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The Veterans Services office hosts its annual picnic at Friday at the Greylock Club in North Adams.

North Berkshire Veterans Enjoy Summer Barbecue

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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The picnic includes food, beverages and gift cards and bags for local veterans and their families.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Friends, family, community organizers and leaders, and veterans from multiple generations gathered under the Greylock Club pavilion on Friday for the Veterans Summer Barbecue. 
 
Even the nearly 90-degree heat didn't stop more than 50 people from attending the event to support the community's veterans and hear their stories. 
 
"As we're here talking, you can hear the noise of people chatting. Sometimes, you go to these things, and it's a silent room. It's one way to beat the heat, for sure," Mitchell Keil, North Adams' veterans services officer, said. 
 
Events like this give people the opportunity to learn about the history of veterans, which is especially important with the younger generation because history is not really taught anymore, 
Travys Rivers, a city firefighter and veteran, said. 
 
Rivers said about 100 people, including kids, came out on a Saturday morning before Memorial Day to put flags up at the graves of veterans
 
Opportunities to interact with the community's veterans and hear their stories, as well as seeing their graves respected, are important because it connects youth with the sacrifices made by veterans to maintain the freedom and way of life we enjoy today, he said.
 
When veterans return to civilian life, they recuse themselves because they feel like other people can't relate to the situations they have been in, Keil said. 
 
With events like this, veterans rediscover the brotherhood that they built while in service, Rivers said. 
 
They are able to swap stories and learn from each other's experiences and knowledge, Rivers and Keil said.
 
"So, getting everybody together for the camaraderie of it all, it's really important for everybody's physical and mental health," Keil said, who served with the Marines in Afghanistan.
 
Unless technology was part of their job in the military, some veterans won't know how to use pieces of technology that change every day, Rivers said. This is why the North Adams Veterans Services office is so important because they can help with that; the office also covers other North Berkshire communities and Dalton through a shared services program.
 
The younger veterans can also learn from the older ones by listening to their stories and experiences, Keil said, because the older veterans have a "lifetime of wisdom." 
 
There has been a new push toward mental health that had not been at the forefront to help veterans and families deal with the after-effects of war, Keil said. 
 
Now that everybody is starting to open up, the older veterans are, too. The younger generation of veterans can look at these experiences to give them insight into what and how they could live a better life with their families, he said. 
 
The veterans office has held picnics in the past but Administrative Assistant Tina Samson said when it resumed as an annual event after the pandemic it was held in the memory of Michael Hansen. 
 
The Hansen family donates to Veterans Services every year to make the picnic possible. Michael Hansen was an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War who died in 2021.
 
"It's heartwarming. I think my brother would be blown away by [the picnic." Hansen's sister Pam Wilk said. 
 
Hansen had moved to the Berkshires after being homeless in Virginia, and Wilk said she does not know what would have happened if it wasn't for the North Adams Veteran Services staff at the time. 
 
"The help that he got from the Veterans [Services] was absolutely amazing. It made a huge difference in his life. When he passed, obviously, we had the money. I made donations to be given to the Veteran Services, and that's how the picnic started. That's where the money went to," Wilk said. 
 
"They were calling it the Michael Hansen picnic. I asked him to stop because he's just one of many deserving veterans who should have a picnic." 
 
The picnic grows every year, and they hope to continue to see it expand every year. People donate their time or gift baskets, gift cards, and other items, Samson said. 
 
"It takes a village to do this for our veterans," she said. 
 
The local Veterans Services office uses state Chapter 115 benefits to help low-income veterans who are struggling by providing financial support, food assistance, and filing federal U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims.  
 
The North Adams office also has a food pantry that is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for veterans. 

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MCLA's Gallery 51: 'Mothering in Migration'

NORTH ADAMS, Mass.— MCLA's MOSAIC announces the upcoming exhibition "Mothering in Migration" and opening reception at Gallery 51.
 
"Mothering in Migration" will be on view from July 26 to August 25 at Gallery 51 with an opening reception on July 26 from 5 to 8 p.m. featuring light snacks and refreshments. A reception will also be held during North Adams' First Friday event on August 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. featuring catering, refreshments, and live music from Yo Soy Arte.
 
"Mothering in Migration" is part of an ongoing collaboration between artist Luiza Folegatti and Latinas413 that aims to strengthen local support for immigrant mothers while using image-making as a tool for community building. Through photography sessions, interviews, and workshops, the families and the artist celebrated their connection to the natural landscape of the Berkshires, the networks of mutual support between friends and colleagues, and the intimacy of the mother-daughter relationship.
 
The show is curated by Carolina Porras-Monroy.
 
According to a press release: 
 
Luiza Folegatti is a Brazilian artist based in North Adams who integrates artistic practice, teaching, and social advocacy work around the rights of women immigrants. Her work focuses on gender and migration through photography, video,  performance, and visual anthropology methods. Folegatti strongly believes in the positive impact generated by projects that combine photography, education, and community building. She has taught photography workshops for several years at nonprofits working with immigrants and is currently a visiting faculty member in photography at Bennington College, part-time residency coordinator at MASS MoCA, and Artists At Work grantee. 
 
To learn more about Latinas413 visit https://www.latinas413.org/.
 
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