Becky Miner of Zumba in the Berkshires accepts her Northern Berkshire Hero Award on Tuesday at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition annual meeting.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — During its 28th annual meeting on Tuesday, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition honored one community member for encouraging healthy bodies while hosting a talk about new state initiatives to help those who slip into unhealthy lifestyles.
Becky Miner of Zumba in the Berkshires was presented with the Northern Berkshire Hero Award in front of a full house at the Williams Inn. Shortly after, Sen. Benjamin Downing offered updates on budget items aimed at preventing and treating opioid abuse across the commonwealth.
Miner was given a standing ovation for not only growing her business in North Adams but also for raising money for the American Cancer Society and many other charitable programs.
"It's a long list," NBCC board member Deb Rosselli said in introducing the winner of the award given each year to individuals or groups who have an impact on the quality of life for the region.
Rosselli said Miner had a "generous spirit" in everything from using local contractors to posting inspirational sayings daily on her Facebook page.
"Her style is always celebratory and inclusive," Rosselli said.
In accepting the award, Miner explained how Zumba in the Berkshires grew out of her own dissatisfaction with her body after giving birth to her son in 2004.
"I didn't feel good about myself," said Miner, recalling how the final straw came when she did not fit into a bridesmaid dress for a friend's wedding, a dress that was already a larger size than she had ever worn. "It wasn't so much about my size. It was mostly about the way I felt about myself."
So she made a change and, in losing 70 pounds, found her new passion in life: helping people, especially women, "feel healthy, feel beautiful."
She started Zumba in the Berkshires in the basement of the Holiday Inn in North Adams and has watched it grow over the last few years into its own space on Union Street and play host to events like "Dancing in the Streets" in downtown North Adams, which has drawn huge crowds since the first event three years ago.
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright recalled Miner's enthusiasm when he met her for the first time when she came to ask permission to hold the event on Eagle Street and close the street for the day.
"I looked her square in the eye and said no," Alcombright said. "I said we could do this if we can fill Main Street."
She did fill Main Street, and she has filled the lives of countless North Berkshire residents with the confidence to be healthy.
"Becky, you're a hero in this community because you're committed to the health and wellness of this community, one resident at a time," Alcombright said.
Sen. Benjamin Downing updates the NBCC annual meeting about initiatives to prevent and treat opioid abuse.
The mayor was followed at the podium by fellow politician Downing, who also spoke about helping the health and wellness of the community, in this case by preventing and treating opioid abuse, something that affects scores of Massachusetts residents. The numbers are staggering, Downing said.
"While we were in Iraq, more people died in Massachusetts from OxyContin and heroin overdose than troops died in Iraq," he said. "Despite that, this issue still hadn't risen to the level of a crisis."
Downing was pitch-hitting for fellow legislator state Sen. Jennifer L. Flanagan, D-Leominster, who was scheduled to speak Tuesday about the issue but was called away for a budget hearing. Downing said he was happy to fill in and educate the room about what is happening at the state level, talking about the "multiple fronts" officials are trying to attack, from prevention and education to intervention and treatment.
While Downing was speaking in Williamstown, Gov. Deval Patrick in Boston was unveiling a $20 million package of proposals to tackle the issue, including expanding treatment for drug addicts in state prisons and creating new live-in centers to treat addicts.
"These are just some of the steps we will be taking," Downing said. "While all these steps are necessary, they are not sufficient to solve the problem.
"Any little step that each and every one us can take ... the littlest step does make a significant difference."
Downing said now was the time for each community to come together to solve this problem.
"The quicker we move, the more likely we get there in the end," he said. "If we just shrug our shoulders and say, 'It's too big,' no one else is going to do it. This is our community."
And that's indeed the mission of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, celebrating its 28th year as an organization that champions community-building. Executive Director Al Bashevkin acknowledged that North County has had a challenging year but echoed Downing's advice to work together.
"These are hard time. These are challenging times," he said. "It's in these times we really do need each other."