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Four Herberg students raised funds to donate a gift basket full of goodies to the Pittsfield Fire Department.
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Herberg Middle Schoolers Thank Firefighters With Gift Baskets

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Fire Chief Thomas Sammons thanks the students at Columbus Avenue headquarters.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters were all smiles on Wednesday as they received tokens of appreciation from four Herberg Middle schoolers.

Emirhan Ozdemir, Aidan Underdown, Markus Carpenter and Stevie Kazimierczak gifted each of the city's five stations with a basket of coffee, hot cocoa, tea, and snacks after raising $425 as part of a civics project.

Crews gathered at the department headquarters on Columbus Avenue for the exchange.

"That was a great thing you guys did.  You came up with this idea, you got the whole school revved up and that's awesome.  Everybody got together and that's great," Chief Thomas Sammons told the students, adding that it was a great civics lesson and shows how far an idea can go with dedication.

"We are very thankful that you guys thought of us," he said.

The boys, who are all sports fans, were inspired to raise money because of the outpouring of support to a charity started by Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin after he went into cardiac arrest on the field early this year. The football player's heartbeat was restored on the scene and due to the nation's generous response to his community toy drive, Chasing M's Foundation, which has currently garnered more than $9 million, his family suggested that efforts be directed toward local first responders.

"It gave me a good feeling because they help us out all of the time," Emirhan said. "And I wanted to help them out and I just wanted to give my respects to them and tell them that we appreciate it."

He had watched the Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengal live and said the incident was "heartbreaking."

Aidan emphasized the importance of thanking the people who helped Hamlin after he collapsed.

"When the incident happened, everybody was putting their prayers out to him, as they should," he added. "But nobody recognized the people that helped get him off of the field and to the hospital to help regenerate his heart."

The four met during lunch hour and planned a one-week collection at the middle school with the goal of raising $250. Other eighth-graders helped by creating posters to advertise the collection and, to their excitement, the goal was exceeded by $175.

Eighth-grade social studies teacher Jen Jaehnig explained that the curriculum included civics and students are asked to do different acts in the community involving the environment, government and social needs.

This work is to help prepare for a Grade 8 Civics Project requirement in the spring that was established by former Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018.

"We always talk about current events so Damar's name came up and these guys said, 'Yeah, let's do something,'' she said.

"So they met with me during their lunches to come up with a game plan, set the goal. I thought the goal was high at $250 but they met the goal and exceeded it and went on to collect $425 in a week."

There are also notes from students in the gift baskets.

"The importance of connecting our students to those that support us in the community has been a lesson for all of us. We are so proud of our students following through with a project that has extended so far. They have found a way to show gratitude to those that are working each day to help save lives," Jaehnig wrote in a press release.

"Learning how to bring our school community together we can do great things, they just have to be active in their pursuits, willing to take the time, find others to help, and be prepared to adjust to finish the goal."

Tags: donations,   herberg middle school,   PFD,   

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Construction Grant Changes No Longer Align with Berkshire Atheneum's Goals

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass — The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has adjusted this round of its construction grant program, no longer aligning with the Berkshire Athenaeum's goals. 
This grant round is really no longer a renovation program, library Director Alex Reczkowski said during a trustees meeting last week.
Interested applicants need at least two locations that they would be interested in pursuing as possible libraries or locations, not just the current library, he said. Acceptance of the award is once every 30 years. 
Although the library has some physical upgrades to the building in its strategic plan, it does not have enough data for a bigger project than that, Reczkowski said. 
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