Coakley Makes Quick Swing Through Western Mass.

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Senate candidate and Berkshire County native Martha Coakley was greeted by throngs of well-wishers on Monday morning at the Cup & Saucer in North Adams.
Coakley Makes Stop in North Adams

Coakley gives thumbs up to North Adams.
By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Richard Alcombright returned a favor from an old classmate this morning by endorsing Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate.

"This is the first candidate that I've ever publicly endorsed," said the mayor-elect. "We're going to see how that goes, I guess."

The attorney general and Berkshire native was taking a swing through Western Massachusetts, stopping in Greenfield on Sunday and spending Monday night at the Holiday Inn in North Adams. Coakley fans were at the Cup & Saucer before 7:30 on Monday morning bearing signs and waiting for her to arrive.

She was greeted by the Caproni sisters Ella, 4, and Abby, 7, who each presented her with roses. The Democratic candidate was mobbed as she made her way through the packed coffeehouse as supporters, schoolmates and local officials stopped her to say a word or get their photo taken with her.

Another Perspective
Among those were state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who spoke first and later introduced Coakley at a rally held in Pittsfield; City Councilors Alan Marden, Lisa Blackmer and David Bond, councilor-elect Michael Boland, former Mayor Richard Lamb and McCann School Committee members Michael Hernandez and James Gazziniga.

Coakley has deep roots in the community — she spent most of her childhood in North Adams and graduated from Williams College — and those connections are what she stressed during the 20-minute stop.

"I was lucky enough to grow up here and I've never forgotten it," she told the crowd, adding the values she learned her had stayed with her through the years. "I'm proud to say I believe I will be a good U.S. senator because I grew up in North Adams."

Abby and Ella Caproni give the attorney general roses.
Coakley spoke of how she'd debated state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing's father, the late District Attorney Gerard D. Downing, in high school — he from St. Joseph's Central School in Pittsfield and she from the former St. Joseph High School here. Her father, Edward Coakley, a local businessman and community supporter, had dressed as Smokey Bear for the Fall Foliage Parade.

Her favorite campaign ad, she said, is the one that talks about North Adams and the values she grew up with.

Coakley stuck to her stump speech, pledging to fight for a strong public option in health-care reform, for environmental issues, for the elderly, for education and for veterans. She also said she would continue to fight for civil rights, including gay marriage, adding that the federal government "shouldn't be telling Massachusetts how to run our families."

"Senator Kennedy made sure Massachusetts was well taken care of and I'll do that, too," she said.

Alcombright and Coakley attended St. Joe's together, only a few desks apart. "We knew at a young age that Martha was destined for greatness," he said, joking, "I told here it didn't hurt that she sat next to me in fifth grade."

Coakley publicly supported Alcombright's run against longtime Mayor John Barrett III just days before the election. Barrett appeared with U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano of Somerville, Coakley's closest rival in the race to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, two days later.

(The rivalry continues: Barrett's campaign headquarters on Ashland Street now sports a giant Capuano sign and Alcombright's Eagle Street digs are covered with Coakley signs.)

Coakley, Capuano, City Year founder Alan Khazei and Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca face off on Dec. 8 in the Democratic primary. Attempts by Sherman Baldwin of WBRK's "Talk Berkshires" to bring all four to the Berkshires to debate has run aground, with only Khazei and Pagliuca reportedly consenting.

State Sen. Scott Brown of Wrentham and perennial candidate Jack E. Robinson will meet in the Republican primary the same day, Dec. 8. The primary winners will vie in the special election on Jan. 19, although the winner of the Democratic primary is likely the next senator.

Polls indicate that Coakley has a firm lead over her opponents, but also that nearly 75 percent of voters still haven't decided on a candidate.

"If you have no other reason to vote for Martha Coakley ... Mike Catrambone said, 'we have to vote for somebody who skied at Dutch Hill,'" said Alcombright.

Then Coakley was out the door and posing for a few more photos before heading to Pittsfield.
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MCLA Food Pantry Receives $3,000 Grant from James and Robert Hardman Fund

NORTH ADAMS, MASS.—The MCLA Food Pantry has received a $3,000 grant from the James and Robert Hardman Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.  
The Hardman Fund grant will support the diversification of the food pantry's offerings, including the addition of more fresh and perishable food items, one of the pantry's longtime goals. The pantry will also purchase carts so guests can pick up pre-packaged meals and supplies outside the pantry. Funds will also be used to hire student employees to take inventory and maintain the pantry's physical space, as well as work on its resource page which launched this spring on MCLA's curriculum software Canvas. Student employees will also restart MCLA's Swipe Out Hunger program, paused due to the pandemic, which allows students to donate excess parts of their meal plan to redistribute to students in need. 
The MCLA Food Pantry opened in 2017 and provides canned goods, prepackaged meals, and supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning products to MCLA students from its location in the Amsler Campus Center. Half of MCLA's students are eligible to apply for a Pell Grant, which are available for college students who demonstrate extreme financial need. In 2020, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice conducted a national survey that found that 41 percent of four-year college students are food insecure. Of MCLA's students, 37 percent have self-reported experiencing food insecurity. The pandemic has greatly increased this need and the pantry has experienced more demand for their services.  
The pandemic has provided new challenges for the pantry. When MCLA pivoted to remote learning, the pantry lost many of its student employees and volunteers, and had to restructure their distribution system to accommodate remote ordering and pickup. MCLA's Director of Civic and Community Engagement Spencer Moser said the biggest concern has been "decreased and irregular contact with our students. We are frequently alerted to students struggling with basic needs by professors or staff and will work with students to provide aid beyond immediate relief." These services include counseling in how to apply for SNAP benefits and rental assistance, as well as how to access transportation. These are resources the pantry hopes to make more accessible with the Hardman Fund's grant by hiring a part-time student to refine the pantry's online resources.  
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