State Sen. Paul Mark speaks at the annual meeting. Right, Executive Director Amber Besaw and President Benjamin Lamb announce a new home for the coalition.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition annual meeting on Friday was about sharing stories, including the latest chapter in its own chronicle.
Coalition President Benjamin Lamb announced that the nonprofit will be closing on the former Carr Hardware location on State Street.
"For more than 12 years now, the coalition has been actively searching, investigating and planning to identify it forever home," he told the gathering at Greylock Works. "An accessible and approachable place that the organization can expand into, to grow our programs, meet the evolving and dynamic needs of the community, collaborate with more partner agencies and foster deepened empowerment of individual organizations and efforts we have here."
An ad hoc committee last year began the search for a permanent home and coalition's board voted recently to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with New Hope United Methodist Church for the structure at 192 State St.
Lamb expected a closing shortly. The building has been empty for some years but the church had done some renovations before determining the building did not suit its purpose.
The coalition currently occupies second-floor offices at 61 Main St., making it somewhat invisible and inaccessible without a direct elevator. Lamb later pointed that moving to State Street would still keep it within the downtown area but in a residential neighborhood. Plus, it sits between Goodwill and the Childcare of the Berkshires, has plenty parking and is close to the Noel Field Athletic Complex.
"As someone who's been at the coalition now for about 12 years. I remember this conversation when I started and I'm really grateful to be here to see something," said Executive Director Amber Besaw.
Lamb and Vice President Jennifer Meehan are extending their terms a year to provide some continuity during the project.
The coalition also shared the story of George and Nancy Canales, who were recognized as this year's Northern Berkshire Heroes for their many years of volunteering in the community.
"While I've not had the privilege to personally spend lots of time with them, I can tell you that I have benefited from their generosity and dedication to building a strong family with a community centric mindset," said Besaw. "Their children and grandchildren's community service, kindness and generosity has impacted our community in so many ways."
The story written by their family told of how George moved from Somerville and met Nancy of North Adams; how George coached Little Leage Baseball and Nancy joined the PTA at the former Johnson School; they volunteered at St. Anthony's Church and served as board members for the former La Festa; George's continued time baseball coaching, including as head coach at McCann Tech; and their service on local boards including McCann Tech, Council on Aging, the Historical Society and North Adams Parks Commission.
"If you ask them to single out one thing that they have done to impact the North Berkshire community, they would most likely say the La Festa Baseball Exchange," Besaw read. "For the last 32 years, this exchange has linked North Adams, the commonwealth's smallest city, with Boston, our largest, by using George's favorite game of baseball."
Former director Alan Bashevkin remembered the late Congressman John Olver, recalling how he frequently attended the coalition's monthly meetings, his honesty on tough subjects and his interest in the needs of the community, including helping to get funding for Berkshire Rides.
"I remember the congressman showing up at one of our neighborhood cleanups and helping us pick up the trash like the rest of us," he said. "He attended as a congressman, representing our district, but more importantly, he was one of us."
Bashevkin also remembered the late Terry Louison and Al Nelson for their efforts on behalf of the community.
The coalition is marking 37 years and over last year provided sevices or engaged with more than 7,000 people. It's engaged nine large-scale community events, provided leadership training to 100 youth and adults, and served the community in family education and support, health and wellness initiatives, substance use prevention and positive youth experiences.
Its commitment to community was expressed throught thousands of archival photos of events, meetings, cleanups and other activities that attendees were encouraged to sift through and take home.
State Sen. Paul Mark shared his story of his family's difficulties when he was teen after his father lost his job.
"We moved a lot. There were times we needed food stamps. There were times we needed welfare. There were times we needed assistance," he said. "And when you're a teenager going through this, it's embarrassing. It's hard. You don't want to talk about it."
He was forced to drop out of college because he couldn't afford it.
I thought my future was pretty bleak. And I thought that was going to be pretty much the end of the road," Mark said, but then he was able to get a job with the phone company.
The union job broke the barriers holding him back — to buy a house, to back to college, to run for office. Opportunity provided for a better life.
Mark also spoke of his late colleague state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and how they had ducked out on the governor to go to lunch. It was the last he saw her, he said, adding that it seemed a bit of a downer to end his speech.
Not so, said Besaw, because if he looked at the coalition's photos, "she's everywhere."
"Get to know each other and hear the stories that exist here because that's what connects us," she said, asking for anyone who has ever volunteered or attended an event to stand. "Look around the room. Each one of you represents a part of our story here in the community. Thank you for the role that you've played and the impact that you've had. You make our story worth telling.
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MCLA Women's Basketball Loses Heart-Breaker on Road
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- Taryn White scored 17 points Saturday to lead the Mount Holyoke women's basketball team to a 54-53 win over MCLA.
The Trailblazers overcame a seven-point deficit with four minutes left to take a 53-51 lead on Kristie Zator's 3-pointer with 43 seconds left.
But Mount Holyoke's Libby Harris hit a 3 13 seconds later to give her team the lead for good.
Harris finished with 16 points.
Zator led MCLA with 16. Wahconah graduate Eva Eberwein scored 10 points in the loss.
MCLA (1-6) hosts Anna Maria on Monday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Alex Hornsby scored twice and assisted on a goal to lead New England College to a 5-1 win over MCLA.
Santa arrived on a fire truck with the Clarksburg Volunteer Fire Department and was greeted with cheers but a large crowd of children. He helped VFW members Joseph Bushika and Edward Denault in lighting the young tree, which replaced an older permanent tree.
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