Member Press Releases

5,000 Square Foot Home-Staging Facility Opens in Ashley Falls

Ashley Falls, Mass. – Staged Ryte, the largest home-staging company in the Berkshires, has launched a massive 5,000 square foot home-staging facility at 21 Business Park Road, Ashley Falls, in the southern Berkshires, with space for over 10,000 pieces of unique furniture and accessories.

Dawn Trachtenberg, Owner of Staged Ryte

Staged Ryte is a woman-owned company serving the Berkshires, Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, Eastern New York State, New York City, and New Jersey. The facility is a warehouse, showroom space, and office space where Staged Ryte meets with realtors, developers, and other professionals to plan home staging and design projects.

“We have enough furniture and accessories to stage up to 15 homes at a time. With more pieces coming in almost every day, we need room to grow,” said owner Dawn Trachtenberg at the grand opening on October 15, 2021. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to remove eight sofas or multiple tables and chairs to access the one particular piece we needed. Now we can see everything at a glance. It’s a game changer for us.” The facility houses:

  • Over 10,000 pieces of furniture and accessories
  • Over 1,000 books
  • Over 500 pillows
  • Over 30 sofas
  • 450 pieces of wall art including 200 original works (with 150 pieces by contemporary artist Kari Kroll).

Unlike some home-staging companies, Staged Ryte owns all their stock: no additional furniture rental costs are passed on to clients. The staging company doesn’t believe in “cookie cutter” staging. Trachtenberg said, “We believe that every home tells a story – and you need to tell that story to the right buyer. Our attention to detail and ability to understand what buyers want is unmatched.”

About Staged Ryte

Staged Ryte serves the Berkshires, Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, Eastern New York State, New York City and New Jersey. Services include: vacant home staging, occupied home staging, estate home staging, photo shoot staging, office design, interior design consultation, vacation/short-term rental enhancement, and home editing. Contact Dawn Trachtenberg at 917.543.4590 or visit www.stagedryte.com to learn more.

Salisbury Bank Announces Its Fourteenth Annual Fill-The-Basket Food Drive, Collecting Food and Donations for Local Food Pantries

Lakeville, CT – October 27 – As part of the ongoing commitment to help local food pantries feed those in need, Salisbury Bank has announced its 14th annual Fill-the-Basket food drive.

Starting November 1, 2021 all fourteen branches of the Bank, located in Berkshire, Litchfield, Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster counties, will be collecting donations of non-perishable food items and household supplies. Cash donations will also be accepted. All donated items as well as the monetary contributions collected will be donated directly to local food pantries serving each area.

Local pantries are in need of a variety of donations including, but not limited to: canned goods, cereals, macaroni and cheese, cake mix, peanut butter, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and tomato sauce. Household necessities such as paper towels, diapers, shampoo, and soap are also appreciated.

Please join Salisbury Bank’s effort to support our neighbors in need, and accept our sincere thanks for helping enrich the lives of others throughout our communities.

Fill-the-Basket food drive will run from November 1st through December 17th.

About Salisbury Bank

Salisbury Bank is a full-service community bank headquartered in Lakeville, Connecticut and presently operates full service branches in Canaan, Lakeville, Salisbury, and Sharon, Connecticut; Great Barrington, Sheffield, and South Egremont, Massachusetts; as well as Dover Plains, Fishkill, Millerton, New Paltz, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Red Oaks Mill, New York. The Bank has been serving families and businesses for over 170 years and offers a full range of consumer and business banking products and services as well as trust and investment services.

Virtual Volunteer Fair Aims to Alleviate Volunteer Shortage

Pittsfield, Mass. – Berkshire United Way and Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires are teaming up to offer a virtual volunteer fair on November 12, from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Up to 50 Berkshire nonprofits will be represented in virtual “booths” that attendees can meet with to learn more about volunteer opportunities. Booth space is available to nonprofits through October 15 on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee is $25 for NPC members and $35 for non-members.

Nonprofits and individuals can register online at npcberkshires.org.

