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Berkshires Beat: Roots Rising Enters New Phase
01:40PM / Monday, May 21, 2018
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In 2017, Roots Rising interviewed 120 applicants and hired 24 teens, devoted 4,260 hours of labor to strengthening the local food system and helped expand the county’s only mobile food pantry, stocking and distributing 3,600 pounds of food each week to neighbors in need.

Rise up

Roots Rising, Pittsfield's farm-based youth development program, was developed in collaboration by Alchemy Initiative and Berkshire Botanical Garden, and launched in 2017. Now that the program is in operation, the two organizations have agreed to shift to a single managing organization. This will ensure the most efficient oversight of the program’s continued growth and success. Effective immediately, Roots Rising will become a program of Alchemy Initiative, with Berkshire Botanical Garden stepping aside as a program partner.

Both Alchemy Initiative and Berkshire Botanical Garden are extremely proud of Roots Rising's achievements in its first year of operation. In 2017, Roots Rising interviewed 120 applicants and hired 24 teens, devoted 4,260 hours of labor to strengthening the local food system and helped expand the county’s only mobile food pantry, stocking and distributing 3,600 pounds of food each week to neighbors in need. Community support has played a critical role, including a highly successful crowdfunding campaign that brought in $30,000 and an award of $10,000 in a nationwide vote taken by the members of the Garden Club of America and sponsored by the Lenox Garden Club.

The founding co-directors from each organization, Jess Vecchia (Alchemy Initiative) and Jamie Samowitz (Berkshire Botanical Garden), will continue to manage the program, as Samowitz moves her employment to Alchemy Initiative. Roots Rising will now have three seasonal Farm Crews each year, increasing the number of teens hired per year from 24 to 36. Recruiting is currently underway for Summer Farm Crew 2018, with applications coming in from five high schools throughout Berkshire County. For more information, visit the website.


Four Freedoms

In conjunction with the opening of Norman Rockwell Museum's traveling exhibit "Rockwell, Roosevelt & The Four Freedoms" at New-York Historical Society on May 25, Turner Classic Movies will be screening a series of films beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, May 21, connected to the "Four Freedoms."

The movies will be hosted for author/Four Freedoms scholar Harvey J. Kaye and will play as follows: (Freedom from Want / Freedom from Fear) "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940); (Freedom of Worship / Freedom of Speech) "Casablanca" (1942); (Freedom of Worship / Freedom from Fear) "The Cummington Story" (1945); (Freedom of Worship / Freedom from Fear) "The House I Live In" (1945); and (Freedom of Speech) "Deadline - U.S.A." (1952).


Pontoosuc Lake closure

Pontoosuc Lake will be treated with aquatic herbicides on Monday, May 21 to control invasive and nuisance aquatic vegetation.  The entire lake will be closed to all water uses, including, swimming, fishing and boating on the day of treatment. These activities can resume on Tuesday, May 22.  

Use of the lake water for irrigation (i.e. watering lawns, gardens or plants of any kind) is prohibited for five days post treatment.  Printed posters warning of these and other temporary water use restrictions will be posted around the lake shoreline in advance of the treatment.


Lenox matching wits

Lenox Memorial High School and Longmeadow High School will spar this week on "As Schools Match Wits," airing on WGBY public television Saturday, May 26, at 7 p.m. The two schools have reached the quarterfinals, and only the winning team will advance to the semifinals.

"As Schools Match Wits" pits teams of western New England high schoolers against each other in a fun, but competitive game of academic performance. The competition is open to both public and private high schools throughout western New England. ASMW is one of the longest-running shows of its kind in the nation. It is hosted by award-winning local TV journalist Beth Ward.


Bake America great

Barrington Stage Company is holding The Great Berkshire Bake Off in conjunction with its summer production of "The Cake," running June 21 through July 15. There are two Great Berkshire Baker categories: adults and kids under 16.

