2020 Berkshire Nonprofit Awards

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“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.” — John F. Kennedy

2020 Berkshire Nonprofit Awards Sponsored by the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires in partnership with The Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com 2

Celebrating the 3rd Annual Berkshire Nonprofit Awards Berkshire nonprofits employ a third of the county’s workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just as well then that the Berkshire Nonprofit Awards celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of the PEOPLE behind the missions. This year, amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, we want to pause for a moment and thank all those on the front lines for their bravery, sacrifice, and commitment. The NPC turned 4 in April. Small and nimble, we were able to transform most of our programs into virtual offerings, including the Berkshire Nonprofit Awards celebration. It is now part of a two-day summit on nonprofit sustainability taking place May 19 & 20 on a computer screen near you. We kick off with a slightly retooled Awards event, and then delve into 4 webinars, 2 panel discussions, and 2 keynote addresses. None of this would be possible without our major media sponsor, The Berkshire Eagle, and a committed group of sponsors who embrace the value of recognizing individuals who make our community a better place for all. We thank them for their support.

Judging wasn’t easy! The sheer breadth of the nonprofit work taking place in our community is overwhelming. Awe and admiration flowed as each nomination was read and ranked using detailed criteria specific to each award category. Traits such as perseverance, integrity, innovation, passion, vision, attitude, dedication, talent, leadership, and influence were all taken into account when considering each individual’s achievements and impact on our community.

Judges in Alphabetical Order: Stephanie Bosley (BCAC), Alison Brigham (Lee Bank), Toni Buckley (BCC), Celia Clancy (Berkshire Business & Professional Women), Linda Dulye (Dulye Leadership Experience), Amy El-Aassar (Guardian), Auric Enchill (Elegant Stitches), Kate Lauzon (EforAll), Marya Makuc (College Student), Alex Reczkowski (Berkshire Athenaeum), Barry Shapiro (Sohn Foundation), Kevin Sherman (Guardian), Mary Spina (volunteer), Bill Svrluga (WJS Consulting Group), Megan Whilden (OLLI), Rena Zurofsky (Rena Zurofsky Consulting)

County is listed in alphabetical order by category. Over 100 pages of nonprofit profiles make it easier to figure out ways you can help. Check it out online at npcberkshires.org The NPC provides great educational workshops featuring many local experts. ARE YOU ONE OF


We hosted our first Volunteer Fair this past fall and it was a blast. HAVE YOU BEEN MEANING

TO SHARE YOUR SKILLS WITH A SHORT-STAFFED NONPROFIT? Nothing beats a face-to-face introduction so make sure to attend our next Volunteer Fair whenever it is safe to gather in public again.

Wondering how you can help? The Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires exists to connect nonprofits to the resources they need. Right now, they need YOU! Nonprofits need donations first and foremost, since program and event income has all but disappeared. They also need volunteers. The Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires is YOUR SOURCE for information. Let us help you find an opportunity to get involved and become an important part of our nonprofit ecosystem.

HAVE YOU BEEN FEELING THE URGE TO DO SOMETHING IN THIS TIME OF CRISIS? Then you’ll want to flip through our “Giving Back” guide to get the lay of the land. Every nonprofit in Berkshire

NOMINEE ELIGIBILITY • Nominee must work or volunteer for a registered Berkshire County 501c3.

We serve 140 nonprofit members, scores of business members, and hundreds of other nonprofits and community members as a vital clearinghouse for information and resources. CALL US ANYTIME you need information on how to get involved. Our web site has a wealth of information including a gala calendar so you can plan ahead to support your favorite organizations. Sign up for email notifications of

Given to a current or former member of the nonprofit’s board of directors who demonstrates commitment to prudent use of all assets, provides oversight for activities that advance effectiveness and sustainability, ensures compliance with applicable laws and ethical practices, and who serves on committees or task forces and offers to take on special assignments.

3. Super Staffer Award

• Nominations should provide evidence of significant achievements at his/her organization.

This award is given to a nonprofit staff member whose work has had significant impact on an organization. Recognized by peers for exhibiting a can-do attitude, demonstrating a high level of commitment and responsibility, and going above and beyond the job description.


4. Rising Star Award

1. Executive Leadership Award

The Rising Star award honors a relative newcomer to the Berkshire Nonprofit sector who has demonstrated the potential of making a significant impact on the community. This individual may be young, new to the Berkshire nonprofit sector, or part of a new nonprofit launched in the last 5 years. This individual has demonstrated remarkable talents

This award honors a nonprofit staff leader (CEO, Executive Director or member of the Executive Team) whose strategic vision, passion, innovation, perseverance, and integrity has led to a strong record of extraordinary organizational results.

2. Board Leadership Award

Whether you are a nonprofit or someone who nonsupports profits, join us to CONNECT,



Liana Toscanini, Founder & Executive Director Elizabeth Stone, Marketing Manager

NPC Board of Directors: Erika Allison (Chair), Marianne Fresia (Treasurer), Ilene Marcus (Secretary), Stephanie Bosley, Patrick Danahey, Auric Enchill, Dan Stanyon, Abbie Von Schlegell

at an early stage in their tenure, achieving outstanding accomplishments and significant impact.

