Jane Winn, seen in this file photo, was also nominated as a Commonwealth Heroine for her environmental efforts.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The COVID-19 pandemic presented unheard of challenges for non-profit service agencies.
North Adams-based Child Care of the Berkshires faced more issues than many. But it had a leader who was more than up to the task.
"It is one thing to handle an $1.8 million construction project
but to do it during a pandemic with a staff working remotely … it's been remarkable the way she has been able to keep up the morale, keep up the energy and keep the contact with some of the most vulnerable people in the county," CCB Board Chair Liz Costley said Wednesday of agency President and CEO Anne Nemetz-Carlson.
For her decades of devotion to children and families throughout Berkshire County, Nemetz-Carlson was recognized Wednesday as a member of the 2020 Class of Commonwealth Heroines by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
"Anne is a proven leader and most worthy of this recognition as she has had a positive impact upon hundreds of children and families in Berkshire County," said Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, who nominated Nemetz-Carlson for the honor.
She is one of three Berkshire County residents recognized in the 17th year of the Heroines program.
Dalton's Cheryl Rose was honored for her work on town committees and non-profits that promote environmental protection, equality, justice and empowerment of all people. "She participates in our democracy in a way that is very rarely seen. She engages with elected officials at all levels and tries to understand the political and legislative process completely," according to the nomination from Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru.
Jane Winn of Pittsfield is the executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, but her achievements go above and beyond even what one thinks of as conventional environmentalism. " She understands that people suffer similar loss of livelihood, health, and habitat at the hands of powerful interests and she works hard to recruit from
and include this population in BEAT's effort to achieve an equitable and sustainable future," according to the nomination from Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
Nemetz-Carlson, a resident of Williamstown, has been the leader of Child Care of the Berkshires since 1983. In addition to her professional service to the community, she has volunteered as a member of the Williamstown School Committee and with non-profits the Massachusetts Association of Day Care and the Children's Trust Fund.
At Child Care of the Berkshires, she oversees a staff of 70 and a budget of nearly $5 million. The agency provides child care services in North Adams, Adams and Pittsfield and provides families with parent education, home visits from trained staff and a Healthy Families program designed for parents 20 and under.
Nemetz-Carlson's steady leadership at the helm of CCB has never been more vital than it has in the last four months, Costley said.
"We spent the last few months doing whole new online/virtual childcare and family programs, and now we're trying to transition to a whole new ‘normal,' which has its own set of anxieties and expenses," she said. "Change is just constant right now, and uncertainty is constant. With her calm, determined manner, people are starting to realize we're going to do this in a safe, thoughtful kind of way."
Costley said that Nemetz-Carlson would be the first one to deflect credit for her accomplishments to her staff but agreed that it's worth noting much of that staff was hired and trained by Nemetz-Carlson over the last four decades.
"I can't say enough about her administrative team, and she can't either, but she's involved with those choices and the fact that people stay," Costley said. "In a child care agency, turnover is usually pretty great, but, in general, we're able to retain people."
Stability across the board gives Costley and her board more confidence in an unstable time.
"The idea of bringing back children in this situation is a little daunting," she said. "But we just had a board meeting yesterday, and it's incredible the amount of thought that Anne and her team are putting into this. The state has guidelines, but everyone is still figuring it out on their own. It's been phenomenal to see her team at work.
"We're all nervous, but nervous is a good energy too, because people care so much and want it to go so well."