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Live United: Want to be happy? Be a community volunteer

According to David J. Linden, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, “Your brain’s pleasure circuits are activated by acts of charity.” The London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults. They found the more people volunteered, the happier they were.

Every year hundreds of individuals give their time and talent as volunteers with Berkshire United Way; in the past year 558 volunteers have put in more than 5,271 hours. Dedicated folks from throughout the county commit to bettering our community, participating in monitoring visits to 38 programs at 26 community partner organizations funded by Berkshire United Way, and serving on our Board of Directors, committees and coalitions – all of which help guide our work and move us closer to our goals. 

Volunteers organize more than 170 local workplace campaigns that allow employees to make a financial commitment to their community, enabling us to invest $ 1.8 million in the Berkshires. They participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, assist with fundraising and community events, host book drives to keep 51 book houses throughout the county sufficiently stocked and help sort and distribute food for local food pantries. 

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

Pat Callahan, a volunteer tax preparer for VITA, says, “I recently retired, and was seeking a hands-on volunteer opportunity for the winter months. When I saw the request from Berkshire United Way for tax preparers, it struck a chord. This is something I can do that helps people directly.  I was familiar with VITA at the Bay Area United Way in San Francisco, where I was a former board member, and was excited to give it a try. It has been a very satisfying experience and I definitely feel that I have helped, which makes my day!”

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. Jason Cuyler, current board member, has been a volunteer member of our youth coalitions since 2009. He notes, “As the Coordinator of Case Management and Programs for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, I see, firsthand, the importance and efficacy that the volunteers of the Berkshire United Way’s Positive Youth Development focused coalitions have on our community. Helping our youth navigate through difficult life choices and providing them with the resources to learn trades, continue their education and avoid situations that put them at risk, has a direct and rewarding impact on the future of Berkshire County.  I am honored to be a part of a team that strives to cultivate strong, wise and independent young people.”

Each April, organizations across the country celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of changemakers coming together to tackle tough challenges, and build stronger communities.   Please join us in recognizing Berkshire United Way’s volunteers at our Live United Community Celebration, on Thursday, April 26 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Crissey Farm in Great Barrington.

Since 1965, Berkshire United Way has honored a “volunteer of the year”; this award, named the Robert K. Agar, Jr award, is given to a volunteer whose personal commitment and dedication to volunteerism is truly exemplary. This year’s recipients are Ray and Jim Murray.

Berkshire United Way will also honor Cara Davis, former Executive Director of Construct, Inc., with the Daniel C. Dillon Helping Hands, Caring Heart award, which recognizes an unsung hero who makes our community a better place.

To register for the celebration, or learn more about volunteer opportunities, please visit or give us a call at 442.6948.