By Brittany Polito
05:15AM / Friday, September 22, 2023
Beverly Gans is recognized with the Employee Campaign Coordinator Award by board Chair Laurie Gallagher. Gans, a 59-year employee of the Pittsfield Public Schools, has championed BUW during her 39 years at Taconic High School.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire United Way aims to surpass last year's fundraising with a $2.1 million goal to support quality-of-life improvements for county residents.
"What is clear is that we live in a place with tremendous advantages, just look outside at this glorious morning, but also deep needs," President and CEO Thomas Bernard said at the organization's 2023 campaign kickoff breakfast on Wednesday.
"The data tells us that people in the Berkshires experience obstacles that make it harder to set and achieve goals for themselves and their families. People are working multiple jobs. Folks are making choices about rent or health care, feeling worried about how to make ends meet. When the community is hurting, taking care of those in need isn't just an opportunity, it's a responsibility."
The Country Club of Pittsfield was full of United Way colleagues, partners and supporters for the first in-person campaign kickoff since 2019.
With donations, BUW supports programs and organizations that work to improve individual circumstances and elevate the overall quality of life in Berkshire County. This is done through multiple giving levels, workplace campaigns, volunteerism and advocacy.
Right now, contributions support 28 agencies in three priority areas: early childhood development, positive youth development and economic prosperity.
The Employee Campaign Coordinator Award was given to Beverly Gans from Taconic High School for being a champion within her workplace, spreading the word, getting pledge forms into people's hands and email inboxes, and holding special events to encourage giving.
She has worked for the Pittsfield Public Schools for 59 years, 39 at Taconic. She has run the BUW employee giving campaign for most of her time at the high school and is said to take it "very seriously," making sure that every teacher and staff person is asked to back.
For many years, Taconic has had close to 100 percent participation thanks to Gans work. She called the organization a "positive force in the community."
"The Berkshire United Way is such a valuable asset to our community and I am proud to assist in the support of this organization," Gans said.
When the awardee was told that she was being recognized she said "Surely someone else is more deserving," but Bernard begged to differ.
"Our mission is a mission of action," he explained. "We magnify your impact by joining your dollars with those of all our donors turn your dollars into programs with measurable outcomes aligned with our funding priorities."
With the community's support, 91 percent of children served in early childhood development programs achieved or exceeded age-appropriate milestones in social and emotional development; 90 percent of early learners achieved or exceeded age-appropriate language development milestones; 96 percent of participants in youth programs strengthened their communication, critical thinking, and teamwork skills; and in the economic prosperity area, 12 percent of employed participants earned higher wages.
Since BUW launched its online volunteer center, it has hosted 88 active organizations and 863 individual volunteers have registered on the site to search and sign up for volunteer projects.
"All of us within the Berkshire United Way network, our board and staff, our funded partners, our volunteers, and most of all the thousands of lives we touch through our work every year, are proud of the friendship, sponsorship, and support that exists between BUW and our generous workplace and individual donors," Director of Volunteer Engagement Brenda Petell said.
"That generosity has been a hallmark of our work since 1924. For nearly a century we have magnified community resources to make lasting, positive change for Berkshire families, children, and at-risk populations."
The last campaign raised more than $2 million and this year, the goal has been set at $2.1 million.
"We raise funds locally, and your donation stays local, addressing local needs and supporting local organizations vetted by your neighbors and fellow donors," said Laurie Gallagher, chair of the BUW Board of Directors.
"You can be confident we invest your dollars wisely, based on the recommendations of community volunteers who review applications carefully."
She added that United Way also builds ongoing relationships with the organizations it funds to help them achieve their full potential.
Natalia DeRuzzio, the patient services manager at Volunteers in Medicine, spoke on how the support of BUW has impacted her organization. The Berkshire County chapter provides health care to residents who are ineligible for insurance.
With the help of United Way, VIM was able to expand its community health team and welcome hundreds of new patients.
She told the story of a mother who sought safety in the United States for herself and younger children after her son was murdered in her country of origin. The woman suffered an injury while being held in custody at a U.S. Detention Center and was denied medical care because of her blindness and sought the services of VIM.
Within a week, she had an appointment with VIM's medical team and ophthalmologist and within two weeks, she had an appointment with a therapist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston. In April, she underwent her fourth and final surgery, and one week ago, glasses were placed on her eyes so that for the first time in years she could see.
"We treat people not just clinician to patient but person to person," DeRuzzio said. "Integrating their social and economic needs along with care."
During the event, pom poms were raised for several Pinnacle Companies who went above and beyond in giving to the campaign.