The Berkshire United Way is pleased to announce $1,250,000 in community investments for July 2019 which will support 42 Berkshire County health, human service and education programs provided by 28 organizations, an increase of $60,000 from the current year. Berkshire United Way’s mission is to ignite the collective power of individuals and organizations to build a stronger community together, it is one of the leading philanthropic institutions in the county and the new hashtag, #Hereforgood, reflects this status.
Says Karen Vogel, Berkshire United Way’s Director of Community Impact, “This year we wanted to send a message to the community: we welcome new, innovative approaches to address the complex issues families face.” Of the grantees for this two-year cycle, eleven are new programs, the majority of which were developed through the work of coalitions convened by Berkshire United Way. Says Vogel, “We wanted to nurture the smart strategies they’ve developed.”
Jaime Campbell, long-time volunteer and new board member, notes that Berkshire United Way serves as the backbone of several key initiatives, bringing diverse groups of stakeholders together to address community issues that no one person or organization can solve on their own. She serves on Berkshire United Way’s Early Childhood Impact Council, which aims to improve reading proficiency rates by third grade. “The Council focuses on addressing a critical need, not on any one organization or service, or who does or doesn’t get funding.”
A new grantee whose successful multi-sector collaboration Berkshire United Way is helping to expand is the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, whose comprehensive anti-bias, anti-bullying program, piloted this past year through the support of the Berkshire County school Superintendents’ Roundtable, can now be implemented in sixteen county middle and high schools.
Career readiness has evolved as a priority area for Berkshire United Way, continues Vogel. “During the past two years we have expanded our work in early education and youth development to include economic prosperity, focused on getting unemployed and underemployed adults into the workforce and preparing youth and young adults for careers, with the goal of reducing the number of households making less than $75,000. We are closely aligned with the work of the Mass Hires Berkshires Skills Cabinet Blueprint for workforce development.” Eight evidence-based programs will be supported in the economic prosperity category.
The promotion of financial success goes a long way toward creating overall success. Vogel explains, “Research shows that education and employment are the key elements to economic mobility and prosperity. It is our goal to make sure that every family, across the cradle to career continuum has what they need to support themselves. When parents are financially stable they have the resources to address their children’s needs, so they can succeed in school and life.”
Berkshire Unite Way grantees are selected through a rigorous review process. This year, thirty-two volunteers participated, with nearly all reporting satisfaction with their ability to provide input. Jaime Campbell says the process, “engages everyone at every level; volunteers, partners, staff, and leaders.”
Over 4000 individuals and businesses contributed to Berkshire United Way’s campaign this year, these contributions are magnified to make lasting, positive change right here in the Berkshires. Berkshire United Way does the research to know how to make the greatest with these donations. Given the profound needs in Berkshire County, Berkshire United Way is a smart way to invest in your community.
While the staff, board and volunteers of Berkshire United Way were pleased to be able to support our local community, requests for funding exceeded the amount available by $500,000. Please join Berkshire United Way’s next fundraising campaign, which starts July 1, 2019, in order to continue to increase our investment in quality, impactful programs. If you’re interested in getting involved with Berkshire United Way, please contact Karen Vogel at 413-442-6948.