By Sabrina Damms
05:38AM / Thursday, May 25, 2023
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Community leaders, organizers and residents gathered at Berkshire Hills Country Club on Tuesday morning to recognize people who work with nonprofits to better the community.
Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires recognized eight women who have gone above and beyond in their work with nonprofits: Susan Crofut, Leigh Doherty, Florence Afanukoe, Tyeesha R. Keele-Kedroe, Anne Nemetz-Carlson, Julianne Boyd, Shirley Edgerton and Sheila Dargie.
There is power in collaboration and you can see this collaboration prevalent in the Berkshires, said Berkshire United Way President and CEO Thomas Bernard.
"At Berkshire United Way our mission is to ignite the collective power of individuals and organizations to build a stronger community together and boy is there collective power in this room this morning."
A panel of 21 judges from the business and nonprofit worlds combed through 64 nominations. They were solicited in seven categories: Lifetime Achievement, Executive Leadership, Board Leadership, Rock Star, Unsung Hero, Volunteer, and Samya Rose Stumo Youth Leadership.
For the first time, the judges selected two winners for the Lifetime Achievement award: Julianne Boyd of Barrington Stage Company and Anne Nemetz-Carlson of Child Care of the Berkshires.
Both of the winners started out working in a basement more than 30 years ago and then went on to grow their nonprofits into thriving impactful organizations. Both of the award recipients retired in this last year, NPC founder Liana Toscanini said.
"This award honors an individual who has been a leader and role model and "has made an enduring and profound difference in the community and the lives of those around them," she said. "It was hands down a tie. The judges struggled with that, but we decided, 'hey, we can make our own decisions, we're gonna have two this year.'"
Boyd has had a major influence on not only her peers at Barrington Stage but on American theater as a whole by being a pioneer in musicals, the company's Artistic Director Alan Paul said.
Actor Alan H. Green agreed with this sentiment noting the effect she has had on him as a person by serenading her with a line of the song "For Good" from the musical "Wicked."
Nemetz-Carlson has been working to promote high-quality early education and care for children and vulnerable parents since 1974.
Although she was unable to attend to accept the award, she said in the pre-recorded interview with Pittsfield Community Television that she was honored and wished to share it with the staff who worked with her for 39 years because she could not have done it alone.
"It's a really nice award. It's nice to be recognized. I know a couple of people that recommended me and I've been up and thanked them and they said, 'you've done so much for my life.' And I really liked the impact I made on families that is so meaningful," she said.
She hopes the kindness she shared with the children and families will spread to other people in the community.
The Samya Rose Stumo Youth Leadership Award was presented to Multicultural Bridge member Afanukoe.
The award is in honor of the late Stumo of Sheffield, who died in in a plane crash on the way to her new nonprofit job in east Africa.
The award recipient receives $250 to donate to the nonprofit of their choice in Stumo's memory.
This award is fitting for Afanukoe because she inspires, cares, educates, and makes the world a better place, said Jennifer Connor Shumsky, Greylock Federal Credit Union's assistant vice president for community support and events.
The Rock Star was awarded to Keele-Kedroe, a prekindergarten teacher at 18 Degrees Inc.
"Everything that you do at 18 Degrees, bringing it back to igniting collective power, is about nurturing that spark in young people and helping them to grow and to thrive," Bernard said.
The Executive Leadership Award was given to Doherty, executive director of Literacy Network of South Berkshire.
The award honors a "nonprofit staff leader whose strategic vision, passion, perseverance and integrity has led us to a strong record of extraordinary organizational results," Salisbury Bank Vice President Andrea McArthur said.
"I just feel like everything we're doing is serving a purpose. I love the community as well. I've really learned the most about the Berkshires through my role as executive director," Doherty said.
"Just learning about other organizations and what they're doing. So the creativity and the purpose I would say are my two favorite things."
Crofut was presented the Board Leadership Award for her work on the board for Sandisfield Arts Center and Unsung Hero to Dargie, director of the Berkshire Area Health Education Center.
Dargie is celebrating her 25th anniversary at AHEC later this year and was described as being the glue that holds it together,said Jennifer Vrabel, director of communications and development at Berkshire Health System.
Volunteer award was given to Rites of Passage and Empowerment (ROPE) founder Shirley Edgerton who has done a "tremendous work in supporting and uplifting young people, especially young women of color," Berkshire Bank Foundation Director Lori Gazzillo Kiely said.
State Sen. Paul Mark was scheduled to speak but was unable to attend. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier presented Boyd with her award and state Rep. John Barrett III said those in the room genuinely care about people and helping them.
"When I come before so many not-for-profits, and I think my colleagues in the Legislature feel the same way, we're in awe of it for many reasons because you're in this business to help people who need help all the time," he said.