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Lenox sixth-grader Savannah Reber's drawing was chosen for Sen. Adam Hinds' greeting card this year.

Berkshires Beat: Lenox Sixth-Grader Wins Hinds' Holiday Card Contest

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Hinds poses with the winner (front right), two of the runners-up and local Marines collecting toys for their Toys for Tots program.

She's a winner

State Sen. Adam G. Hinds introduced Savannah Reber, the student artist whose drawing was chosen for his greeting card this year, during a holiday open house in his downtown Pittsfield office on Dec. 13. His office was decorated with hundreds of drawings submitted by local third- through sixth-grade students to his Holiday Greeting Card Design Contest. In total, 348 students from a dozen schools located across western Massachusetts submitted entries to the contest.

Savannah, 12, is a resident of Lenox and is in sixth grade at Lenox Memorial Middle & High School. Hinds said he had a "difficult decision to make, choosing only one photo for my holiday card. Savannah’s snowman scene was so cheery and reminded me of happy childhood memories playing outside in the snow. She did a great job."

Annually, Hinds mails almost 1,000 greeting cards by mail to friends, family, colleagues and constituents during the holiday season. Hinds also chose three Honorable Mention winners: Graci Garrison, a third-grader at Brayton Elementary in North Adams; Sadie Livak, a fourth-grader at Berkshire County Day School in Stockbridge; and Aida Potter, a fifth-grader at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary.


Just a drill

Berkshire Medical Center, in partnership with first responders from throughout Northern Berkshire, will hold an emergency preparedness exercise on Tuesday, Dec. 18, in North Adams. The drill will simulate a mass casualty incident and will take place in the vicinity of the North Adams Campus of BMC in the evening hours.

Participants in the drill include Berkshire Medical Center, North Adams Police and Fire Departments and Northern Berkshire EMS. The exercise will not have any impact on transportation routes in the area.

Local residents may notice increased activity in the area around the drill and radio communications if listening using a scanner. The exercise will not prevent rapid response to any actual emergencies. The mass casualty drill is designed to enhance training and cooperation among multiple agencies and disciplines working together, and to improve actual response to such emergencies in the community.


Meritorious Conduct

Two Great Barrington firefighters from the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team earned a citation for Meritorious Conduct from Gov. Baker during the Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony in November. Firefighters Justina Bona and Robert Gaughran were two of the 26 members on the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team to receive an award during a ceremony on Nov. 20. Gov. Baker recognized the team for their outstanding rescue and recovery attempt at Bash Bish Falls State Park over the summer. "I am very proud of my firefighters for their well-deserved recognition," Chief Charles Burger said. "They worked a long, hard and dangerous weekend to try to minimize and bring closure to a tragedy. Their technical knowledge, skill, and dedication are an asset to the community."

The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, which is run by the Western Massachusetts Fire Chief’s Association, is comprised of firefighters from the four western Massachusetts counties. Member firefighters are specially trained in rope, confined space, trench and collapse rescue, and are regularly called to assist at some of the most difficult and dangerous incidents. To make the team, members first receive extensive training and complete drills each month to remain active. Great Barrington has three firefighters on the team -- Gaughran, Bona and George Houghtli.

In July, a New York man fell into Bash Bish Falls and died. Recovery efforts brought rescuers from 13 local and state entities, including firefighters Bona and Gaughran. The multi-day effort included rigging multiple rope systems and rappelling down and under multiple falls to locate where the victim was lodged. However, efforts were eventually called off due to the dangerous terrain and location of the body.


BArT deadlines

The Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School is currently accepting enrollment applications for students in grades six through 10 for the 2019-20 school year. Applications are available online or you can request one be mailed to you.

If your child can enroll in a district public school, then your child can enroll at BArT. Families interested in enrolling their student should contact the enrollment team with any questions by email or by phone (413-743-7311 ext. 732) or submit an enrollment application form by email, post, or by fax.

The first enrollment deadline for the 2019-20 school year for grades six through 10 is Thursday, Jan. 17, at noon. The last enrollment deadline to transfer in the current 2018-19 school year for grades six through nine is Thursday, Feb. 14. Enrollment applicants are accepted provided there is a vacant seat in the grade for which the student is applying. If there are no open seats, a lottery is held at Adams Town Hall at 2 p.m. on the deadline to determine placement on a waitlist. Enrollment policies and procedures are included with the enrollment application, available online.