To enter, contestants should send in recipe and upload photo of their cake by email and include a brief essay (100-300 words) on "why you qualify" to be The Great Berkshire Baker. Deadline for applying is midnight on June 1. Only completed applications will be considered. Finalists will be notified on June 4. All finalists commit and must be present for tasting/judging on June 10. Cakes will be judged on creativity, taste and presentation.

Pittsfield business owner Mary McGinnis from Mary's Carrot Cake along with members of the BSC staff will narrow down the entries to fivr finalists in each category. Finalists will be required to showcase their cake at the judging event, plus have tastings for 50. The judging event and cake party will be held June 10 at 4 p.m. at the Wolfson Center, 122 North St. Along with the esteemed panel of judges - Debra Jo Rupp, Mary McGinnis and Michael Taylor - guests will be part of determining the winner.

Winners will be announced at 5 p.m. Prizes will include a commemorative cake plate, four tickets to "The Cake," a signed poster by the cast, selected BSC merchandise and a $35 Gift Card to SoCo Creamery. A first runner-up will receive  four tickets to "The Cake," a signed poster by the cast and a $15 Gift Card to SoCo Creamery.


Building bridges

Bennington's Career Development Center Building Trades students built two bridges for the walking trails at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. In conjunction with the Forestry Program, the students installed them on Thursday, April 26. The bridges improve the trails and encourage healthy outdoor activity among those of all skill levels. On the day of the installation, students gathered with members of the SVMC engineering staff on one of the bridges.

Southwestern Vermont Health Care is a comprehensive, preeminent, health care system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts.


Summer camp at the CRA

The Dalton Community Recreation Association is holding sign-ups for summer camp. The CRA offers a variety of full- and half-day camps and sports skills programs for grades kindergarten through 12th. The CRA/DYC Summer Camp Program aims to ensure that each camper has an experience that they will long remember and cherish. Developing skills, building self-confidence and forming friendships go hand-in-hand with a summer’s worth of fun and learning.

Enrichment camps are offered in a variety of topics, including dance, art, babysitting, animal care, photography, and cheerleading. There are also sports camps, which include: softball, baseball, basketball, soccer and football, in addition to an all-star basketball camp and elite baseball and goalkeeper camps for advanced players. Campers in half-day camps can add an afternoon at the Dalton Youth Center's Day Camp. Campers will enjoy daily swimming, trips to local parks, gym games, arts and crafts, and weekly trips to the Dalton Library.  Register at the Dalton CRA and visit the website.


Bus route changes

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority Route 3 Shuttle will stop running for the summer beginning on May 22. This route currently operates from September through May to coincide with college students returning to campus.

BRTA's regular Route 3 servicing Williamstown to North Adams and Route 1 connecting North Adams to Pittsfield via US Route 8 will continue to operate all year long. Specific schedule or route information may be obtained by contacting the operations department at 800-292-BRTA, ext. 1.


CATA grant

Community Access to the Arts has been awarded its first-ever Cultural Facilities Fund grant from MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The $26,000 award allows CATA to define options for expansion and to assess long-term facilities needs. Other 2018 awardees in the Berkshires include Jacob's Pillow, Shakespeare & Company, the Clark Art Institute and The Berkshire Botanical Garden.

Since 1993, CATA has brought more than 20,000 arts workshops to more than 2,000 people with disabilities throughout Berkshire County. The CFF grant will allow CATA to plan for the expansion of its facilities in order to grow programming for a greater population of people with disabilities.

Now in its 25th year, Community Access to the Arts nurtures and celebrates the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual and performing arts. Programs take place in partnership with 49 residences, day programs, schools, and community settings, serving 700 people with disabilities throughout Berkshire and Columbia counties.


Pine Cobble fundraiser

Pine Cobble School's annual Founders' Day celebration, held on May 5, raised more than $60,000, of which more than $50,000 will go directly toward financial aid and scholarships. The funds were raised through a combination of ticket sales, auction items, a paddle raise, and a private fundraising dinner.