5. Volunteer Award Awarded to an individual who has a record of activities that have made a long-lasting and meaningful difference in the lives of people or communities. This award honors the volunteer who has shown outstanding dedication to a nonprofit or multiple nonprofit organizations whose programs serve the Berkshire County community. Active volunteerism can be ongoing or linked to a single project or cause.

6. Unsung Hero Award This award honors the contribution of a nonprofit staff or volunteer member in any area of an organization whose good work has not been publicly recognized in the Berkshire community.

7. Samya Rose Stumo Youth Leadership Award This award acknowledges an individual aged 17-27 who has contributed meaningfully to the Berkshire Nonprofit sector either through vol-

unteer or paid work. This individual has demonstrated passion and dedication to one or more causes and/or organizations, made a difference in the lives of people in our community, and achieved outstanding accomplishments early in life. Nominations should be accompanied by at least one letter of recommendation. Note: Awardees will each receive a $250 mini-grant provided by Lee Bank, United Personnel and WJS Consulting Group to use to further the mission he or she cares most about.

8. Lifetime Achievement Award This award honors an individual who has dedicated his or her life to being a leader and role model. His or her influence has made an enduring and profound difference in his/her community and the lives of those around him/her. Recipients of this award strive toward the highest level of personal and professional accomplishment, excel in their chosen field, devote time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and forge paths of leadership for others to follow.

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

• Nominees must show evidence of the strength of their work across a broad range of criteria including: strategic thinking, thoughtful execution, support of the culture, growth and strength of the organization, supportive of the population the nonprofit serves, commitment to the community, embodies the mission and vision of the organization.

Our mission is to help nonprofits connect, learn and grow by identifying gaps in services and leveraging community assets to provide creative and affordable solutions. ARE YOU THAT COMMUNITY ASSET? Join our roster of consultants that offer pro bono advice to nonprofits on an occasional basis.

board trainings, nonprofit boot camp, and events such as the Berkshire Nonprofit Awards.

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020



Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020

Edward A. Forfa

Kathy Keeser

Berkshire Retirement Home, Inc. Guiding Strategic Growth to Meet Community Needs

Louison House, Inc.

Ed has the vision to keep Berkshire Place at the head of the pack when growing to meet the needs of the senior population of Berkshire County. He has increased the level of services available to the public to include skilled nursing care, outpatient rehabilitation, home care services and senior living apartments.

Kathy has worked tirelessly to strengthen network connections; expand outreach efforts; pursue grants; build a cohesive staff with complementary strengths; and create a resident advisory board. All of these efforts have benefitted the most vulnerable among us: those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Berkshire County.

Guiding Strategic Growth to Meet Community Needs

Elevating the Mission He is active at all levels of the business and encourages staff to participate in the growth process.

Nurture and Inspire Others Ed works with a carefully selected Board of Directors and committee members to solicit ideas and implement programs that support the mission of Berkshire Place in providing superior care to the community. As all of the Board and Committee members are local they are emotionally vested in the success of our business.

Strategies to Overcome Obstacles When Berkshire Place outgrew its former facility, Ed coordinated the building of a new, state-of-the-art facility; he involved the staff at every level of the building process to ensure that care needs could be supplied. He then reimagined the original location as a senior living facility to honor its original purpose when it was constructed by the Crane Family in 1888.

“Ed is skilled in knowing what is needed and when it is needed. His longterm commitment to providing high quality care is achieved by his dedication and perseverance.” —Julie Gavin/ Nominator EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP NOMINEE

Elevating the Mission Kathy leads with respect and understanding; she expects no less of herself than she expects of others. Kathy has an unmatched passion for human kind; she has a cool head and a big heart. In her tenure, the reputation of Louison House has soared among those who have benefitted.

Nurture and Inspire Others One cannot help but feel moved after listening to Kathy speak and watching her in motion. IF you can get her to stop for a minute! She works overtime to make sure residents enjoy all the comforts of home, from birthday cake to afterschool snacks. She is creative and communicates effectively while addressing multiple situations simultaneously.

Strategies to Overcome Obstacles Under Kathy’s guidance, the mountains of obstacles are reduced to boulder-size, capable of being walked over. It’s just her way, her mindset, her very presence that makes one believe—because she truly believes it will all work out.

“Kathy has done it all with unending energy, countless number of hours, enthusiasm, compassion, professionalism and a smile.” —Tracy Beany & Maureen Clark/ Nominators EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP NOMINEE

Maureen O’Connell Atwood The Pediatric Development Center Guiding Strategic Growth to Meet Community Needs PDC has grown in direct correlation to the needs in our community under Maureen’s leadership. In her 37-year tenure as Executive Director, staff has increased from 5 to 40 people; PDC’s physical space has expanded from two rooms at St. Mark’s to three buildings in Pittsfield and Great Barrington. The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Elevating the Mission


The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.

Maureen and four other women bravely obtained the Early Intervention contract from DPH almost 40 years ago, despite the potential risks that entailed. Since then, Maureen has been a role model for the staff to support each child and family to become as successful as possible.

Thurgood Marshall

Nurture and Inspire Others The PDC ethos involves collaboration, where all staff support and learn from each other. Maureen inspires her staff to provide the best clinical expertise possible and seeks excellence in the work they do. Maureen enthusiastically supports new ideas to meet the ever changing needs of the communities and families PDC serves.

