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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Berkshire Profile: Richard Weisenflue

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rich Weisenflue and Jane Patenaude at work at the Berkshire Family And Individual Resources center.
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.

Lanesboro - Richard "Rich" Weisenflue recalled his first visit to the Berkshires during the 1980s.

"I came here for a job opportunity," the Lanesboro resident said. "The job was with the [former] Berkshire County Association of Retarded Citizens. I came for an interview, and I camped for two nights at Brodie."

"I got up, put my suit on at the campsite, and went for the interview," Weisenflue said. "They didn't seem to mind that the suit was a bit rumpled."

The experience was a good one, he said.

"It was a wonderful introduction to the area," he said. "I did get the job and I moved up here about a month later. I found a nice home in Hancock with a view of Jiminy [Jiminy Peak]."

Weisenflue,46, is now the executive director for the Berkshire Family And Individual Resources [BFAIR], a post he has held for five years.

And as is often the way with the Berkshire region, he was recently reacquainted with his early days in the region.

"The daughter of the couple who first rented to me came in and applied for a job as a project manager," he said. "It didn't dawn on me at first who she was but at the second interview it did."

Getting Here From There

Weisenflue is a Pennsylvania native who grew up near Scranton. he attended the Chinchilla Elementary School for about two years and then enrolled at the Our Lady of Peace parochial school. He graduated from the Abington Heights High School as a member of the Class of 1978. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Scranton with a bachelor's degree in psychology, and spent a few years in the workforce before returning to the university and earning a master's degree in human resources administration.

His childhood was filled with friends and outdoor activities, he said.

"My mother-in-law still lives in that area and recently, I had a conversation with someone who reminded me that back then there were 21 kids in the neighborhood," he said. "There was baseball, football, basketball; you could go anywhere and be safe. You'd be outside roaming, you'd hear your parents call you for dinner and you'd cruise home. It was wooded, there were forts....that's how it was back then."

Non-Profit Work:"Where My Heart Is"

Non-profit human services work is the profession that continues to beckon, Weisenflue said. A lone foray into the for-profit sector was short-lived, he said.

"I've been doing this work since I was 18," he said. "I left non-profit once to work for a vocational-rehab [agency] for an insurance company in Glens Falls [N.Y.] but I was back [to non-profit] in two years. This is where my heart is."

Weisenflue was employed as the director of the Arcadia Employment Services [a part of BFAIR] during the mid-1990s. He left the agency for a few years and returned as an associate director in 2000. He became the BFAIR executive director about a year later, he said.

Family Life

His wife Beth is a special education teacher at the Lanesboro Elementary School. Weisenflue is active in youth activities with 10-year-old son Tucker.

"I do a lot of youth coaching, skiing, and chaperoning," he said.

Weisenflue is an avid bicyclist and said that the region is a superb area for cycling enthusiasts. His son is more of a "beach kid," he said.

"So we go out to the Cape and we've been to the outer banks of North Carolina," Weisenflue said.

The Berkshire way of life has been good for his family, Weisenflue said.

"I think my son has developed a couple of nice relationships with kids that you don't mind having in your house," he said. "He is getting a good education. He travels outside the Berkshires for a broader experience, and he can come back here and be comfortable."

"Amazing"

The region is very supportive and welcoming to the population served by BFAIR, Weisenflue said. The agency provides services to people with developmental disabilities and autism. BFAIR offers a variety of living arrangements including shared living and staffed housing, as well as a North Adams-based day program and a satellite office in Pittsfield. The Arcadia facet of the agency offers employment assessment and job placement. Clinical services are offered the children and adolescents.

BFAIR is headquartered in North Adams.

"The employers, especially in the Northern Berkshires, are welcoming to the employees, and there are many recreational opportunities for the people we serve," he said.

One example of the area's compassion is highlighted by the area's Northern Berkshire United Way, Weisenflue said. Weisenflue is a NBUW board member.

"When I see the number of volunteers working with the 21 agencies, when I see the ability of the agencies to put together boards, when I look at our ability to recruit shared living providers, I see what this area can do," he said. "And in the case of our shared living providers, it is amazing to see how entire families come together to embrace someone."

"There are some good, good people here."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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