The Omicron surge added to the toll the pandemic has taken on nonprofit professionals who are consistently providing direct services to our most vulnerable members of the Berkshire County community – whether in early learning classrooms, after-school programs, community health care settings, or other places where under-served communities receive critical resources and referrals.
In appreciation and acknowledgement of this dedicated service through many challenges, Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way, and Williamstown Community Chest partnered to provide funding from the COVID-19 Fund to Help the Helpers. Nonprofits were invited to apply for 16 $500 grants to be used toward staff well-being activities. Applicants determined the specific activities or services that would have the greatest impact on supporting their staff.
Twenty-three well-thought-out applications were received, so the partners jointly agreed to fund the gap and award the seven additional proposals. A total of $11,500 will be evenly distributed among 23 nonprofits to show their staff appreciation.
Total distributed from COVID-19 Fund: $8,000
Total distributed from Fund partners: $3,500
Becket Athenaeum | Becket
To support staff's personal health, self-care, and stress management by paying for each staff member to have a massage with a local massage therapist. “Finding ways to support staff health and self-care has been a challenge during the pandemic, but now is the time for us to find a way to reward and thank them for their dedicated community service.”
Berkshire Community College • Adult Learning Program (ALP) | Great Barrington
At the end of every year, the ALP staff gathers to evaluate the past year and plan ahead for the following academic year. Over the past two years, these meetings have taken place virtually. This June will be the first time gathering in person. The annual meeting this year will start with coffee and light pastries, followed by a trip to the Berkshire Botanical Gardens for a group walk and exploration. The meeting will end with lunch at the Barrington Brewery where plans will be discussed for the next academic year. “After the stress of the past few years, this team building activity will help the ALP staff move forward with energy and cohesion. This minor request for funding will have a significant impact on our staff’s well-being and will help to show my appreciation for their efforts.”
BFAIR (Berkshire Family and Individual Resources) | North Adams
Raffle for 20 $25 gift cards to Big Y. With food and groceries being an essential element to daily life, this funding will help offset costs. The raffle will be held over a 20-week period that will run in conjunction with other staff appreciation strategies in an effort to extend gratitude over a longer period of time.
Berkshire Family YMCA | Pittsfield
A recently formed Staff Appreciation Committee asked for feedback through staff surveys what they would appreciate receiving from the organization. An overwhelming response was "Y swag!" This funding will be matched by the organization to purchase swag (shirts, water bottles, etc.) to thank staff and show appreciation for their dedication.
Berkshire Food Project | North Adams
Gift cards for the staff to use for gym memberships, theater tickets, museum admission, beauty shop appointments, an appreciation party, etc.
Berkshire Immigrant Center | Pittsfield
This funding will be used to pay for BIC staff members to enjoy a day at Ramblewild Adventure Park to gather in nature, play, and work together through the eight aerial trails sometime late spring/early summer. Includes a picnic lunch and mileage reimbursement for staff driving to the location.
Berkshire Nursing Families | North Adams
BNF will apply this funding to a day retreat for staff – consisting of both individual time for self-care and reflection, and scheduled group activities for team building and cohesiveness (meals included) – at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in June. “BNF staff are all mothers of young to middle age children. During the last two years, they themselves were dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic, navigating child care difficulties as well as children learning remotely. At the same time they were supporting families who were the most isolated of any new parents in recent history.”
Berkshire South Regional Community Center | Great Barrington
Will provide early learning staff members with direct financial bonuses derived in equal shares from the grant money received. In this way, BSRCC can provide staff the best opportunity to select what form of self-care is best suited to their individual needs. These bonuses will be run through the payroll system in order to properly deduct taxes as required and to avoid burdening staff members with an additional reporting issue when paying their 2022 taxes.
Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity | Pittsfield
Staff would love to have chair massage sessions to help with relaxation.
Child Care of the Berkshires | North Adams
Will treat staff members to a group lunch at a staff meeting (if the meetings are held in person) or a training day. Alternatively, provide a take-home meal at the end of a most challenging week (eliminating shopping and cooking, using local restaurants, and for a group meeting, budget up to $20 for a meal, drink, and dessert. If this is not a feasible plan, then we may offer a budget of $25 for a take-home meal.