Strategies to Overcome Obstacles Maureen faces challenges head on and is always open to new ideas and different points of view. In the face of COVID-19, Maureen supported the use of Telehealth capabilities to ensure families were getting continued support from our agency in the absence of home visits.

“It is because of Maureen that PDC is the ‘go to’ agency for any questions about children’s development under three years old.” —Diane Farella/ Nominator EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP NOMINEE

We see greatness and compassion in each of this year’s honorees – and all our vital nonprofits. We are proud to be your partner.

Jenney Maloy

Barrington Stage Company Positive Impact on Organization/Community

Stockbridge Library Association

Sharron has helped strengthen BSC’s existing connections with the Pittsfield community and forge new ones. She frequently represents BSC through her participation in various community meetings, and her experiences with discrimination in Pittsfield is furthering the conversation about how to make positive change in the community.

“Miss Jenney” positively impacts The Stockbridge Library Association with her strong leadership and enthusiasm for the children’s department. She builds and maintains a strong collection of books for our youth patrons and has curated a very strong middle school reader and Young Adult section for our library.

Passion/Commitment to Chosen Cause Sharron has been instrumental in our organization’s internal education efforts around justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) and plans workshop sessions with our staff to learn more about these issues and how they intersect with our work. She is passionate about her faith and uses church connections to aid BSC’s community outreach, inviting talented young people to audition for BSC programs.

Outstanding Professionalism Sharron has wholeheartedly jumped into BSC’s work as a peer mentor through our Playwright Mentoring Project, leading student participants through theater exercises and helping them put together plays based on their experiences.

Innovation in Project Planning/Implementation Sharron pioneered a new BSC program called Sister Circle, aimed at providing a safe, supportive space for local opioid-addicted women with young children to gather, share their stories, and use theater to learn helpful coping and conflict resolution strategies under clinical supervision.

Positive Impact on Organization/Community

Passion/Commitment to Chosen Cause “Sharron facilitates conversation patiently and compassionately, making sure to create a space in which folks feel comfortable being vulnerable with one another while acknowledging that we all have a lot to learn.” —Nora Zahn/ Nominator

c o mm u n i t y


it’s our inspiration

Jenney maintains a holistic view of the library’s mission and will frequently go beyond her job description to assist coworkers and patrons when the need arises. There is no place more vibrant than when MissJenney is hosting a children’s program.

Outstanding Professionalism Miss Jenney’s skills reach far beyond collection management to include programs that draw in and excite patrons of varying interest; she is dedicated to offering relevant, entertaining, engaging programs that span all ages to a welcoming and safe environment.

Innovation in Project Planning/Implementation No one asked Jenney to rework the entire nonfiction area to be more user friendly, more approachable, and more visually appealing. She did it all on her own without missing a beat of her daily responsibilities. Her actions, completed humbly, have enhanced the patron experience.

“Working with a very small population, Miss Jenney has a large following because of her energy, thoughtful programming, and positive attitude.”

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sharron Frazier-McClain

—Maria Lynch/ Nominator RISING STAR HONOREE

Caroline Wheeler Sisters for Peace Positive Impact on Organization/Community Caroline is driven, passionate, effective, focused, and compassionate. Her tireless leadership has helped empower low-income women in the Berkshires—and underprivileged women around the world—to reach their goals.

Passion/Commitment to Chosen Cause

Outstanding Professionalism Caroline cultivates an extremely positive and professional culture at Sisters for Peace and gives everyone the same message: “Please know you can come to me at any time to discuss what’s on your mind. Please know I will always listen to you and do the best that I can to respond in a clear, honest way with kindness.”

Innovation in Project Planning/Implementation

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Caroline single-handedly designed, planned, and implemented the 1st 20-week REACH program last year—designed to directly addresses transportation, childcare, nutrition, mental health, art therapy, financial literacy, career development, connection with resources in the Berkshires, one-on-one mentorship, and fostering community.

“Because of Caroline’s work, many many women and girls have been able to find support, get an education, become financially stable, and rise out of poverty.” —Leal Carter/ Nominator RISING STAR HONOREE

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Caroline’s endless energy for helping other women stems from a unique understanding. She was born into a home full of poverty and violence, then became a mother at age 15 and dropped out of high school. It was a female mentor—who helped her to overcome the myriad barriers in her path—that inspired her work empowering women.


Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020

Sue Doucette

Ann Gallo

Berkshire County Head Start Child Development Program Inc. Prudent Use of Assets

IS183 Art School of the Berkshires Prudent Use of Assets

Leadership Style Sue illustrates her good will, passion and commitment for our program through her time, presence and active participation. She brings innovative ideas to special projects and fully supports the growth and development of our program. Sue engages with our staff and is intentional about expressing her gratitude for the work that they do.

Commitment to Advancing Mission Sue brings questions and insight to guide mindful decision making for the program. Sue’s active participation in the strategic planning process for the program demonstrates the time and effort she is willing to contribute in the best interest of the program.

Special Assignments Last year, Sue organized and led the search for a new Executive Director that would best fit the program. The process, inclusive of staff, demonstrated how much she values what others have to say. Sue has also taken on the creation of our fundraising committee; she is working with parents from our Policy Council group to work through ideas that will financially support our work.

