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The First Baptist Church Youth Group in North Adams has been presented two Neighborly Awards for their community service.
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The group was recognized at the Neighborlies last month as well.
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Left, the group members volunteering while on a mission trip to Washington, D.C.; right, running a carwash fundraiser.

North Adams Youth Group Making an Impact

By Kim McManniBerkshires correspondent
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Serving up hot cocoa at a tree lighting event. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There has been a community of young people building a safe place at the First Baptist Church over the past decade. 
It's a place where kids can be themselves, experience no judgement and get along with others from a wide range of backgrounds. Not only do they feel part of the community there, but they also spend time doing good work for the community. 
"The best times in my life as a kid was being in youth group," said Leah LeFebvre, who was a member until she aged out. 
But found she really missed the fellowship and within a couple of years, she was back as one of the four core adult  leaders.  
While adults like Terri Braman, the family life minister, describe the youth group for middle and high school students as a family, the young members are quick to point out it's better than a family because it's completely open to anyone. 
You don't need to have been born in a certain place, or go to a certain school, or belong to a specific church, or any church at all. The kids rally around each other, support each other, make everyone feel welcome and valued.
A recent conversation with a few of the members quickly got to the core of this group.  
"Work has to be done so I do it. I do it because it makes me feel good to do it," said member Liam, while Lydia, another member, added, "It's just making sure people feel loved and part of a community." 
"It's not just fellowship," Braman chimed in, "we are here to help."
There are about 35 young people currently involved. They all volunteer a minimum number of hours at organizations in the community as well as participating in the youth group events at the church. 
Last month, they hosted more than 100 diners at a Thanksgiving meal with sit-down service, menus and real chinaware dishes. They annually hand out free hot cocoa at the city's downtown tree lightings and recently distributed of 400 "blessing bags" with gloves, socks, soap, shampoo, granola bars, lip balm and other useful items to those in need in North Adams.
The group is also working on the Christmas play that will be presented during the morning worship at 10 on Sunday, Dec. 24. While younger children are acting in the play, the youth group members have been working on the sets and costumes and will assist with stage changes during the play.
Their volunteerism hasn't gone unnoticed. They've twice been nominated for Neighborly Awards  from the Northern Berkshire Community Coaltion, including at this year's recognition event.
"Whether it is trash cleanup, or setting up a community event, this group always offers a helping hand with energy enthusiasm," said NBCC Executive Director Amber Besaw in presenting the certificate. 
Each year the group goes on a spring break mission trip to help in cities across North America. Last year, youth group members, leaders and chaperones assisted Love On Hamilton, an organization serving people without homes in Hamilton, Ontario. Not only did the group make a difference helping in Hamilton, but the Canadian experience also gave them insight into the realities of living without a home that has made them more understanding and empathetic back home in North Adams.  
They've previously gone to the Washington, D.C., area and next year will travel to Nashville, Tenn.
Helping has a cost attached to it. In addition to their volunteering at community organizations and their work through the church, they participate in fundraising a significant amount of money.
Fundraising events coming up include Parents Night Out, an opportunity for parents to go out and do some holiday shopping or just have a break from their kids. They can drop their children off on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 6 to 9 for a Christmas-themed evening of crafts, snacks, movies, and more with the youth group. The fee per child is $10 and the maximum fee per family is $30. 
The fundraising will continue in the new year with a spaghetti dinner in January, a Valentine's Parents Night Out event in February and a pancake breakfast with the Easter bunny in March.  Previous fundraising has included car washes, candy bar sales and selling items at local events such as the Downtown Celebration.

Any young person in Grades 6 through 12 is welcome to join the group. There is no religious affiliation required. They meet on the first and third Sunday of the month from 11 to 12:30 at the church. For more information, contact the church at or 413-663-3780.

Tags: volunteers,   youth group,   

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Update: North Adams Liquor Store to Refund Gift Cards after Closure
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Steeple City Liquors announced via social media on Tuesday how customers holding gift cards can obtain refunds.
Last week, the store, also known as V&V, closed when the downtown plaza it occupies was sold.
Many holders of gift cards took to Facebook to ask how they could be compensated for the now unusable cards.
According to the store's Tuesday Facebook post, gift card holders will need to send an email a photo of the card and the name and address where they want the refund sent to Steeple City's corporate office at
"We truly appreciate the patience and understanding of everyone involved," the store's post read. "We have been working hard on the end that we hold. Please reach out if you have any questions! Again, thank you so much for everything since the closing of the store. The kind words from customers has been truly amazing!"
The post indicated it could take up to 30 days to receive a refund.
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