Although it is a small rural town, New Marlborough is hardly the sticks when it comes to education and culture, said Anne Sommers.

A member of the New Marlborough Cultural Council, part of the Massachusetts Cultural Council umbrella, Sommers said the town cultural council recently awarded 36 grants, totaling $16,000, designed to enrich local education, support arts organizations, and preserve New Marlborough’s history.

"The number and variety of grant requests our Cultural Council received made it evident that residents of New Marlborough and our neighboring towns can count on having access to an amazing range of artistic, literary, musical and theatrical programs and performances," said council Chairwoman Michele Shalaby.

Nearly 74 percent of the grant funding was made possible by citizen donations, while 26 percent came from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The town of New Marlborough’s $1,000 allocation to the council for fundraising was instrumental in enabling the council to raise its share of the grant funds, Shalaby said.

Almost half of the funding -- 48 percent -- will allow schools and organizations serving New Marlborough students to expand music programs, offer field trips, supplement history lessons, and sponsor programs that promote cultural diversity.

Flying Cloud Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit that offers programs integrating arts, math and science studies, received grants for in-school, after-school, and summer programs.

"We’re fortunate that we’re able to offer our students a solid academic and cultural curriculum," said David Hastings, superintendent of Southern Berkshire Regional School District. "The grants we receive from the Cultural Council allow us to further raise the bar in our classrooms, art studios, and concert halls. The teachers who developed the grant proposals are to be commended."

About 31 percent of council’s available funding went to art and music organizations in New Marlborough and other Southern Berkshire towns that draw town residents. In addition to the Village Association, grants went to groups such as the Berkshire Fringe Festival, Women Writers Festival, the children’s chorus, and the Music in the Round concert series.

"The Cultural Council and the Village Association have had a mutually supportive and successful relationship for many years. Without cultural council support our series would be very limited," said New Marlborough Village Association President Louise Yohalem.

Programs related to preserving New Marlborough’s history and the environment and supporting educational programs offered by the town’s library received 19 percent of the council’s grant funding.

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It’s easy to become disillusioned about human nature, given all the conflict, violent and verbal, that surrounds us, even in the idyllic Berkshires.

Along comes a cheerful tale, courtesy of James and Kim Taylor, recently returned from a ski vacation in Stowe, Vt., with their 12-year-old twins, Rufus and Henry.

The trip got off to a less than auspicious start, Kim Taylor told County Fare, as they departed from their Lenox vicinity home in two cars with their friend, Nikki Adolphson of Pittsfield. As skiers know, the gear takes up lots of space, especially for a group of five, so Kim’s "had them forever" Heaven’s Gate Atomic skis were loaded into the roof box atop Adolphson’s car.

Parking at a nearby supermarket for some essentials, she was dismayed to discover that the roof box had popped open, and that her friend Kim’s skis had vanished. Despite a fierce snowstorm, she tracked back along the Route 7 & 20 corridor and the Taylors’ driveway with a flashlight. No skis. Although she was too abashed to tell Kim right away, Adophson did notify the Lenox police.

Upon arriving in Stowe, as Kim related, "I was pretty bummed but, just a pair of skis, I told myself." Figuring the skis had been demolished by a plow along the highway, JT told his wife, "You can kiss those skis good-bye."

But there was a happy ending, as a neighbor, Bo Maturevich of Lenox, went out to buy some milk during the storm, discovered the skis on a side street off Route 7, and turned them in to the police. 

For Bo and his wife, Joan, it was a "doing the right thing" example for their visiting 9-year-old grandson, Lucas. The family turned the skis over to Police Officer Michael Smith when, en route to the police station, they spotted his cruiser outside O’Brien’s Market. The Taylor family’s close friends, David and Joanne Lane, were notified and passed on the good news.

The Maturevichs were rewarded with tickets to JT’s Tanglewood concert on July 4 -- "they are the loveliest people," said Kim, adding it all goes to show that Good Samaritans remain in our midst, even in the most unlikely circumstances.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.