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Gwendolyn VanSant, founding director of Multicultural BRIDGE, and Patricia Begrowicz, president and co-owner of Onyx Specialty Papers, are being honored in separate events in early May.

Biz Briefs: Two Local Businesswomen Being Honored for Achievements

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Outstanding women

Two local organizations are honoring two women for their business and community achievements.

Girls Inc. of the Berkshires, a core program of the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, has presented the "She Knows Where She’s Going"Award annually since 1990. The award recognizes the achievements of women in the Berkshires and the contributions they make to the community and as role models for girls and young women. This year's recipient is Patricia Begrowicz, president and co-owner of Onyx Specialty Papers.

And Berkshire Business and Professional Women has named Gwendolyn VanSant, founding director of Multicultural BRIDGE, as this year's Woman of Achievement. For 54 years, Berkshire BPW has been honoring a local woman for her achievements and commitment to the community with the "Woman of Achievement" award every year. Past recipients include such outstanding community leaders as Patricia Begrowicz, Kristine Hazzard, Lucy Praskher, Beth Mitchell, Dr. Ellen Kennedy and Gail Molari.

The "She Knows Where She's Going" Award will be presented to Begrowicz during the Ruth P. Boraski Celebration Evening to benefit programs of Girls Inc. of the Berkshires on Thursday, May 2, at the Colonial Theater. Ten girls graduating from Berkshire County schools will also be awarded scholarships to further their education. The scholarships are awarded through the Ruth P. Boraski Funds for Girls Inc. of the Berkshires, Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Rotary Club of Pittsfield and Zonta Club of the Berkshires. The evening will also highlight the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program and Girls Inc. Discovery Program.

Begrowicz has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a master's in pulp and paper Engineering from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology.  She has worked in the paper industry for more than 30 years, with roles in process engineering, research and development, operations, business development, and executive management. In 2009, she and her business partner purchased the assets of the former MeadWestvaco Specialty Paper Division and formed Onyx.  Onyx manufactures specialty papers serving a wide range of global markets – including automotive, decorative laminates, medical papers, and artist papers.

Sheurrently serves on the Boards of Directors for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), Power Options, 1 Berkshire and the Berkshire Business Roundtable. She also serves on the University of Notre Dame Engineering College Advisory Council. She is the mother of three sons and lives in Pittsfield.

VanSant will be recognized at a dinner event at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 6, at the Country Club of Pittsfield. She is the founding director of BRIDGE and the Equity and Inclusion Team Lead at Changemaker Strategies. She serves as the vice chair of the town of Great Barrington W.E.B. DuBois Legacy Committee and she is on the board of the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts and UU Mass Action Network. She is also a well-recognized thought leader on racial justice and reparations.

In addition to providing award-winning cultural competence trainings, VanSant is a frequent speaker and long-time activist. In 2018, she was selected by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as one of the commonwealth's "Unsung Heroines" and named a finalist in Executive Leadership in the 2018 Berkshire Nonprofit Awards. In January and February 2018, she co-curated the commissioned Town Of Great Barrington Du Bois 150th Festival in partnership with Randy Weinstein and her BRIDGE team. In spring 2017, she spearheaded the county-wide campaign and coalition "Not in the Berkshires" and helped craft and pass her town’s Trust Policy, a step toward a statewide Safe Community Act. In 2016, she served as the Founding Director of Equity and Inclusion at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. In 2015-16 she was recognized as a "Berkshire Trendsetter" finalist by 1Berkshire in the "Entrepreneur/Visionary of the Year" category. This same year, BRIDGE won 1Berkshire's Nonprofit Impact award. In 2016, Berkshire Magazine named herr one of the 25 most creative, talented, and influential leaders in the Berkshires.

Van Sant graduated with a certificate in positive psychology from the Wholebeing Institute at Kripalu in 2015 after studying with leading field experts, Dr. Tal Ben Shahar and Dr. Maria Sirois. She has founded several initiatives based in the principles of equity and justice, the inherent dignity and worth of individuals, and our interconnected web of humanity.

The May 6 dinner is Berkshire BPW's annual fundraiser to provide career advancement scholarships to working women residing in Berkshire County. Scholarships may be used for tuition, books, child care, uniforms, or other related educational expenses. In 2018, the organization awarded $12,000 to 12 individuals and since its inception in the early 1990s, the Career Advancement Scholarships Fund has helped hundreds of women to further their education. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to sponsor a full scholarship in Van Sant's honor for $500, $1,000 or $1,500. Tickets to attend the May 6 dinner are $50 and $35 for BBPW members. Reservations for the dinner are required by April 26 as seating is limited. Register online.


Disaster loans available

Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations located in Berkshire County as a result of excessive precipitation that began on July 23, 2018.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers and ranchers.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.5 percent for private nonprofit organizations of all sizes and 3.61 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website by Dec. 10, 2019.


HOW Program loans

MountainOne Bank, with branches across Berkshire County and the South Shore, has been selected to participate in the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston's Housing Our Workforce (HOW) Program, which assists local homebuyers with down-payment.

Through HOW, the FHLBank of Boston provides $2 million in grants to participating financial institutions to assist homebuyers with the purchase of an owner-occupied primary residence. Income-eligible households can receive up to $20,000 in a two-to-one match of down payments made at the time of purchase, which is forgivable after five years from the date of loan closing. To be eligible, borrowers must be earning more than 80 percent and up to 120 percent of the area median income address of their new home, and must complete a homebuyer counseling program, and post-purchase counseling approved by MountainOne Bank. Loans are subject to credit approval.

MountainOne Bank is eligible to receive up to $100,000 in 2019 through HOW depending on availability of funds. Those interested in learning more about how they may qualify for HOW funds can contact MountainOne Bank via the website or phone at 855-444-6861.


Big Y wishes

Over the past year, more than 2,200 local schools and almost 100,000 customers have participated in Big Y’s Education Express program where schools K-12 earned free educational supplies and equipment. As part of this year's program, the company provided an additional opportunity for schools to earn even more through a Holiday Wish Sweepstakes. Schools were invited to submit a 500-word essay as to what their special wish might be and the top two winners were chosen from almost 40 entries throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Mater Dolorosa School in Holyoke has been granted their $8,500 wish to create a functioning lab for students to engage in different science projects including apparatus and equipment to enhance learning. At the Norwell Middle School, students will be enjoying audiobooks within an expanded audiobook library through their $10,000 wish that was granted. Audiobooks help students become better readers and increase vocabulary.

Additionally, Big Y awarded a total of $175,000 in Holiday Wishes to nearly 40 other schools within their marketing area, including Hoosac Valley Elementary School and Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, both in Adams. These awards funded such projects as a robotics lab, outdoor learning areas, mindfulness space, virtual reality labs, sensory rooms and chill zones, reading gardens, smart boards, 3D printers and more.

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Pittsfield Subcommittee Makes Changes to Sewer & Drains Amendment

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee recommended a sewer and drains amendment and also to maintain City Council checks and balances from the original ordinance. 
The subcommittee voted unanimously Monday to send the amended ordinance to the full council, leaving in some sections that would allow the City Council to request reports and approve fine structures.
"I think we can make some small changes to make everyone happy while giving you some more flexibility while still having the council involved in making sure things are kosher," committee member Earl Persip said. 
Public Services Commissioner Ricardo Morales said the proposed changes will align the city with the Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency corrective actions issued in 2011 for the Capacity Management Operation Maintenance (CMOM). Among other changes, acceptance also would reduce the State Revolving Fund loan interest rate to 0 percent.
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