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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Berkshire Bounty expands Board; First-time homebuyers class; Berkshire Grown grant fights food insecurity; ExtraSpecial Teas celebrates 7th birthday; Berkshire Bank named “Trustworthy”; Earth Month campaign

Berkshire Bounty is pleased to announce the appointment of Matt Masiero, of Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, to its Board of Directors.
Matt Masiero. Image courtesy of Berkshire Bounty.

Matt Masiero to join Berkshire Bounty Board of Directors

Great Barrington— Berkshire Bounty is pleased to announce the appointment of Matt Masiero to its Board of Directors. This brings the total number of board members to five.

Mr. Masiero grew up in Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts and graduated from The Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston in 1977. In 1979, at the age of 21, Matt moved to the Berkshires and joined forces with his brother Chris to open the roadside produce stand that would soon become Guido’s Fresh Marketplace on Route 7 in Pittsfield. A Great Barrington location opened in 1995, with both stores operating on a marketplace model where tenant businesses manage the meat and fish, floral and gift, and kitchenware selection alongside the Guido’s produce, grocery, cafés, and prepared food and deli departments. The stores employ over 300 people, and, as one of the largest employers in the Berkshires, Guido’s has followed a tradition of quality service and community support, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Masiero and his brother plan to retire at the end of 2023 as Guido’s leadership transitions to the next generation of the Masiero family. Mr. Masiero brings with him over four decades of experience in food retail, management, and community giving, as well as a deep commitment to fighting food insecurity in the region.

Berkshire Bounty provides food to those in need by collecting donated food, purchasing food, and then delivering that food to distribution organizations such as food pantries and senior centers. Through the generosity of donors and the dedicated work of volunteers, Berkshire Bounty has grown explosively since its founding and has provided over 1.2 million pounds of nutritious food to those in need. Berkshire Bounty also collaborates regularly with many local organizations involved in meeting the needs of the food insecure population in Berkshire County.

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Greylock offering free First-Time Homebuyers class

Pittsfield— Greylock Federal Credit Union will offer a free class for first-time homebuyers on Thursday, April 13, 2023, from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Hudson Area Library, at 51 N. 5th Street, Hudson, NY.

Greylock’s team of experienced mortgage lending experts will help future homebuyers better understand the home purchase process, and gain confidence in making decisions along the way. Save your spot! Call: (413) 236-4125 to register or email tlafleur@greylock.org.

The free course covers:

  • Creating a budget
  • Understanding your credit and financing options
  • Reviewing the home-buying process

Two additionally classes will be offered, on Thursday, April 27, 2023,  5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Greylock Federal Credit Union’s community meeting room in the Allendale Branch; and Tuesday, May 9, 2023, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Firehouse Café, 47 Park Street, Adams.

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Maeve, Berkshire Grown volunteer. Image courtesy of Berkshire Grown.

Food security network in the Berkshires now has $1.4 million to help close food access gaps  

Great Barrington— In rural and underserved corners of the Berkshires, getting fresh local food onto the family tables can be a challenge. Two government grants totaling more than $1.4 million are breaking through barriers to rural food access and affordability.

Berkshire Grown is steering both programs, with a team of food-savvy local nonprofits and area farmers, in an intricate network connecting growers, distributors and consumers. Under a Massachusetts Department of Agriculture grant, locally grown food will supplement supplies at area food pantries and community meal sites. Also, CHP Berkshires’ medical practice locations around the county will offer food bags to area residents. Participating farmers will benefit because grants funds will be used to purchase their crops, which will be passed on for free to recipients.

The $550,000 grant will be distributed over 18 months. Of this amount, $315,000 is earmarked to buy farmers’ produce, especially from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and woman-owned farms. A three-year USDA grant of $890,293, administered by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, will fund two mobile farmers markets, which will be on the road later in 2023.

In Adams, farmers Meg Bantle and Laura Tupper-Palches established Full Well farm in 2018 with food justice in mind. “Working with Berkshire Grown and other local organizations aligns with our mission of providing our community with fresh produce regardless of their finances, while remaining a viable business,” said Tupper-Palches. “This is a way for us to build food security without sacrificing our revenue – because in the end, farms staying afloat is crucial for food security.”