“Sue is a champion for our staff and the families that we serve.” —Brett Westbrook/ Nominator BOARD LEADERSHIP HONOREE

Arwen Lowbridge WAM Theatre Prudent Use of Assets Arwen is an incredible person who has a wealth of skills, expertise and experience in all the areas WAM needs; she can see the big picture across multiple areas and is the prudent voice around use of assets.

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Leadership Style


Ann has proven to be a north star, ensuring that all of the organization’s decisions prudently serve its mission and move IS183 into a stronger future. In her first few weeks, Ann dove deep to ensure she had a complete understanding of the needs of our institution and those we serve.

Sue brings great knowledge and ideas to our program as Board President, demonstrating encouraging leadership and seeing us through challenging transitions. In all situations, she demonstrates the ability to treat people with respect, maintain an open mind, and consider all perspectives.

Arwen has been the chair of our Strategic Planning Committee for the past three years. She has spearheaded and organized the meetings and ensured that we all gather together for the best interest of the organization. She asks “Arwen encourages prudent questions, ensures we can see the big picture, and us to dig deeper outlines the detailed plan to get there.

Commitment to Advancing Mission Recently, when considering whether to buy a computer for a new hire or provide a technology stipend as a reimbursement, Arwen’s knowledge of Risk Management came to play. She was able to lay out the Massachusetts laws around Data Protection and help us unpack what would be the smartest decision for WAM to make.

Special Assignments Due to her past experience with fundraising, Arwen is an advisor to our Development work. She has done everything from volunteering at the annual gala to organizing WAM’s 100 Club Party, our annual party for donors of $100 or more.

around all the perspectives of each decision to ensure that we can get the highest level of success for our people and the highest level of good will towards our WAMily.”

—Kristen van Ginhoven/ Nominator BOARD LEADERSHIP HONOREE

Leadership Style Ann is just one of four voting members, the majority of whom are unable to actively participate at present, and she has made up for that in spades. When there are holes in our decision making, she jumps in with resources and suggestions. Ann wears many hats—she volunteers across the community and even runs her own nonprofit—and she is always wearing her IS183 hat!

Commitment to Advancing Mission Ann drafted a board handbook that demonstrates her clear thinking about the organization in the long term. While she understands these policies and procedures, she wants to ensure that her fellow board members and those far in the future have clear, consistent information.

Special Assignments Ann volunteered to be Clerk and a Governance Committee of one; she also volunteered to work with IS183’s students to produce a Student Art Show. She is always thinking of and suggesting special assignments that will better the school and widen our impact.

“Ann has been supportive every step of the way— as a sounding board, as a sanity check, and as IS183’s number one cheerleader.” —Lucie Castaldo/ Nominator BOARD LEADERSHIP HONOREE

Thasia Giles

Mass Audubon Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries Positive Impact on Organization

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Positive Impact on Organization

Since arriving in 2016, public programs increased 283%; a formalized Internship program was created; grant funding was secured; the education team grew to include a third full-time Teacher Naturalist; and volunteer hours increased by a whopping 880%.

Thasia represents Jacob’s Pillow across the Berkshires community while embracing the diverse needs and differences within it. She holds her organization accountable as a true partner in the community—evident to anyone who has experienced one of the community programs offered by Jacob’s Pillow in the schools.

Personal Attributes Dale’s enthusiasm and curiosity for learning are contagious, and he’s admired by his colleagues as a major team player. Dale is committed to lifelong learning and regularly expresses gratitude for those with whom he works.

Dedication to Mission Dale has been dedicated to thinking strategically and long term about the expansion and sustainability of the Berkshire Education program. Each year he identifies areas of growth and improvement within the program as well as ways to expand the program to reach new audiences. Additionally, Dale serves as a Mass Audubon innovator among educators statewide.

Going Above and Beyond Although Dale’s workload is huge, he’s willing to jump in and help whenever needed. He’s been known to clean gutters, work a 16 hour day, write a grant in (almost) one sitting, teach four back-to-back programs in one day and throw on a pair of waders to find a wood turtle.

“Dale approaches his position at Mass Audubon as his life’s work. His deep passion for protecting and stewarding land as well as the people who inhabit the land is evident in so many ways.” —Becky Cushing/ Nominator SUPER STAFFER HONOREE

Personal Attributes Thasia truly listens to others and responds; she is thoughtful, compassionate, and passionate about how dance can provide creative outlet, healing, and build community. She is both dedicated to her work and driven.

Dedication to Mission Thasia is committed to engaging the community everywhere she goes. Key to this is understanding the barriers residents face when it comes to dance. She regularly attends Working Cities Wednesday in Pittsfield to build relationships with the community, understand needs, and work to“Our community gether to develop solutions. She readily jumps in on commuis so much better nity projects when needed, always bringing Jacob’s Pillow’s for Thasia’s tireless efforts mission to the space and aligning it with the work.

Going Above and Beyond Thasia organized Pittsfield Moves!, a collaboration among community organizers, choreographers, and community. When she brought this idea to Working Cities, it was suggested that resident contributors to the project be paid. She embraced this concept and paid every single contributor to the art. She could have done things the old way, but Thasia fully embraced community.

of promoting equity and inclusion through movement.”

