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Pittsfield Education Foundation raises funds to provide resources for students in the Pittsfield Public Schools, including more books to promote reading.

Pittsfield Education Foundation's 'Food for Thought' Features BBQ

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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PEF volunteers will continue the curbside delivery offered last year during the 'Food for Thought' fundraiser. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Education Foundation is again offering "Food for Thought" as a way to raise funds to expand educational opportunities in the Pittsfield Public Schools.
The foundation hopes to exceed last year's goal of $10,000. 
The non-profit has partnered with Smokey Diva's at 239 Onota St. creating dinners that cost $46 to $54 per box. Participants will have a choice of a BBQ Box and a Vegetarian Box prepared by the Smokey Diva's owner Lorraine Jones. All orders have to be placed by Friday, May 13, on the PEF Eventbrite page
Participants can pick up their meal up curbside at Smokey Diva's on May 20 during the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
The BBQ Box will consist of ribs, chicken, pulled pork sampler, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and a pineapple upside-down cake. The Vegetarian Box will consist of collard greens, smoked lentils, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and a pineapple upside-down cake.
They decided to work with Smokey Diva's after seeing the eatery represented at farmers markets. The restaurant's fare was often sold out demonstrating the restaurant's popularity. PEF is involving and promoting local businesses in the area while getting donations through the fundraising event.
"So the number one thing that we make sure with this is that these businesses are not losing money helping us to do something else," Appleget said, "What the breakdown looks like is, they tell us what they would ordinarily charge for that meal in their restaurant. And then our donation is added on top of that."
The fundraiser has evolved from a wine tasting that had to be curtailed because of the pandemic. Organizers are hoping to restore the wine tasting in the future but also keep the dinner takeout.
"I don't think that we'll let Food for Thought go. It had such a great turnout. I don't want to call it a silver lining, it still feels weird to call anything with COVID as having a silver lining," Leslie Appleget, a member of the foundation's board, said. "But it did open up a new pathway for us. And I think we'll keep it if only to continue to partner with various Pittsfield businesses, it also just winds up being I think, easier on everyone. ...
"I think hopefully, in the future, and I'm speaking here with a little bit of speculation, I think we'd like to do both. I think we'd like to have the Wine Tasting and Food for Thought to just spread the word, engage more donors, and engage more people. But because we are all volunteers, and we only meet once a month, it's hard to plan."
PEF was formed in 2017 by supporters of the Pittsfield Public Schools to improve literacy and
educational outcomes for students and since then has expanded its goals to provide resources to teachers and students while encouraging cultural equity and supporting innovative ideas and creativity in teaching and learning. 
"We're important because there are things that are not always priorities for schools or priorities for districts that might not make it into a district improvement plan or might not make it into a school improvement plan," Appleget said, "And they're still important, we all recognize that those things are important, but there just isn't the money for that."
Currently, there are eight board members who volunteer for the foundation and they are looking for someone to fill the ninth seat. 
The foundation is always looking for applicants of all ages who are seeking funding for an idea that is in line with the foundation's mission. 
"We do always have a really heavy influx of teachers and students asking for grants, we would obviously love to see that increase because we're just sitting on all this money," Appleget said.
Students in the past have been able to fund a variety of initiatives such as the Summer Writers' Workshop, Digital Escape Rooms for high schools, and Shirley Edgerton's social justice program. 
Each of these programs provided strategies and strengthened students' confidence in a variety of areas. For instance, Edgerton's social justice program teaches young men strategies to overcome adversity. The Summer Writers' Workshop helps middle schoolers build confidence in writing and the Digital Escape Rooms are designed support students in collaborative problem-solving skills. 
"I can't stress this enough, no idea is too small. As long as it's aligned with our values, which are stated on the website, and our mission. We're more than happy to consider it," Appleget said. "We absolutely love funding students, which we've done in the past, to go on projects to conferences or presentations or something."
This year, the foundation worked with Cynthia Grauman, a reading specialist at Reid Middle School, to provide books for her students. 
It also provided funds to Taconic High media arts teacher Jamie Choquette so that he could purchase much-needed video equipment to better the education of his students in a technology-driven world. 
This April, the foundation collaborated with the local NAACP chapter, Pittsfield Public Schools, and North Adams Public Schools to fund the "Hard Conversations in Safe Spaces" event. 
This event was done in two parts. Earlier in April, teachers attended an online workshop organized by Edgerton to learn techniques on ways to confront and respond to racism and racial inequities. This was followed up with a debrief session for teachers to discuss how to integrate these practices in the context of their classrooms.
A foundation also funds a scholarship program for graduating students. 

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BEAT: Conserving Flowers and their Pollinators

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Joan Edwards will speak at the May Pittsfield Green Drinks event on Tuesday, May 17th at 6:00 PM and give a slideshow presentation about the rapidly decreasing biodiversity that is taking place globally, known as the sixth extinction. 
She will specifically focus on flowers and their insect visitors. 
This sixth extinction is primarily driven by human actions, from habitat loss to climate change. The impacts of biodiversity loss are far-reaching, resulting in biological communities that are less resilient and with diminished ecosystems services. As part of the discussion, Joan will explore the impact of biodiversity loss in the pollinator-flower world and examine how the surprising dynamics of flower-pollinator networks can help to conserve both flowers and their pollinators.
Joan Edwards is a botanist interested in understanding the biomechanics and adaptive significance of ultra-fast plant movements—plant actions that are so quick they occur in milliseconds. Using high-speed video (up to 100,000 fps), she studies the evolutionary significance and biomechanics of fast movements, including the trebuchet catapults of bunchberry dogwood, the vortex rings of Sphagnum moss, the splash cups of liverworts, and the "poppers" of wood sorrel. Her early fieldwork was on the impact of moose on plants in the boreal forests of Isle Royale National Park. 
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