Nationally, volunteerism is down during COVID. “Locally, food pantries are struggling to find enough volunteers to keep up with increased demand,” says Brenda Petell, Director of Volunteer Engagement at Berkshire United Way.

For more information about volunteering, visit Berkshire United Way’s Volunteer Center online at www.volunteerberkshireuw.org or NPC’s web site GiveBackBerkshires.org.

Clark Art Institute Celebrates Halloween with Festive Activities and Special Admission Offer

Williamstown, Mass. —Enjoy some Halloween fun at the Clark Art Institute on Sunday, October 31.

From 11 am to 2 pm, visitors are invited to decorate and display pumpkins and ink themselves with temporary tattoos inspired by the permanent collection on the Fernandez Terrace, enjoy “spooky” lunch specials at Café 7, and pose with cut-outs in the Museum Pavilion.

Indoors, take advantage of the last opportunity to see the exhibition Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne: Nature Transformed on its closing day. The first North American museum in forty years showcases the Lalannes’ madly inventive and irresistible world of objects. In addition, visitors can explore the year-long installation Erin Shirreff: Remainders, on view in the Clark’s Manton Research Center and in the lower level of the Clark Center.

And, for those in the mood, the Clark is offering free admission to visitors who come dressed as an artwork from its collection or one of its special exhibitions. Beyond costume considerations, all visitors are required to wear a face covering at all times as part of the Institute’s effort to protect the health and safety of its visitors, staff, and community.

ABOUT THE CLARK
The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 275,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

Berkshire Community College Receives Nearly $870,000 Allocation from Commonwealth for Supporting Urgent Community College Equity through Student Services (SUCCESS) Fund

Pittsfield, Mass. — Berkshire Community College (BCC) is pleased to announce it has received an allocation of $869,377 from the state legislature as part of a $16 million fund distributed to all 15 community colleges in the Commonwealth. The allocation is earmarked for the Supporting Urgent Community College Equity through Student Services (SUCCESS) Fund, which focuses on vulnerable populations. The funding, which was requested through the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges (MACC), covers the period through June 30, 2022, but will likely be renewed if the program proves successful.

The majority of BCC’s SUCCESS funding will be spent on staffing, including hiring Assistant Dean of Student Affairs/Director of SUCCESS George Ambriz as well as four SUCCESS coaches and administrative support. Remaining funds will be spent on student engagement initiatives and related expenses. 

According to MACC, the goals of the SUCCESS Fund project are: 
 

  • Expand/scale up existingstudent support services that are proveneffective 
  • Serve a specific cohortof students  
  • Show significant, demonstrable student success outcome improvement (e.g., retention, graduation and transfer) in the targeted cohort population 

SUCCESS is designed to maximize collaboration among the Commonwealth’s community colleges, identifying best practices and bringing those practices to scale rather than creating new initiatives, explained Adam Klepetar, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “We’re really good at working with marginalized populations, but now we have an amazing opportunity to figure out exactly what works, what doesn’t, and how to serve our students better. We can share everything from project plans to budgets with our community college colleagues across the Commonwealth.”  

Areas of improvement identified 

BCC has identified three major areas in which to improve: completion of a college-level math course within the first year, particularly by students of color; reducing the instances of students who earn zero credits in the first semester; and increasing the likelihood of students returning to school after completion of the first semester.  

While the SUCCESS program is beneficial for all, it is primarily designed to serve vulnerable student populations, including first-generation, low-income, minority, disabled and LGBTQ+ students. At BCC, approximately 500 students will participate in the program. Each student will be assigned a coach, who will focus on academic skills, socio-economic support, and housing and food insecurities. Each coach will manage a caseload and track interactions with their students. Field trips to four-year colleges and financial literacy workshops will be among the student engagement initiatives offered. 

Klepetar serves on the SUCCESS Leadership Team, a collaboration among MACC, the Commonwealth’s Department of Higher Education, and the 15 colleges participating in the program. “We want to connect students with the resources they need to keep them on track so that they can meet or exceed their goals,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to create safe places and pathways for all students, but particularly those underserved in higher education. SUCCESS focuses on reducing equity gaps and racial justice.” 

