NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Chamber of Commerce's holiday party raised more than $300 for the city's 21st Century After-School Program.
The party was held recently at Freight Yard Pub and the program was selected as the beneficiary of this year's voluntary collection. A total of $315 was donated.
Joyce Fruscio, a Title 1 reading teacher at Brayton School, singled out program coordinator Noella Carlow for her efforts.
"She started this program, she works endlessly. The kids are at school until 5:30. She's in school before anyone else is, her program doesn't start until 3:30 but she's there at seven, 7:30 in the morning," Fruscio said. "And not only does she help do everything in the after-school program, if we need something during the day, she's right there helping us to do whatever we need and she's the reason why I feel this program is as good as it is."
About 400 children from Grades 1 through 4 are enrolled in the two 16-week after-school session, with the majority attending the Brayton School site. The program partners with Williams College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Children and Families, Kids 4 Harmony, Berkshire Christian Church and the North Adams Public Library to offer a range of programs.
"When this started, it was what, $2 million? I was blown away at the council meeting when she presented," Mayor Richard Alcombrigth said. "I was amazed when you said how much if we had to sustain this program on our own now."
Carlow estimated $50,000 a session to keep the program that has been running for nearly two decades. The program relies on separate grants and donations as the continuation grants have gradually dried up.
"I think what's so encouraging about these programs is she has positioned the program in the city of North Adams for our kids, many of our kids at risk, that we would be able to sustain it if everything else went away," Alcombright said. "I just wanted to point that out. That is an incredible feat. That's Noella."
The holiday celebration was also a farewell to Alcombright as he ends eight years as mayor.
"With his work, he founded Develop North Adams, that became the North Adams Chamber of Commerce," said Brian Miksic, one of DNA's founders. "We couldn't have done that without this guy."
Ricco Fruscio, the chamber's program coordinator, said the mayor had given the business community hope over the past eight years.
"You supported ideas that came from anywhere and if they were good ideas, we kept moving forward," he said. "You need to be applauded for just giving that personal touch, the people touch, because that's what we were lacking and then ideas started happening and it was like magic.
"It started drawing people here and people started investing and we always talk about that when we own businesses."
The mayor said nothing happens in a vacuum and it's never done alone.
"We brought a lot of good folks together over the eight years and many of you are in this room today, folks who contributed in endless and countless ways," he said, noting what the Partnership for North Adams and the chamber have done for the city, as well as the educators and rising leaderss.
He in particular pointed out City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, also ending her elected term, and her work in Boston as a leader of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"Lisa Blackmer was very supportive of this administration and certainly many of the things that we did, but the work that you did, Lisa, to get yourself to Boston to get into that leadership of the MMA, put North Adams on the map in a different way than we had ever experienced," he said. "So for that we thank you for your leadership."
He also referred to the four newly elected councilors, with Jason LaForest, Becky Cohen and Paul Hopkins in attendance (the fourth is Marie T. Harpin), as well as Keifer Gammell who barely lost out on the council.
"I think why I want to step back is with respect to the idea of this growing momentum with new people coming in, wanting to come into leadership roles, so I will wish you three all the best as your two years begin," the mayor said. "And Keifer, hang in there and continue with these folks and take leadership roles within this community. This isn't about the young people just, it's about everyone in this community. We created some empowerment here and it feels good."
Carlow, who had also been in business for 20 years, offered some advice for entrepreneurs.
"I would say to all the people that are starting businesses or want to, you never know how you're going to change the world we live in and if you have a lot of problems, and you will in business, because we did ... it is an opportunity to change because if there were no problems, you probably would not do any changes.
"If you get the chance to do something, don't let it slip away. That would be my advice to all. Good luck."
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