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Business Briefs: Berkshire Taconic announces grant recipients; Pittsfield Parade in tentative planning stage; El-Kashef joins GB Family Dental; BMM adds team member; BCC, MCLA pilot program for homeless youth

Twenty-one organizations in four counties received grants of up to $2,500 for projects that seek to bring people together to explore shared interests, address a problem through dialogue and action, or consider an issue through a range of perspectives. 

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation announces grants from Bridging Divides, Healing Communities program

SHEFFIELD — Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) announced the distribution of more than $48,000 through its Bridging Divides, Healing Communities grant program, a new initiative to support community-building activities aimed at strengthening relationships and trust at the local level. Twenty-one organizations in four counties received grants of up to $2,500 for projects that seek to bring people together to explore shared interests, address a problem through dialogue and action, or consider an issue through a range of perspectives. With 70 applications received, BTCF is currently planning a second round of grantmaking for the spring.

“At a time marked by extreme polarization, often rooted in assertions of white privilege, we can take action in our towns and cities to promote trust and reconciliation in an effort to help counter the forces and events that are instilling distrust, bigotry and hate,” said Peter Taylor, president of BTCF. “We are inspired by the creative and inclusive ideas from grantees who want to confront issues like racism, the stigma of homelessness and mental illness, and eroding trust between police and communities.”

Bridging Divides, Healing Communities is part of BTCF’s nearly $2 million, multi-year investment in its community engagement focus area, in partnership with other funders. This includes the Arts Build Community initiative, and training and networking for area board members through the Board Leadership Forum and seminars.

Grantees are listed alphabetically by county and name:

Berkshire County

Arts in Recovery for Youth: $2,500 for its first-ever Art for Social Justice Project, in partnership with Barrington Stage Company, pairing mentor guest artists with young people from varied backgrounds for dialogue, engagement with civic leaders, and a community art event

Berkshire Area Health Education Center: $2,500 for a virtual continuing education program for health and human service providers from across the region on food insecurity as a social determinant of health and lessons from COVID-19 response on meeting the needs of vulnerable residents

Downtown Pittsfield: $2,500 to conduct a facilitated learning experience with downtown stakeholders as part of the process prescribed by Pittsfield’s Community Development Board for ensuring ongoing communication between management of a local homeless shelter and the surrounding neighborhoods

Leland Gantt photo courtesy the artist

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center: $2,500 for a two-night program, in collaboration with Clinton Church Restoration, using LeLand Gantt’s one-man show “Rhapsody in Black” to explore how performing arts can advance ongoing discussions of racial justice

Norman Rockwell Museum: $2,500 in support of its public discussion programs based upon Rockwell’s Four Freedoms that will bring together members of the general public from different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs to discuss aspects of freedom today

Regional School District Planning Board: $2,500 for training and facilitation in conflict resolution for the eight-town, 24-member board currently evaluating the educational and financial feasibility of consolidating the Berkshire Hills and Southern Berkshire regional school districts

Sheffield Historical Society: $2,500 for an interactive art installation sharing the story of the local indigenous people who inhabited the area until the 18th century, in partnership with the Stockbridge Munsee Community and the Southern Berkshire school community

Stanton Home: $2,500 to launch an outreach and education program for police, firefighters, EMTs, first responders, and other public service employees focused on identifying and responding to emergency situations that involve residents with intellectual and developmental abilities

Columbia County

Photo courtesy Art Omi

Art Omi: $2,500 for “The Community Voices Virtual Tour,” a series of short videos to feature youth and adults of different races, ages, and abilities as they gain insight into the creative process and experience onsite artworks that address immigration, land acknowledgement, racism, and accessibility

Claverack Free Library: $1,145 to create “The Immigrant Experience: Remembered and Imagined,” a youth-led project to investigate personal and familial immigration experiences through various forms of expression, culminating in a free public performance

Free Columbia: $2,450 for a series of six facilitated discussions among diverse residents of Philmont to share experiences of and perspectives on systemic racism and social injustice, building on a successful initial session last summer

Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood: $2,200 to expand on and engage Hudson residents in the work of the Police Reconciliation and Advisory Commission, through which civic and business stakeholders are examining topics such as trust between police and citizens, incidents of misconduct or brutality, and police response to mental health and substance use issues

Northeast Dutchess County

Image courtesy NorthEast-Millerton Library

NorthEast-Millerton Library: $2,500 to continue an anti-racism book group, which brings together a diverse, multigenerational group of residents with a noted author for discourse on the effects of racism, the prevalence of racist ideas and beliefs, and how to create a better community

Town of Amenia: $2,500 to partner with Wassaic Boarding School to provide weekend skateboard sessions where youth and adults from different backgrounds can learn together the art of skateboarding, which a recent study suggests can improve mental health, foster community, and encourage resilience

The Wassaic Project: $2,500 for a free high school art club organized around a group project that will encourage creativity and facilitate social-emotional development among youth of diverse backgrounds through peer engagement, the creative process, and adult support

Northwest Litchfield County

David M. Hunt Library: $2,100 for “Small Town, Big Talk,” a documentary photography installation by Rebecca Bloomfield that will share stories and portraits of dozens of residents with diverse experience and identities, to be exhibited on the library’s popular Art Wall gallery and online

