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Mark Shapp was honored by Patrick Carnevale, director of the governor's Western Massachusetts office, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and A.J. Enchill from state Sen. Adam Hinds' office.

Mark Shapp Honored as RSVP Volunteer of the Year

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Mayor Linda Tyer presented a certificate of recognition to Shapp.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mark Shapp knows his way around, whether that be City Hall or a train. 
 
And Shapp is happy to share his knowledge with anyone. In the last decade, he's volunteered 4,316 of his hours to do just that.
 
In the last year, he's spent 629 hours volunteering as the City Hall ambassador and with the Berkshire Scenic Railway. 
 
And that is why he was recognized with the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program's Volunteer of the Year Award on Friday. 
 
"Mark is always willing to help with any of our City Hall tasks. During election time, he helps sort the voter registration forms. He will help stuff envelopes. He helps the city clerk's office. He is always willing to do a little bit more than just be the ambassador at the front door," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
 
RSVP is the city's largest volunteer program and, for 47 years, has been connecting those over the age of 55 with volunteer positions to keep them engaged and giving back to the community. 
 
"RSVP recruits valuable people with a lifetime of wisdom and experience that is shared by the community. You are everywhere. You are in our schools assisting our teachers, mentoring our children. You are in our food pantries providing help to those in need. You are in our offices providing direction and information. You are giving rides to medical appointments, cancer treatments, and other volunteer opportunities," Director Jeff Roucoulet said.
 
Every year the city and the state say thank you to the volunteers with a luncheon at the Country Club of Pittsfield. 
 
"You can't function in society without volunteers. There is not enough money to hire all of the people we would like to hire. So without you, we'd be lost," said Patrick Carnevale, the director of Gov. Charlie Baker's Western Massachusetts office.
 
Carnevale knows the value of volunteerism particularly from his previous role with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. There he worked with a number of volunteer organizations and saw firsthand how important those individuals are. He said neither the city nor the state have the resources to hire all of the people it would like to hire, so they lean heavily on volunteers.
 
Tyer also knows the value of Shapp from her time in City Hall. Shapp isn't just the ambassador, sitting at the front door welcoming and helping people around City Hall, but an extra hand all around. 
 
"This award honor volunteers who go above and beyond their roles," the mayor said, adding that Shapp is smart, well read and lively, and has an energetic personality. 
 
Tyer read a certificate of recognition for the honor as did state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier from the state Legislature. A.J. Enchill from state Sen. Adam Hinds' office offered his congratulations as well.
 
The country club was filled with the 282 volunteers enrolled in the program in 2017. Roucoulet said they donated 34,292 hours during the  past year.
 
"That is 34,000 hours of dedication, passion, and commitment. That is 34,000 hours of smiles and thank-yous," he said.
 
The mayor said those volunteers hours aren't just work, but also community building.
 
"Being engaged in the community keeps up connected to one another, helps us to build a community that is lively and engaged, that really reflects all of us from all age groups," Tyer said.

Tags: person of year,   recognition event,   RSVP,   volunteers,   

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Adult Learning Center Grads Get New Lease on Life

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff

Student speaker Brittany Sullivan shared her story of how she turned her life around. More photos from there ceremony can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When Brittany Sullivan lost her sister, her life spiraled out of control. 
 
"When I was 14 years old, my sister died suddenly in a car accident. This sent me into a downward spiral that led me to drinking, smoking, and dipping into opioids, which eventually got me kicked out of my home at 17. Shortly after, I dropped out of high school," Sullivan said.
 
At the time Sullivan was already struggling with depression. She felt that she was "stupid and inadequate." That feeling had set in because she didn't start school until the age of 9 and when she did, she was far behind the other students. She was held back a grade and was constantly being pulled out of class to receive extra help.
 
"At the tender age of 9, I accepted the life that I was stupid and inadequate. I already struggled with anxiety and depression. It wasn't long before I started full-on panic attacks and self harming. I had already built a firm foundation of self-hate and acceptance that I was a failure and I hadn't even finished elementary school," Sullivan said.
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