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Sixty-three alumni of the Putnam Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing joined leaders from Southwestern Vermont Health Care for a reunion lunch on Dec. 6.

Berkshires Beat: SVHC Celebrates Putnam Nursing School Alumni

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Together again

Sixty-three alumni of the Putnam Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing joined leaders from Southwestern Vermont Health Care for a reunion lunch on Dec. 6. The event marked the 70th anniversary of the first graduating class of the school. Throughout its 50-year tenure, the school graduated more than 800 nurses.

The lunch was the final event in a year-long celebration of the hospital's centennial. The year was marked by "A Century of Caring," a historical exhibit which traveled to every region the health system serves; Centennial Community Day, a free event that drew 4,000 people to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center campus in Bennington; and signature fundraising events like the Centennial Gala, Master's in the Mountains Golf Tournament, and the Jingle Bell charity ball.


'possible selves' at WCMA

A photo from Laurence Philomene's 'Feminine Identities' series.

Rarely does an exhibit find itself in the position of defining the visual terms of a global conversation. The artists and works featured in the Williams College Museum of Art's new exhibit, "possible selves: queer fotovernaculars," play a pivotal role in the global discourse concerning the impact of portraiture and self-fashioning on the evolution of queer identities. On view from Dec. 14 to April 14, 2019, the exhibition explores issues surrounding aesthetics, authenticity and political understandings of postmodern desire. An opening reception featuring a polaroid selfie photo-op and a series of hip-hop and vogue performances by Williams junior Quess Green will be held on Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
Spanning 60 years of art and vernacular photography — from a 1953 candid photo of Jack Kerouac taken by Allen Ginsberg to recent selfies on Instagram — possible selves brings together 65 works from WCMA's collection with 200 images from social media to elucidate queer collective action across national, temporal, and generational divides. The exhibition draws on the critical writings of academic and philosopher José Esteban Muñoz (1967-2013) and the poetry of Emily Dickinson to define queer self-identification as both an aesthetic and political act.

Ambitious in scale and rigorous in its attention to the ways queer digital portraiture circulates and accrues influence, the WCMA exhibit frames queer experiences of transition, translation, transgression and transcendence through intergenerational shifts in language and visual culture. Illicit, humorous, tender, confessional, violent, and irreverent, the photographs on view in possible selves remix and re-frame the limits between public and private, intimacy and formality, truth and the performance of self.


Charlotte Benjamin from Pine Cobble School, center, won second place in the eighth annual Sarnoff Speech Contest.

Sarnoff Speech Contest

Southern Vermont College hosted the eighth annual Sarnoff Speech Contest for area seventh-grade students, which took place at the Laumeister Art Center. The contest is in honor of Dorothy Sarnoff, an American operatic soprano, music theatre actress, and an influential image consultant who specialized in helping others perfect the art of speaking well. This annual event is sponsored by the Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundations under the coordination of SVC's class, Public Speaking in Civic Life, and Senior Lecturer Tracey Forest.

Nineteen students entered the contest from four area schools: Drury High School in North Adams, Mass.; Maple Street School in Manchester, Vt.; Mountain School at Winhall, Vt.; and Pine Cobble School in Williamstown, Mass. Winning first place was Braiden Pearson from Mountain School, second-place winner was Charlotte Benjamin from Pine Cobble School, and third-place winner was Myles Lahue from Maple Street School.


O+ submissions sought

Submissions launch today for the inaugural O+ North Adams festival of art, music and wellness, which will take place May 10-11 in North Adams. The theme of the 2019 festival is "Home" and the deadline for submissions is Jan. 5. Accepted musicians will play concerts at existing and pop-up venues along the Main Street corridor. Accepted artists will make murals, installations, performance art and workshops. Both will receive health and wellness care in an Artists' Clinic staffed by providers from Berkshire Health Systems and art-loving volunteer providers.

The general public will experience all the art offerings and concerts, EXPLO+RE classes in yoga, dance, meditation, a health EXPO+ of locally available services, and other programming with a pay-what-you-can all-access festival wristband.O+ North Adams organizers also seek general festival volunteers.  Follow O+ North Adams on Facebook and Instagram to stay informed.

