Berkshire Profile: Carrie CrewsBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, September 03, 2006
Welcome to Berkshire Profile, an iberkshires weekly feature appearing on Sunday. Each week, iberkshires will highlight a Berkshires resident or entity making a contribution to the Berkshires way of life.
North Adams - Writer Anne Rice would likely feel welcome inside the Houghton Street home of 33-year-old Carrie Crews.
Rice, who penned such best-selling books as "Interview With The Vampire," and "Queen of the Damned," could mix and mingle with a duck named "Akasha," birds named "Armand" and "Dracula," a mouse named "Louis," and a cat named "Lestat."
And that's only part of the family menagerie; the household also hosts felines named "Pumpkin" and "Thor," a dog named "Squash," and an aquarium.
Rice isn't the only writer to fascinate Crews. She's also an avid reader of Stephen King novels.
One Busy Lady
And when she's not caring for one of the family pets, or spending time with her 15-year-old daughter Mickey Crews or her husband Shaun Cook, the mother-to-be [a baby is due in December] is working as an AmeriCorps Fellow at the Adams Youth Center or planning for January, when she will spend weekends pursuing a human services bachelor's degree at Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee.
Once she earns a bachelor's degree - she received a human services associates degree from the Berkshire Community College earlier this year- she plans to pursue a master's degree, she said.
"Everybody Looked Out For Everybody"
Her childhood was spent in Adams with her parents Harold and Barbara Crews. She began her education at the former Hoosac Street school and then enrolled at the C.T. Plunkett school for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. Crews spent the seventh and eighth grades at Hoosac Valley High School's junior high classrooms and graduated from the Charles H. McCann Technical High School in 1991.
Her memories include attending "Polish picnics" held on Mill Street.
"They were huge," she said of the still-popular events. "The food -oh, my God - if it was bad for you, it was there. Pierogies, kapusta...it was so good."
The town enjoyed a neighborliness that created a safe haven for children, she said.
"In Adams, everybody knows everybody," she said. "You know the thing about taking a village to raise a child? In Adams, it was like that. Everybody looked out for everybody. If you were doing something, like riding your bike in the street or something, somebody would say something."
Crews has been among the working population since her high school years, when she worked at a North Adams-based fast food restaurant to earn money to support a car and a social life: "You know, go to the drive-in."
She and Cook may be in the running for the longest local engagement- the couple were high school sweethearts whose pledge to marry lasted 13 years.
"We were like, 'if it's not broken, don't fix it,'" she said.
When the two entered their thirties, they decided to tie the knot.
"The time seemed right," she said, and added that she kept her last name rather than "become hyphenated."
"Can you imagine if my daughter got married and she got hyphenated, too?" she said with a smile.
Crews post-high school graduation career brought her to a receptionist job at the Jiminy Peak resort in Hancock. She was quickly elevated to another post, she said.
"Within a year I was the marketing and promotion coordinator," she said.
Crews worked at Jiminy Peak for about six years.
"McCann did a lot for my marketing skills and my mentor [at Jiminy Peak] was [boss] Larry Durbin," she said. "He was amazing. He was the kind of guy where there was no 'in the middle,' and I fell on the 'loved him' side."
When her daughter began school, Crews left the job and accepted a job as assistant to the vice-president of sales and marketing at the Cascade School Supplies company in North Adams. She stayed at that job for five years, she said.
By the time she was 30, she knew she wanted a career change.
"What I'd really like to do is work with the investigative unit of the [Department of Social Services]," she said. "It wasn't the original goal but I've spent enough time behind desks working with papers to know that I don't want it for the rest of my life."
Her AmeriCorps work at the Youth Center involves the recently-established Adams-Cheshire-Savoy Youth Coalition. Comprised of representatives of local businesses, town officials, non-profit youth organizations, and others, the coalition strives to provide the area's youth with "the resources they need to live healthy, happy, productive lives," according to information posted at the group's www.acsyouth.org web site.
"There are a lot of entities that do a lot to help the kids," she said. "What we want is to create a hub, a place to say 'let's get everybody together.' We want the kids to see what their options are and parents can see what's going on [for youth activities]. Eventually, we want Adams to become an 'America's Promise' site."
America's Promise is a national organization with a five-year goal to "change the lives of 15 million under-served young people through the power of the Five Promises," according to information at the group's www.americaspromise.org web site. The promises are identified as caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others.
Her work with AmericCorps means bi-monthly trips to Boston and Crews has traveled to larger areas such as New York City for short visits.
"How Can You Give That Life Up?"
Her planned career goals do not involve a change of residence and she has never thought of leaving the Berkshire region, she said.
"I've done the Boston visits, the New York visits, and I can't imagine living in a place where your children can't go play in the backyard, with real grass, I can't imagine living in a place where you aren't within 10 minutes of your family."
Crews said that wage scales are higher in other places but the Berkshire qualify of life offers something equally as valuable as money.
"I can't imagine not living here with the fall leaves or not being here when you don't have to shovel snow anymore and tulips are coming up," she said. "When I'm 38, I'll have a little one at home. I'll want to be able to be out in the backyard planting green beans or something. And there's the look on your kid's face when school is cancelled and you are going to have the afternoon in the snow building a snowman...how can you give that life up?"
"Someone She Can Be Proud Of"
Her daughter is an honor roll student at the Berkshire Arts and Technology charter school and she looks forward to school, Crews said. Crews is hopeful that her own return to school will influence her daughter as well.
"I really hope that my going back to school while she is able to see it makes a difference,"Crews said. "It's so important to have education.You are lost without it.
"And I would like to be someone that she can be proud of."
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.