Community Health Programs | Great Barrington
CHP will provide staff with lunch out at a local restaurant to offer community and connection to one another, vital to the health and well-being of the team, and something that is normally not part of their typical day. “In consultation with the CHP Family Services directors, after brainstorming a few ideas, it was decided that a group lunch out would offer a fun outing for our staff to thank them for their tireless support over the many months of the pandemic.”
Community Legal Aid | Pittsfield
Friday Coffee Meetups in the conference room for staff to join and mingle. Funding will provide an array of breakfast items such as bagels, croissants, fruit, coffee, and tea. “We believe this would not only represent a much deserved thank you to our staff, but would provide a meaningful opportunity for staff to re-engage with each other after two years of distancing.”
Community Recreation Association | Dalton
Will hold a staff appreciation celebration in the spring on the CRA memorial lawn. It will involve fun games like corn horn and badminton, as well as food and music. Additionally, the management team will recognize their staff for their efforts and highlight their achievements.
ECU-Health Care | North Adams
As a thank you and recognition of the staff's efforts, will present each one with a $100 bonus in the form of a gift card of their choosing to go shopping, a spa treatment, a gym membership, or dinner at a local restaurant.
Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires & Southern Vermont | Pittsfield
Will give staff gift cards to recognize their contributions to mission services participants. Will hold a brief ceremony for all of the team members to recognize them for all of their contributions to the Mission Services Programs.
Hevreh of Southern Berkshire | Great Barrington
Will offer staff a chance to relax and catch their collective breaths, by funding a yoga class. Not only would it offer a chance for everyone to decompress during the session, but would arrange for the instructor to teach movements and strategies to incorporate throughout the day. In addition, will stock a pantry of food items for staff – if they are running late, forgot lunch, or need a snack. Will include items with a longer shelf life, as well as refrigerated items such as cheese, yogurt, and fruit. “These ideas came from the teachers themselves. We wanted to make sure that what we provide is relevant and meaningful – a true thank you.”
Lee Youth Association | Lee
Will be used for breakfast or lunch at work for the Busy Bee Learning Center staff, a staff meeting dinner, and snacks throughout the week to keep staff upbeat.
Lenox Library | Lenox
For a staff that is always on the planning and executing side of programs and events, this funding will be used to purchase tickets to a Jacobs Pillow event this summer for the staff to enjoy.
Roots Rising | Pittsfield
Will go on an outdoor adventure/team building trip facilitated by Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort in Charlemont. It will be a full-day white water rafting trip, with ample time to decompress and get re-inspired for Roots Rising’s meaningful work. “Just like the youth we work with, our staff needs to connect to nature and to each other in order to prevent burn out, bring our best selves to our workplace, and make the most impact possible.”
ROOTS Teen Center | North Adams
This funding will be used for staff to gain further development and allow time for long-term goals as professionals and human beings. These funds would be split equally among the staff to gain training in an area that is important to them, such as yoga, meditation, social-emotional workshops, physical development, resilience workshops, adolescent development, or other areas that will help to develop coping skills with the transformative events of the past few years. These developing skills will allow staff to release stress, gain knowledge, and bring their best selves into the nonprofit work with teens in Northern Berkshire.
Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires | Great Barrington
VIM would like to hold a staff appreciation/fun afternoon or evening, as the team has been at the front
lines of keeping the community, especially the most marginalized members of it, healthy throughout the pandemic. Funding will buy food and drinks and materials for staff members to build terrariums – “a creative, different than our day job, kind of Zen team and morale building exercise.”
WAM Theatre | Lenox
Will carve out two hours during the fall production to gather together in-person and treat the team to a beautiful meal. The opportunity to gather and share ideas and news outside of the confines of a meeting will be appreciated and vital to re-connection as a team of artists. If there is money remaining from this meal, would pay for the younger members of the team to visit Berkshire art galleries and performances to inspire their creativity.
Youth Center Inc. | Cheshire
A spa day for staff at the center, provided by Mildred Elley students.