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020

Dale Abrams

—Alisa Costa/ Nominator SUPER STAFFER HONOREE

Aleta Moncecchi Berkshire Community Action Council Positive Impact on Organization Aleta is a hardworking and compassionate team player. She is a tireless advocate for the low-income residents of Berkshire County, engaging others to create systemic change to improve the lives of those struggling with the issues of poverty.

Personal Attributes

Dedication to Mission

Congratulations to Berkshire Community College Alumni Association board chair,

MELISSA MYERS, for being awarded the Nonprofit Volunteer Award!


Aleta exemplifies the mission and heart of the agency. She is the first to lead the way when an issue arises in the community that requires a response. Every agency in Northern Berkshire County knows she is one of the “go-to” people to “get it done.”

Going Above and Beyond Several years ago, when the cold Berkshire winter was approaching, Aleta met a homeless man sleeping in his car. She immediately went to work, finding him room in a hotel and eventually securing a bed in a shelter. It was the final act of compassion and love, when she invited him to her house for Thanksgiving dinner, that was the most beautiful. It bears repeating that Aleta exemplifies the mission and heart of Community.

“Aleta is our voice at the table, our spirit in the community, and our heart in the work we do.” —Deborah Leonczyk/ Nominator SUPER STAFFER HONOREE

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Aleta is energetic and models a “can-do” attitude. She is relentless in her pursuit of justice and resources for struggling families. When a problem arises, Aleta proposes solutions.


Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020

Sabrina Allard

Joseph Adrian Gunn

Railroad Street Youth Project

Barrington Stage Company

Importance of Individual’s Role in Organization

Importance of Individual’s Role in Organization

Sabrina oversees programs, coalitions and collectives that bring empowerment to community and youth voice to the table.

As a custodian, Joe maintains facilities and keeps our office space clean and sanitary. As a teaching artist and peer mentor, Joe is seen as a trusted role model. His most recent work in this capacity has been with teenage participants in our Playwright Mentoring Project’s court-mandated group, in which students who break the law are diverted from court and participate in our program instead.

Personal and Professional Qualities Sabrina has worked in the mental health field and social service insurance programs for low income families. Her work in energy and eco sustainability allowed for the building of an international library in Ghana, Africa and a water accessibility project in West Java, Indonesia. Sabrina left the corporate world to pursue her artistic passions—painting, writing, singing and creating dance pieces—all of which she brings to her work in helping young people discover their potential.

Work/Attitude Deserving of Recognition In every aspect of programming, Sabrina is creative and innovative in her approach to engage youth and intentional about making them a part of the work.

Importance of Public Recognition Sabrina has an inviting and empowering presence when dealing with others. She believes that relationships matter and is a bright light at Railroad Street Youth Project and the young people they support. People who do good deserve public recognition especially during these times.

“Sabrina is absolutely amazing...she is a force of good and very passionate about young people.” —Amelia Abouorg/ Nominator UNSUNG HERO HONOREE

Mary Jo Ramos Berkshire Immigrant Center Importance of Individual’s Role in Organization Mary Jo is a long-term volunteer who plays a key role helping the Case Workers support clients applying for immigration benefits. She translates documents from Spanish to English; organizes the office; assists the Front Desk; and represents the Center at fairs and other events.

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Personal and Professional Qualities


Mary Jo grew up in Puerto Rico and is a retired Spanish teacher; she understand the struggles of the immigrant community because she is an immigrant as well.

Work/Attitude Deserving of Recognition Mary Jo always has a positive attitude and a smile; others benefit from her happiness and good spirit. On days when there is no work assigned to her, she takes the initiative to organize and give our space a feeling of home.

Importance of Public Recognition We are grateful for the work Mary Jo does as a volunteer—work that is not always as recognized as we would like —and we tell her often. She responds with gratitude and a feeling of being lucky to be able to do this work. Our goal is to reinforce her efforts as a sign of appreciation.

“Mary Jo has the sensibility needed to work with a population that it is often discriminated against...she knows first hand what it is to live in a place where there’s a lack of basic needs.” —Lorena Dus/ Nominator UNSUNG HERO HONOREE

Personal and Professional Qualities Joe’s smile and good mood are infectious. He will show up early and stay late to get a job done. Joe is compassionate and empathetic; as a peer mentor, he looks at challenges from others’ perspec“Joe’s work is tive and never condescends. essential to our day-

Work/Attitude Deserving of Recognition Joe is an important role model when it comes to positive masculinity, showing the young men he works with that it is okay to display emotion and show vulnerability. The stories about him connecting with [the teens he mentors] are endless.

Importance of Public Recognition Joe is held in high esteem among his coworkers. His position is not the first an outsider would consider when acknowledging employees of an arts organization.

to-day operations... while much of his work is behind the scenes, his contributions to the culture and work of the organization are enormous.” —Nora Zahn/ Nominator UNSUNG HERO HONOREE

Judy Nardacci

Berkshire Community College Alumni Association Volunteer Hours Per Year

Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention Volunteer Hours Per Year



Volunteer Activities

Volunteer Activities

Melissa is the Chair of the BCC Alumni Board of Advisors and the elected Alumni Trustee on the Board of Trustees of BCC. She connects with recent graduates; passes on the role and responsibilities of being an alum; and creates opportunities for future leaders to grow and learn.

