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J. Michael Kennedy Jr. American Legion Post 152 color guard members lead the opening day parade for Cal Ripken League baseball and softball this spring.
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The decision to rename the post was made last year; the official dedication is this Memorial weekend.

Williamstown American Legion Continues Legacy of Service to Community

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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A sign signifying the name change is installed at the Legion post home on Simonds Road. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The local American Legion post has a new name but maintains its old commitment to community service.
 
This Memorial Day weekend, the members of Post 152 officially rededicate the Simonds Road headquarters from Richard A. Reuther Post 152 to J. Michael Kennedy Jr. Post 152, in honor of the longtime member who died in May of last year.
 
The post was named for Ruether, a charter member, in 1956, shortly after the state representative's sudden death. A Williams College graduate, he served four terms in the House and had been an administrator in the Veterans Administration; he was known for his many efforts on behalf of veterans. 
 
Kennedy was an Army veteran and a longtime police officer in Williamstown, including the police chief for 11 years. He was an active member of the Legion and was the town's veterans agent for years. 
 
The name change was announced last year during the annual Memorial Day service at the Field Park rotary, one of several high-profile events for the Legionnaires throughout the year.
 
Although most residents may know the local American Legion from holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day or from events like the annual Cal Ripken League Opening Day, where Post 152 provides a color guard, the organization is active throughout the year.
 
Around this time of year, Post 152 purchases and places American flags on the graves of veterans at all four of Williamstown’s town cemeteries.
 
And around Veterans Day, in addition to holding ceremonies at the cemeteries and Field Park, Post 152 participates in a celebration of veterans at Williamstown Elementary School.
 
Behind the scenes, the local American Legion post helps veterans who qualify access health care and disability benefits for injuries sustained while in service to the nation.
 
The local Legionnaires contribute thousands of dollars each year to other local charitable organizations and show particular interest in education.
 
The post annually holds a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens and invites students from Mount Greylock Regional School to both attend the festivities and eat lunch with the newly naturalized citizens.
 
It sends eight to 10 high school students to Boys State and Girls State camps where the youngsters learn about government at a cost of between $2,500 and $3,500.
 
And it provides scholarships to graduating high school seniors in the amount of $5,000.
 
All of this against the backdrop of membership declines that have hit the American Legion hard across the commonwealth and across the nation.
 
"Our only income is from our endowment, along with a percentage of our membership dues," a member of Post 152 said this month. "We are able to maintain our building and most expenses with this endowment, however to maintain our support for charitable causes is getting to be challenging.
 
"It would be deeply appreciated if anyone might consider Post 152 so we may continue our effort to provide this community support."

Tags: american legion,   dedication,   

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Williamstown Select Board Discusses Justice Department Program for Schools

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday discussed inviting a U.S. Department of Justice program into the local public schools to help address bias incidents.
 
Randal Fippinger told his colleagues about the DOJ's "School-SPIRIT" initiative, which is similar to but not a part of the federal agency's Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships program, which came to Williamstown two years ago.
 
SPIRIT, which stands for Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together, involves bringing trained facilitators from the DOJ to the schools to lead conversations addressing "tension and conflict related to issues of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability," according to the DOJ website.
 
While stressing that SPIRIT and SPCP are separate programs with different constituencies, Fippinger indicated that the process will be familiar to those who went through the law enforcement program in 2022.
 
"The folks who led that program enjoyed working with the Williamstown community, so they are very open to working with us again," Fippinger said. "There was a three- to six-month planning process to come to a facilitated community conversation to identify what the priorities are and what the needs are.
 
"Part of it is meant to be restorative practice, where we get to identify the problems and try to address the problems by the people who are suffering from the problems, as opposed to some outside group coming in. It's meant to be problem solving from within."
 
Fippinger said he hopes the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee will consider inviting the DOJ to run the program in the district.
 
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