A Paradigm Shift 

The problem of inequity in higher education has persisted for decades, if not hundreds of years, Klepetar said, but he sees a “big shift” in the way colleges think about serving students. “We are becoming proactive instead of reactive. We are cognizant of the fact that it’s our job to design our programs in a way that allows us to reach out to students before problems happen. That way, they can take those big first steps, those risks, that open the door to success in college and in their careers.” 

Part of that shift, Klepetar asserts, is creating an environment of trust – not just for students, but for those responsible for funding. “The legislature has put a lot of resources into the hands of community colleges across the Commonwealth. They trusted us enough to invest in us,” he said. “It’s a smart investment, and I have a great sense of confidence that we can do this,” he added. 

That trust is intensified by the collective sense of urgency to right the wrongs of major disparities in access to higher education, said Klepetar, noting that communities of color are significantly less likely to attain associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and beyond. “If we don’t figure out these issues of inequity, we’re creating even bigger problems down the road,” he said. “We’re looking at students holistically and identifying what prevents success, particularly accessibility. When you offer true access, you open a door to a world that people would otherwise not have access to.” 

About Berkshire Community College  

Berkshire Community College (BCC), situated on 180 park-like acres, is located four miles from the center of Pittsfield in the heart of the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Founded in 1960, BCC was the first community college established in the Commonwealth. As a public, fully accredited community college, BCC strives to place higher education within reach of all residents of Berkshire County and beyond, offering associate degree and certificate programs to approximately 2,000 enrolled students per year. The mission of BCC encompasses five core values: integrity and engagement; innovation; diversity and inclusion; service; and sustainability. Visit BCC online at www.berkshirecc.edu.

Railroad Street “Street Dining” Concludes for the Summer; Outdoor Service Continues in Off-Street Areas, Weather Permitting

Great Barrington, Mass. – Sept. 7 – The use of Railroad Street for outdoor dining has now ceased, but downtown eateries can continue outdoor service on designated sidewalks, alleys, and other off-street areas.

“As the high summer weeks come to a close, the staffing for set up and removal of Railroad Street planters, barriers and signage has thinned out,” said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski. “Off-street and sidewalk dining will continue as long as weather permits.”

The town’s outdoor dining accommodations were funded through a shared streets grant for municipalities to assist with COVID-19 recovery efforts. Railroad Street was partially closed on Fridays and Saturdays to allow for more outdoor seating and service for restaurants.

The town also wishes to thank the organizers and many performers in this summer’s Berkshire Busk and Town Hall Gazebo Concert series, who kept the downtown lively and entertaining throughout the summer.

Both the Berkshire Busk program, led by Eugene Carr, and Town Hall Concert Concert series, organized by Lee Rogers, wrapped up this past Labor Day weekend. Both will return in the summer 2022.

The Knights Orchestra Presents at the Clark Art Institute

Williamstown, Mass. —On Saturday, September 4, at 4 pm, the renowned Knights Orchestra returns to the Clark as part of its programming to highlight Norwegian culture in celebration of its Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway exhibition. A joyous celebration of nature and Norway, this free outdoor concert on the Clark’s Fernández Terrace features a new arrange­ment by Colin Jacobsen of traditional Norwegian folk music as well as Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite, Op. 4,” Anna Clyne’s “Within Her Arms,” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending.”

Based in New York City, The Knights are a collective of musicians dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience. The collective was founded and is directed by violinist Colin Jacobsen and conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen, who, together, also founded the Brooklyn Rider string quartet. The Knights’ roster boasts musicians of remarkably diverse talents, including composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters, and improvisers, who bring a range of cultural influences to the group, from jazz and klezmer to pop and indie rock music. Since their founding in 2007, they have toured and recorded with prominent soloists including Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Béla Fleck, Itzhak Perlman, and Gil Shaham, and have performed at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and the Vienna Musikverein.

