Northern Berkshire United Way on the ground, in every corner
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
As the saying goes, Northern Berkshire United Way is a mile wide, but an inch deep. It is not unusual for me to talk to people who express a sincere appreciation for Northern Berkshire United Way, but are vague on exactly how we do our work. Most people know our name and that we help people and agencies, but not much more than that.
This past month we kicked off our annual campaign, marking the 81st year in which our nonprofit, community and business leaders came together for the betterment of our community. As part of our annual campaign, we visit workplaces and donors about making an investment in Northern Berkshire United Way. Generally, my talk will go something like this: Northern Berkshire United Way efficiently raises money through workplace campaigns and other fundraising events. We fund 20 member agencies that fulfill the critical human services issues in our community in four core areas: education, health, and financial stability and safety net services. The funding allocation is determined by trained volunteers who review the agencies based on established quality standards to insure that they, as contributors, can be assured of good stewardship of our gifts.
The most important part of the talk is that our 20 member agencies help our family members, friends and neighbors in need. They are not nameless, faceless people who are not able to care for themselves or want a hand out. For example, 80% of the individuals applying and receiving fuel assistance at Berkshire Community Action Council are senior citizens living on subsidized incomes.
Besides our annual allocation funding we are focusing on specific impact work through our Community Needs and Special Grant program. This summer, in collaboration with the Williamstown Community Chest, we received joint funding from MountainOne to provide 15 youth ages 9-15 with summer learning camp experiences at MCLA. Camperships were given to income eligible youth for robotics, computer programming and creative writing camps. Exposure to this type of programming has aligned with our goal of making education a priority for special grant impact funding.
Another partnership we developed has been to bring together several of Northern Berkshire’s largest holiday gift giving programs under one collaboration. The purpose of this collaboration was to create one point of signup, administration and access. This will also eliminate possible duplication issues and create additional resources for children that may need to be served. The two largest program partners joining forces are: Berkshire Community Action Council’s Holiday Elf Program and the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund. Other partners working in the collaboration are: Rotary Club of North Adams, North Adams Public Safety (Fire, Police, and Ambulance) Child Care of the Berkshires and Berkshire Family YMCA-North Adams Branch. All programs had previously held separate sponsorship programs for children with holiday gifts and/or warm clothing each year. Last year, we estimated that over 1500 children were served by these holiday giving programs. While the need is very present in our community, area donors and agencies have communicated they often have to choose which program to fund. Having one program that collaborates, shares information and resources, ensures that all children are served once and that resources and donor funds are put to the best use.
In the coming months, you might see us out in the community, receive a letter, or attend one of our events. When you do, know that we are raising necessary funds to ensure a family member, friend or neighbors in need receives the critical human service supports they may need one day. . Take a look at our list of member agencies. Chances are you or someone you know has been served by one of them. Berkshire Children and Families, Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire County Kids’ Place, Berkshire Family and Individual Resources (BFAIR), Berkshire Family YMCA-North Adams, Berkshire Food Project, Berkshire Nursing Families, Brien Center, Child Care of the Berkshires, Community Legal Aid, Ecu-Health Care, Elder Services of Berkshire County ,Elizabeth Freeman Center, Girl Scouts of Western Massachusetts, Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires, Inc., Louison House, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Berkshire County Chapter NAMI, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, United Cerebral Palsy and Youth.
That’s what Northern Berkshire United Way does – we convene quiet, yet profound partnerships and change in every corner of our Northern Berkshire community. As a community, we are all part of it.