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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Northern Berkshire Neighbors Score With Summer Programs

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, July 15, 2005

This smiling group were among those who attended "Backyard Movie Night" at the home of Linda Bissaillon.
North Adams – Linda Bissaillon of Angeli Street is certainly in the running as a “hostess with the mostest;” on July 11, Bissaillon’s backyard doubled as a movie theater for about 30 neighborhood children and five adults who watched the film “Shark Tale.”

"Movie night" has occurred for several years, partly in memory of the late Fred Scerbo, a well-respected Silvio O. Conte Middle School teacher who hosted “movie nights” for youth, Bissaillon said.

“The kids love it,” she said. “Some of the kids, as soon as they get out of school for summer, start asking right away ‘are we having movie night?’”

Sheets, Democracy, and Our Feathered Friends


Williams College student Lily Li demonstrates paper-fan construction to a Greylock housing unit resident.[photo courtesy of the NBCC]
The event is part of the Northern Berkshire Neighbors activity roster. Northern Berkshire Neighbors is affiliated with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and consists of several neighborhood groups; Bissaillon has served as the Greylock Housing Coalition resident coordinator for about seven years. This summer, Williams College student interns are assisting neighborhoods, including the Greylock, Brayton Hill, Mohawk Forest, and UNO groups, with youth activities. Amber LaFountain, Lily Li, and Sara Kazanjian use NBCC office space to plan activities, LaFountain said during a July 14 interview.

“I love it, all three of us do,” LaFountain said. “If we’re not working with the kids, we’re planning stuff for the kids. It’s great.”

Brayton’s “movie night” is scheduled for July 19 and Mohawk Forest is set to show a "backyard movie" on July 21. Sheets serve as a “screen” and a NBCC projector is used to show the films.
Neighborhood youth vote on the featured film, said Bissaillon and LaFountain. Community coalition administrator Kathy Keeser offers the movie choices, LaFountain said.

Those who attend the event bring blankets and towels to sit on, and neighborhood group leaders such as Bissaillon provide the snacks.
Other activities included a scavenger hunt and a bird-feeder building project that also included creating a bird-watching book.

“We design activities and bring them to the neighborhoods,” said LaFountain.

Bissaillon’s 10-year-old granddaughter Carlee Huttle said that she likes the special events and is proud that Bissaillon is involved.

“I know that she’s good at doing stuff with kids and the kids like her a lot,” said Carlee. “I think being active is good for kids. They won’t get bored. I don’t think any kid wants to be bored.”

Carlee noted that youth who are involved in projects and activities develop new interests and meet new people.

Linda Bissaillon and her granddaughter Carlee Huttle


“And that’s good,” she said.

Batter Up!

Neighborhood groups are organizing baseball teams and the teams could be challenging each other on a baseball diamond near the end of the month. According to information provided by Bissaillon, “this is not an official league but will be fun games to show neighborhood spirit.”

Sportsmanship and team cooperation are a focus of the initiative, and coaching will be done by volunteers. Josh Hartman and Jay Deely have agreed to coach the Greylock team, said Bissaillon.

Team members are choosing logos and team colors; the NBCC is planning to provide team shirts that feature team logos. Participation is voluntary and free.

The teams will use donated and borrowed equipment, such as catcher’s masks, and volunteers are being recruited to set up concession stands at the games. LaFountain and Bissaillon said that money raised at concession stands will be used to buy equipment and possibly expand the program in 2006.


Williams College students Amber LaFountain and Sara Kazanjian and a young friend at a Mohawk Forest neighborhood event.[photo courtesy of the NBCC]
Northern Berkshire Neighbors launched in 1993 as a way to unite specific neighborhoods and offer a mechanism for neighborhood residents to tackle the issues that affect their everyday lives. Neighborhood summits, collaborations, and events have emerged from the NBN program. In May, program workers Keeser and Natalie Cain and neighborhood resident Dawn Karo attended a national “Neighborhoods USA” conference in Sacramento, Calif..

Holiday Spirit...In July

Funding for major neighborhood events, such as the movie night and a December holiday party, comes from the NBCC, said Bissaillon. As a neighborhood coalition leader, Bissaillon said she receives a $300 grant which is used to fund movie night snacks and the holiday festivities. The North Adams Housing Authority also contributes to the holiday event, and the party is usually held at space donated by the Greylock Club, Bissaillon said. She noted that several neighborhood women are involved in the party planning.

And although the July morning was hot, hazy, and not one sprig of mistletoe was in sight, Bissaillon said the neighborhood children are already looking ahead to the holiday event.

“The kids get so excited about all the events,” Bissaillon

Carlee Huttle shows her bird book and a bird-feeder made during a Greylock Housing Coalition summer event.
said. “They are asking about the holiday party and looking forward to it already.”

Information about the Northern Berkshire Neighbors program may be acquired by calling Keeser or Cain at 413-663-7588.

Susan Bush may be reached by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.

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