Biz Briefs: Berkshire United Way Celebrates Volunteers

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Local leaders and award recipients gather following the Berkshire United Way Live United Community Celebration, incuding Perri Petricca, CEO of Petricca Industries; Kristine Hazzard, president & CEO Berkshire United Way; C. Jeffrey Cook, the Robert K Agar Jr. Volunteerism award recipient; Susan Driscoll, the JC Penney Employee Campaign Coordinator award recipient; Brenda Petell, the Daniel C. Dillon Helping Hands, Caring Heart award recipient; and Christopher Mathews, chairman of Berkshire United Way Board of Directors.

Volunteer shout-outs: Berkshire United Way’s LIVE UNITED Community Celebration was held on Tuesday, April 12, at Berkshire Hills Country Club, where 300 members of the community gathered for breakfast and the subsequent awards ceremony, which is held on an annual basis.

Kristine Hazzard, President and CEO of Berkshire United Way, gave a huge shout out to 460 volunteers who have contributed 3,814 hours of volunteer time to the organization over the past year.  As a result, Berkshire United Way has been able to reach a significant number of lives across Berkshire County, impacting 20,527 individuals through our investments in funded partner programs and mobilizing an additional 8,868 people through the coalitions that they lead, guiding the community down the path toward sustainable change and a better future for us all.

The Robert K Agar Jr. Volunteerism award was presented to C. Jeffrey Cook of Cohen, Kinne Valicenti and Cook. In presenting this award, John Bissell, president & CEO of Greylock Federal Credit union said, “Jeff is a lion among community volunteers. He is constantly willing to shoulder the toughest burdens. … In addition to his own personal efforts, Jeff has set an example within his own firm, insisting that every employee engage in community service.”
Brenda Petell, HR Business Partner in Corporate Finance for SABIC, was the recipient of The Daniel C. Dillon Helping Hands, Caring Heart Award.  During her acceptance speech, Brenda acknowledged the role Charlie Crew, former CEO at SABIC, played in encouraging her to “go out and be a catalyst in the community.”  Petell went on to say, “If you are in a position to foster or nurture someone who works for you I encourage you to do so. You could be planting the seed of the next Caring Heart.”

Susan Driscoll of Petricca Industries received the JC Penney Employee Campaign Coordinator award, which recognizes outstanding workplace campaign volunteers who go above and beyond in helping increase their company’s participation, dollars raised, and more.

Finally, recognition was given to the 25 Companies who have received Pinnacle Awards for outstanding performance in their workplace campaigns.

Closing the ring: After 36 years in the family business Unusual Wedding Rings and More, owners Herman and Gayle Rotenberg have decided to retire and close the doors to their downtown Pittsfield store for good. To celebrate this event Herman and Gayle will conduct a retirement/store closing sale starting at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 28.

Gayle’s father, William Schifrin, who was born in Pittsfield in 1918, started the business in the famous Diamond District on 47th Street in New York City upon returning from World War II. Gayle grew up in the business and Herman joined her 36 years ago. After running the business for 30 years in the city, they realized their dream and moved the store to the Berkshires as they prepared their long range retirement plans.

Specializing in wedding and engagement rings in New York, they expanded their offering when moving to Pittsfield to include fine gold and silver jewelry. Repairs and customization round out their offerings in Pittsfield.

10 and counting: The following 10 leaders of local organizations have signed on to CEOs Against Stigma, a statewide campaign established by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts, the state chapter of NAMI, to end workplace stigma and create healthier, more productive workplaces: Richard J. Alcombright; Mayor, City of North Adams; John Bissell: Greylock Federal Credit Union; Sheriff Thomas Bowler: Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office; Carolyn Mower Burns, LICSW: Berkshire Children & Families; Dr. Andrew Gerber: Austen Riggs Center; Ellen Kennedy: President, Berkshire Community College; Christine MacBeth: The Brien Center; Kelly Marion: Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center Inc.; Kenneth W. Singer: Berkshire County Arc; and Linda Tyer: Mayor, City of Pittsfield.

Funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, CEOs Against Stigma recognizes that ending stigma requires top-down leadership to change misconceptions about mental illness — including depression and substance use — so employees have the opportunity to speak freely about the conditions that affect them and their immediate families, and seek support.

The program is open to all Massachusetts companies, organizations, institutions and municipalities with at least 50 employees.

French feelings: Chesterwood, the former summer home, studio, and gardens of sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), has commissioned noted Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer to write a biography about French, who is considered the foremost American monumental sculptor of the early 20th century. French is best known for his sculptures of the Minute Man (1871-75) and Abraham Lincoln (1911-1922) for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Holzer is one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. He has authored, co-authored, or edited 52 books including “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion” which won the 2015 Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize, as well as The Mark Lynton History Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism, The Hazel-Dicken Garcia Award and the 2016 Goldsmith Book Prize from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.  

Holzer currently serves as The Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. Prior to this, Holzer served for 23 years as senior vice president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For six years (2010–2016) he was also chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and for the previous 10 years co-chaired the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. In 2013, Holzer wrote an essay on Lincoln for the official program at the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Girl power: Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and state Sen. Ben Downing are joining more than 100 Central Berkshire Habitat volunteers and Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers to help local families build or repair a decent and affordable place they can call home.

These projects are part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week, which takes place April 30-May 8. Central Berkshire Habitat’s Women Build in the Berkshires, now in its sixth year, will host women’s teams on the job site April 30-May 25. The project also supports “Home for the Holidays,” a nationwide initiative launched by Lowe’s and Habitat for Humanity to work alongside 1,000 families to help them build or repair their homes by December.

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