By September, Berkshire Bounty and Berkshire Grown (a local organization that seeks out excess fresh food donations from stores and other sources) will likely be on the road with two leased mobile farmer’s markets and a late summer harvest.

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Erin loved drumming with Berkshire Bateria in 2022. Image courtesy of ExtraSpecial Teas.

 

ExtraSpecialTeas celebrates seven years of providing vocational services in the Berkshires

Housatonic— On Saturday, April 15th, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at 226 Pleasant Street in Housatonic, ExtraSpecialTeas will celebrate its seventh birthday of providing vocational services to special needs adults offered through its first teahouse at 2 Elm Street in Great Barrington and its second teahouse in Housatonic. ExtraSpecialTeas supports, trains, and empowers young adults with diverse learning differences, such as autism, Down syndrome and sight/hearing impairment, to learn, work and thrive in the Berkshires.

April is Autism Awareness Month so ExtraSpecialTeas is hosting The Blue Party (blue is for autism awareness, understanding and acceptance). All community members are invited to wear blue, post party pictures to their social media (tag @extraspecialteas #lightitupblue #brewbelonging) and come into the teahouse to sample an “ExtraSpecial” brew of their signature blue tea named “Blue Skies,” and try gluten-free brownie bites made by ExtraSpecialServers and staff. The day’s schedule includes face painting, live music, gluten free snacks and blue tea.

Both community teahouses are now open Monday through Friday  10 a.m.- 4 p.m. each week and serve hot, iced and bubble teas and gluten-free treats made by the participants and staff at our commercial kitchen in Housatonic. Housatonic is now serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea (through a newly created vocational food prep program).

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Berkshire Bank recognized as one of America’s “Most Trustworthy Companies”

Pittsfield—  Berkshire Bank, a leading, socially responsible community bank with financial centers in New England and New York, is excited to announce it was recently recognized in Newsweek magazine’s list of America’s Most Trustworthy Companies 2023. The list features the top 700 most trustworthy companies across 23 industries.

The Newsweek list recognized companies for their dedication to building trust with all stakeholders. Results were based on a holistic approach to evaluating trust that considered customer trust, employee trust, and investor trust.

America’s Most Trustworthy Companies 2023 were identified in an independent survey based on a vast sample of approximately 25,000 U.S. residents who rated companies they know in terms of on all three touchpoints of trust. A total of 95,000 evaluations were submitted. This prestigious award is presented by Newsweek and Statista Inc., the world-leading statistics portal and industry ranking provider.

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Three local startups team up for Earth Month campaign

Pittsfield— This month marks the 23rd anniversary of Earth Day, and in celebration of this milestone, three Berkshires-based businesses are teaming up for a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the importance of conservation and sustainability. Joining forces are Hot Plate Brewing Co., Tommy’s Compost, and Dri Umbrellas, three companies that first met through the E For All Berkshire County program and stayed connected because of their aligned missions.

Mary Stucklen, founder of Tommy’s Compost, is also focused on diverting valuable resources from ending up in a landfill. First launched in 2021, her curbside food waste collection business serves both homes and businesses.

Deidre Horan, founder of the pre-launch startup Dri Umbrellas, is focused on taking post-consumer waste and zeroes in on the large and growing problem of ocean-bound single use plastics. By reclaiming these materials and manufacturing durable, high-end umbrellas out of 100% ocean-bound plastics. Horan is focused on proving that sustainably made products can make a positive eco impact while competing on quality and price. On Earth Day, which falls on Saturday, April 22, Dri Umbrellas will be holding the kickoff for its crowdfunding campaign at Hot Plate’s taproom.

Throughout the month, Hot Plate will also be teaming up with Roots Rising, Red Shirt Farms, Turner Hill Malting Co., and other local organizations to help raise awareness and much-needed funds to support the conservation and sustainability efforts of many different private and non-profit businesses here in Berkshire County.

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