past events include paint and sip nights, gift basket giveaways, casual days and a baby photo contest where employees tried to identify their colleagues by the baby photo submitted by each employee.

They also help coordinate teams of volunteers that support the work we do throughout our community. Some ECC’s organize teams that care for one of the 52 Book Houses that give kids free access to books throughout the county or run book drives at their workplace to ensure each House is adequately filled with books for the children of our community to enjoy.

Last year workplace employees gave more than $1.2 million dollars to help build a stronger community here in the Berkshires. As we pause to reflect, we’d like to thank our many workplace campaign volunteers for helping us achieve that success – we couldn’t have done it without you!

Sandy Girard and Jennifer Vasolino of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, recipients of the 2018 Target Employee Campaign Coordinator of the Year Award with Kristine Hazzard, President and CEO of Berkshire United Way. 
To learn more about becoming an ECC, and other volunteer opportunities with Berkshire United Way, please contact me at djudge@berkshireunitedway.org.

Happy New Year!
Duffy
Development Manager