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Nicole Wylde, left, Diana Alexander and Marilyn Honig at the new Crafters Connection that will open in Berkshire Emporium on Saturday. The shop will benefit Berkshire Helping Hands.
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New Crafters Connection Will Aid Northern Berkshire Community

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The shop will offer the creations of a variety of local crafters.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It started with a desire to help people who lost their homes in a fire. 
Now Berkshire Helping Hands is branching out to both offer a place for crafters to sell their wares and to raise money to continue helping people.
The Crafters Connection is the latest mini-shop to open inside Berkshire Emporium on Main Street. The store features about 20 crafters ranging from woodworkers and crocheters to candlemakers to home decor.
"This is not just a regular craft store, we're giving back to the community," said Diana Bedini Alexander, a BHH trustee and chair of its fundraising committee. "So not only do we have some local businesses who are crafters in the area to get their goods out to the public, a portion from every product sold is going to go back to Berkshire Helping Hands to go back to the community for those who need help."
The nonprofit is hoping that the shop's presence on Main Street and at downtown events will keep it in people's minds. 
The group was started by Marilyn Honig two years ago in response to a fire on Houghton Street that left nearly a dozen families homeless. Honig had lost her mother and siblings in a fire when she was a child and at first her efforts had been to aid people affected by several fires that followed. 
That mission has since expanded to aid Northern Berkshire residents in need. It's included an annual Teen Stocking event for older children who don't fall within local Christmas programs, care packages for the homeless and elderly and a connecting point to match needs — food, clothing, furniture — with organizations or individuals who have them. 
"This couldn't come at a better time because not only is it right before Christmas, when people want to shop, the needs of the community tend to ramp up in the fall in the winter," said Honig. "It tends to be a time where there's a lot of people that are really in need, I mean, my phone's been blowing up."
The nonprofit has been able to take advantage of Emporium's mini-store model, in which businesses can open with rent and a small commission. But they don't have to staff the store, saving on time and wages. 
Alexander and Nicole Wylde will manage the shop, which also features their own crafts as well as Honig's.
Wylde has been with BHH since the beginning. "I had my own [charity] prior to this and then we connected because of the name of the group was similar to mine," she said.
"I came on board last year," said Alexander. "We've just grown and we had our first big event and that was a success, our first fiesta fundraiser.
In addition to helping neighbors, the shop will provide a space for people to buy local crafts. 
"I've been asked a lot about f there is a craft store in North Adams," Alexander said, noting the only other one is the Wigwam, which is now closed for the winter. "Since Eagle Street Artisans closed, there's really been no craft store downtown. And people are really itching to buy local."
Wylde said people "definitely want to buy local and support local." 
"And now, it being a nonprofit, you know, it's going back into the community. So it's not just a store," she said.
Alexander said there are plenty of crafters looking for an outlet for their work. She estimated for the 20 accepted, another 20 had to be turned away until they could determine how much space they had.
The space in the front of Emporium is small but it does have a show window. Honig's husband made book shelves, also for sale, to display their wares. 
"We didn't know what we had for space to start setting up," Alexander said. "We may add more crafters but right now we really aren't planning on it. We want our existing crafters to be able to come in and bring more in."
The store will have a ribbon-cutting and grand opening on Saturday morning from 11 to 2. There will be refreshments and gift basket raffle. The shop will normally be open during Berkshire Emporium's business hours. 

Tags: new business,   charity,   crafts,   ribbon cutting,   

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BAAMS Celebrates Three Years With Benefit Concert

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Founder Richard Boulger is a North Adams native. 
ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshires' Academy for Advanced Musical Studies (BAAMS) marked three years with a concert featuring the academy's faculty.
Hundreds attend the benefit concert that was held Friday, May 26, at the Adams Theater.
"We at BAAMS are truly grateful and inspired as we celebrate tonight, at the opening night of the Adams Theatre our Third Year Anniversary Celebration of being able to continue to work with young musicians throughout Berkshire County," said founder and Creative Director Richard Boulger.
The nonprofit came into existence in 2019 when Boulger, a professional jazz trumpet player and North Adams native, brought a lineup of world-class jazz musicians to teach in the academy. 
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