Today, December 11, 2022, marks the 1,000th day since Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way, and Williamstown Community Chest came together to launch the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County.
The fund helped us raise and mobilize more than $3 million in grants to support over 100 organizations in the Berkshires. We supported those who did heroic work helping people meet their basic needs during a time of fear and uncertainty, and in the face of public health, economic, educational, and social disruptions that touched every life in our community. We are extremely proud of how Berkshire organizations responded to these needs. Here’s a reminder of how the fund supported our community: https://www.berkshireunitedway.org/berkshirecountycovid19fund.
Within the Berkshire United Way mission is the commitment to ‘ignite the collective power of individuals and organizations.’ It’s a charge we take seriously and a responsibility that guides our actions. It’s also a promise implicit in the work of many of our great community partners.
We see the results of our shared commitment in those first sparks of excitement as a child discovers a love of reading, the kindling of a lifelong passion for service as young people experience the power of giving back, and in the incandescent pride that lights someone’s path to greater economic self-sufficiency.
We’re proud and humbled by the gift and privilege of helping bring light to the community, of activating our collective power, and of being a beacon of hope and support when times seem dark. We certainly learned that in new ways, as businesses and individuals across Berkshire County and beyond rallied to help meet the basic needs of our neighbors, friends, and colleagues throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those challenges continue to resonate and reverberate even as vaccines and boosters – and our ever-abundant “over-abundance of caution” – help us navigate our recovery from the pandemic. We know that to date Berkshire County has lost 432 people to the pandemic, each one of whom brought light to the lives of those who knew and loved them, and whose absence remains with them.
We know that children at every grade level continue to struggle, that essential workers in every field continue to wrestle with issues of burnout and well-being, and that the effects of the pandemic landed most heavily on those who were the most vulnerable before COVID.
We look back on the work we did, and the resources we mobilized, with appreciation and humility. We also remain steadfast in our commitment to the missions and values of our organizations, and of taking forward the lessons we learned in those dark days as we respond to ongoing and new challenges and opportunities.
So, what did we learn, together?
• First, that none of us has all the answers, but that together we can find good solutions.
• That collaboration, coordination, and communication are essential ingredients for success.
• That bringing people to the table is more important than who sits where at the table.
• That when there’s nothing helpful in the business-as-usual playbook, write a new playbook.
• That when you begin with trust and tenacity, great things are indeed possible.
• That we must be focused and intentional about embedding a commitment to equity in everything we do.
• Finally, that we live in a community where people step forward and step up in amazing ways!
We know our work isn’t done and that more than ever the challenges we face are too big for any group to handle alone. We’re up for the challenge and have great partners and friends fighting with us and sharing the joy that comes through our work to build a dynamic and engaged community. Thank you for standing with us these past 1,000 days, and in the days to come.