Last year, instead of "giving up" something for Lent, Cindy Shogry-Raimer wanted to give back, so she created the "Lenten Labor of Love Project," and made 25 care packages consisting of health and hygiene products for the male residents at Barton's Crossing, a homeless shelter in Pittsfield operated by Berkshire Community Action Council.

This year, she's been able to take her mission to a whole new level, using Facebook to reach out to more human services programs -- Elizabeth Freeman Center, Barton's Crossing, Berkshire Co-Act and its Pearl Street Day Center. Shogry-Raimer and her friends have spent the last few months soliciting monetary and product donations from "friends, family, coworkers and strangers who wanted to make a difference in someone's life," she said.

Shogry-Raimer, who also serves as vice president of operational risk management for Greylock Federal Credit Union said she held "build parties" at Greylock Federal Credit Union's Operation Center at Allendale [Shopping Center]. This Friday and Saturday, the project will deliver 165 individual care packages for men, women and children to the above mentioned shelters. The organizations will also deliver supplies like dish washing liquid, sponges, notebooks, etc.

"I always wanted to make a difference and save the world but I wanted to start in my own community," Shogry-Raimer said. She said next year she hopes to garner interest and support from area businesses to expand the outreach. Learn more at: http://on.fb.


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As part of an enhanced performing arts program, Lenox Public Schools staged its first districtwide band concert earlier this month at the middle and high school's Duffin Theater.

Nearly 200 audience members attended the April 7 event. Band director Jonathan Cade noted the first-time participation of the Morris Elementary School fifth-grade band, joining the middle school's sixth- and seventh-grade concert band, a newly formed jazz ensemble and the high school concert band -- 120 students in all.

Since Ralph Petillo took on directing the high school drama program, Cade has been able to have more time to devote to the music department at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School.

"I think this is the largest group I've ever conducted," said Cade, a 12-year veteran of school's music department. "It's definitely the first time I've conducted three timpani players."

Cade said the district used "every inch of space and nearly every piece of musical equipment the district currently owns" to pull off the production. He credited music teacher Marjorie Pollard for preparing the elementary-school participants for their districtwide concert debut.

"Every student played a major part in this concert," said school Principal Michael Knybel, "it speaks to the statement we are all part of a whole."

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