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Jay Walsh and daughter Naomi with their 'Trailgator' bike hookup for Earth Day.

Volunteers Get North Berkshire BIKEfest Rolling

By Kathy KeeserBerkshireNonProfits.com
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Wendy Penner volunteers to help her community. She's a member of the Williamstown COOL Committee and a founder of BIKEfest.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — As it takes two wheels and various other components to make a bicycle a bicycle, it has also taken many involved with the BIKE North Berkshire group to create the first annual BIKEfest that takes place this week, May 13-19, as part of "Bike to Work" week.

Jay Walsh and Wendy Penner, the two wheels, or co-founders, of BIKE North Berkshire, a cycling promotion group, started from different beginning points, but their paths and interests crossed in Northern Berkshire, including their interest in biking. 

"BIKE North Berkshire was formed as a result of working with a wonderful group of committed and positive people who care about transforming our society to make our lifestyles more sustainable," said Penner. "Our vision is to promote safe bicycling for recreation, physical fitness, and environmentally friendly transportation, and BIKEfest is a vehicle for promoting, sharing, and growing that vision within the community."

Walsh got his first trail dusting with school and Boy Scouts, but he was not on the road where volunteering had meaning in his life until he got involved with the Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) through a man that he met. 

"He expressed to me that working to help make the community I live in better would also change me for the better.  He could not have been more right and I am eternally grateful to him," said Walsh, a marketing manager with Living Well. "Through volunteering I learned many things about myself and how to work with and lead others. Since then, I have volunteered with dozens of projects in communities where I've lived, most recently here in the Berkshires.  

"My volunteering follows causes I believe in and wish to support, as I believe is the case with most volunteers. Sure I could have earned a great deal more money this year if I had worked all the hours I did instead of volunteering, but I truly believe I would not be as rich of a man as I am today."

Penner, a non-profit consultant, began volunteering with her youth group.

"I found it deeply rewarding to be part of a group that worked to advance issues I cared about such as raising funds for a variety of causes, visiting the elderly, and caring for the environment," said Penner. "In Judaism, we have a concept called tikkun olam — repair the world — and I understand this to mean I am obligated to help make our society better. As a college student in the 1980s, I became deeply concerned about a variety of environmental issues."

A member of the Williamstown COOL Committee, she said learning about global warming made her feel "overwhelmed by the scope of the challenges we are creating for our ourselves and our children. I have sought out both personal and professional opportunities to help people make a difference in this global crisis through local action."

Often Penner wears different hats that fit well together, as during an Earth Day gathering, when she easily transitioned from her right side (encouraging people to the Center for Ecological Technologt table to get information on free energy audits) to her left side (offering energy saving information and giveaways at the COOL Committee table), and then when needed, went a little farther to her right to help promote the BIKEfest. 

"I think that when we get out of our cars and onto our bikes the world looks different, we are healthier and our spirits are fed by the fresh air and connections we form to the environment around us and to other people," said Penner.


No wheels too small for Walsh.
You will often see Walsh riding around the area, especially with his family, showing how cycling can be a family affair. A couple of weeks ago, he and his daughter, 5-year-old Naomi, rode their bikes hooked together with a "Trailgator" to the Earth Day gathering. 

"The neat thing is that you ride together for safety much like a tandem bike, but when you get somewhere, you can both ride your bikes separately," said Walsh.  

Walsh and Penner, and other volunteers and sponsors, are hoping to raise awareness of the benefits of bicycling. Education, such as making choices about resources, and planning and infrastructure, can make biking more accessible, said Penner.

The public, especially families, are invited to attend the variety of activities and events this week that culminate in a Bike Rodeo on Saturday, May 19, from 11-2 at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Attendee are encouraged (but not required) to bring a bike — and a helmet — for the activities including a parade at 2. There will be lots of bike safety information and bike accessories, including helmets, T-shirts, and more as giveaways at the rodeo and other BIKEfest events.

To help out at BIKEfest as a volunteer, go to Berkshirenonprofits.com and click on the Volunteer Opportunity: "BIKEfest Family Bike Rodeo Volunteers" for more information.

Kathy Keeser writes articles about volunteers and volunteering for Berkshirenonprofits.com. Contact her at kkeeser@berkshirenonprofits.com or go to the website to see more about volunteers and volunteer opportunities.


Tags: bicycling,   bike,   BIKEfest,   fun stuff,   volunteers,   

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Berkshire DA: Up to Towns to Handle Officers on 'Brady List'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — If Select Board members hoped the Berkshire County district attorney would offer direction on how the town should deal with the impact of having a police officer on her office's "Brady list," they were very disappointed.
 
Twice during an hourlong presentation at Monday's Select Board meeting, District Attorney Andrea Harrington said it was not her office's place to tell towns how to respond when the county's prosecutor decides one of the municipality's law enforcement officers has a history that needs to be revealed to defense attorneys or, worse, that an officer's history is so concerning that he or she cannot be used as a prosecution witness without approval of a supervisor.
 
The town currently has 11 full-time officers — including one on administrative leave since March and another pulling double duty as lieutenant and interim chief. A third has been placed on Harrington's "do not call" list, meaning the DA has determined the officer has "made misrepresentations about material facts in a criminal investigation," she said Monday in Williamstown Elementary School's gymnasium.
 
Some in the community have wondered whether having an officer on the do-not-call list, particularly when the department already is short-handed, creates an issue for the department's efficiency. Many residents have suggested that the town should remove the officer on the list and replace him with an officer who can be fully functional.
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