Berkshire Money Management Donates $10K to Suicide Prevention Group
DALTON, Mass. — Berkshire Money Management CEO Allen Harris is donating $10,000 to the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention after the nonprofit was denied a special permit for a fundraiser on the financial company's property.
The Dalton Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday decided that a haunted-trail fundraiser for suicide awareness called "Purgatory Road" was not eligible for permitting under zoning bylaws.
Harris said he will contribute by pledging $10,001 — the extra dollar out of personal preference — to the organization.
"The donation is really because I feel like the town let down Purgatory Road, this is a major fundraiser for them and there was no real reason, I feel, to not have the event," he said.
"This is an event that has been put on for eight years, I know has run very professionally and in addition to the layer of professionalism that the organization would have brought, we had an event planner working in conjunction as an addition to it."
The event had been held on a farm residence on Cleveland Road for eight seasons prior and collectively raised around $175,000. The new location was proposed to be held at professional investment firm's 26-acre property on Main Street, the former Crane Model Farm.
Four abutters called in to oppose the permitting, saying the event does not belong in an R-1 zoned area.
Though they supported the cause, concerns were voiced about the allowance of the event possibly decreasing property values, tarnishing the character of the neighborhood, and bringing in troublesome residents from surrounding areas.
Harris said that unfortunately, sometimes the loudest voices are the ones that are heard in small-town panels.
He cited various successful events that BMM hosted in the summer of 2020 to get people out of the house in a safe and socially distanced way. These included movie showings and live music.
The site was also previously used for Santa's Winter Wonderland, an event put on by the well-known Crane family. The mansion and farm built in 1898 by Frederick Crane Sr. was bought by the firm in 2017.
Harris speculated that some of the opposing comments from the public were problematic from an equity standpoint, which he was upset to hear.
"When you listen to some of the comments from the abutters it was not-so-veiled racism as far as I'm concerned," Harris added.
"In 2021, I'm both amazed that racism still persists but also not, so I was pretty shocked by that."
He shared these sentiments on Facebook along with the announcement of his donation.
Berkshire Money Management has core values of being inclusive of all people, Harris said. The property features flags for inclusion of people of color and LGBTQIA swaying in the wind alongside the American flag.
"And we've gotten letters from people saying, 'we're not gonna do business with you because of your political stance,' I mean, we're not being political, we're being inclusive," he said.
"And we made a conscious decision here with the company like 'listen, this, this is who we are, we want people to know who we are and we want to be supportive of our community and if that means there are some people who don't want to do business with us or want to leave doing business with us, it's better to help the world than not.'"
For now, the Purgatory Road crew is regrouping and planning to have the next event in 2022. Because the next Dalton ZBA meeting is in October, they did not think there was enough time to find another location and have it approved by the board.