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Volunteers threw a barbecue at Durant Park to get feedback from residents about the challenges they face.
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Working Cities Throws Annual BBQ to Highlight Successes

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Director Alisa Costa highlights some of the successes the organization had in the last three years.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Working Cities is in its final year of funding and believes it has made an impact.
The organization threw its annual barbecue on Wednesday that Initiative Director Alisa Costa said is a chance to not only share what the organization has been doing but also to get additional feedback. The organization put out sheets asking about the challenges and successes in the neighborhood. 
"When we started this work, residents reported feeling isolated and not welcome in many spaces in Pittsfield. You told us where you struggle and what you need. And we've been working together for three years toward a long-term, 10-yearr goal. Building a just, thriving, and safe city for everyone," Costa told the crowd.
She asked, "what have we accomplished together?" And then she answered
"We have seven community navigators on the ground in our neighborhoods working to connect their neighbors to opportunities. Whether that is a program, a job, food, or shelter, this team is connecting people to what they need," Costa said.
The navigators completed more than 500 hours of work in the community, helping connect people with the resources they need. The organization has provided 250 people with Bridges Out of Poverty training. It graduated 90 people from the Getting Ahead program. And it has hosted 20 community meetings reaching some 317 residents and where ideas on to how to help the community were pitched.
Of those, a bus program from Pittsfield to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival was created to help low-income residents enjoy the arts and culture. A police outreach post opened in the same building as Working Cities and Habitat for Humanity on Columbus Avenue. Rose and Cole Co-op Transport was created to provide low-cost transportation options. And the Tyler Street Lab opened. Costa said the organization got involved in all of those partnerships because of the responses from the community.
The initiative began three years ago with funding through the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and 1Berkshire. The focus of the group is to help low-income residents overcome "structural barriers such as inadequate access to education, transportation, jobs, and opportunities."
The group was funded for three years but Costa said the work is not done. She will be looking for funding to continue on into the future.

Tags: community development,   

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BCC Graduates Recognized in Remote Commencement

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Any other year, the graduates of Berkshire Community College and their friends and families would be filling The Shed at Tanglewood in Lenox.

But instead of taking the stage, speakers stood alone in front of a backdrop. And instead of being handed their certificates and diplomas, the more than 200 graduates' names were read as their pictures were shown. 
What didn't change was the ceremony's broadcast on Pittsfield Community Television, allowing at least a virtual coming together of the BCC community to mark their significant accomplishments.
President Ellen Kennedy reminded those watching how commencement celebrates not just the achievements but the persistence of the graduates in often overcoming life challenges to walk across the Tanglewod stage.   
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