Friends of the Goshen Public Library: $2,300 for “Telling Our Stories,” in which high school students and new town residents will be partnered with a range of community members to produce videos that showcase Goshen’s diversity and the hardships of current times

Litchfield Jazz Camp photo: Lindsey Victoria

Litchfield Performing Arts: $2,500 for Litchfield Jazz Camp, a weekend program for teens and adults of all abilities and backgrounds to improve skills, explore the cultures and histories that have influenced jazz music, and help students forge connections with one another

McCall Center for Behavioral Health: $2,500 to hold a virtual event on behavioral health disparities among people of color for providers and community leaders, with an aim to address cultural stigma that prevents people from seeking treatment and promote awareness of available programs

Salisbury School: $2,500 to create a day of celebration and a permanent witness stone honoring James Mars, the last slave bought and sold in Connecticut, in a partnership of the junior and senior history classes at the School, the social justice team of the Church of Christ Congregational, Norfolk, and the Norfolk Historical Society

Scoville Memorial Library: $1,000 for a series of online community discussions tackling subjects such as societal polarization, bias, the climate crisis, and strengthening the social fabric, with prompts from pre-assigned articles, podcasts, and videos as a starting point for exploration

—A.K.

*     *     *

Pittsfield Parade Committee in planning stages amid pandemic

Photo courtesy Pittsfield Parade Facebook page

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield 4th of July Committee is moving forward with plans for a parade this July, with the theme “An Old-Fashioned 4th — The Way We Were.” Well into planning for the 2020 parade when the pandemic struck, the committee cancelled the live parade and replaced it with a pre-recorded program, aired on PCTV, discussing the history of the longstanding event that began in 1783.

Parade Committee President Peter Marchetti said, “We have an energetic and upbeat committee, despite the many unknowns about the virus at this juncture. It’s better to be ready than to be caught flatfooted.” The Committee, which meets monthly, also will be discussing back-up plans at the February 24 meeting.

Fundraisers are on hold for now. Fundraising letters, which normally go out on March 1, are being pushed to April 1, in part because of uncertainty about the virus, the vaccine, and the possibility of a live parade. The final decision date is projected to be May 1.

Volunteers for the live event, whether for this year or next, are always needed. In addition, the parade needs volunteers to coordinate television and radio broadcasting and publicity, as well as staff support.

Annual elections were conducted in November, with a focus on reelection of President Marchetti, Secretary Sue Rock, and five directors for three-year terms: Dick Murphy, Jill Gianatasio, Becky Manship, and April White. Rebecca Brein was elected to an unexpired term due to a vacancy.

—A.K.

    *     *     *

Dentist Joins CHP Family Dental Center Great Barrington

Lina El-Kashef photo courtesy CHP Family Dental Center

GREAT BARRINGTON — Lina El-Kashef, D.D.S, has joined the dental medicine team at CHP Family Dental Center in Great Barrington.

A 2019 graduate of the Texas A & M College of Dentistry, she most recently worked in private dental practices in Texas before relocating to the Northeast and joining CHP. She earned her M.S. in medical sciences from the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and completed her B.S. in biology and health care studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. El-Kashef is fluent in French, Arabic, Spanish, and English and resides in the Albany, N.Y. area.

—A.K.

    *     *     *

Berkshire Money Management welcomes Acelynn Fulton to the team

Acelynn Fulton photo courtesy BMM

DALTON — Berkshire Money Management has welcomed Acelynn Fulton to its team. Fulton will assist the Community Development and Marketing initiatives in her role as creative administrative support. She joins the BMM team from Salt Lake City and is working towards a bachelor’s degree in business marketing through the University of Phoenix.

Fulton has worked in the finance industry for about six years, starting at Alpine Securities as a broker associate, then moving to E*Trade Financial as a transfer of assets analyst. Fulton now resides in Dalton.

—A.K.

    *     *     *

BCC and MCLA to pilot Moving to College Program for homeless youth

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College (BCC) and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) are working together as part of a new statewide effort to help teens who are homeless enroll in college. The “Moving to College” scholarship program is being piloted at various public community colleges and four-year institutions across the Commonwealth.

The application deadline for the scholarship program is March 1, 2021. The application, as well as eligibility requirements, can be found here.

The initiative will provide rooms in residence halls, meal plans, and case management to support eligible teens. MCLA will play a pivotal role, one of four residential campuses in the Commonwealth selected by Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago to pilot the program.

The Berkshire team will be composed of campus staff from MCLA and BCC working in partnership with school liaisons and counselors, and a local non-profit youth services provider. The goal is to provide the supports these students need so they can stay on track to earn degrees.

“We see over and over that higher education is a viable path out of poverty,” said MCLA President James F. Birge, Ph.D. “Many MCLA students come from low-income families or are first-generation college students. They go on to secure well-paying jobs, maintain successful, fulfilling lives, and contribute to their communities.”

Scholarships for up to 20 students across Massachusetts are funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Moving to Work program, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, with additional support provided by the Department of Higher Education, the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and Young Adult Commission, and participating campuses.

Other participating colleges include Massachusetts Bay Community College, Mount Wachusett Community College, North Shore Community College, Fitchburg State University, Framingham State University, and Salem State University.

—A.K.

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