NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire United Way kicked off its annual campaign drive on Wednesday under much changed conditions from last year.
Instead of the traditional breakfast at the Williams Inn, the nonprofit agency switched to remote but with still the same confidence that it will raise $490,000 to support its many member agencies.
Even with the prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic, NBUW and its supporting partners came close to last year's goal.
"A year ago at this time, we told you that we wanted to raise $490,000, and we did raise $480,000," said Executive Director Christa Collier. "We just fell a little short because we couldn't have one of our major events.
"With our dedicated board, volunteers and staff, we do plan to raise an equal amount of money this year, hopefully, doing a virtual fundraising campaign. It will look different, but we are dedicated, nonetheless, to achieve these goals."
Collier acknowledged that it will be a challenge but noted that the agency was still able to meet its budgeted goals during this past fundraising cycle.
"We're looking at it as a way that this will open up some opportunities we might not have had in the past to achieve fundraising results," she said.
Much of funds raised will be directed back to NBUW's 19 member agencies, ranging from Youth Center Inc. to Berkshire Food Project to Elder Services of Berkshire County to Berkshire Family & Individual Resources.
The 2020-21 campaign drive will again be lead by the husband and wife team of Sharon DeMyer-Nemser and Dr. Charles Nemser. The Nemsers ran this past year's fund drive and co-chaired the 2011 and 2012 campaigns as well.
"Our communities really faced a lot of hardships this year, I don't need to go into the fine print or small details about that," Collier said. "But one thing we've all come to find out is that our community partners and our member agencies have come together to address all the needs of the community."
The agency worked with community partners Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Berkshire United Way and the Williamstown Community Chest in ways it had not done before, she said. The Berkshire County COVID-19 Emergency Fund raised more than $2 million, with a third going to Northern Berkshire nonprofits.
Collier also thanked the lead sponsors including Specialty Minerals, Adams Community Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Ruth Proud Trust, Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation, Williams College, MontainOne, Adams Plumbing & Heating, AladCo, Crane Stationery, Feigenbaum Foundation, North Adams Public Schools, Storey Publishing, Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Health Systems, BFAIR, Elder Services, General Dynamics, Hoosac Valley Regional School District, McCann Technical School, National Grid, Northern Berkshire School Union, Petricca Industries, Raymond James Financial Services and Smith Bros.-McAndrews Insurance.
The board also reorganized, with Leah Thompson elected as president for the coming year to replace Jason Dohaney, who is stepping down from the board. Dohaney said he will be concentrating on family and "few other endeavors."
"This organization supports such important work in our community, and it has been an honor to be a small part of that work," he said.
He then noted that his immediate predecessor as president, Amy Giroux, would also be stepping away "after one of the longest tenures in Northern Berkshire United Way history."
"Amy's commitment to this organization is unparalleled and her guidance to me, the board, and the northern Berkshire United Way will be missed," he said.
Thompson said she was "proud and humbled" by this opportunity to give back to the community.
"I've served with the Northern Berkshire United Way for a number of years as a director and before that an allocations panel member," she said. "Our 19 member agencies do important work that support our friends and neighbors and I'm proud to support that work and every way that I can."
Collier thanked Dohaney for being supportive and active president and to Giroux for her leadership and bringing her to the organization. Thompson, she said, had approached her about getting involved at Collier's first annual meeting, and now is president.
"I want to thank all of you, our donors, or board members or supporters volunteers and friends," said Collier in signing off. "Whether you supported a workplace campaign, participated in one of our fundraising activities such as contributing to COVID-19 fund or volunteered at one of our community activities, thank you.
"We could not do this work that we have been doing for 84 years without you."
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State Declares 'Green Friday' in Support of Local Xmas Tree Farms
UXBRIDGE, Mass. — The Baker-Polito administration has declared Friday, Nov. 27, as "Green Friday" to encourage people across the commonwealth to visit their local farms and nurseries for Christmas trees, holiday plants, and holiday decorating needs.
To celebrate, state Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux participated in a Christmas tree-cutting ceremony at Arrowhead Acres in Uxbridge. In an effort to support the commonwealth's Christmas tree industry, the declaration of Green Friday encourages people throughout the state to visit their local Christmas tree farms to purchase their trees, holiday plants, ornamental swags, and wreaths to fulfill their holiday decorating needs.
"Our administration believes in the importance of supporting our farms by shopping locally and purchasing holiday decorations from one of the commonwealth's many family-operated Christmas tree farms," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "Now more than ever, it is a great time to spend quality time with your family while partaking in this outdoor activity which allows for proper social distancing."
Christmas tree season in Massachusetts provides hundreds of seasonal jobs at approximately 264 Christmas tree farms on approximately 2,801 acres of land from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. The sale of more than 82,524 state-grown Christmas trees contributes approximately $3.5 million to the commonwealth's economy each year. Christmas tree farms, which are often sited on soils that cannot support other crops, stabilize soil, which helps prevent erosion and protect water supplies. When chipped, the trees can be used as a renewable source of energy to be burned as fuel, used as mulch, or composted.
The mayor's remarks were largely to remind residents of the virtual tree-lighting ceremony being broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television starting at 6 p.m., that City Hall offices will be closed Thursday and Friday and as will the transfer station.
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The hashtag "GetBackMass" is part of the latest public awareness campaign launched by the commonwealth. The focus of television and digital advertising will be to promote the idea that "normal" activities can only resume after the threat of the novel coronavirus has subsided.
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