Monday July 2, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A fledgling faith-based organization is being praised for helping to improve the quality of life in the city's Morningside neighborhood.

A year after the Berkshire Dream Center opened on Cherry Street, area residents say the grassroots nonprofit has been instrumental in providing material as well as spiritual support to those in need who are living on selected streets.

"They have become a community cornerstone in a short time," said Peter White of nearby Plunkett Street. "I can't imagine them not being here."

The former city councilor was among nearly 100 people who attended the center's first anniversary celebration and open house on Sunday afternoon. The event followed the regularly scheduled church service open to all faiths, according to the Rev. Katelynn Chapman, the privately funded organization's executive director.

The center provides spiritual guidance, as well as food, clothing and furniture -- usually donated from within Morningside. They also connect residents to social service programs.

Through the center's signature Adopt-a-Block program, volunteers twice a month pick up trash tossed on the streets and make house calls to individuals and families seeking comfort and counseling.

"The streets used to be riddled with garbage, now they are clean and in good shape for the kids," said Tom Hoffman of Curtis Street.


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Landlord Charlie Ostroskey has noticed his tenants taking more pride how their streets look.

"My people will now come out and yell at others to pick up their trash," said Ostroskey, owner of 10 apartment buildings in the Cherry Street vicinity.

While the center opened July 1, 2011, its mission began three years ago with the Adopt-a-Block program. Chapman was among a small group of volunteers who started walking Cherry, Second and Lincoln streets, black trash bags in hand, collecting mounds of refuse strewn about.

Impressed with their effort, Ostroskey refurbished his mostly vacant residential rental at 41 Cherry St. and donated the space for the center.

Once a home base was established, the group was able to grow from five volunteers and three adopted streets, to 44 volunteers and eight adopted streets in the Morningside area. Chapman said Pleasant, Burbank, Spring, Willow, Ma ple and Winter streets were added to the program.

"Our goal is to eventually cover every street in the city," she said.

In addition, the Berkshire Dream Center last fall expanded into North Adams, adopting Chase Avenue and River Street. In April, a satellite center was established by partnering with the Coty Center at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church.

Volunteers say the expansion is catching on with North Adams residents.

"The people are starting to know when we're coming," said Francine Klein of Williamstown.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.