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Construct Running Out of Emergency Funds

Nichole Dupont

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Local highway departments are not the only folks being hit hard by this neverending slew of snow and ice. Area aid organizations are also feeling the brunt of harsh weather conditions.

Construct Inc., a nonprofit that provides counseling, shelter and emergency funding to Berkshire residents in need, is holding an emergency fund drive to replenish its nearly depleted emergency services fund. The "No (one) Freeze Zone" is accepting donations big and small from now until March 1.

Susie Weekes, director of development, said the organization may run out of money this month despite its best efforts if something isn't done soon.

"We've had more than double the requests for assistance that we had last year," she said in a phone interview. "If this winter keeps going the way it is we are going to run out of emergency funds sometime in February. Last year, the emergency funds ran out in June. This year we'd like them to at least run through winter."

While Construct's annual Walk for the Homeless (held last October) generally raises enough money to cover emergency funds (i.e., money for fuel, electricity, rent, food), the $45,000 raised just four months ago is nearly gone.

Weekes said the organization hopes to raise at least $20,000 more with No (one) Freeze Zone to get through the toughest part of the winter. However, it's not just the winter that has the organization scrambling for emergency cash — it's the economy.

"What we're seeing that we've not seen before is that people's unemployment checks have run out and they still can't find jobs," she said. "When they come in, we say we can help them with this month's oil bill, but what about next month? Most of these families do not have a Plan B, they are just trying to get by right now.

"Our director said that it's the worst she's seen in the last 20 years. Granted, they say that the recession is over but the Berkshires are always two years behind. The recovery is down the road a bit for us."

That road seems endless to the many families in need. In fact, Weekes is concerned that a winter like this, with little to no help for struggling families, will drive many residents out of the area for good.

"There is no way for people to plan," she said. "This is our work force, a lot of people have seasonal jobs or are part of the creative community. The impact on the community is that people move away because they can't cut it anymore. It's a horrible way to live."

It seems that those in the community can relate to the struggle of their neighbors. Since the No (one) Freeze Zone began on Jan. 26, Construct has already received several small donations from those who want to help.

"We're please with the response so far," Weekes said. "As always, the community is stepping up to the plate in whatever way they can."

To make a donation to the No (one) Freeze Zone, visit Construct's website or Facebook page.

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