The Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield. Photo courtesy Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College

Business Briefs: Transformational tech series; COVID-19 relief report; MCLA a Top Public School; CHP honors Feuer; Construct at Co-op

From March 19 to Aug. 3, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County distributed more than $2 million in relief grants to 95 nonprofit organizations helping the most vulnerable populations in the county.

OLLI, 1Berkshire, Berkshire Innovation Center launch transformational technology series

Pittsfield — 1Berkshire, the Berkshire Innovation Center and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College have announced the launch of the “Transformative Technologies and Their Effects on Work and Society” series, an eight-week course of weekly webinars that will bring regional, national and global experts and leaders together to share and discuss key technologies with a focus on how they impact rural regions like Berkshire County.

Alexis Wichowski. Photo courtesy 1Berkshire

With topics such as artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, medicine, education, remote work and more, the series’ featured speakers include James and Deborah Fallows, authors of “Our Towns: A Journey Into the Heart of America”; Alexis Wichowski, deputy chief technology officer for the city of New York and author of “The Information Trade: How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Transforms Our World”; Elisabeth Reynolds, director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future; Matthew Dunne, founder and executive director of the Center on Rural Innovation; SUNY Albany educational technology professor Carla Meskill; Michael Miller, M.D., of HealthPolCom.com and HealthyWomen senior policy advisor; Ethan Zuckerman, author and Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure at UMass Amherst director; state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield; and state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow.

Lawrence Burns. Photo courtesy 1Berkshire

The course will be preceded by a free online conversation Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. by Lawrence Burns, former head of research and development at General Motors, a consultant to Google’s autonomous vehicles program, and author of “Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car and How it Will Reshape Our World.”

Williams College students, faculty and staff may register for the course for free; and 1Berkshire and Berkshire Innovation Center members will receive a member discount. Class participants can join the course via Zoom on Thursdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. beginning Thursday, Sept. 24, or can view the class asynchronously through a dedicated link the day after each class session. For more information, contact the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College at (413) 236-2190 or olli@berkshirecc.edu.

–E.E.

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Funds mobilize over $3 million to support COVID-19 relief

Sheffield — Collaborative and rapid-response grantmaking by Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way and Williamstown Community Chest during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped service providers and schools, many of them working in tandem and serving the same residents, reach an estimated 68,000 people in Berkshire County.

From March 19 to Aug. 3, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County distributed more than $2 million in relief grants to 95 nonprofit organizations helping the most vulnerable populations in the county. The fund has awarded 132 grants to help with food, housing, health and mental health services, and emergency child care and youth services, with a focus on hard hit populations such as low-income families, communities of color and seniors.

A new report released by Berkshire Taconic and Berkshire United Way, “Responding Together: Outcomes and Impacts from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County,” draws on reports from grantees to show that flexible resources helped them meet critical needs in the community. The report provides an overview of grantmaking, stories from grantees, a summary of outcomes and impacts by service clusters, and closes with insights about community resilience in Berkshire County.

In partnership with the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, BTCF worked with BUW to mobilize an additional $750,000 for grants focused on essential frontline workers and vulnerable populations including the homeless, immigrants, people with disabilities and those facing food insecurity. This statewide fund, made possible through private philanthropy, worked in concert with regional community foundations to understand the response and relief landscape, strategically filling in where gaps are pronounced.

BTCF also activated its longstanding emergency assistance Neighbor-to-Neighbor funds. Established in the wake of the Great Recession, these relief funds support emergency grants for medical, food, utility and other critical baseline services for people in crisis around the region through trusted providers. Grants from the Berkshire County Neighbor-to-Neighbor Fund currently total more than $250,000 to 13 organizations.

Together, the three funds awarded 185 grants. Grantmaking has paused in order for the four organizations to assess the longer-term needs related to the pandemic. They will continue to monitor emerging needs from community partners and seek to better understand how recovery efforts for the nonprofit sector can build stability for vulnerable residents and the organizations they count on for support.

–E.E.

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Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams has been named one of the country’s ‘Top Public Schools’ by U.S. News and World Report. Photo courtesy coplac.org

MCLA ranked a 2021 Top Public School by U.S. News and World Report

North Adams — For the third consecutive year, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has been ranked as one of U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools. MCLA ranks as No. 9 on the list and also appears on U.S. News’ list of Top National Liberal Arts colleges.

MCLA also is ranked among the top 50 public and private schools on U.S. News’ “Top Performers on Social Mobility” list, which measures how well schools graduate students who receive Federal Pell Grants, typically awarded to students whose families make less than $50,000. MCLA has appeared on U.S. News’ list of top public colleges for eight of the last 10 years. MCLA was also featured on the U.S. News social mobility list for 2020, the first time the organization ranked colleges on social mobility.

“I am especially proud that MCLA has continued to be ranked among the nation’s top public schools,” said MCLA President James F. Birge, Ph.D. “This year, during a pandemic, in addition to providing a high-quality education, we were able to distribute more than $257,000 to students who found themselves dire economic circumstances due to COVID-19 through the MCLA Resiliency Fund. MCLA was also awarded a federal TRIO grant, which will provide $1.3 million to enhance our support for under-resourced students for the next five years. These grant activities will enhance MCLA’s commitment to equity for our students by providing support services to help students achieve their academic goals.”

U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges based on indicators that reflect a school’s student body, its faculty and its financial resources, along with outcome measures that signal how well the institution achieves its mission of educating students.

–E.E.

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Mary Feuer named CHP Employee of the Year

Mary Feuer. Photo courtesy Community Health Programs

Great Barrington — Community Health Programs has named Mary Feuer, assistant director of WIC and Family Services, as its 2020 Employee of the Year.

Feuer joined CHP in 1991 and oversees CHP Family Services’ food security programs, including its food banks in Great Barrington, Pittsfield and Dalton. She also oversees the Women, Infants and Children program and provides a wide range of other services to assist families in need.

Feuer is also part of the Family Services team that manages CHP’s mobile health units: two medically equipped vans that are providing health care and assistance during COVID-19. She and her Family Services colleagues will deliver a presentation Wednesday, Sept. 16, to the annual conference of the Mobile Healthcare Association to discuss their work on CHP’s mobile health units.

–E.E.

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Construct selected as recipient of Round Up For Change program

Great Barrington — Construct has been selected by the Berkshire Food Co-op as the recipient organization of the Round Up for Change program during the month of September. As part of the program, customers will be asked at checkout if they’d like to round up their totals to the nearest dollar so the spare change can support Construct’s work of providing affordable housing and supportive services to southern Berkshire County residents.

“We are grateful to the Berkshire Co-op owners for their vote of confidence in Construct,” said Construct executive director Jane Ralph. “Money from the Round Up for Change program will go towards helping essential workers and struggling families remain in their homes, and every cent makes a difference.”

–E.E.