Impact on Organization Melissa works to engage and promote relationships between alumni and the college through events, networking opportunities and programs that support BCC and the alumni community. She prepares and leads Board and subcommittee meetings; organizes events; volunteers at college events like awards night and Commencement; and constantly feeds the “Board recruitment pipeline” with new talent. In her role, Melissa fosters relationships and facilitates conversations among students, alumni and the broader community. “Melissa is a

Impact on Individuals Served Melissa has impacted alumni, students and staff at BCC through her open hearted and committed leadership. By being genuine about her own struggles and the winding paths it took her to reach where she is now, she has convinced many of the impact and value that BCC has on our Berkshire Community.

champion and ambassador of the college and is living proof of its mission.” —Toni Buckley/ Nominator VOLUNTEER HONOREE

As BCSP’s Secretary, Judy keeps thank you letters to our donors, and maintains essential documentation. She schedules board members to staff resource tables at events throughout the year and plays a vital role in organizing the annual Live Out Loud Conference.

Impact on Organization Judy has helped bring BCSP from a loosely organized grass roots group to one of the most successful regional coalitions in the state. Judy brings common sense, wisdom, and a strong sense of social justice to discussions. Her positive energy, enthusiastic attitude, and willingness to help with everything and anything are an inspiration to all who work with her.

Impact on Individuals Served Judy is an empathic and supportive listener who may have missed her calling as a counselor. She has made it a personal mission to promote acceptance of and support for people in the LGBTQ community. She has truly been a pioneer in supporting LGBTQ individuals and their allies.

meeting minutes, sends “Judy’s heart is the most wonderful aspect of her volunteerism. This is not a person trying to fill her retirement hours with social activities related to volunteering. Judy is on a mission to make a difference in people’s lives for the better. She is an advocate for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.”

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020

Melissa Myers

—Lee Watroba/ Letter of Support VOLUNTEER HONOREE

David Russell Barrington Stage Company Volunteer Hours Per Year 450

Volunteer Activities

Impact on Organization BSC would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for Dave’s countless hours dedicated to growing our facilities. Every renovation or upgrade has been overseen by Dave; his expertise in construction “If we put up a plaque wherever and project management has been key to our continued Dave’s handiwork growth. When we are in project mode, Dave is on hand.

Impact on Individuals Served Dave’s impact is stealthy and unsung. When an audience goes into one of our theatres, any physical change noticed was made possible by Dave’s time and expertise. He thinks beyond the physical building and considers those who will be using it, from employees to patrons.

can be seen, our spaces would be covered in plaques.”

—Branden Huldeen/ Nominator VOLUNTEER HONOREE

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Dave has been Project Manager since 2006 when BSC moved into the old music hall on Union Street in Pittsfield. Since that massive project, he has donated his time to aid in the growth of our organization. He sits on our Facilities Committee and advises us on any building project big or small. He is available whenever we have a question about a renovation or an upgrade and gives us his expertise freely and graciously.


Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020

Raei Bridges

Sara Rawson

NAACP, Berkshire County Branch

Southern Berkshire Health Coalition Positive Impact on Organization/Community

Positive Impact on Organization/Community

Sara was instrumental in the organizing of the 411-413 countywide Youth Conference to support health and wellness issues in our region. Her leadership of a Wellness Development team at Monument Mountain Regional High School, coupled with researching best practices, surveying students, and assessing current program needs, will culminate in a new 9th grade Intro to Wellness course.

Raei is an asset to the Branch as an expert in his field— Environmental and Climate Justice—as well as a mentor in Sessions Life Skills & Training.

Passion and Commitment To Chosen Cause Protecting the natural world and helping individuals in his community are Raei’s passions. His workshops occur at the intersection of mental/emotional awareness and teach participants to become more aware of our inner and outer landscapes to become better stewards of both.

Makes a Difference Raei empowers others to have a deeper connection with themselves. His youth nature immersion program creates opportunities for homeschooled, and unschooled youth to create a supportive circle that fosters creativity, problem solving, communication, and connection to the natural world.

Demonstrates Power of Youth Raei has a powerful ability to work with individuals from all walks of life. He listens carefully and thoughtfully and then provides insight followed with action. He models efficacy and resilience among youth while honoring the work of those who came before him.

$250 Awarded by United Personnel

“Raei is leading the pack when it comes to next generation NAACP leaders.” —Dennis Powell/ Nominator YOUTH LEADERSHIP HONOREE

Alix Ziaja ROOTS Northern Berkshire Teen Center Positive Impact on Organization/Community Alix has worked to create & facilitate one of the only LGBTQIA+ groups for young people in Berkshire County that operates after school hours. As a volunteer as part of our Drop-In program, Alix has helped to keep resources available to the young people of Northern Berkshire County.

Passion and Commitment To Chosen Cause The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Alix has gotten involved with youth leadership and organized a recurring group meeting for a community in need.

Makes a Difference


$250 Awarded by WJS Consulting

Alix has helped to keep resources available for young people in Northern Berkshire County, in addition to having established a group for LGBTQIA+ young people. Further, Alix’s work on the youth board has made a considerable impact on the effect that ROOTS is able to have on the community at large.