Auxiliary turns 99

The Southwestern Vermont Health Care Auxiliary held its 99th annual meeting on Wednesday, Nove. 14, at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. One year after the Putnam Memorial Hospital, now Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, opened its doors, the first Ladies League was formed. Composed of 44 women, the first committee was the Sewing Committee. Its members mended and sewed items for use in the hospital, including bandages, curtains, baby blankets, pajamas and more.

Since then, the League has grown to more than 60 members, including men, and is now referred to as the SVHC Auxiliary. In addition to growing in numbers, the group has expanded its reach to impact virtually every department of the hospital and numerous non-profits in the community. With a mission to "raise and disburse funds and maintain services and programs that enhance the quality care and comfort for the communities we serve," the Auxiliary generates income through a variety of means, including the Corridor Art Gallery, independent vendor sales, membership, and donations. In the past 20 years alone, their volunteer efforts have raised more than $1 million.

That income has been used to fund scholarships, an infant car seat program, imaging equipment, cancer support, telemedicine, the Lifeline Personal Emergency program, renal services, the Safe Arms program, Meals on Wheels, the Bennington Free Clinic, and Emergency Food and Heat.


Good Girls Inc. news

Girls Inc. of the Berkshires has successfully completed the Quality Assurance Review Process by the national Girls Inc. organization and exceeded the minimum requirement of 84 percent — meeting 99 percent of all standards. The Girls Inc. Quality Assurance Process is an objective approach to evaluating the organization by measuring 104 standards every six years.  The standards are distributed across ten categories:  Governance, Mission and Strategic Position, Communications, Programs and service delivery, Advocacy, Information Technology, Human Resources, Financial Management, Fund Development, and Risk Management.  The process involved collaboration between the organization’s staff and Board of Directors.

Developed in partnership between the national Girls Inc. organization and local affiliates, the national Quality Assurance Process distinguishes Girls Inc. affiliates as dedicated to strong governance and staff leadership, efficient fiscal management, and responsible stewardship of fundraising support. By creating strong, sustainable organizations, the Girls Inc. network is able to ensure continual delivery of services that empower girls to grow up healthy, educated, and independent.  


United Way grant

Berkshire United Way has received a $10,000 Avangrid Foundation grant to support early childhood literacy efforts throughout Berkshire County, in partnership with Berkshire Gas Company. Reacting to the grant, Berkshire United Way President and CEO Kristine Hazzard said, "By investing in programs and services that expose children to language rich learning experiences, we help prepare those children, so they enter kindergarten ready to learn and have the best chance of being proficient readers by third grade."

“We are excited to partner with the Avangrid Foundation in support of such vital programs meeting such a critical need in our area,"  said Chris Farrell, manager of corporate communications and government relations at Berkshire Gas. "Effective childhood development programs establish the very foundation upon which a child needs to build in order to grow, to learn and to thrive.  Without instilling these fundamentals, a child is at a grave disadvantage, as they try to navigate their way in today’s world.  We are so thankful the Berkshire United Way has recognized this need and is supporting these efforts in Berkshire County and we are thrilled to offer our support."

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Environment Secretary Visits Pittsfield

Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, visits the site of culvert project in Pittsfield being funded through the state's climate readiness program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides was in Pittsfield on Friday to review a state-funded culvert site and meet with local officials to discuss the state's climate readiness program. 
She joined Mayor Linda Tyer at the Churchill Street culvert, a site which recently received grant funding through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The city was awarded an $814,524 state grant in June for the Churchill Brook and West Street Culvert Replacement Project.
Through the MVP program, which begun in 2017, municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. The initiative which initially started as a $500,000 capital grant program has now increased to $12 million. Pittsfield is among the 71 percent of communities across the commonwealth now enrolled in the MVP program.
"The governor and the lieutenant governor have made resilient infrastructure a priority all across the state and I think it's really important to know that we have a really vested interest in Western Massachusetts communities as well as all across the state, not forgetting the Berkshires or Pioneer Valley," said Theoharides in a statement. "Our MVP program is really focused on these types of partnership investments and looking to design infrastructure for the challenges we're seeing today and moving forward as climate change increases."
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