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iBerkshires Awarded Facebook COVID-19 Grant

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — has been awarded a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project to aid us in our coverage of COVID-19's impact on our community. 
We are one of only three newsrooms in Massachusetts to receive funding, including The Boston Globe. The COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program awarded $10.3 million to 144 newsrooms across the country.
"We are very thankful to receive this grant from the Facebook Journalism Project," said Boxcar Media Publisher Osmin Alvarez. "Since March we have seen our advertising revenue drop quite a bit while our page views have grown significantly. 
"This is great recognition for our editorial team who have always and continue to do a fabulous job of covering our community. Facebook recognized how important iBerkshires is to providing our community with vital news during this trying time."
The grant of $65,404  will help iBerkshires keep its staff together and provide us with funding for equipment and other techology to help us navigate this "new normal." is one of the oldest online-only news sources in the nation and has provided local coverage of the Berkshires region for 20 years. 
The novel coronavirus pandemic has put large and small news sites and papers under unexpected economic stress. An estimated 36,000 journalists and support staff have been furloughed or laid off since the crisis began. A number of publications have folded or suspended operations, including the Berkshire Record in Great Barrington. 
These layoffs and closures come at a time when our community needs us most to help them understand what is happening now, the efforts underway to help us recover and the long-term effects this health disaster will have on our communities, economy and health-care system. 
iBerkshires has not been immune to this ongoing crisis: It's hit our bottom line hard. We're working with our advertisers to help them navigate this new world of remote commerce and let our readers know local business is still there for them.
Our small team has done its best to adjust to this changing environment. We should be taking prom pictures and preparing graduation schedules; instead, we're trying to figure out how to celebrate a class of 2020 that will be getting their diplomas at home. We're not covering Western Mass playoffs but rather how so many leagues are postponing seasons. 
"We know how much our community relies on us," said iBerkshires Editor Tammy Daniels. "We can see it in the number of visits to our websites on a daily basis but, more importantly, it's apparent in the interactions with our readers both online and in person. 
"We thank you for your tips, your messages of support and, yes, your criticism, because it helps us do our job better."
Daniels said the grant will go toward maintaining staff and adding more reporters where possible for more in-depth coverage of the COVID-19 impact. It will also fund technology such as cameras, phones, laptops and audio equipment to improve our ability to work remotely — and from 6 feet away.
"We are so used to being within the community — at meetings, activities and social events — that getting the pulse of our towns is so much harder from a distance," she said. "We're considering how we might use this opportunity to improve our newsgathering and we welcome any suggestions from our readers."
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Tags: COVID-19,   Facebook,   iBerkshires,   news media,   

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Northern Berkshire United Way Sets $480K Campaign Goal

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Christine and Peter Hoyt are this year's campaign co-chairs. Their goal is to raise $480,000 over the next year. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire United Way supports 20 member agencies in the work they do addressing social, health, youth and family services throughout the region. 
Two of those agencies — Louison House and Community Legal Aid — highlighted some of the efforts within the community at United Way's annual campaign kick on Wednesday morning at Norad Mill. 
The agency also announced its new slate of officers and board members, including President Kelly McCarthy and Vice President Tyler Bissaillon, and took a moment to remember the contributions of the late Stephen Green, a longtime community activist and former campaign co-chair with his wife, Susanne Walker.
"While our hearts in our community at large are at a loss for a man who truly embody all of the characteristics and traits that we acknowledge as Northern Berkshire, such as honesty, integrity, commitment, selfless service, dedication, we can be comforted in knowing that his legacy lives on," said Jennifer Meehan, vice chair of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, of which Green was a board member and former president. 
Kathy Keeser, executive director of Louison House, described the history of the shelter that opened more than three decades ago after the closure of Sprague Electric and other local mills devastated the economy. Founded by Theresa Louison, the agency has expanded to provide emergency shelter, family housing, transitional housing, preventive services and, soon, a youth shelter facility. 
Housing is a growing need while at the same time, housing costs are rising, she said, and this effects particularly the people Louison House serves, people who don't have savings or credit — "who are at the last chance of an apartment."
"People are really struggling, but it's our community connections and it's our work with other agencies," Keeser said. "We do a piece of the puzzle. Ours is about getting them out to housing — working with mental health, substance abuse, all the other agencies around to help us do that. And the United Way has been a big part of that, along with Williamstown Community Chest, and so many other businesses and individuals that support us. So it is the community that helps us succeed and helps us do what we're doing."
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