On June 21, Berkshire United Way will celebrate its annual Day of Caring. What is the Day of Caring? It’s Berkshire United Way’s major volunteer engagement and community building experience.
In the past, Berkshire United Way has installed Born Learning Trails to create opportunities for children and caregivers to experience learning together. Volunteers have painted classrooms and held book drives in support of education; cleaned the Housatonic River in Great Barrington, and held a countywide youth forum to help build aspirations and develop career paths. Most recently we installed 50 Berkshire Book Houses throughout the county.
This year we are partnering with Berkshire Bank to create 1,200 Literacy Backpacks. This is one backpack for every Berkshire County child entering Kindergarten this fall.
Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is the most important predictor of a child’s future success. Yet many kids in our community miss this important milestone. Only 51% of our Berkshire County children are reading proficiently by third grade.
Literacy development begins at birth, with parents and caregivers playing a crucial role in building literacy skills. Literacy kits, like these backpacks, provide parents with the tools needed to help build these skills and start their children on the path to success.
Today 110 Berkshire Bank volunteers are assembling the backpacks as part of their annual Xtraordinary Day of Service.
Each Backpack will contain a book and an accompanying activity guide to encourage caregivers to engage in teachable moments with their child. It will also contain tools to promote learning and play, including a recommended reading list for incoming kindergartners, a Berkshire Book House flyer, crayons and other school supplies. Additionally, each backpack will contain a hand-written note from a Berkshire Bank volunteer, wishing the recipient well as they prepare for their first day of school.
The Literacy Backpacks will be distributed at pop-up parties throughout the county during Berkshire United Way’s Day of Caring on June 21 between 4-7 p.m. Parties will take place at the following locations: Child Care of the Berkshires in North Adams, Williamstown Youth Center, the Dalton CRA, Boys and Girls Club of Pittsfield, Lenox Community Center, Lee Bank in Lee, Berkshire South Community Center in Great Barrington and the Russell-Sage Library in Sheffield.
Each unique party will offer a variety of fun, family-friendly activities including story times, story walks, crafts and healthy snacks, all led by volunteers from our business and community partners.
“Our Day of Caring is an exciting opportunity to bring the county together, all of us working to make sure our children are on a path to school success. In February, we connected with every school district to distribute a ‘Passport to Kindergarten’ which provides a countdown of activities to assist families of incoming Kindergartners on this important transition into school. We want our families to know the community is here to support them, and we care about the future of our children,” says Karen Vogel, director of community impact with Berkshire United Way.
Lori Gazzillo, vice president, director of Berkshire Bank Foundation and co-chair of this year’s Day of Caring echoed the sentiment saying, “Education, and specifically reading proficiency, is a top priority of our philanthropic efforts. We are so pleased to partner with Berkshire United Way in providing these valuable tools and resources to all parents of incoming kindergarten students throughout Berkshire County.”
To celebrate the hard work of the hundreds of volunteers involved, Berkshire United Way is hosting the Movers + Shakers dance party at Hancock Shaker Village the evening of June 23. Tickets are $50 and all proceeds benefit Berkshire United Way’s countywide early literacy efforts. Berkshire Bank, General Dynamics Mission Systems, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lyon Aviation, Health New England, Interprint and Republic Services have signed on as sponsors of Movers + Shakers, with additional sponsor opportunities available. We hope to see you there!
To learn more about Day of Caring and purchase tickets for Movers + Shakers, visit berkshireunitedway.org.
By Kristine Hazzard, President & CEO, Berkshire United Way as published in The Berkshire Eagle on June 6, 2017.