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Tom Blauvelt, Wheeler & Taylor human resources manager, left, and Wheeler & Taylor President J. Scott Rote, right, deliver facemasks and shields to Great Barrington Fire Chief Charles Burger, center, for distribution to poll workers around South County.

Biz Briefs: Wheeler & Taylor Insurance Donates Masks, Face Shields for Poll Workers

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Facemask, shield donation

Charles Burger, director of the Southern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee, was struggling with how he could help local towns obtain the personal protective equipment they need to protect poll workers from coronavirus. Many of the 12 towns in the region will hold town elections soon. Several town administrators asked Burger, who is also the Great Barrington fire chief, for help in getting PPE. But that was problematic because the committee is charged with helping emergency responders in the region.

But then, unexpectedly, Scott Rote, president of Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, called him. Rote wanted to donate 2,000 surgical masks the insurance agency had purchased and then took it a step further. Rote had procured foam, elastic strapping material, and 200 sheets of polycarbonate plastic, and the staff of Wheeler & Taylor went to work constructing face shields as PPE. "It was quite a pleasant surprise when Scott called,” Burger said. “The donation came at a perfect time. It would have been a very difficult need to fill otherwise."

The face shields will be used by poll workers. Facemasks will be provided to poll workers and to ensure that all voters have proper facemasks on. Burger will allocate the PPE to the 12 towns in southern Berkshire County — from West Stockbridge and Stockbridge down to the Connecticut border. Egremont and Sheffield have elections coming up soon, and other towns will soon follow.

After the face shields are used for elections, they’ll be cleaned and repurposed afterward, Burger said. Wheeler & Taylor will unveil further COVID-19 charitable initiatives in the coming weeks. More information can be found online.

Established in 1871, Wheeler & Taylor Insurance is a full-service independent agency that is headquartered in Great Barrington with branch offices in Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Dalton, and Sheffield.


Restaurant gift certificate auction

Bon Appetit Berkshires is an effort to support restaurants in and around the southern Berkshires. Community members will buy gift certificates from participating restaurants and donate them to Bon Appetit Berkshires for an online auction that runs from Monday, May 25, through June 2 on the Bidding for Good platform. All proceeds from the auction will go to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, co-led by Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Recipients of the funds have included Berkshire Health Systems (Fairview Hospital), The People’s Pantry, Construct and VIM, among others. Gift certificate purchases will benefit human services organizations that have deep roots in the community and experience working with vulnerable populations

Between May 19 ad 24, people can purchase and donate gift certificates from one of the following restaurants below and tell the restaurant that you want to donate that purchased gift certificate to Bon Appetit Berkshires: Baba Louie’s, 413-329-5634; Bizen Sushi, 413-528-4343; Cantina 229, 917-232-8477, John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant, 413-528-3469; The Marketplace, 413-248-5040, ext. 100; The Old Inn on the Green, 413-229-7924; Pleasant and Main, 413-274-6303; The Prairie Whale, 413-528-5050; and The Woodland, 860-435-0578.

From May 25 through June 2, people can purchase gift certificates through the online auction. The donated gift certificates will be available on Bidding for Good, an online auction service for non-profit causes. The auction catalogue of restaurant certificates will be featured online for seven days. Gift certificates will be delivered to the winners.


Online workshops

Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Berkshire County is collaborating with Team R3SET to help struggling local businesses create and build their online presence in a program called "Two Weeks to An Online Business." This free virtual program will start on June 1 for 20 participants who will get daily lectures and then work in small pods with digital specialists to work on their websites, e-commerce, content, email marketing, social media and search strategies.

The Covid-19 crisis has been particularly difficult for small business owners who had long relied on walk-in business or referrals and had never truly done business online before.  Finding a way to address this need, this unique collaboration grew out of an initial discussion at an EforAll board meeting in April. While EforAll’s main programs are the 12-week Business Accelerator and their community Pitch Contests, Board Member and R3SET Partner John Lewis suggested an online business program as being a vital contribution to help both new and existing businesses in the Berkshires.

Funding for the pilot program is coming from the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation, Mass Growth Capital, the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and Greylock Federal Credit Union.  It is hoped that a successful pilot program will lead to a repeat of the program in short order. Small business owners who want to apply should go to here to fill out the online application no later than May 26.


New bank website

The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank recently announced the launch of its newly designed website.  With a fresh new look and mobile responsive design, the new site provides a user friendly, modern experience allowing users the ability to view content from a variety of mobile devices. The site also conforms to current ADA guidelines, making visitor usability a priority.  

"The needs of our customers are changing, and technology has reshaped the way customers engage with us.” said J. Jay Anderson, president and CEO.  "We recognize the role technology plays in the banking space.  Launching our new and improved website- designed with the end user in mind – moves the bank forward toward our digital goals."

A full-service mutual cooperative, community-oriented bank, The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank was established in 1889 and holds the unique experience of surviving the Great Depression and both World Wars. The bank currently has four branches in the Berkshires: 70 South St. and 110 Dalton Ave., both in Pittsfield, 431 Main St. in Dalton and 325 Main St. in Great Barrington.

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Great Barrington Public Theater Postpones 2020 Season

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty around safely presenting onstage programs this summer, Great Barrington Public Theater has postponed its onstage 2020 season.

In lieu of the onstage solo festival planned for June at the Daniel Arts Center at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, audiences can now watch a specially produced online series of solo pieces, "Bear Tales: Six Feet Together." These self-filmed pieces are free to view on the company website, and feature many of the solo performers and writers originally scheduled for the Bear Tales onstage festival. In addition, the series includes a new short play by David Mamet, written and produced especially for the online series, with Rebecca Pidgeon as famed New York City reporter Dorothy Kilgallen.

Artistic Director Jim Frangione and Executive Director Deann Halper Simmons still plan to produce David Mamet's newest play, "The Christopher Boy’s Communion," for the 2021 summer season. 

"We are a small company, fast on our feet," Frangione said. "We will continue to develop new material, and look forward to presenting some surprises as the months unfold."

Ticket refunds for the company’s 2020 summer season are now under way. Tickets holders for "Bear Tales" and/or "The Christopher Boy's Communion" should note that the ticket refund process is now underway. Questions regarding ticketing and refunds can be sent by email. The company encourages audiences to follow new developments and stay connected as core artists continue to work on new material across the coming summer."

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