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The first Eureka! cohort was launched in July 2018, made up of 14 girls entering eighth grade.

Biz Briefs: Berkshire Gas, Avangrid Foundation Supports Girls Inc. STEM Program

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Eureka! moments

The Girls Inc. Eureka! program at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center has received continued support from the Avangrid Foundation, in partnership with Berkshire Gas. Eureka! brings girls in the Berkshires a unique opportunity to explore STEM-related subjects through intensive, hands-on programming over five years.

The first Eureka! cohort was launched in July 2018, made up of 14 girls entering eighth grade. The girls immersed themselves in a four-week summer experience studying a range of STEM subjects including physics, biology and environmental science with area professors from Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on site at Berkshire Community College on West Street in Pittsfield. The girls also participated in personal and career development activities, along with physical fitness to promote a healthy lifestyle. The cohort continues to meet throughout the school year to build upon what they are learning in school, continue to explore personal and career development activities and to build relationships with program staff and each other. The cohort will begin a second immersive summer experience in July 2019.

Eureka!, a research-based and evaluated program designed by the national Girls Inc. organization, helps girls envision possibilities and reaches out to girls who may face real challenges to staying in school, have little access to real career development activities or consider any form of higher education in their future. A five-year program, Eureka! provides girls as they begin eighth grade with hands-on, girls-only opportunities to build skills, knowledge and self-confidence in STEM-related subjects. Designed to address the needs of middle and high school girls at a pivotal time in their development, Girls Inc. Eureka! provides increased educational opportunities in STEM to underserved girls and young women, enabling and empowering them to lead financially sound, productive lives and preparing them for the world of work.

Under the partnership agreement, the Avangrid Foundation, in partnership with Berkshire Gas, will provide a $25,000 grant to enable Girls Inc. of the Berkshires to build upon the success seen in the first year of the Eureka! program. Girls Inc. plans to expand the program each year, with cohorts of up to 20 girls joining the program, with a plan to support up to 100 girls annually in the Eureka! program. A second cohort of Berkshire area girls who will be entering eighth grade will be added to the program summer 2019.


Apartment project grant

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston has awarded the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire a $932,487 grant for Bentley Apartments at 100 Bridge St., Great Barrington. The award will be made through FHLB member Berkshire Bank and will support both the construction and the ongoing operations of the $17.5 million project. The FHLB award includes a $500,000 direct subsidy to be used for construction and $432,487 to subsidize the interest rate on the permanent mortgage.

The Bentley Apartment complex represents phase one of the CDCSB's ongoing plans for 100 Bridge Street to create much-needed affordable homes and a boost for economic growth in Great Barrington. It will build 45 new affordable rental units and simultaneously remediate the entire 8-acre site along the Housatonic River in downtown Great Barrington. The new units will include one, two, and three-bedroom apartments for families with incomes up to $49,000, offering rental apartments at significantly lower than market-rates.

In July 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development awarded approximately $15.3 million for Bentley Apartments. Construction and remediation are expected to begin in the summer of 2019. The CDCSB's co-sponsor for the project is Berkshire Housing Development Corporation and the other development team members are Dietz and Company Architects in Springfield, Mass., and MBL Housing and Development in Amherst, Mass.


Hootsuite workshop

The Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires will offer a workshop on Hootsuite, the social media management platform that helps make finding, scheduling, managing and reporting on social media content easier. The workshop takes place at Hotel on North in Pittsfield on Wednesday, Feb. 6, from 10 a.m. to noon. The cost is $25 for NPC members and $35 for nonmembers.

Dawn Stanyon of Professionality Consulting will present the workshop. Participants will learn the ins and outs of scheduling and managing social media through Hootsuite, how to publish and interact with followers and fans, and how this social media scheduling and management tool can save time and money.


Shutdown assistance

Berkshire Bank is offering a loan modification program and financial coaching service designed to help its current customers who are federal employees needing special assistance and options during the U.S. government shutdown. Qualified federal government employees may apply for a one- to three-month loan payment deferral.  This temporary benefit is available to Berkshire Bank customers with a Berkshire Bank loan product, including mortgages, equity loans, equity lines, and consumer or auto loans.
To take advantage of this loan modification program offered by Berkshire Bank, impacted customers must provide their most recent payroll statement from the federal government.  This loan payment deferral offer will end when the federal government reopens. To inquire about a loan modification, call 800-773-5601, ext. 138564, and then choose option 5, or send an email.

In addition to the loan modification program, Berkshire offers its customers and those affected by the shutdown access to financial coaching through its partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness, a national nonprofit organization that provides confidential financial counseling, education and debt management services, empowering people to lead financially healthy lives.  Customers interested in the free financial coaching can visit the website or call 866-692-2659.


Workforce grant

The Berkshire Workforce Board, as part of a collaboration with the Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire Workforce Boards, will be receiving $650K to provide local manufacturing training through the Advanced Manufacturing Training Program Workforce Development Grant that will run from January through June 2019. The Berkshires' $178,000 grant will support the education and training of individuals with entry-level skills needed to enter the Advanced Manufacturing workforce in Berkshire County.  The training will build upon the successes of previous workforce development grants that have been offered in health care and manufacturing.

Seventy-five percent of FY2018 participants in this training have successfully gained employment in manufacturing companies such as:  Apex, LTI Glass, T&A Tool, Lenco Armored Cars, RIBCo., Data Flute, Unistress, Covanta LLC, Onyx Specialty Papers, Lansen Mold, and Modern Mold and Tool.

The training programs will be provided by Berkshire Community College, McCann Technical School, and Pittsfield Public Schools which will offer Level 1 Certification based on the Massachusetts Advancement Center’s Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC) framework, Introduction to Manufacturing, Basic Electricity and Electronics for Manufacturing, Welding, and Hydraulics in Manufacturing. MassHire Berkshire Career Center is providing information sessions and conducting outreach and intake activities. The training will also present sessions in work readiness, realities in shift work, and introduce students to area manufacturers through on-site tours.  The grant is targeting unemployed, underemployed, and career changers who wish to obtain employment in the manufacturing sector. The training is at no cost to participants, but spaces are limited. The goal is to train 50 people.

Recruitment for the training program is happening now as sessions begin at the end of January for the intro to manufacturing components while recruitment for welding and hydraulics will start in February 2019.  For an application or to learn more, visit the website or contact Sara at 413-442-7177, ext. 118.

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Police Advisory Committee Frustrated It Can't Review Estrella Report

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Despite the Police Advisory Review Board being reconstituted after the police killing of Daniel Gillis in 2017, the panel is not permitted to cover the report on the police killing of Miguel Estrella.

This has left PARB frustrated and questioning its purpose once again.

"I was highly disappointed and shocked by this revelation," Chair Ellen Maxon said. "And very frustrated."

Since the panel's last meeting in May, Maxon asked Police Chief Michael Wynn if members would be able to review the report generated by the Police Department on the fatal police shooting of Miguel Estrella on March 25 and he reported that it is not in PARB's ordinance.

The ordinance states that the board is to "review all final investigative reports regarding citizen complaints," making it not able to cover the report generated from the shooting.

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