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Berkshire United Way 2016 Day of Caring

On May 20, 2016, Berkshire United Way held its 2016 Day of Caring.  Day of Caring is the name United Way has used to represent volunteer engagement and community building. In the past, Berkshire United Way Day of Caring initiatives have included the installation of Born Learning Trails at Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington, and Durant and Springside Parks in Pittsfield to enhance literacy, volunteers have painted classrooms and held book drives in support of education, cleaned the Housatonic River in Great Barrington, and held countywide forums with youth called “You First” to help them build aspirations.

At the heart of the 2016 event was the installation of 50 Berkshire Book Houses in 24 communities throughout the county.  With the help of Jack Geary Builders, dozens of SABIC and JRL Construction volunteers, using materials donated by LP Adams, built 50 book houses, each of which can house 100 children’s books.

With volunteer support from Unistress and Dodge Construction, the book houses were installed in high-traffic public places. 47 local businesses and faith based or civic organizations, along with several individuals, have signed on as “caretakers” for the houses, which involves hosting book drives to keep them stocked with age-appropriate materials and conducting regular check-ins to ensure the continued upkeep of the structures.

“We’re as committed as ever to making sure that every family in Berkshire County has easy access to materials that will improve early childhood literacy to make sure that our children are on the right track to a successful academic career and prosperous life,” said Kristine Hazzard. “The book houses will be available 24 hours a day, 7 day a week and our hope is that this will become a community-led, self-sustained addition to Berkshire County that demonstrates that we recognize the essential role of literacy in our lives and our community.”

To celebrate the hard work of this initiative and over 120 volunteers involved, plus hundreds more who have participated in book drives throughout the county to stock these houses, Berkshire United Way hosted a Movers + Shakers dance party celebration at Hancock Shaker Village on May 20 from 7 – 11 P.M., featuring a dance party led by DJ BFG, hearty hors d’oeuvres, dance performances, tastings, local milkshakes, and cash bar.

Sponsored by SABIC, General Dynamics, Greylock Federal Credit Union and Onyx Specialty Papers, the celebration also provided attendees with an opportunity to view some of Berkshire United Way’s community impact work, which was on display in the Community Room.  Among the featured displays were works of art from county youth who participated in the recent Youth Art Expo, titled “Nine months from now, the only thing I am expecting is to be more...”, select posters from the Humans of the Berkshires initiative, which celebrates youth countywide, and social norms posters.  Attendees also had an opportunity participate in building a Lego community that reflects Berkshire United Way’s mission of “Improving the quality of life in Berkshire County by mobilizing resources to address community priorities and create sustainable change.”

In addition to the book house installations, 23 businesses also participated in the 2016 Day of Caring event by contributing a percentage of their profits on May 20 or giving a generous one-time gift. Shoppers were encouraged to shop and dine at these businesses, which featured a “We Care” Day of Caring 2016 decal on site.

Net proceeds from the 2016 Day of Caring benefit Berkshire United Way’s early literacy efforts across the county.