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North County Coalition Forum Prioritizes Community Needs

By John Durkan
iBerkshires Staff
09:06PM / Friday, September 13, 2013
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Northern Berkshire Community Coalition held its first of eight monthly meetings on Friday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Keeping youth busy and out of trouble, senior care and transportation were key concerns at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's needs-assessment forum.
Many residents from Northern Berkshire suggested topics that need to be discussed at upcoming forums at the coalition's heavily attended  meeting on Friday. It was the first forum since the summer break and was held at First Baptist Church.
Kate Merrigan, the UNITY program coordinator at the coalition, said some teenagers and children lack adult involvement and live an "unsupervised adolescence."
Mayor Richard Alcombright recalled a report from about the 1990s that referred to the same issue and hopes to see it discussed.
"We're still talking about that today from maybe 15 years ago," Alcombright said. "I think that's very prevalent... in some of our youth, and where do we go? I think that's a very important discussion."
One resident said if middle and high school youths were busier at night, the area would see a drop in crime.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student Lynn McEnaney said after-school programs are underfunded.
"I know as a girl that's how I learned a lot of my life skills," McEnaney said. She also hopes the community can work together to provide the educational experience for children.
Amy Hall, Family Resource Center program director, hopes to see the topic of child neglect and abuse brought up at a future meeting.
Jon Lutz, the executive director at Elder Services of Berkshire County, discussed the needs of the other end of the age spectrum.
Jon Lutz, the executive director at Elder Services of Berkshire County, said elders can become part of the solution, as well as the recipients in the need for assisted living.
"We need to be thinking broadly in that sense about elders in the role that they play, not just in Northern Berkshire County but across the whole county," Lutz said.
Lutz said elders can become part of the solution, as well as the recipients, in assisting each other and their families.
Lois Daunis, the coaliton's program coordinator, said aging populations are lacking quality assistance in the middle class.
"We have a beautiful destination for it, and I see it as an economic possibility," Daunis said.
Another popular topic throughout the forum was transportation. Mark Rondeau, who runs the food pantry, Friendship Center, on Eagle Street, said transporting 3,000 pounds of food per week is difficult.
Amanda Chilson, the coalition's Mass in Motion director, wants more awareness for bicycle and pedestrian paths as additional transportation.
The next forum, scheduled for Friday, Oct. 11, at 10 a.m., will focus on self-evaluating the community's helping methods. The meeting starts with an hour of introductions and announcements, followed by an hour of discussion.

Tags: community forum,   elder services,   NBCC,   youth programs,   

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