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HomeLife In the BerkshiresBusiness Briefs: High...

Business Briefs: High Peaks Festival moves to Berkshires; housing trust offers assistance loans; Williams College appoints new chaplain; Berkshire Children & Families promotes two; BTCF spring grant deadlines

Less than a year after its formation, the Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Fund now has a total of $50,000 to lend to qualified first-time homebuyers.

CEWM’s High Peaks Festival to move to Berkshire County

Sheffield — Close Encounters With Music will move its High Peaks Festival to the campus of Berkshire School this summer. Previous editions of the festival have taken place at the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville, New York, as well as in Hunter and Tannersville, New York.

The High Peaks Festival was created as an extension of CEWM’s mission. During the 10-day festival to be held in August, 50 students from around the globe will work with faculty members on music they will then perform for the community.

Each year’s festival has a theme and this summer’s theme is “The French-Russian Connection.” “Our faculty includes baroque experts and we’ll begin with the French Baroque music, all the way up to Poulenc and Messiaen. It gives us a chance to present some of the most beloved and important of composers: Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Debussy, Poulenc and Fauré. We’ll also look at how cultural hubs are subject to political and economic winds,” said CEWM artistic director Yehuda Hanani.

The 2018 faculty includes pianists Alexander Shtarkman of the Peabody Institute and Mikael Darmanie of Stony Brook University; violinists Irina Muresanu of the University of Maryland and Peter Zazofsky of Boston University; violists Pierre-Henri Xuereb of the Conservatoire de Paris, Michael Strauss of Oberlin College and Conservatory and Su Zhen of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing; cellists Hanani of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Chagit Glaser of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University; and Baroque experts Paul Dwyer of ACRONYM and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Adriane Post of Apollo’s Fire and the Handel and Haydn Society.


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Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Fund offering down payment assistance loans

Great Barrington — Selectman and housing trust Chair Bill Cooke and the Great Barrington Selectboard have announced that the Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Fund is now offering down payment assistance loans to qualified buyers.

Less than a year after its formation, the trust now has a total of $50,000 to lend to qualified first-time homebuyers. The loans will be interest-free deferred payment grants, which only need to be repaid when houses are sold. Under the program, down payment assistance loans worth up to 5 percent of the purchase price of a home–with a maximum of $15,000–will be given on a first come, first served basis to buyers who pre-qualify through a participating bank. Applicants do not need to live in Great Barrington, but the home being purchased must be located in Great Barrington and must be used as the buyer’s principal residence. Applicants also must not own any other residential properties.

Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lee Bank, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, Salisbury Bank and Village Mortgage are all participating in the program.

The funding for the program was made possible by Community Preservation Act funds, and the Community Preservation Committee has recommended an additional $100,000 of CPA funds be made available for the program as well as for a housing rehabilitation program. If approved at the town meeting, the additional funds will be available beginning Sunday, July 1.


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Williams College appoints new chaplain

Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer. Photo courtesy Williams College

Williamstown — Williams College has appointed the Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer as the next chaplain to the college. She will begin her position in July.

As chaplain to the college, Bailey Fischer will support the vitality of the many religious, spiritual and intellectual traditions at Williams through dialogue, outreach and advocacy. In addition, she will provide counseling and spiritual guidance for undergraduates and foster community between students and their neighbors in Williamstown and the wider world. Bailey Fischer joins Williams from Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, New Jersey, where she currently serves as priest associate. She brings to Williams more than 11 years of college chaplaincy experience and nearly a decade in ordained ministry.

Bailey Fischer was raised in West Philadelphia in an African-American Pentecostal tradition, participating in several other Protestant traditions before joining the Episcopal Church as a young adult. After graduating with a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, she became university chaplain at Framingham State University where she helped students from a variety of religious, moral and philosophical traditions form and strengthen their communities. She received her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and is completing her dissertation in Anglican studies and U.S. Episcopal Church history at General Theological Seminary. Her research examines the ancient order of female deacons from the early church, its late-19th century revival and its role in the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in the United States.


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Berkshire Children & Families promotes two to vice president

Gina Blake. Photo courtesy Berkshire Children & Families

Pittsfield — Berkshire Children & Families has announced the promotions of Gina Blake to vice president of programs in the Berkshires and Stephanie Steed to vice president of programs in the Pioneer Valley.

Blake has 20 years of experience working with children and families in residential treatment facilities, the foster and adoptive processes, and home visiting support programs. She has provided clinical supervision and training for staff in the areas of trauma, skill building and vicarious traumatization. Blake joined BCF in 2013 and was most recently the clinical supervisor for family programs. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Fitchburg State University and a Master of Social Work from Springfield College, and is a licensed independent clinical social worker. Blake will be based primarily at BCF’s West Street office.

Stephanie Steed. Photo courtesy Berkshire Children & Families

Steed has worked with children and families for 25 years with the majority of her career working with foster parents and children involved in the child welfare system. She is a certified trainer for the Massachusetts Approaches to Partnership in Parenting through the Department of Children and Families and the Massachusetts Child Trauma Project. Steed joined BCF in 2005 and most recently was the director of permanency programs. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Guilford College, a master’s degree in education with a concentration in mental health counseling from Cambridge College, and is a licensed social worker. Steed will be based primarily at the BCF office on Russell Street in Hadley.


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BTCF announces spring grant deadlines

Sheffield — Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has announced the second round of deadlines for competitive grants in Berkshire County in 2018. Regional nonprofits, school communities, students and individuals are invited to apply for funding during the spring grants cycle from April through June.

For nonprofits
The Wassermann-Streit Y’diyah Memorial Fund supports educational projects about Judaism that aim to dispel religious prejudice, bias and intolerance. Grants of $500 will be awarded. Applications are due Sunday, April 1.

The Fund for Williamstown’s DeMayo Bright Futures Innovation Award recognizes nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals passionate about solving community challenges with innovative practices. The award recipient will receive $1,000. Nominations are due Sunday, April 15.

Harvard Business School’s Governing for Nonprofit Excellence is a four-day executive education program designed to enhance leadership and governance skills. Nonprofit board chairs or vice chairs in the region may apply for a scholarship to attend the program. The value of the program is $4,750. Applications are due Tuesday, May 1.

For school communities
Education enrichment funds will award grants to benefit individual schools and school districts in Berkshire County. Grants will support extracurricular projects to inspire and engage students. Applications for the Farmington River Initiative for Regional Excellence for the Farmington River Regional School District are due Thursday, April 12. Applications for the Gateway Fund and the Pauline Young Music Fund for North Adams Public Schools are due Tuesday, May 1.

For students
The Michelle Gillett Creative Writing Award for Young Women awards $1,000 scholarships to female students of Monument Mountain Regional High School who are seniors during the 2017-18 school year. The deadline for applications is Tuesday, April 10.

For individuals
The William J. & Margery S. Barrett Public Service Award for Adams, Cheshire & Savoy celebrates individuals who make a significant contribution to the well-being of those towns through paid or volunteer work. The selected nominee will designate a nonprofit organization to receive a cash award of $1,000 in that person’s name. Nominations are due Tuesday, May 1.

An online application process is available for all grants and scholarships.



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