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The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission meets Thursday.

BRPC's Kusik Award Goes to Vaccine Collaborative, COVID-19 Fund

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday voted two COVID-19 response entities as the recipients of the organization's Kusik Award that recognizes projects, groups, or individuals who made outstanding contributions to planning in Berkshire County.

The Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative and the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County were recognized for providing vital services to the county throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traditionally, the commission is tasked with selecting one awardee but members decided that both organizations deserved the spotlight for their efforts in a markedly hard time.

The award has been presented since 1996 but was not given out last year.

"I guess it's quite unusual to give the award to such a large group of people, as would be the case if we gave it to one or both of these collaboratives, but I think an exception could be made this year, given the fact that coping with COVID, inevitably had to be a collaborative effort, and doing that successfully is a real achievement," Williamstown alternate Roger Bolton said.

The Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative was responsible for around 90,000 vaccinations from January through June at three locations in Northern, Central, and Southern Berkshire County.

It is a partnership between Berkshire Health Systems, Community Health Programs, the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association, and public health nurses.

In January, they launched a website, www.getvaccinatedberkshires.org, to provide residents with a consolidated resource with information about the vaccines, the state's vaccination phases and availability, and to help people make appointments at the three sites.

Delegate Sheila Irvin said the collaborative did a great job of engaging with the Councils on Aging and other organizations to make sure that people had an opportunity to get vaccinated when they needed it and were comfortable with the process.

The women of the Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative were recognized as "Women of The Year" by the Berkshire Business and Professional Women last month for their efforts during the pandemic.

Since March of 2020, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County coordinated around $2 million through 132 grants to 95 nonprofits with a wide range of services.

It is co-led by Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Foundation in partnership with Northern Berkshire United Way and the Williamstown Community Chest.



The team quickly distributed funding and resources to aid food insecurity and housing needs, health and mental health services, and emergency child care and youth services since the start of the pandemic.

Grant awardees included 18 Degrees, Berkshire Community Diaper Project, Berkshire HorseWorks, and the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts.

The fund then pivoted from focusing entirely on emergency response to recovery from the effects of the pandemic. It announced a new round of grants that support efforts to address the emotional well-being of children, youth, and families.

Washington Selectman James Huebner was nominated for consideration for the award. Huebner was involved in the establishment of the Berkshire Public Health Alliance, whose mission is to improve the delivery of public health services to improve the overall health and well-being of county residents.

Bolton requested that he be considered for the award next year.

The award is named after the late Charles Kusik, a resident of Richmond and planning consultant who over three decades left his mark on the zoning bylaws of almost every town in the Berkshires and was known as the Regional Planning Commission in many towns.

He died in 1992 and BRPC inaugurated the award in 1996.

Usually, the award is presented at BRPC's annual meeting, but given that the organization has been meeting virtually commissioners were not sure how the award handout will go.

In other news:

  • The panel voted to submit a grant application to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for a planning grant and letter of intent to develop a funding application for an E-Bike incentive program. This grant is intended to provide bicycles and helmets for low-income families.
     
  • The panel voted to submit a grant application to Mass CEC's Empower Innovation and Capacity Building Program that aims to make energy improvements that benefit tenants and work with landlords to make sure that they make those improvements. It will primarily be working in Pittsfield.
     
  • Christopher Skelly, who retired as director of local government programs with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, is now a part-time project specialist with BRPC.  

Tags: awards,   BRPC,   

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BCC Spring Semester Starts Jan. 24

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College (BCC) begins its spring semester Monday, Jan. 24. 
 
A variety of learning options are offered, including in-person, online and hybrid. Register any time online, or attend a free registration day on Saturday, Jan. 22 from 8 am to 12 pm. Prospective students can walk in without an appointment, apply and be instantly accepted to the College.
 
"We feel great about the number of students who were successful this fall and are continuing with us this spring, as well as the many new students beginning courses with us," said Adam Klepetar, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Klepetar noted that student support is also available in person or online, including counseling, advising and tutoring.
 
To learn more about applying to BCC or to view a course catalogue, visit www.berkshirecc.edu.
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