Gala co-chairmen Paul Fortini and Sheri Quinn welcome attendees to the annual gathering on Friday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Kathy Singer had a heartfelt wish for Berkshire County Kids Place's 25th year.
That it no longer existed.
"My wish for the Kids Place -- that they are never ever needed, that they never have to comfort another child, never have to help tell a child that mommy and daddy are gone or that they will never ever see their family again," said the longtime foster mother.
Singer has been a foster mother for more than 30 years — while raising her own children, some of whom she adopted.
"I have fostered well over 130 children that needed to feel safe," she told the packed room at the Country Club of Pittsfield on Friday night for the organization's annual fundraising gala. Kids Place was always a phone call away with the tools and dialogue to help these children learn to trust again.
"The work that the Kids Place does is outstanding," Singer said. "Have they been able to help every child that walks through their door? Probably not. But it has not been for the of an amazing, caring, go-above-and-beyond staff."
Berkshire County Kids Place is for children and families traumatized by physical and sexual abuse, for children suffering broken bones and broken hearts, children who "have witnessed things that they should never ever have seen."
The agency is funded through the state Department of Children and Families, grants and donations. It works closely with related agencies and the Berkshire County district attorney's office to serve the more than 400 children that pass through its doors each year.
"My wish is that the Kids Place closes their doors and that all the children are safe," Singer said. "That is the wish that I'm sure is just a dream and not a reality."
To keep Kids Place a reality, state Rep. Paul Mark has been leading the charge to ensure increased funding for the state's 12 child advocacy centers.
"I thought about what it must mean to be a child in need, a family in need, at one of the worst moments in their lives," he said. "To have a service there to make them comfortable, to make them get through this horrible time and to know that there's a brighter day ahead."
Those thoughts decided his course to be the representative to lead on the issue, he said, adding that his success in securing funding was because of the great team that works together at the State House.
"Hopefully, we will be even more successful next year," Mark said.
The gala brings in thousands of dollars for Kids Place each year. Friday's event, the "Diamonds and Ice 25th Anniversary Gala," drew hundreds of attendees and donations for a silent auction ranging from lunch with local officials to airfare and Cape Cod vacations.
Major sponsors included the Petricca family, Fenton Quinn PC, Martino Glass, Berkshire Health Systems and more than two dozen local businesses and organizations. Robin McGraw rallied more donations from attendees. Speakers included gala co-chairmen Paul Fortini and Sheri Quinn, board Chairwoman Rosemarie Phelps, and Program Director Heather Williamson.
Kathy Singer speaks about her experience with Kids Place as a foster mother and guardian.
Kids Place also honored David Nicholas and Tracy Wilson for their ongoing support.
Nicholas, owner of the Bounti-Fare Restaurant in Adams, was presented with the Sheri L. Quinn Volunteer Service Award by board member William Blackmer. The restaurateur and musician is a longtime community activist and volunteer who has hosted numerous fundraising dinners and events, including for Kids Place. The open mic has raised more than $10,000.
"Being recognized by the Kids Place is just an absolute and true honor," Nicholas said, inviting everyone to the next event on Dec. 26. "Deep down inside it is one of my passions ... it takes a village for sure and I'm happy that you're part of my village."
Fortini presented Wilson with the Thomas J. O'Brien Community Leader Award. Wilson, owner of Indulgence Salon in Pittsfield, has been a supporter and fundraiser for Kids Place as well as sponsoring events for other local charities and endeavors.
Wilson said she was honored and humbled to receive an award named for her friend, the late O'Brien.
"It's just what I feel needs to be done for our community and the children in our community," she said. "The thought of a kid being mistreated and abused really hits home for me ...
"If you can't help people you don't have anything and tonight I feel that I have everything."
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Pittsfield Schools Subcommittee OKs Policies on Education Stability
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Public School's Policy Subcommittee adopted three policies to make sure that homeless, foster, and connected military students have education stability.
The policies are to ensure that these students are receiving proficient education and that they are immediately enrolled upon entering the district.
Director of Curriculum Judy Rush's examination of the current policy resulted in her offering a revised homeless student policy and two new policies to the subcommittee.
Last week, the subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of each policy's approval on first reading.
The Homeless Students policy is a revised policy that has been driven by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act that ensures homeless children and youth have equal access to the same free and appropriate public education, including public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.
Studies have shown that low-income neighborhoods are more concrete or "gray" than higher-income neighborhoods, which can have a deleterious effect on the health of residents, Senior Planner Allison Egan told the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday.
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At the time, Cormier didn't think that BMC would allow dogs, so she joined forces with another employee to contact organizations and hospitals to find out how they adopted pet therapy programs. Her year-old Newfoundland passed an assessment to become the program's first therapy dog.
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