Demonstrates Power of Youth As a young person, Alix was involved heavily in the ROOTS Northern Berkshire Teen Center youth board. As soon as Alix turned 18, they attended a volunteer training so that they could cover Drop-In shifts at ROOTS as a volunteer youth worker. At this time, Alix also established the ROOTS GSA to provide a sanctuary to LGBTQIA+ young people in Northern Berkshire County.

“Alix is a hardworking team member & a selfdriven individual, always working toward what can make ROOTS a stronger place for the young people we serve.” —Roots Teen Center/Nominator YOUTH LEADERSHIP HONOREE

Passion and Commitment To Chosen Cause Sara is deeply committed to the health and well being of others and our community. She is a powerful advocate for social change and is highly regarded by others as a person with deep convictions, a level of integrity and commitment to others.

Makes a Difference The Wellness initiative speaks directly to how Sara has made a difference. More specifically, she organized a Wellness Fair at Monument this year and created a website for Juuling Cessation.

Demonstrates Power of Youth Sara has spearheaded efforts to embed wellness—which has been absent for quite some time—in our school program. Thanks to her efforts, Wellness has been incorporated into our strategic plan for school redesign.

$250 Awarded by Lee Bank

“Sara is the living embodiment and the example that we all think of at Monument, when it comes to making an impact in our community.” —Sean Flynn/ Nominator YOUTH LEADERSHIP HONOREE

Wray Gunn, Sr. Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. Widespread and Ongoing Community Influence Wray Gunn is a well-known and beloved community leader in the Berkshires. The longtime Sheffield resident’s influence was evident in high school; throughout his life, his community service and quiet activism have manifest in many spheres. He broke racial barriers at school and work. He was a longtime trustee and trustee chair of his family’s church. He co-chaired a local 1969 Human Rights Commission that lead to the founding of Construct, Inc., for which he served as a charter member and president. For decades, he held leadership roles with Sheffield’s Historical Society and Planning Board, and the local Lions Club. A longtime member of the NAACP, Wray has worked for decades to honor the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois and the region’s rich African American heritage.

Individual’s Exceptional Accomplishments

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020


In 1969, Wray was named one of two “general chairmen” for a Berkshire Human Relations Council formed to fight against housing discrimination and poverty, and advocate for better police relations with local Black youth. The initiative led to the formation of the local housing nonprofit Construct. At one point he provided temporary office space in the Clinton Church basement, where the idea for Construct was first planted. In the 2000s, Wray worked with Rev. Esther Dozier on what became Great Barrington’s first annual celebrations of W.E.B. Du Bois. He was a key member of the Friends of the Du Bois Homesite, which worked closely with UMass to restore the historic landmark, and served as a member of the African American Heritage Trail’s founding committee of scholars and activists.

Commitment to Highest Values

— Eugenie Sills, Nominator

Known by many for his big smile and positive outlook, Wray is a charismatic and natural leader. He jokes that some of his skills may have been honed during his years as a referee: “I’ve got the whistle — I make the final decision, so this is it.” Those who have worked closely with him also know Wray for his exemplary character, shown through honesty, patience, integrity, courage and kindness.

his four-decades as an official of local basketball, baseball, and soccer games.

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

“In spirit and action, Wray Gunn is simply indefatigable. At age 90, he could easily rest on his laurels and be satisfied looking back on his many firsts and achievements. Instead, his deep dedication to family, work, community service and quiet activism persist.”

After nine decades, he remains unstoppable.


Exhibits Long-Term Courage and Perseverance When Wray Gunn’s family relocated from Atlanta to the Berkshires in the early 1940s, they had to sit in a segregated car at the back of the train. In the North, where their family roots date back to the 1700s, the Gunn brothers were among the only Black students in town. Where overt segregation was less common, discrimination persisted. Undeterred, Wray broke down barriers wherever he found them. As a teen, he and his brothers played on previously all-white sports teams. As a college student at UMass Amherst, he became the first African American athlete

to Volunteer Judy Nardacci! From the Board of Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention


Jacob’s Pillow applauds our Super Staffer Thasia Giles

to play basketball and the first to be named captain of a varsity team. He broke ground during a 40-year career as an analytic chemist at Pfizer, and again during

Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020


Local Nonprofits Reinvent Themselves to Reach New People in New Ways


Natalia DeRuzzio, Volunteers in Medicine’s Patient Care Coordinator, distributes free lunch to our patients, provided through the generosity of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County and local restaurants. It's part of the work VIM is doing to help those who have been hardest hit financially by the economic impact of the pandemic. By Amy Krzanik

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

The size of your wallet will never drive the quality of your service.



Member FDIC. 5/20

The Berkshires are a tight-knit community that, although at times geographically distant, is closely tied in its mission to help those who need it most. While we all have felt the impact of the coronavirus on our lives, some of the hardest hit populations have been those in our community already living in poverty, as well as immigrant families who do not qualify for any government economic relief packages. The shutdown of businesses and services has quickly exacerbated some of the serious issues disproportionately facing these communities. But creativity abounds here and our local nonprofit organizations have risen to the challenge and are working to create positive change that will endure long past the epidemic’s ebb. At Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Berkshires, a free healthcare facility based in Great Barrington, the need for services has grown as more people lose their jobs and any medical benefits they received through their employer. To meet this need, said Executive Director Ilana Steinhauer, and to protect its volunteers,

