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Reid Middle School students got see behind the scenes at Berkshire Humane Center last week. The students collected $700 worth of donations for the shelter.
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Executive Director John Perreault talks with the students about the shelter's mission and operations.
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Reid Students Donate $700 to Berkshire Humane Through Philanthropy Program

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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The tour included visits with some of the animals seeking forever homes. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield students are getting hands-on experience with philanthropy through a pilot program with the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires. 

Last week, Reid Middle School eighth-graders delivered a $700 donation to the Berkshire Humane Society and saw the inner workings of an animal shelter. This, of course, included quality time with furry friends. 


"We are honored and humbled to receive the generous donation of $700 from Reid Middle School today. They chose to put their donation towards Berkshire Humane Society's Wellness Clinic, which provides low-cost veterinary care for cats and dogs," Executive Director John Perreault said. 


"With this selection, these young people showed their compassion for not only pets but the people in their community as well. Their thoughtfulness warms our hearts and gives us hope for the future. Thanks to the students and teachers for recognizing the mission of Berkshire Humane Society in such a meaningful way."


Over the last few months, a teaching artist came to the school once a week to guide the students through a philanthropy residency. During this time, they learned about Berkshire County nonprofits in all sectors and persuaded each other to support specific ones.


This class chose to support BHS and Masshire. After a presentation and Q&A from Perreault, the class decided that the $700 would best serve the shelter's wellness clinic. 


Ronan MacDonald and Lucas Parise are both animal lovers with multiple pets at home and were happy with the choice. In addition to the money provided by Guardian Life, a drive was held for food and other pet supplies. 


"Our group chose Berkshire Humane Society because we thought it would be a good organization to donate our money to because we love pets and we think that the money can help the pets and help this organization help more pets," MacDonald said. 


Parise added that "we really chose it because we felt more connected to it rather than the programs we have never seen before." 


"So I'd rather it go to a program that we've interacted with before rather than just going to some program we've never met before," he said. 


Parise pointed out how happy the donation made people and was grateful for the tour from Perreault. 


"It feels really good to see all these animals see that we are donating money and all these supplies to help those animals," MacDonald. 


Yvette Sirker, Coordinator of Arts Integration & Community Partnerships for the Pittsfield Public Schools, designed the residency. She explained that students are learning the different ways that you can be a philanthropist — including making it a career. 


"This is a boom for the immense nonprofit community here because we're cultivating leadership," she added. "A number of these students have learned, 'Oh, I can actually work and make a living working for an organization' and really like this is a wonderful lesson for them." 


The residency also ran at Herberg Middle School, which donated $500 to the Berkshire Immigrant Center and $500 to Breaking Bread, a south county collective that offers meals to people. 


English language arts teacher LeeAnn Massery thinks this is "so important" for the kids and reported that they embraced it — even at a typically selfish age. 


"Everybody got to hear about everybody else's organization with graphics, a poster, a written presentation. They stood in front of a class and gave their why it's important to give to this organization," she said. 


"It was so great and it helped them with their public speaking skills and feeling comfortable supporting each other and stepping up in front of each other. I just love this program so much. I feel like it should be in every school." 


Julie Haagenson, who was hired by NPC as the teaching artist, said the students were "really enthusiastic" and was very impressed with them. 


"They got to look at the sector and the organizations that they felt passionate about and interested in and they got to research them and then present to each other and kind of advocate for 'Here's where we should donate our money,'" she said. 


"But I think the thing that really stuck out to me is their ability to both hold their own passion and advocacy for a certain thing that they really believed in, and then to listen to everybody else's, and then to decide to pool their money and distribute it to the area where they felt had the most need, even if it wasn't their own passion and I was just so impressed with their discernment and being able to do that at age 13 or 14." 


She added that these are valuable lessons not taught in regular academic classes. 


"To be able to come together to solve a problem together to achieve a community impact and to step outside of yourself, she said. 


"To think about being able to hold your own perspective and someone else's perspective and then make a decision based on the real needs of the community. I just think it's so needed right now in our world." 


NPC's Education Director Stacey Silkey Schultze reported that they are hoping to expand across the county and that Guardian Life was the original grant distributor for the first two programs but there may be other funders in the future. 


"It's all grant-funded and it's really a wonderful program," she said. "It's a way to retain Berkshire residents because when you become invested in your community and you find a place that values you, then you're more likely to want to stay here." 


NPC was one of the first community partners brought into the Pittsfield Schools. 


"They do amazing work and a lot of people didn't even know about them. And so now, their profile in our district is growing and this is now embedded so that's something that we're going for," Sirker said. 


"And my program is not just one-offs where someone comes in the kids have great experience and never happens again. These are things that are happening every year." 


In honor of Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, everyone who adopts a cat or kitten from BHS in June will receive a door prize and a chance to win a cat-themed prize package. Additionally, microchips for cats will be only $15 for the month by appointment at the main facility on Barker Rd. and the wellness clinic on Dalton Avenue. 


There are currently several kittens and adult cats and kittens seeing forever home. 

Tags: Berkshire Humane Society,   donations,   Reid Middle School,   

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Dalton Public Safety Facility Advisory Committee Discusses Next Steps

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The town's Public Safety Facility Advisory Committee held its first meeting on last Wednesday. 
The committee voted to have two co-chairs and elected Don Davis and Craig Wilbur for the positions. 
The committee will be examining all the options for a new police station or combined public safety facility. The goal is to have a recommendation for the Select Board by a year from December. 
"The Public Safety Facility Advisory Committee shall examine all issues regarding the proposal for a new police station, including the potential for a new building to house the fire station and the emergency management director," Town Manager Thomas Hutcheson said. 
He also emphasized not to feel limited in this scope. 
"Issues include, but may not be limited to, whether and where to lease, buy or take property or to use existing town property, including whether to build a new building," he said 
The ex-officio seats are Bob Bishop as the Select Board representative, Police Chief Deanna Strout, Hutcheson, and Building and Grounds Superintendent Jeff Burch. 
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