Nikolai Astrup (1880–1928) is one of Norway’s most important artists, with a style notable for its intense, colorful palette and the magical realism of its landscapes. In Visions of Norway, on view in the Clark Center through September 19, the Clark presents more than eighty-five works by this brilliant painter, printmaker, and horticulturist. Astrup focused his work on the relatively isolated region of his childhood home and, there, explored a personal form of Modernism and celebrated Norwegian national identity—something he shared with fellow Norwegians, composer Edvard Grieg and playwright Henrik Ibsen.

This performance is presented through the generous support of Mela and Paul Haklisch, the Asbjorn Lunde Foundation, and the Norwegian Consulate, New York. This event is free. Bring a lawn chair or blanket for outdoor seating. Inclement weather postpones this event until Sunday, September 5 at 4 pm. Visit clarkart.edu/events for more information.

Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway is organized by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in cooperation with KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes, Bergen, the Savings Bank Foundation DNB, and Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde. It is guest curated by independent scholar MaryAnne Stevens.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Savings Bank Foundation DNB. Significant funding is provided by the Asbjorn Lunde Foundation, Inc. with additional support from Richard and Carol Seltzer, Diane and Andreas Halvorsen, and the Norwegian Consulate General, New York. The exhibition catalogue has been published with generous support from the Savings Bank Foundation DNB and additional support from the Asbjorn Lunde Foundation, Inc.

ABOUT THE CLARK

The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 275,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

Berkshire Money Management donates $25,000 to bring the “3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge” back to the Berkshires

Dalton, Mass. – The team at Berkshire Money Management along with the City of Pittsfield Fire Department, is thrilled and honored to be able to present the 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, which will be held at Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield, September 16-18, 2021.

The full competition course, as seen on ESPN for more than a decade and now televised on FFCC.com and ESPN3, will be set up at Berkshire Crossing (555 Hubbard Avenue) where everyone is invited. There will be food trucks, fire safety demos, and Eversource will have a demo as well.

There will be firefighters from across the state and country, and firefighters from Canada and across the globe traveling for the “two toughest minutes in sports.” Retired firefighters are also welcome to compete.

“The pandemic had nearly eliminated this event worldwide, which is basically the recognition ceremony and the showcase for what firefighters do every day. And they did it during the pandemic, and they will continue to do it whether or not there is a Combat Challenge. However, that kind of public recognition, and comradery-building is absolutely essential to keep growing the awareness and appreciation for firefighters and first responders whose role has changed dramatically in the last 10 years,” says BMM CEO and Founder, Allen Harris. “They’re no longer ‘just fighting fires.’ They’re mental health workers, wellness check-in folks, community liaisons, grief counselors. They’re everything. BMM didn’t want the event to lose steam, especially now. We want the Berkshires to be a fond stop for our local community as well as for firefighters from around the world.”

The Challenge annually attracts hundreds of U.S. and Canadian municipal fire departments at more than 25 locations and is now expanding to countries around the world, including New Zealand, Poland, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Dubai, Slovenia, France and South Africa. The Challenge seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigors to the public.

Wearing “full bunker gear” and the SCOTT Air-Pak breathing apparatus, competitors race head-to-head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks, including climbing the five-story tower carrying a 45-lb hose pack, hoisting a 42-lb hose pack five stories up, chopping a 160-lb I-beam to move it 5 feet, dragging charged hoses and dragging a life-sized, 175-lb “victim” 100 feet as they race against themselves, their opponents and the clock. Berkshire Money Management has already put together a competitive team and training for the event has begun with our friends at Community Fitness Pittsfield (CFPitt) on East Street.

“Let’s admit it, nothing is ever going to be enough to thank these brave people for protecting us. Before the pandemic we were able to help bring the Firefighter’s Combat Challenge to the Berkshires for the first time ever in 2019,” says Harris. “The firefighters were so happy and thankful that we knew we had to step up to fully present the event this year. We wanted to unite the tribe in our backyard.”

For more information about the Challenge course, registration and rules, visit http://firefighterchallenge.com/2021/07/20/pittsfield-2021-registration-page/

For more information about the Pittsfield event, you may email Dan Garner at dgarner@cityofpittsfield or call 413-448-9754. Or checkout the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/346449923740496/?ref=newsfeed.

