Help Springs Eternal
Tales of a Serial Volunteer–– (plus Berkshire Museum Camera Club photo contest winners!)
Al Blake joins others to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to raise awareness and money for the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which helps survivors of abuse.
3rd Place Advanced in photo contest. Walk a Mile #1. By Michael Bufis
My path to volunteering began innocently enough. I purchased a 1754 house in Sandisfield and was eager to learn more about its history. So, I started attending Sandisfield Historical Society meetings. There, I ate lemon squares and met wonderful octogenarians who lived through and helped make a portion of that history over the last century.
One woman, Anne Hoffman, was busy writing a book about the history of Sandisfield from her office in the birthing room of the house she entered this world in 80 years earlier. She encouraged me to write the story of my move from New York City to Sandisfield, which somehow led to my editing the Sandisfield Newsletter, and becoming deeply involved in the historic restoration of the Sandisfield Arts Center (formerly an orthodox synagogue and Baptist Meeting House).
Through volunteering in my town, I was fortunate to meet many interesting people while contributing my marketing expertise and learning a bunch of new skills such as grant writing and public speaking. Volunteering became a way of life for me, and I highly recommend it for anyone wishing to feel more connected.
In fact, there are studies showing that volunteering has many long-term health benefits, including making you happier; giving you purpose; expanding your connections; improving your physical, emotional and mental health; and combating stress. Which is a good thing because we need more volunteers. Berkshire County is home to nearly 1,000 nonprofit organizations and has the highest per-capita rate of nonprofits in the Commonwealth.
It can be challenging to find the right volunteer opportunity as there is no central organization devoted to making matches between nonprofit organizations and those who want to donate their time and expertise. So, where do you start? I find that asking friends and neighbors about volunteer opportunities is a good way to pick up valuable information as to the nature and quality of experiences available. If you Google “Berkshire volunteer opportunities,” a host of options comes up, from volunteering in prisons via the sheriff’s office, to ushering in our local theaters, to playing with rescue pets at the Humane Society.
The choices are seemingly endless so do a quick analysis of your skill set and time limitations to help make the right match for yourself. If you’re a good driver, Elder Services of Berkshire County needs volunteers to bring a senior shopping or even do the shopping for a senior. Want to meet folks from other countries? Literacy Volunteers of Berkshire County provides tutoring for adults in reading, writing, and conversational English for speakers of other languages. Have you always wanted to be on the radio? You can volunteer to read the news at The Berkshire Talking Chronicle radio station for the blind and print-impaired.
Retirees have the most flexibility and some unique options. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) enables volunteers aged 55 and over to use their experience to make a difference through community service assignments (contact info: 16 Bartlett Avenue, Pittsfield, 413-499-9345 cityofpittsfield.org). Those 60 and older may be able to volunteer for the town in which they own property with a tax abatement as compensation.
If you live in Northern Berkshire County, berkshirenonprofits.com lists a range of volunteer opportunities, from food pickup for pantries to home building to companion services.
One opportunity that requires very little commitment but makes a world of difference is spending time with the elderly—driving them to the doctor or grocery store, visiting for an hour, delivering a meal. “Small gestures, especially at this time of year, can have a lasting impact for everyone involved,” says John Lutz, executive director of elder services of Berkshires County. Learn more about how you can help at esbci.org.
We are all fortunate to live here in the beautiful Berkshires, and many people feel the desire to pay it forward or give back. Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) volunteer Michael Richman says he simply wants to “make the world a little better than I found it.” Ben Silberstein, who serves on the board of Community Access to the Arts (CATA) and reads to young school children, says volunteering gives his life meaning. As author, H. Jackson Brown, Jr. says, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
Click for Ten Ways to Help for the Holidays
VOLUNTEERISM - Photo Contest Winners
Berkshire Museum Camera Club members took to their lenses and went into the community to document volunteerism and giving. Berkshire Magazine editor Anastasia Stanmeyer, with the help of Llana Toscanini, judges the images and here are the top photos (some appeared in the print addition of the magazine.)
1st Place Advanced. Monochrome Prints. Baxter's Good Deed. By Hope Young (Appeared in print in Berkshire Magazine in color.)
1st Place Advanced (Tied). Library Booksale Volunteers #1. By Bea DaSilva
1st Place Regular. Helping hands. By Lynne O'Connell
1st Place Regular. Feeding the Hungry. By Lynne O'Connell.
2nd Place Regular. Church Ladies Fun. By Jeanne Driscoll
2nd Place Regular Monochrome Prints. Sonsini Shelter Volunteer Dog Center. By Donna Hitchcock
2nd Place Advanced. Animal Shelter - Lost Cat - Randy. By John Mathys Sonsini
3rd Place Advanced. Lee Volunteer Fire Training. By Dave Simmons. (Appeared in print in Berkshire Magazine.)
Joey to the Rescue by Rick Huntington (Appeared in print in Berkshire Magazine.)
3rd Place Monochrome Prints. Walk a Mile #1. Michael Bufis.jpg