WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — At a time when the number of worthy causes can seem overwhelming, a couple of Williams College students have created a way for donors to support two endeavors with one donation.
"Williams for Williamstown: Feeding BMC" is the brainchild of Williams senior Eliza Bower, who decided to do her part by supporting frontline healthcare workers and small businesses who are struggling in the era of social distancing — both at the same time.
"We're calling it a win-win-win," Bower said on Tuesday morning. "It helps local businesses and restaurants, helps Berkshire Medical Center and helps engage the Williams College community and staff.
"We picked this because we'd have those three aspects, and we knew we'd have an immediate impact and could ramp it up quickly. Hopefully, it's sustainable and can last for the run of the pandemic."
Along with classmate Emily Tibbetts of Lenox, Bower last week started a GoFundMe
campaign to support Williams for Williamstown. As of early Tuesday afternoon, it had raised more than $3,200.
The money will be used to buy meals from local eateries for delivery to the staff at Berkshire Medical Center.
The first meals arrived on Monday.
"While doctors and nurses are often the first to come to mind when we think of those on the front lines, Williams for Williamstown aims to provide meals to all workers whose efforts keep our hospitals going," Bower said. "[Monday's] meal, from Angelina's Sub Shops in Pittsfield, went to BMC's engineering department. They have been working tirelessly to create negative pressure rooms, which are rooms for COVID-19 patients that try to keep the 'contaminated' air contained within the room with the patient and prevent it from spreading elsewhere in the hospital.
"Without their round-the-clock work to ready and maintain patient rooms, BMC would not be able to function."
Williams for Williamstown is not the only such effort to provide aid and comfort to health-care workers.
"Numerous organizations, restaurants and individuals have donated food and other items to Berkshire Health Systems for our caregivers during this time," said Michael Leary, Berkshire Health System's director of media relations. "We greatly appreciate all of the efforts to date and we know more will be coming as we continue to fight COVID-19 in our community. We thank all who have provided this kind of support for our incredibly hard-working staff across the county and at an appropriate time when things return to somewhat normal, we will be working to recognize, by name, all who have supported us in this trying time."
Leary said BHS is centralizing the offers of support so that they can be spread out among its employees.
"I have family and friends who work up there," Tibbetts said of BMC. "My family has lived in Berkshire County pretty much my whole life. It's been an important resource for me and my family. When Eliza reached out to me, I was super excited and wanted to get involved to help out BMC."
Unlike Tibbetts, a Berkshire native, Bower hails from the Boston suburb of Milton. But she said it was an easy decision to put her energy into a town-gown project like Williams for Williamstown.
"The Williams community is so fantastic that it doesn't feel like a side, second home," she said. "It's a huge part of who I am. And the other thing is that regional hospitals [like BMC] are often overlooked.
"I've personally benefited from BMC myself, so they were at the top of my mind when I was thinking about the Williamstown community I love."
As for restaurants, the Tibbetts, Bower and their other collaborators have a few more businesses lined up and are ready to hear from other potential partners through email@example.com
, an email account they created for the initiative.
Bower said Tibbetts, a veteran fundraiser through her work in student government at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, has been a valuable partner in getting the charity up and running.
The third "win" in the Williams for Williamstown campaign has been a natural, the pair said.
"We've been reaching out to our friends on Instagram and alums we might know," Bower said. "We've also reached out to the college to see if they would help us engage with other alumni. A lot of it has been through social media, our own personal accounts and the social media accounts we created for the Williams for Williamstown initiative.
"I'm on the squash team, and I reached out to an alum from the team from 30 years ago. He is going to start spreading the word among his alumni friends. The Williams community has received the initiative really well."