Berkshire Health Systems is the lead sponsor of O+ North Adams. Festival partners include: City of North Adams, Common Folk, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Golden Paintworks and Mass MoCA. To become a sponsor or partner, or if you have general festival questions, email O+ North Adams director Jessica Sweeney.


Santa's calling

The Pittsfield Department of Community Development Recreation Program will be conducting the annual North Pole Calling Program Wednesday, Dec. 12, and Thursday, Dec. 13, from 5 to 7:30 p.m.  

Sign-up forms will be sent home with Pittsfield students in kindergarten and grades 1 and 2. Forms are also available at the City Clerk’s Office in room 103 of City Hall, 70 Allen St. or through a link on the home page of the city’s website,  Completed forms must be returned by Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The program is also open to older children, too; a submitted form is required for them as well. In 2017, Santa placed called to more than 125 children.


4-H Awards & Recognition

More than 100 people gathered at St. Stephen's Church in Pittsfield on Dec. 2 to celebrate the accomplishments of 4-H members and volunteers. Several volunteers are honored for years of service, including Christine Foster (Hillsdale, N.Y.), Sarah Siket (Sheffield), and Melinda Wald (Gt. Barrington) for one year; Tonia Carrington (Becket), Lori Beth Decker (Sheffield), Angelina Mangiardi (Pittsfield), and Stephanie Martin (Cheshire) for five years; and Angelica Paredes (North Adams) for 10 years.

The Friend of 4-H Award is based on nominations from Berkshire 4-H'ers and volunteers for outstanding and dedicated service. This year's recipient was Tractor Supply Store #1729 in North Adams for their "adoption" and unwavering support of the Berkshire Jammin' Critters 4-H Club. The Fair Honor Roll is a list of individuals who have gone above and beyond to make the annual Berkshire County Youth Fair a success, either behind the scenes or in front. They are: Isabel Beauchamp (Lanesborough), Elaine Caligiuri (Lenox), Fiora Caligiuri-Randall (Lenox) Larry Heyman (North Adams), David, Donna, Faith and Hope Motta (North Adams), Natal Paredes (North Adams), and Nicholas Soldato (Pittsfield).   

The Loving Hands Award is an application process based on a youth who best exemplifies the ability to handle and care for his or her animal at the annual Youth Fair. This year's winner is Daniel Epe (Pittsfield). Youths were recognized for representing Berkshire 4-H at the Big E with presentations and in the horse arena: Presentations was Faith & Hope Motta (North Adams) and Horse were Allison Brazie (Great Barrington) and Kayli Smith (Sheffield). Representing Berkshire 4-H at the regional horse show were: Jazmine Bona (North Egremont), Allison Brazie (Great Barrington), Brook and Katilyn Decker (Sheffield) and Kayli Smith (Sheffield).  

Visual presentations, or public speaking, is a cornerstone of the 4-H program. Every year each county/region has a competition from which youth, 8-18, may be chosen to compete at the state level. This past year, Berkshire 4-H sent four youths to compete against hundreds: Fiora Caligiuri-Randall (Lenox), Faith and Hope Motta (North Adams) and Charlotte Tuper (Florida). Berkshire County 4-H Ambassadors are youth trained to talk to groups about the 4-H program and their personal experience. The Ambassadors for this past 4-H year were: Fiora Caligiuri-Randall (Lenox), Hannah Heath (Becket), Faith and Hope Motta (North Adams) and Nicholas Soldato (Pittsfield).  
Berkshire 4-H took part in a National Mentoring Grant from OJJDP and worked with adult mentors in several programs, but one site had teens mentoring peers. This "Tech Wizard" mentoring group was from Drury High School and recognized Vincienza Alicandri, Andrew Callahan, Alison Felix, Alana Gardner, Kelsey Haley, Natal Paredes, Lauren Piekos and Laura Thomas.  The following youth were nominated by a 4-H volunteer as a Junior Leader for showing great leadership skills and potential: Elijah and Serena Acheson (Williamstown), Isabel Beauchamp (Lanesborough), Cadence, Cheyenne, Erynne & Jacob Goodermote (Clarksburg), Brady Macdonald (North Adams), Faith and Hope Matta (North Adams), Jeremy, John-Michael, Kayleigh, Thomas and Tiffany Richard (Readsboro), Genevieve Tassone (Adams), and Charlotte Tuper (Florida).