The need for aid has never been greater. The communities served by Pine Cobble — northern Berkshire County, eastern New York, and southern Vermont — have felt today’s economic pressures as deeply as anywhere in America. Massachusetts as a whole ranks sixth in the nation for income disparity. A 2017 report from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation suggests that income inequality in Berkshire County is acute and rising.

In addition to serving as a fundraiser, Founders’ Day allows the community to celebrate the founding vision of Edgar and Doris Flinton, two Williamstown-based school teachers who started Pine Cobble in 1937. The Flintons envisioned a school where children would feel valued and inspired — a need that is as great today as it was 81 years ago. The event, which was casual, included barbeque from Mad Jack’s, music by Quincy, and an array of lawn games. The event was organized by Angie Hillman, Pine Cobble’s director of development, with support from family volunteers and donations from the community. Families with questions about financial aid can inquire online.


Sonsini hours

Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter, the city of Pittsfield’s municipal shelter, is located at 63 Downing Industrial Park. Pickups are between 9-10 a.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment with the Animal Control Officer Joe Chague, who is overseeing the facility’s operations. Anyone with questions about their dog or looking to volunteer at the shelter, should contact Chague for more information at 413-448-9750.


Jump to it

In May 2017, Southwestern Vermont Health Care issued a goal to collect 100,000 jumps from its Jump Rope Challenge initiative in time for its 100th anniversary in June 2018. They challenged attendees at several community events, participants from community groups, and students in area schools to jump rope for 1 minute and record their jumps. Each complete revolution of the jump rope added one point to SVHC’s running total.

SVHC has announced that our community has achieved 100,000 jumps. Jumps from participants at the following events were counted: Mayfest, Bennington, May 2017; Cancer Center Community Crusaders Day of Celebration, Bennington, June 2017; The Blueberry Festival in Wilmington and Dover, July 2018; Garlic Festival, Bennington, September 2017; Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems Health Fair, Montpelier, February 2018; and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Health Fair, North Adams, Mass., February 2018.

Students at Bennington Elementary, Molly Stark Elementary, Monument Elementary and the Village School of North Bennington participated in the Jump Rope Challenge on Wednesday, Feb. 14, the 100th day of school this year. The day was chosen to correspond with the health system's 100th anniversary. Each student attempted to jump rope up to 100 times and received a free jump rope from the SVHC. The top jump roper of each class received a water bottle and SVHC bracelet as a prize. A total of 50 prizes were awarded, and 760 students received jump ropes to take home. The estimated total jumps reached was 19,000.

Building on the success of their Jump Rope Challenge, SVHC will attempt to claim the world record for the largest jump rope race on June 10 — the day of its actual 100th anniversary. No record for the largest jump rope race has ever been set. The jump rope race will be a part of a day of celebration called Centennial Community Day, where free food, games, performances and more are planned for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center campus in Bennington.

Those interested in joining the record-making jump rope race will get an SVHC jump rope. Registration is available in coordination with the United Counseling Service's Go the Distance 5K Race, which is planned for the same day. To register, go online.


Nominations sought

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Berkshire County is seeking award nominations for the 2018 Eunice Zorobo Awards, which will be presented during the organization’s annual meeting in September. To nominate someone, visit the website, complete the nomination form and email it, or mail it to: NAMI Berkshire County, 333 East St., Room 417, Pittsfield, MA 01201. The submission deadline is June 6.

Following are the 2018 Euince Zorbo Award categories:

* Member of the Year: This award recognizes a member as someone who contributes enthusiastically to NAMI Berkshire County’s activities in support of its mission to help families whose lives are affected by mental illness.

* Citizen of the Year: This award is given to someone who has shown an understanding of mental illnesses and advocates for improvement in treatment of those who live with mental illnesses and their caregivers.

* The Silver Ribbon: This award recognized an advocate in the mental health field whose work has shown a commitment to the care of those whose lives are affected by mental illnesses..

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