Hilltowns Challenged to Raise Funds for Neighbor Program

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SHEFFIELD, Mass. — The Central Berkshire Fund is challenging the seven hilltowns to raise $20,000 toward an emergency assistance grant.

If the towns of Becket, Cummington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington and Windsor can raise at total of $20,000, the fund will match with $100,000 to create a resource for individuals and families needing emergency assistance through the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program.

The deadline for the towns to meet the challenge grant is June 1. The fund is administered by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor provides emergency assistance for local residents who are in economic distress. The program makes small grants (generally up to $500) to help those with overdue utilities, medical bills, short-term housing costs and transportation problems. Checks are written to the vendor (landlord, utility company, pharmacy or mechanic) on behalf of the community member in need. The funds are not intended for long-term or ongoing assistance, but for strategic intervention to help achieve a measure of stability and avert further crises.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor is partnering with Berkshire Community Action Council, a countywide social service agency, to administer the program. If you or someone you know needs emergency financial assistance, contact BCAC at 413-445-4503, Ext. 140, or n2ngrant@bcacinc.org.

This is the second Central Berkshire Fund challenge grant for the hilltowns. Following are examples of those who were helped last year:

A man with an acute spinal-cord injury was facing going into a nursing home because his own home could not accommodate a wheelchair. The Central Berkshire Fund paid for the materials to build a ramp for his home. Many of his neighbors contributed their labor to make sure he could safely return home.

  A husband and wife, both with disabilities, are living with their two children on a limited income. Neighbor-to-Neighbor provided money to replace their broken hot-water tank. Construct, an agency dedicated to preventing homelessness, also contributed to this expense.

  A single woman with a disability was abandoned by her husband and facing many unpaid bills. Neighbor-to-Neighbor paid her oil bill so that she could stay warm until the Berkshire Community Action Council enrolled her in the Fuel Assistance Program.

"Though times are tough, this is also a remarkable and generous moment in Central Berkshire County," said Jennifer Dowley, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. "So many local families are suddenly struggling for food, housing and employment and at the same time, it's heartening to see neighbors doing everything they can to help each other. Donations to Neighbor-to-Neighbor have the immediate impact of easing suffering in our community."

Each town must meet a specific match based upon its population with a minimum of 20 gifts per town by June 1. All of the funds will be dedicated to the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program for that specific town. Every town's donation will be matched individually at a 5-to-1 ratio so long as the full challenge amount is raised. If any town raises less than the challenge amount, its donation will go to the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program for that town, but will not be matched by the Central Berkshire Fund.

Following is a summary of the amount each town must raise along with its progress toward that goal: Becket: $2,750, left to raise: $985; Cummington: $1,375, left to raise: $730; Dalton: $9,625, left to raise: $8,324; Hinsdale: $2,750, left to raise: $2,310; Peru: $1,375, left to raise: $1,275; Washington: $750, left to raise: $455; Windsor: $1,375, left to raise: 0 (Windsor has raised $450 more than its goal).

To help Central Berkshire County meet the matching grant challenge for emergency aid, contributions may be sent to Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (P.O. Box 400, Sheffield, MA 01257) earmarked for Neighbor-to-Neighbor (specify town) or donations can be made at www.berkshiretaconic.org/makeadonation.
If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at info@iberkshires.com.

Dalton on Search for New Fire Chief

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — Chris Cachat will continue as acting fire chief as the Board of Water Commissioners determines its next steps. 
Cachat, the assistant chief, stepped in three weeks ago when James Peltier was placed on administrative leave. Peltier was fired last week for what the commissioners said were personnel complaints and for overspending his budget.
Commission Chair James Driscoll said at Tuesday's meeting it could take the department a couple of weeks to a couple of months to find a replacement. 
Hiring from outside the department search could take longer. 
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