Individual races will be held Friday, September 17, beginning at 5pm. The tandem and relay races will be held Saturday, September 18, starting at 10:30am.

Let’s support our local and visiting heroes!

About Berkshire Money Management

BMM is an independent investment advisory firm based in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. The firm offers digital investing, business valuation, financial, estate and retirement planning, college planning, and Social Security and Medicare coaching. For more information, please visit www.berkshiremm.com.

Healthcare Decision Making Focus of Fairview Program

Great Barrington, Mass. – Fairview Hospital’s Ethics Committee will host a special panel to address the important topic of healthcare decision-making. Healthcare and legal experts will discuss “Making Your Healthcare Wishes Known” on Thursday, September 2nd at 4:30 p.m. at Fairview Hospital. The program will take place outdoors under a tent next to the Doctor’s Office Building adjacent to Fairview Hospital at 29 Lewis Avenue in Great Barrington.

Having health care conversations and making health care decisions before they are needed helps individuals maintain control and to have health care wishes honored when critically needed.  The discussion is about contemplating decision making and helping instill control ahead of time so that you or your loved ones may be prepared to make difficult decisions when they are critically needed.

Topics included in the program will include Health Care Proxy rules and the importance of advance directives, MOLST and POLST orders, maintaining control at the end of life, obligations of local emergency medical technicians and ambulances when 911 is called, and emergency room and health care decision making tips.

Panelists participating include Eric Bush, MD (East Mountain Medical), Paula Almgren, ESQ. (Almgren Law Group), Marsha Moquin, LICSW (Case Manager – Fairview Hospital), Steven Tracy, MD (Emergency Room- Fairview Hospital), and Meredyth Cooper (Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance Quad).

Pre-registration, social distancing, and masks are required. Please contact Jennifer Knysh at (413)854-9638 to reserve. Parking is available in the main parking area at Fairview Hospital.

Christopher Silipigno Named CEO of Renaissance Investment Group After Period of Unprecedented Growth for Firm

Lenox, Mass – June 3 – Christopher A. Silipigno, ChFC has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer of Renaissance Investment Group, LLC, a prominent financial services firm headquartered in the Berkshires that specializes in comprehensive financial counseling and investment management for high net-worth individuals. Managing approximately half a billion dollars in assets, Renaissance’s clients reside across the U.S. with a concentration in Western Massachusetts, Upstate New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

Christopher A. Silipigno

For the last three years, Silipigno has served as the Chief Operating Officer working to grow the business, lead organizational development efforts, and advise clients, says Trevor Forbes, the firm’s President and Chief Investment Officer. During this time, Renaissance has increased its client base at its fastest pace in 20 years and nearly doubled the amount of assets being managed. Silipigno has been instrumental in this development, as well as helping Renaissance introduce new technology, providing even closer client contact and enhanced information sharing for clients and the team, Forbes says. 

“His efforts have been instrumental in helping the company and its clients through the last difficult and challenging 12 months, coping with the rigors of COVID and working remotely,” states Forbes. “I am delighted to be able to announce this well-deserved appointment which provides for long-term continuity for both our staff and clients, which has been a hallmark of our success since the establishment of Renaissance 21 years ago. I wish Chris every success in his new role and look forward to continuing our work together in the coming years.”

“I was extremely impressed with the team at Renaissance from the time I began working with them just over three years ago,” states Silipigno. “Having initially spent a considerable amount of time with clients and professional associates that work with the firm, it quickly became clear that Renaissance offers financial planning and investment management services that are truly exceptional and well-regarded. This fact has provided a strong tailwind to our growth efforts.”

“I am honored to accept this appointment and plan to continue and further develop Renaissance’s client-centric focus as we move into the future.”

About Renaissance Investment Group, LLC

Renaissance, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, was established in 2000 to provide highly personalized investment management and financial counseling services to individuals, families, fiduciaries and organizations. The Renaissance team is comprised of skilled individuals from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds brought together for the sole purpose of providing exceptional service to their discerning clients. For more information, visit: www.rigllc.com.