Live United: Volunteers a vital resource toward a better Berkshires

As seen in The Berkshire Eagle.

The week of April 23 is National Volunteer Week. Every year hundreds of individuals, with various abilities, give freely of their time and talent as volunteers with Berkshire United Way; since July 1, 2016 they’ve put in over 1,700 hours. Dedicated folks from throughout the county commit their time to better our community, make sure our book houses are adequately stocked—one local resident adjusted her bike route, so she can check in on Pittsfield-area book houses— and spend time serving on our Board of Directors and committees.  They organize more than 200 local workplace campaigns that allow employees to financially support our community. They participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, assist with events, and help sort and distribute food for local food pantries. 

Volunteers help us make tough decisions, like how to allocate limited resources to community partners requesting more support than is available.  They fight for things that are important to our community, like workshops for parents on how to talk to their children about sex, substance abuse and other risky behaviors.

People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills, build upon their knowledge and experience, or advocate for something they are passionate about. 

Bob Lee, has volunteered with Berkshire United Way for 17 years.  He says he got involved, “Because I knew the organization helped others in need of assistance and I had the time.”  It didn’t take long before Bob realized that he and other volunteers were making a real difference in our Berkshire community. “Once you personally witness what your efforts can accomplish, you’ll want to continue to help out.”

The work we’re focused on at Berkshire United Way is unique – and it can only happen with the support of our volunteers.  This is particularly true of our coalition work. Berkshire United Way board member and volunteer, Chris Smith, says, “The ‘shoulder tap’ initiative is one of the many ways Berkshire United Way and the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership work to educate the community on teen substance use.  With the assistance of local youth who volunteer their time, ‘shoulder taps’ raises awareness around the dangers of underage drinking and works to limit alcohol access to minors.”

We will recognize and celebrate Berkshire United Way’s volunteers, and their contributions to our community, at this year’s annual Live United Community Celebration, at the Country Club of Pittsfield, on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 a.m. 

Every year since 1965, Berkshire United Way has honored a “volunteer of the year”; in 1981 this award was named the Robert K. Agar, Jr award and is given to a volunteer whose personal commitment and dedication to volunteerism is truly exemplary. This year’s recipient is Brenda Burdick, Senior Manager, Marketing and Public Relations at General Dynamics.  Brenda has given hundreds of volunteer hours to Berkshire United Way and other organizations and has had a measurable impact on our community.

Berkshire United Way will also honor Julie Salatino, a resident of Pittsfield and community volunteer, with the Daniel C. Dillon Helping Hands, Caring Heart award.  This award, first presented in 1999, and renamed in 2005 in recognition of Dan Dillon’s numerous years of service to Berkshire United Way, recognizes an unsung hero who makes our community a better place through volunteer efforts.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

You too can “make a life”.  There are plenty of opportunities for people to join us in our efforts to improve early childhood literacy, reduce youth substance use and teen births and increase family financial stability. 

Visit berkshireunitedway.org to fill out a volunteer profile form, or give us a call.  Together, we can build a stronger community.  

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