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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

All Within REACH

By Jen Thomas
07:35PM / Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Drury High School student and S.A.S.S.Y. member Jenna Giorgi was named the winner of an anti-smoking poster contest. [file photo]
North Adams - Whether it’s “kicking butts” at Drury High School or offering free skin cancer screenings at North Adams Regional Hospital, the REACH Community Health Foundation is committed to outreach, education, and advocacy for all Berkshire County residents.

"We want people to be concerned about health, before they get sick," said Sharon Leary, the outreach and community coordinator for REACH."We’re about early intervention and prevention."

REACH concentrates on seven major programs, six of which are in “full swing,” according to Leary. All of the programs are geared toward improving the health of men, women, and children through community involvement. They include:

* Tobacco Cessation Programming: REACH sponsors programs to help local residents quit smoking through a six-week cessation program. Participants learn how to break tobacco addiction, while also becoming familiar with alternatives to smoking. Additionally. REACH host QuitLinks, a program targeted specifically at smokers who are pregnant or have small children.


* Horizon for Caregivers: Providing information for elders and their caregivers, the Horizon program grew from a series titled "Conversations on Caregiving." The main priority of Horizon is to allow elderly individuals to live independent and healthy lives through education and special training.


* Northern Berkshire Healthy Smiles: This program provides dental screenings for children in area schools, dental services and education for families, and information on dental health care options.

* REACH for Breast Health: REACH offers breast cancer services and education, while maintaining a holistic approach to health. Among the many initiative offerings are support groups, nutrition counseling, and complimentary care.

*Get Fit: Focused on promoting fitness and nutrition, the Get Fit program stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, especially for elders.

"Clear the Air"


REACH Community Health Foundation Community Health Advocate Sharon Leary [Photo by Jen Thomas]
One of Leary’s main projects is working with Drury High School students with a S.A.S.S.Y (Students Against Secondhand Smoke in Youth), initiative designed to raise youth awareness about the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke. This week, Leary and REACH announced the winners of a school poster-drawing contest, which centered on the desire to "clear the air."

"The students had to create a poster that got the attention of their peers with the message of not smoking," said Leary.

High school health class students drew the posters and a panel of REACH employees selected the winners. Voters unanimously chose Jenna Giorgi‘s poster to be put on display in the Steeplecats basbeall team summer media guide. Other media outlets will display the winning poster, including www.iberkshires.com.

"I think this shows the students that they can have an impact on the community," said Leary, who noted that the S.A. S.S.Y. program contributes to a sense of student pride and a confidence that they have tackled an issue proactivley.

S.A.S.S.Y., centered at Drury High School, is composed of seven students and four teachers who meet biweekly to plan events and focus on projects to get the message out about smoking. Past activities include placing magnets on lockers on National Kick Butts Day, drawing body outlines on school hallway floors to illustrate the negative impacts of smoking and fundraising at the Harlem Wizards game.

Just Within Reach

Funded completely with grant revenues, REACH is a non-profit organization, a subsidiary of Northern Berkshire Health Care. Collaborating with many other organizations and constantly seeking new grants keeps REACH alive.

The grants are imperative to the group's ability to benefit the Northern berkshire region. Grant writing and researching requires an enormous amount of time, Leary said.

"It makes things more difficult," she said. “Without the grants, we can’t do the programs the community has come to depend upon.”

REACH receives grants from many different organizations, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Department of Public Health and the Oral Health Foundation of Massachusetts. The entity is always on the lookout for ways to expand their programming.

"We'd like to get more funds, especially in the dental health program," said Leary. "We want to do more in schools."

Summer Projects

In the coming months, REACH will host community events focused on allowing residents to gain the knowledge to better their own health.

Local community gardeners will host May 19 garden parties at Brayton Hill Apartments, Mohawk Forest Apartments, and Greylock Apartments during the day. These parties promote learning about gardening, with an aim of teaching residents how to grow their own vegetables.

On June 23, the QuitLinks program under the direction of Jennifer Civello, will host a carnival, complete with free cotton candy, popcorn, and SnoCones. Carnival games, live entertainment, and music from Pittsfield-based radio station WUPE-FM will mingle with informational tables from Western Mass. Safe Kids Coalition, WIC, and Childcare of the Berkshires. The event will be held at the Western Heritage Gateway State Park off of State Street from 11 a.m.-3p.m..

On June 5 and 7 REACH will sponsor free skin cancer screenings at the North Adams Regional Hospital from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.. The screenings will be overseen by Dr. Alan Binnick and Dr. Victoria Cavalli. Registration is required for the screening. To register, contact Pat Lescarbeau at 413-664-5326.

Leary hopes to continue programming that benefits the community and contributes to the success of REACH.

"We’ve definitely made an impact in the last few years, and we're going to make a bigger impact in the next couple years," she said.

Jen Thomas may be reached at 413-663-3384.
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