County Medals are given to youth who turn in a 4-H record about the projects they have worked on in the past year. Medal recipients and medals were: Allison Brazie (Great Barrington), horse; Fiora Caligiuri-Randall (Lenox), art, leadership, music and personal development; Amaya Cannon (Pittsfield), sheep; Brooke Decker (Sheffield), horse; Katilyn Decker (Sheffield), horse; Daniel Epe (Pittsfield), sheep; Isaac Epe (Pittsfield), sheep; Faith Motta (North Adams), leadership, sheep and writing; Hope Motta (North Adams), achievement, community service and sheep; Kayli Smith (Sheffield), horse; Nicholas Soldato (Pittsfield), drawing; and Charlotte Tuper (Florida), cooking, photography, rabbit and sewing.

Fiora Caligiuri-Randall was recognized for her artwork making the cover of the National 4-H 2019 calendar. The final award of the evening was the Top H awards. This is an award that can be won be a 4-H a maximum of two times in their lives, once as a junior member and once as a senior member.  The youth chosen must turn in 4-H records, be a member in good standings and be nominated by the judging committee.  This year the Junior Top H winner was Daniel Epe (Pittsfield) and the Senior Top H winner was Nicholas Soldato (Pittsfield).


Nonprofit directory

The Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires currently is distributing the third annual Giving Back guide throughout Berkshire County. The free publication is designed to facilitate connections between nonprofits and individuals wishing to donate or volunteer.

Berkshire County is home to approximately 1,000 registered nonprofit organizations. All of these are listed in the guide by category such as arts & culture, education, human services and youth. Additionally, there are over 100 profiles of nonprofits providing more information about their programs and ways to help.  The Nonprofit Center partnered with area business advertisers to make the 160-page booklet available free to the community just in time for the giving season.

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Protecting Children and Others During a Measles Outbreak

Dr. Marie George

Once a common childhood disease, measles was almost an expected part of growing up. But it wasn't without consequence. Worldwide, up to 2.6 million people died annually from measles every year up until a vaccine was introduced in 1963.

In recent years, some parents have refused to vaccinate their children based on misinformation about side effects of the vaccine.  As a result, the number of unvaccinated children, teens and adults in our communities is on the rise. While those making the choice to not vaccinate believe they're making this decision solely on behalf of themselves or their children, they're actually impacting the health of others. Sometimes with deadly consequences.

How is it spread? Who is at risk?

The measles virus is highly contagious and spreads easily. Spread by close personal contact, coughing, or sneezing, the virus can remain active in the air or on a surface for up to two hours after it has been transmitted.

That means that any unvaccinated individual — including infants and those with compromised immune systems — can get sick when entering a space where an infected person was even hours before. Infected individuals can then go on to spread the illness days before they show any signs of the disease.

How to protect those at risk

Measles vaccines are by far the best possible protection you can give your child. Two doses are 97 percent effective and the potential side effects are rare and not nearly as scary as suggested by a lot of popular media. If they appear at all, side effects are usually a sore arm, a rash, or maybe a slight fever. Claims that the vaccine causes autism have been undeniably proven to be false.

As for when to get your child vaccinated, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend children receive the measles vaccine at age 12 to 15 months and again at 4 to 6 years old. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

How about adults?

Because the risk of death from measles is higher for adults than it is for children, teens and adults who have not been vaccinated should take steps to protect themselves. "The vaccine can be provided in two doses within 28 days of each other. This is particularly important for those planning travel overseas or to areas in the United States where outbreaks are occurring.

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