Dillon Award recipient Shirley Edgerton poses with Berkshire United Way Chair Michael Stoddard, left, and CEO and President Thomas Bernard.

Berkshire United Way Thanks Donors During Live United Community Celebration

By Sabrina Damms
iBerkshires Staff
03:25PM / Monday, May 23, 2022


Jewish Federation of the Berkshires was presented with Berkshire United way's Robert K. Agar Jr. Volunteerism Award.
DALTON, Mass. — Berkshire United Way held its "Live United Community Celebration" for the first time in person since 2019 last Wednesday at Berkshire Money Management's offices at the former Crane Model Farm.
 
During the event, officials thanked the group's donors and demonstrated how their contribution helped the organization fund initiatives to improve the lives of individuals in the community. 
 
The current CEO and President Thomas Bernard has had the role for just over three months.
 
Berkshire United Way helps fund 38 programs across 25 local organizations that work to improve the quality of life of individuals in trying circumstances. The nonprofit is working with old and newer organizations to fulfill its mission.  
 
Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity CEO Carolyn Valli demonstrated the impact that the donors' contributions have had by sharing inspirational story of a single mother who started to thrive after getting help from the resources that the organization was able to provide.
 
"I would just want to say that yes, this is about homeownership, but it's about what you guys provided when you make a donation, when you are part of the Berkshire United Way family. We are all doing this together," Valli said. 
 
"And I feel like we should all be proud of that together. So I just want to thank from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done to make Berkshire County a place that we can all do good and are here for good."
 
Berkshire United Way awarded the Robert K. Agar Jr. Volunteerism Award to Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts for its efforts to empower people to achieve their dreams. 
 
The group's work includes programs to resettle refugee families, providing counseling to young adults, protecting elders from abuse, and much more. 
 
"Their work is animated by a belief that we are stronger when we are all welcome and giving opportunities to thrive, as well as by the ideals of Jewish social justice, which hold that we are all harmed by oppression directed at any group or individual," United Way Board member Lori Gallagher said.
 
The Daniel C. Dillon Helping Hands, Caring Hearts Award was presented to Shirley Edgerton.  
 
Edgerton is the founder and director of the Rites of Passage and Empowerment Program that supports adolescent girls and celebrates their entry into womanhood in an effort to provide the skills and knowledge they need to be successful through mentorships from women come from similar cultures.
 
"Shirley Edgerton truly leads and serves with helping hands and a caring heart and it was nurtured by her grandmother and her aunts who raised her, and she has her abiding faith that guides her through all her steps." Jennifer Connor Shumsky, Greylock Federal Credit Union's manager for community support and events, said when presenting her with the award. 
 
"Your tireless work in the community includes all your board service, just the name a few, it's 18 Degrees, Berkshire Black Economic Council, Berkshire branch of the NAACP, co-founder of Lift Every Voice, which you celebrate with the African American Culture and Heritage Festival. You've also served on the Women's Fund of Western Mass. And a trustee of MCLA."
 
This award was originally introduced in 1999 as the Caring Heart Award but was subsequently renamed following Daniel C. Dillon's retirement from the organization in 2005 in honor of his service.
 
A 2005 press release announcing Dillon's retirement said: "His leadership has been characterized by a positive attitude, creative ideas, insightful thought process, and a tireless work ethic." 
 
Dillon was president of Berkshire United Way for 12 years. He died Jan. 4, 2021, from the effects of COVID-19. 
 
Berkshire United Way adopted the hashtag "Here for Good" in 2019 as the motto to follow. The first Here For Good Volunteer month was in 2021. 
 
In partnership with Northern Berkshire United Way, the organization is hosting a variety of volunteer events from until April 30 to celebrate #HereForGood Volunteer Month. Some future events including South Community Food Pantry Assistance, spring cleanups, and the Letter Carriers' Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. 
 
"We know that we benefit from having incredibly generous donors and partners and sponsors and that in addition to people who donate. There are people looking for opportunities to give them their time," Bernard said. "And during Here For Good Volunteer Month, we really seek and put together some just incredible critical mass around volunteerism, in the Berkshires."


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