Berkshires Beat: Sen. Hinds Reads Aloud to Young Children in Pittsfield
Time to Read
Dr. Brian Dempsey is sending families home from checkups with free books and a very important prescription for the parents: "Read aloud to your children every day." In support of that effort, Sen. Adam Hinds visited the pediatrician's office on April 20, not only to cheer him on, but to practice what doctors preach by reading to a group of young patients.
Dr. Dempsey participates in Reach Out and Read, a program that prescribes books and reading aloud to give young children a foundation that is crucial for success. Embedded within the existing healthcare system, Reach Out and Read’s model includes providing a new, age-appropriate book for each child to take home at well-child visits from 6 months through 5 years. Along with the free book for the child, medical providers offer guidance to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day starting at the newborn visit. The organization focuses on children growing up in low-income families as research shows they are at the highest risk for reading failure.
The program has gained broad support on Beacon Hill. "Reading aloud to children as early as infancy is essential to their brain development and success in school," Hinds said. "By working with pediatricians, Reach Out and Read is uniquely positioned to promote healthy reading habits. Now more than ever, it is important to support programs like Reach Out and Read."
Dempsey Pediatrics is one of 11 programs in Sen. Hinds' district that participate in Reach Out and Read, providing over 9,000 new books to more than 4,822 children annually. Reach Out and Read Massachusetts reaches more than 207,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers each year at 290 clinical locations across the commonwealth. At a cost of only $100 per child for the full five years, Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses distribute over 6.5 million books to nearly 4.7 million children and their families annually, including one in four low-income families in the United States.
Paying it forward
Local Vietnam Veterans of Chapter 65 gather at their small office space 99 First St. in Pittsfield almost daily. The tiny storefront is filled with Vietnam memorabilia. They have coffee, share war stories with support to one another, help Veteran walk-ins with connecting to other services and guide them through understanding benefits and direct them to the VA Hospital in Leeds. In order to provide services to others, they need the internet and have been functioning with a 20-plus-year-old, very slow desktop computer.
That changed on Patriots Day, Monday, April 16. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston donated several laptops for distribution to eligible not for profits, and Berkshire Bridges, A Working Cities Initiative received, more than a dozen of those 3-year old HP laptops. Alisa Costa, Berkshire Bridges initiative director, paid it forward to their backbone agency, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, who had received a call from VV Chapter 65, long before the laptops arrived. The chapter was in desperate need of a computer.
On Patriots Day, Dawn Giftos, community outreach and development manager for Habitat, dropped in to visit the Veterans, with a donated laptop in hand. On hand to accept it were Ron Rousseau, Larry Caprari, Francis Tremblay and Robert "Doc" Miller. When asked how the group fills their time at the Chapter office, "Doc" replied that a Navy Seal recently stopped in for a visit to share his story of his time in Vietnam, and told it for the first time after all these years. "Doc" said the man needed to unload, so to speak. The group also puts on parades, such as Memorial & Veterans Day, and they decorate 8500 local graves with flags each year. For more information on Veterans Services, contact the VVA James E. Callahan Berkshire Chapter 65 and the Berkshire Veterans Coalition at 413-443-1132.
Subsidized CSA shares
Hoosac Harvest encourages community members to join a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA, now for direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce early in the year, which helps farmers plan for the growing season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more. A CSA share typically costs between $475 to $675 for 20 weeks of produce between June and October. A full share is enough for two adults with one or two children, or two veggie lovers; partial shares also available.
Hoosac Harvest works with three CSA farms to subsidize the cost of shares so that all members of the community have access to the farms and the food. The farms are: Wildstone Farm in Pownal, Vt., Red Shirt Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., and Many Forks Farm in Clarksburg, Mass. To find out if you qualify for a lower cost (subsidized) share, contact Hoosac Harvest via email or 413-664-4006. Subsidized shares are based on income and reduce the full share cost by 40 to 60 percent. Payment plans and payment by EBT/SNAP are available.
City Hall elevator out of service
The City Hall elevator is currently out of service, and will be unavailable through April and May to allow for repair work. All public meetings will be relocated to alternate locations that allow for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Alternate locations will be included in agendas posted on the calendar of events on the city’s website. For more information, call Roberta McCulloch-Dews, director of administrative services, Mayor’s Office, at 413-499-9322.
Lee school choice
The Lee School Committee has approved participation in the school choice program for the 2018-19 school year. This program allows families who live outside the town of Lee the option to enroll in the Lee Public Schools. Interested families are encouraged to visit the website for more information and a school choice application.
Additionally, school staff are available to answer any questions prospective families may have. Contact Katie Seward, administrative secretary to the superintendent, at 413-243-0276 or by email.
