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Berkshire Health Systems is giving $50,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Berkshire County.

BHS Honors Employees With Donation to Berkshire COVID-19 Fund

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Health Systems is giving $50,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Berkshire County, co-led by Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and in partnership with Northern Berkshire United Way and Williamstown Community Chest.  

The donation, which was made in honor of all BHS employees and medical staff, will be designated to support two major programs that provide reliable access to healthy food for residents of Berkshire County.  

"From restaurants and small businesses to physicians and hospitals, we are all hurting as a result of COVID-19. After learning about the significant increase in food pantry needs in recent months, we knew we had to act. Our hospitals will have time to rebuild after the severe economic losses we have experienced, but a hungry family simply cannot wait," said David Phelps, president and CEO of BHS.

When social distancing and COVID-19 regulations forced BHS to cancel its annual employee and physician recognition events, BHS leaders decided that it would be fitting to redirect the budgeted funds that had been reserved for those events and, instead, make this donation in honor of employees and physicians.

"We have received so much love and appreciation from our community members during the pandemic. We want to give back to our community now, when the need for basic food and supplies is real for so many Berkshire residents," Phelps said.

The $50,000 donation will be split evenly between the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which services 12 food pantries in the Berkshires, and the Market Match program, which allows low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to double their weekly food allowance when shopping at local farmers markets. The Food Bank distributed 186,000 pounds of food in the Berkshires in March and reports a 20 percent increase in the number of households seeking services.

"The Berkshire Health Systems’ employees and medical staff have gone above and beyond to support our community during this public health crisis," said Candace Winkler, president and CEO of Berkshire United Way. "We are especially grateful for BHS's generosity at this difficult time, given the health system’s own significant financial needs. This gift proves that BHS’s care extends beyond the doctor’s office or the hospital room and touches the core of our community."

Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation have been able to leverage BHS's gift to unlock an additional $100,000 in funding from the MA COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Berkshire Community Action Council to be directed toward food pantries and programs in the county for operations and capacity-building.

"We are lucky to be able to partner with BHS to deliver this much-needed relief to our Berkshire food pantries and the families they serve," Winkler said.

Tags: BHS,   COVID-19,   

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Berkshire Theatre Group to Present 'Godspell' Outdoors

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Theatre Group will produce "Godspell" this summer – the first musical in the United States to be approved by Actors' Equity Association in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The show will be presented outdoors in an open-air tent adjacent to The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, and is scheduled to run Aug. 6 through Sept. 4. Tickets will be available for purchase Tuesday, July 7, at noon. 

"We could not bear the thought of a Berkshire summer without live theater to support our community, so we jumped through every hoop to create a safe way to make this happen," said BTG Board of Trustees Co-President Lee Perlman. "I hope our production gives hope to the tens of thousands of theater professionals who are on the sidelines this summer. Theater is unstoppable and will be back”

Artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire said "Godspell" got the green light after BTG established a strict protocol to protect the health and safety of the audience, the performers and others involved in the show. 

"We have been working daily and in the true spirit of care and collaboration with Actors’ Equity Association for the past several weeks," she said. "Guided by Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association Mary McColl and her extraordinary team, I have learned much about how to lead a theater in the new world. Our industry, which has been devastated by this global pandemic, will be served by their seriousness, data driven wisdom, and profound understanding of the need for artists to rebuild. 

"I am so proud that Berkshire Theatre Group, in its 92nd season will be authorized and granted the responsibility to produce the musical 'Godspell.'”

After careful consideration with the local and state government, Mayor Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Actors’ Equity Association, BTG relocated "Godspell" from its original site at The Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge to outside under a tent at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

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