Board member Kathy Drake, left, and artistic director Christine Gevert of Crescendo meet participants at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College's Nonprofit 'Speed Dating' event in March. Photo: Megan Whilden

Don’t just stand there: Volunteer!

Underwritten by AARP Massachusetts, the volunteer fair at St. James Place in Great Barrington will give 35 nonprofits as well as municipalities the opportunity to meet face to face with prospective volunteers.

Great Barrington — The long-term benefits of volunteering are slowly becoming apparent to the delight of individuals from all walks of life. In an April 2017 article on nonprofithub.org, 8 Long-Term Health Benefits of Volunteering were revealed, running the gamut from boosting self-esteem and expanding connections to reducing stress and contributing to a longer life. Four Berkshire-based organizations have teamed up to present a volunteer fair Friday, Nov. 15, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Saint James Place, 352 Main St.; despite the differing demographic each serves, they are united in their goal: promoting volunteerism as a way to keep people active, healthy and engaged in community life.

Elaine and Ben Silberstein. Photo courtesy Community Access to the Arts

Elaine and Ben Silberstein of Alford understand this purpose inherently. In a recent phone interview, Ben cut straight to the chase: “We are fortunate to be able to live in the Berkshires, and we think it’s important to give back [in order] to create a strong, vibrant community.” His involvement ranges from Railroad Street Youth Project and Community Access to the Arts to Alford Land Trust and Berkshire Bounty. “We are all one community,” he added. “By helping others, we also help ourselves.” Elaine Silberstein shares these sentiments. Through her involvement with Construct Inc. and the Jewish Women’s Foundation, she has been able to learn about the multifaceted needs in our community, stretching from food insecurity to transitional housing. “I learned a tremendous amount about people’s needs,” she shared in a phone interview. “The list goes on and on. Being a volunteer has just opened my eyes to so much of what is out there,” which gets to the heart of Friday’s event.

Age Friendly Berkshires, Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, Berkshire United Way and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College have joined forces to promote volunteerism and the myriad benefits that come from doing volunteering. Age Friendly Berkshires coordinator Peg McDonough explained: “We’ve created this event to highlight the good work of local nonprofits and municipal boards and committees, all of whom need to recruit smart, active adults to help them fulfill their missions. At the same time, doing good for one’s community is good for the body and soul of the volunteer.” Everyone is welcome, especially people over 50 looking for new ways to get involved.

Executive director Heather Kowalski, left, and board president Rob Hoogs, second from left, of the Bidwell House Museum meet participants at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College’s Nonprofit ‘Speed Dating’ event in March. Photo: Megan Whilden

Underwritten by AARP Massachusetts, the fair will give 35 nonprofits as well as municipalities the opportunity to meet face to face with prospective volunteers. Attendees will be given a Volunteer Passport and encouraged to visit four or more volunteer stations for the chance to win door prizes. Those in attendance will also receive volunteer tips and a Skills Checklist for matching personal talents, interests and values with local volunteer opportunities.

Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires executive director Liana Toscanini at the Dulye Leadership Experience open forum at Hotel on North in Pittsfield in March. Photo courtesy Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires

“We’re already planning to repeat this event in both central and northern Berkshire County in 2020,” said Liana Toscanini of the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires. “Our county is rich in ‘people power’ between year-round residents, second homeowners and retirees. They can make a world of difference to our many nonprofits and municipalities,” said Toscanini.

Participating nonprofits include AARP Massachusetts, Alzheimer’s Association, Barrington Institute, Berkshire Botanical Garden, Berkshire Center for Justice, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Berkshire Historical Society, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Berkshire United Way, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, Clinton Church Restoration, Community Health Programs, Construct Inc., Dewey Memorial Hall, Entrepreneurship for All Berkshire County, Festival Latino, Flying Cloud Institute, HospiceCare in the Berkshires, Jacob’s Pillow, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Massachusetts Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired, MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, Railroad Street Youth Project, Riverbrook Residence, Saint James Place, Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, Ventfort Hall, Villages of the Berkshires, Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires, and WAM Theatre.