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From left: Great Barrington firefighter Robert Gaughran, Lt. Darrell Marks, firefighter Justin Bona, Chief Charles Burger, and graduating firefighters Michael Bissaillon and Iovan DeRis.

Berkshires Beat: Two Firefighters Join Great Barrington Force

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New firefighters

Two Great Barrington firefighters have graduated from the Massachusetts Fire Academy's Call/Volunteer program. At the ceremony on Monday, Oct. 29, call firefighters Mike Bissaillon and Iovan DeRis graduated alongside call and volunteer firefighters from throughout Massachusetts.

The Call/Volunteer academy program is a rigorous 240-hour course that is held twice per week as well as most weekends over a four-month period at the academy's Springfield campus. Time is spent in the classroom and on the drill yard, where students acquire the basic knowledge and skills for firefighting. All of the training concludes with live firefighting in the burn building. Participants graduated with their Firefighter I & II and Hazmat – Operations Level Responder certifications.

The two newest members will now officially join the Great Barrington Fire Department. Bissaillon is a husband and father of four, as well as a personal trainer and owner of a CrossFit gym in Great Barrington. DeRis is a husband, father of three, and is a contractor who owns the Great Barrington Building Company in addition to his role as a call firefighter.

The Great Barrington Fire Department is always looking to add members, and anyone interested in joining can contact Chief Burger by phone at 413-528-0788.


Pittsfield Photo Challenge

Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., is holding a photo challenge to find the photo that best captures why downtown Pittsfield is the "Heart of the Berkshires." Entrants are encouraged to capture photos that showcase the beauty and personality of downtown Pittsfield, keeping in mind the theme "Heart of the Berkshires." Creativity is encouraged.

The first-place winner, as determined by a panel of local judges, will have their photo featured in Pittsfield's 2019 Downtown Guide and a Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., social marketing campaign. The first and second place winners will take home a prize package donated by local downtown businesses. In addition, select entries will be exhibited at Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., 33 Dunham Mall, in 2019 during First Fridays Artswalk.

Downtown Pittsfield, Inc, will accept photo submissions through Nov. 20. Winners will be notified by Jan. 2. One image submission will be accepted per person, and the image must be taken in downtown Pittsfield. Entrants must fill out a Google form and email their photo to Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. Full contest rules and entry information can be found online.


Softball for a cause

The Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire hosted its second annual Community at Bat, a charity softball game to support its work providing low-moderate income housing in the Berkshires, on Sunday, Sept. 30. Thanks to the sponsors, contributors, and participant, the CDCSB was able to raise just under $7,000 and increased awareness for the deep need to continue to create affordable housing and meaningful jobs.

The team lead by CDCSB Board President Jim Harwood, called Work Force Housing, won the softball game with a score of 11 runs to 3. They were matched against the team lead by Great Barrington Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin called The Living Wage. The softball game was broadcast live on WSBS Radio with play-by-play announcing given by state Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, Jack Passetto, and Jesse Stewart. Tangela Gauthier, a senior at Monument Mountain High School student, opened the game by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Refreshments, hamburgers and hot dogs were sold by the Sheffield Kiwanis Club. CDCSB also held a raffle featuring donated gifts from area businesses, gift cards to local eateries and retail shops, and they also held an online auction featuring a one-week stay in Mexico. The raffle and auction proceeds went to support CDCSB’s ongoing work of creating job opportunities, promoting economic development, and building low-moderate income housing in the southern Berkshires.


'Champion of Artists'

Save the Art-Save the Museum will receive a "Champion of Artists" award from the Massachusetts Artists Leader’s Coalition on Nov. 14 in recognition of its efforts to stop the sale of the Berkshire Museum's art collection.

MALC is a statewide coalition formed to ensure that Massachusetts artists have a voice in key public policy initiatives that impact artists and the creative economy. The award honors STA for "the protection of all artists' rights with regard to their legacy wishes, from donating work to their designated collecting institutions, to protecting work held in the public trust by art museums."

STA is a citizens group compromised of 30 core members and 1,500 regional and national supporters from all walks of life. Over the course of 18 months the group organized protests, raised funds for litigations, and served as an advocate and a collective voice for the public who opposed the sale of a major art collection, created and maintained as a public trust since the museum's founding by Zenas Crane in 1903. STA's advocacy has been instrumental in bringing the issue to national attention.

MALC will be awarding its Champion of Artists Awards at its 12th annual Artists Under the Dome event on Nov. 14 at the Massachusetts State House. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. in the State House’s Great Hall and is free and open to the public.


'Food for Fines'

The Berkshire Athenaeum will offer a modified fines amnesty through Friday, Nov. 30. During this four-week period the library will accept non‑perishable food items in lieu of paying fines for overdue books. All donated food will be turned over to the Rotary Club of Pittsfield as part of that organization’s annual food collection drive that distributes non-perishable food to area food banks.

