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‘Warm Up the Winter’ to raise money for South County heating assistance

The show is a highlight of the local winter season and features well-known Berkshire artists.

Great Barrington — January is the coldest month in town, with average temperatures hovering between 14 degrees and 33 d.egrees. Add 55 inches of average annual snowfall, and winter starts to look a bit bleak for residents of Berkshire County. For many, winter brings added hardships, and local funds earmarked for such situations are often depleted as February dawns. Construct and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center are pleased to present the Warm up the Winter concert Monday, Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m.. The annual benefit variety show raises money for fuel assistance; 100 percent of the ticket sales will go to keep neighbors safe at home this winter, a figure that equaled close to $7,500 last year.

Construct Inc. executive director Jane Ralph.

“Warm Up the Winter provides funds for the challenges that colder weather presents for people who have higher barriers to safety and sustainability,” said Jane Ralph, Construct’s executive director. “In addition to helping with increased fuel costs, the funds help with cold weather emergencies such as burst pipes or dead batteries, which can have a huge impact on a household.” Construct’s mission is to “Change and save lives through housing options and a continuum of related services”; for a myriad of individuals, the services available at Construct come to their attention elsewhere — during a medial appointment at Volunteers in Medicine; a playgroup at CHP; or a drop-in program at Railroad Street Youth Project, just to name a few.

“Fuel assistance is really concrete,” Ralph said, noting that most of the county’s requests for fuel assistance are handled by Berkshire Community Action Council. Despite the success of this program, most funds for fuel assistance have been used up by the time January wanes, while temperatures remain bitter across the Berkshires. “We try not to duplicate what [others] are doing,” said Ralph in a nod to BCAC, “but most winters, by this time, they have already run out of funds.” And then there are emergencies.

Tumo-Kohrs. Photo courtesy Construct

“Warm Up the Winter is designed to help take care of people who have other winter safety needs for their home,” she explained. A recent fire in town displaced several residents; funds raised by Construct allowed for those individuals to be rehoused rapidly as well as take care of emergency stays once Red Cross funds were exhausted. “Even in the winter, it is difficult to find permanent, affordable housing on short notice,” Ralph emphasized, which, like any number of things, are just worse when they happen in winter.

Alan Chartock and the Berkshire Ramblers. Photo courtesy Construct

Mark Tuomenoksa and Sarah Kohrs feel blessed to have warm homes during the cold months; their desire to help ensure that same baseline for others has resulted in their participation in the annual variety show. “We decided to be a part of Warm Up the Winter because it was an opportunity to give back to a community that has been incredibly supportive to us both personally and professionally,” said Kohrs in a recent written statement. Tumo-Kohrs represents just one act in a packed program. “We are delighted with the talent that has stepped forward for this year’s show,” stated Construct’s board president, Elizabeth Rosenberg. “In addition to returning acts, there are two exciting dance sets and some new bands. We are planning a fun and fast-paced event.”

The Monument Mountain Regional High School Spartones. Photo courtesy Construct

The show is a highlight of the local winter season and features well-known Berkshire artists. Pre-show entertainment will be offered by the Sunday Strummers ukulele band, and this year’s show will be emceed by Construct board member Barney Stein. Wanda Houston will open by singing Joe Rose’s “Warm Up the Winter Song,” and following acts include: Youth Alive, Pittsfield’s drum and step dance band; Alan Chartock and the Berkshire Ramblers; the Spartones, straight from Monument Mountain Regional High School; the Olga Dunn Dance Company; and the Wanda Houston Band. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, and are available in advance or at the door. Additional donations will be accepted. This event is co-sponsored by: Berkshire South Regional Community Center; Volunteers in Medicine; Fairview Hospital; Community Health Programs; Railroad Street Youth Project; and Berkshire United Way.

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