VIM is investing in a robust telehealth system to reach patients no matter where they are. “This presents an opportunity to serve more members of our community,” said Steinhauer. “The pandemic also is presenting an opportunity for VIM to strengthen our role as a thought leader in coordinating the community-wide response to support the most vulnerable members of our community, through access to available social services resources and spot grants to help pay for rent, utilities, and other basics.” “Our goal is to continue to address patients’ chronic and acute conditions,” Steinhauer said. “We’re seeing patients in the clinic for dental emergencies and other care, but chronic health checkups, triaging, and mental health care are all being done over the phone.” VIM was able to reassign staff members and mobilize volunteers to address the housing, heating, and other needs of its patients, actually increasing productivity. VIM connects patients to resources and, thanks to Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and generous private donors, has funding of its own to help with bills that aren’t


The Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) helps low-income residents access fuel assistance, heating system repair and replacement, weatherization services, microloans, and more. well-informed plan to provide programming and services that offer the greatest impact,” Leonczyk said. The BCAC staff has been using this time to expand the organization’s HARP program and move forward in its partnership with key human service agencies and healthcare providers. The data system they are developing will identify and resolve service and data duplication and gaps, shape case management and strategic planning, and allow for data sharing and cross-referrals with healthcare and other human service agencies. Leonczyk said these changes will allow for individualized plans so that each family can be successful in overcoming the obstacles that keep them in poverty. Berkshire Bridges, an anti-poverty initiative based in Pittsfield, has

also seen an increase in need and pivoted to meet those shortages in new ways. The group’s community navigators who may, in the past, have provided transportation to and from food pantries now deliver food packages to the doors of up to 120 city households. “This is something I never expected to do,” said Initiative Director Alisa Costa. “But doing it this way is actually more efficient.” Pre-pandemic, Berkshire Bridges built community and social connections by holding in-person meetings, which they now conduct through Zoom. Every Wednesday the group hosts a meeting in either Spanish or English so people can learn about resources and help meet each other’s needs. “We’re connecting more regularly now and that’s good be-

cause things are changing rapidly and we’re getting information out faster,” said Costa. “We have even more participation that we did before. We’d typically have at least 30 people at each meeting, and now we’re seeing about 45 people on both Spanish and English weeks, so there’s definitely an interest in connecting, just in a different way.” As social-distancing protocols have thrown up new obstacles to providing in-person services, the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding issues in health care, food access, transportation, and other areas. Berkshire County nonprofits have moved swiftly to meet these needs while building or adding to existing operations, reaching new people in new ways, and providing improved outcomes now and for years to come. As we move through this together, we are tasked not only with imagining what the future will look like but of deciding which actions to take right now to make it more just and equitable. “As we continue to catch people downstream, I would urge any organization to notice what the cracks are and advocate for closing those,” said Costa, “whether they’re state or city policy or something at your organization you can change to make things easier. In the end, we want our neighbors to be successful, and any way we can do that, we should.”

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020

Amy Krzanik is a freelance writer and editor

The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

covered by other organizations. “What this is making VIM and other healthcare organizations do is something we’ve been wanting to do forever,” said Steinhauer. “Transportation has always been an issue, so making a robust telehealth system means patients only need to come to the clinic when needed. It’s going to help us provide a higher level of care with better outcomes.” She said the pandemic has pushed organizations to find ways to help people outside of the normal frameworks of operation, and this will advance the quality of these services. Steinhauer said this pandemic has shown that local agencies are able to withstand change and address the population’s needs as a community. Connecting community agencies from across the county to form a better safety net for its most needy residents is something that Deborah Leonczyk and her team at Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) know well. The nonprofit organization with offices in Pittsfield and North Adams helps low-income residents access fuel assistance, heating system repair and replacement, weatherization services, microloans, and more. “The impact of this pandemic will be felt for years to come and is expected to increase the already toohigh poverty rate among our struggling communities,” said Leonczyk. Those struggling the most include people in poverty who are working in service jobs with a higher risk of exposure to the virus, may live in crowded housing, and often lack resources to weather any unexpected financial stress, as well as the immigrant community who may not be eligible for any of the federal relief currently being offered. The good news, said Leonczyk, is that the federal government, in the latest round of relief funding, has increased BCAC’s flexible spending dollars, which will provide over a half million dollars to address service gaps throughout the county. The federal government has also expanded the LIHEAP (fuel assistance) program and Berkshire County should be seeing at least 1.5 million extra dollars dedicated to that program. “We are working with the Western Mass Food bank to expand the capacity of our food pantry network, as well as with the medical community, MassHire, and housing and educational institutions to identify gaps so we can have a thoughtful,



The Berkshire Eagle | BerkshireEagle.com

Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020

Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020 | Sunday, May 17, 2020

Congratulations to all the nominees of the 2020 Berkshire Nonprofit Awards.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020 | Berkshire Nonprofit Awards 2020

BERKSHIRE NONPROFIT AWARDS 2020 We thank our generous sponsors for making this celebration possible.



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BREAKFAST CLUB SPONSORS Abbie J. von Schlegell The Berkshire Edge Lamme and Linscott Lee Bank October Mountain Financial Advisors United Personnel Aligned Workplace

Park Square Financial Advisors of Raymond James Salisbury Bank WJS Consulting Group WSBS Elaine & Ben Silberstein MA 401(k) CORE Plan



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