The food-for-fines program is the library’s goal to create a more positive feeling about getting overdue library materials returned, and to get library borrowers to clean out their bookshelves and bring back library items that may have been long forgotten.

Food will be collected in boxes located at the Adult Circulation Desk and at the Children’s Service Desk. When "paying" off a fine with a donated food item, patrons should alert staff prior to depositing the item into the collection boxes. Food will be accepted not only for payment of overdue fines for items currently in circulation, but also may be applied to outstanding overdue fines from other transactions. The replacement costs of lost or damaged materials may not be resolved by donated food.


Holiday Wish Program

Hillcrest Educational Centers' 2018 Holiday Wish Program is now under way. The Holiday Wish Program provides gifts for the 150 special-needs children in their care, many of whom are unable to spend the holidays with their families.

There are two ways to participate. Individuals, community groups or businesses can request the desired number of wish cards with instructions on shopping for the children by contacting Tim Gallagher by email or by phone at 413-499-7924, ext. 133. Or people can mail a donation to Tim Gallagher, Hillcrest Educational Centers, 788 South Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201. As a guide, $150 sponsors one child’s wish list, $25 will buy a gift and $10 will fill a child's stocking.


Clothing drive

Berkshire Humane Society will open the doors of its new Catwalk Boutique in Lenox for a two-day clothing drive on Sunday, Nov. 11, and Monday, Nov. 12. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the public is invited to drop off donations and take a sneak peek of the new space located at 26 Church St. Light refreshments will be provided and adoptable animals will make an appearance.

This clothing drive is part of an ongoing effort to collect like-new and very gently-used women's clothing to sell at Catwalk Boutique, Berkshire Humane Society's successful resale shop. All proceeds generated at Catwalk Boutique help the shelter care for more than 1,200 homeless animals each year. This critical revenue also helps fund numerous programs and services that benefit both people and animals. Examples include The SafePet Program, which offers temporary, free pet care to pet owners in crisis, the Pet Food Bank for people experiencing financial hardship, and low-cost spay/neuter programs for cats.

Catwalk Boutique specializes in affordable women's clothing with an emphasis on designer and upscale labels, current styles and contemporary fashion. In addition to clothing, shoppers can purchase handbags, jewelry, shoes, and accessories such as scarves, hats, and gloves. The original store is located at 325 Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington.

Catwalk Boutique is entirely stocked by community donations. All women’s clothing and outerwear, jewelry, shoes, handbags, wallets, scarves, hats and gloves will be accepted. No lingerie, undergarments or bathing suits will be accepted. Men's clothing that is in excellent condition will also be accepted. Ongoing donations may be dropped off at Berkshire Humane Society (214 Barker Road, Pittsfield) and Purradise (301 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington). Drop-offs and pick-ups in Lenox may be scheduled by sending an email.


SVMC award

The Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Renal Dialysis unit has joined the hospital as a recipient of the federal government’s highest rating for patient care. The CMS rating system is designed to assist the public in choosing care for themselves and their family members. The agency rates hospitals, nursing homes, home health services, dialysis facilities, and health plans, among other health services. The news of the five-star rating for SVMC's dialysis unit was made available in a preview to a report that is expected to be released in October.

CMS uses patient experience surveys and countless measures of quality patient care to assign ratings for each service or facility type. For dialysis units, for example, the measures include the infection rate, hospital admissions, hospital readmissions, and mortality rate, to name a few. Three stars represents the national average. Four stars, the rating the Dialysis Department at SVMC has received in years past, represents "above average" performance. A five-star rating means a center has quality of care that is considered "much above average" compared to other dialysis facilities. 


Free Constitutions

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Berkshire Country residents and citizens across the country will be headed to the polls to cast their votes in the nation's midterm elections. Because the political landscape so deeply divided, there is a grassroots effort across the political spectrum to get out the vote and especially to mobilize the disenfranchised.

Lucinda Fenn-Vermeulen, Berkshire resident and owner of South Egremont Village mainstay Kenver, is urging all eligible citizens to participate in our democratic process by exercising their hard-won right to vote. As an added incentive, Kenver will be handing out free booklets of the U.S. Constitution to those voters who visit the store after casting their ballot. No purchase is necessary.

"Regardless of the outcome of the election, we all must, especially now, fulfill our obligation as citizens to be informed and to vote. Our democracy is threatened and we need to save it with with facts, civility and grace," Fenn-Vermeulen said. "We see this gesture simply as a way to thank voters for exercising their rights, by putting them in the palm of their hands."


Free smoke detectors

Homeowners throughout Berkshire County are eligible for free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, thanks to a partnership between Age Friendly Berkshires and the American Red Cross for the Home Fires Campaign.

The campaign;s aim is to decrease the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires.  All homeowners in Berkshire County are eligible, regardless of age or income. The Red Cross will install up to three 10-year sealed smoke alarms and one carbon monoxide alarm per home at no cost. To schedule an installation visit or for more information, call 800-746-3511.

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