SteepleCats interns, host families
The North Adams SteepleCats are seeking baseball marketing and operations interns for the front office, as well as host families for the 2018 season.
The SteepleCats internships provide college students with the opportunity to learn the many facets of running a non-profit summer collegiate baseball team, from sports management, to marketing, to media and public relations, to organizing special events throughout the season. Internships commitments run from May 21 through Aug. 5 with opportunities to begin in April. Interns will be responsible for promoting the team in the Northern Berkshires market, securing sponsors and advertisers and growing the relationship between the team and the business community. They also manage the day-to-day operations of this complex operation. To apply, email a resume and references to Allen Hall, president of the North Adams SteepleCats.
In addition, host families are being sought to play the most important role in the organization. Host families receive a free season pass, a discount on all SteepleCats merchandise as well as the chance to befriend a potential Major League Baseball player. Many families have housed players for several consecutive seasons and continue opening their doors to future players because of the great games, laughs, and relationships that are built between the family and the ballplayer. The host family commitment is to house a SteepleCats player from June 2nd through the beginning of August. The player should have their own room and would need meals provided to them. Players will provide their own transportation. Email Pat Decker for more information.
Admission for foster families
Through a new initiative, area foster families will be able to visit the Berkshire Museum this year with free admission. Working with the local Department of Children and Families, approximately 500 individuals – 350 children and 150 adults – will now have free access to the museum; one-day passes will be distributed by DCF. The program was made possible through underwriting from a fund administered by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and an additional grant from the Wonder Fund received by the DCF.
Another popular and long-running initiative at the Museum offers free admission to EBT card holders. Museum visitors who present an EBT card and photo ID receive free admission for two adults and two children, made possible through Berkshire Museum's memberships in Museums for All and EBT Card to Culture. Berkshire Museum joined Museums for All in September 2015 and the program has grown every year, with more than 1,000 visits in 2017. The museum joined EBT Card to Culture when it was launched in August 2017; the program is a collaboration between the Mass Cultural Council and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Department of Transitional Assistance.
Berkshire Museum also offers free admission for high school students during the school year, Mondays to Fridays, from 2 to 5 p.m. All Berkshire County high school students with a valid student ID may visit the Berkshire Museum to explore the galleries or find a seat and do schoolwork or creative projects in the museum, drawing inspiration and encouragement from the surrounding exhibitions. Additional support for this initiative is provided by Berkshire Art Association.
Pine Cobble preschool grows
Pine Cobble School will open a second pre-kindergarten classroom beginning in the 2018-19 school year. The decision to grow comes after years of being unable to fully meet community demand and having to place families on a waitlist.
Pine Cobble’s early childhood program is grounded in the idea that young children are natural, enthusiastic learners. Classes are centered around an array of enriching and developmentally appropriate activities that encourage play, imagination, and hands-on exploration. Learning isn’t compartmentalized into distinct subjects; instead, the curriculum simultaneously engages multiple intellectual areas, as well as movement and social-emotional learning. Each classroom has two teachers, who are supported by specialists in Spanish, library, science, music, art, and movement.
Families are encouraged to visit the school to see this learning in action. Inquire online or contact Nicole Goswami, Director of Admission and Marketing, at 413-458-4680, ext. 16.
The Berkshire Athenaeum is now offering patrons free "Wowbrary" email alerts that showcase the library's newest items each week. The alerts feature the latest bestsellers, movies, music CDs, audio books, children's titles, cookbooks, mysteries, travel guides, health books, science fiction, and more purchased by the library.
Wowbrary alerts are free and do not require a library card. Visit the website to sign up or learn more. The Berkshire Athenaeum serves a population of 43,655 and has 20,087 registered cardholders, who borrow 250,000 items each year.
Grant for music
Berkshire Children and Families has received a $2,000 grant from the Jewish Women's Foundation of the Berkshires. The Foundation is dedicated to sharing Jewish values by meeting unmet needs in the community and supporting social action in the Berkshires. The grant is in support of Berkshire Children and Families' Kids 4 Harmony program, an El Sistema-inspired program of intensive classical music education for social change. The program takes place in Pittsfield's Morningside Community School and Brayton Elementary School in North Adams.
The program focuses on peer teaching, public performance and ensemble participation. Kids 4 Harmony provides students with a unique pathway to grow as a musician, an individual, and a member of a community. With the support of the Foundation, Kids 4 Harmony participants have performed at the Boston Garden before a Celtics game as part of the Longy School of Music’s Sistema Side-by-Side and the annual Berkshire Symphony Family Day at Williams College where students from Pittsfield and North Adams performed with the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, Kids 4 Harmony students participated in a workshop on "Found Sound" with Williams College professor Matt Gold and a master class with Jazz pianist Ted Rosenthal.
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