As appeared in the Berkshire Eagle.
For more than 90 years, Berkshire United Way has been working with people just like you to build a stronger community here in the Berkshires.
Each year we invest over $2 million in local programs. In fact, most of you probably know someone whose life has been touched, in some way, by one of the 38 programs that are currently supported by Berkshire United Way. Programs that provide early education opportunities, so children enter school ready to learn, and many others that help young people develop the skills they need to make healthy decisions and develop a plan for college or a career. Programs that help working families increase their income and assets, so they are better positioned to provide their children with what they need, and so the cycle continues. The more financially stable a family becomes the better prepared they are to address their children’s educational and developmental needs.
I’d like to share a couple stories about the impact our donors are making – while the names of the people in these stories have been changed to protect their privacy, these are real stories about real people who live and work right here in our community.
Berkshire United Way collaborates with many community partners throughout the county, to help our children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, so they are reading proficiently by third grade. Research shows that children who lack literacy and language skills by third grade will not catch up.
A young child named Charlie arrived at Lee Youth Association’s Busy Bee Preschool with absolutely no verbal skills. In addition, he was walking on his toes, and had trouble forming attachments to adults. Program staff obtained services from the Pediatric Development Center, who came to the preschool to work with Charlie two to three times a week – they also provided tools for the Busy Bee staff to continue Charlie’s therapy within the classroom. Charlie’s teachers worked tirelessly with him every free chance they had. As a result, Charlie is beginning to talk in two to three-word sentences. He has completely stopped “toe walking”—in fact he’s even running—and has become attached to all his teachers who look forward to seeing what the future holds for this amazing little boy!
Another way Berkshire United Way donors help others is by supporting college and work readiness programs like the Alchemy Institute’s Roots Rising program and Greenagers’ Community Work Initiative.
Donovan worked with Greenagers for four seasons and used that experience to secure a job working with Race Mountain Tree Services while enrolling in evening classes at Berkshire Community College. The staff at Greenagers counseled Donovan through the financial aid process and continue to support him as he progresses through his professional and educational life.
As part of Berkshire United Way’s commitment to economic prosperity for all, we are working with partners to build pathways to sustainable incomes in the community. This past year we welcomed Lever Inc. as a new community partner. Lever Inc.’s Berkshire Business Interns (BBI) program placed 32 college students and recent college graduates in paid summer internships at leading businesses throughout the county. Throughout the 10-week program, participants received hands-on career development experience, as participating employers lead the way toward significant long-term impacts on workforce development here in the Berkshires. As one participant stated, “Getting a summer internship is so valuable…this is a way for you to gain the experience you need to land a real job once you graduate.”
These are just three stories, there are 17,000 more from our friends and neighbors who were impacted by our investments in the community and the wonderful work of our partner agencies. To learn more about the returns on investing in our children and families, please visit our website at berkshireunitedway.org.