Photo Gallery l Benefit Concert for Berkshire County ARC


PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire County Arc has received $56,000 in donations and grants that will help dozens of area families have more time off from caring for a developmentally disabled family member.

BC Arc's recently completed inaugural annual fund campaign has allowed the nonprofit to operate its Respite House on Wealthy Avenue five days a week. The ranch-style, handicap-accessible home provides 24-hour care for those ages three to 80 while their full-time caregivers -- usually parents -- spend time tending to family emergencies, do extra shopping or simply looking for alone-time.

Due to government cutbacks, the 35-year-old Respite House program had been reduced from seven to four days of availability at a time when caregivers needed it more often, according to BC Arc Associate Executive Director Paul Gavrity.

"Some may have used [Respite House] once a week, now they need additional weekends," said Gavrity. "You also have aging caregivers and they need more respite."

Annmarie and Mark McCormick are among those older parents who rely on Respite House staff to care for their son twice a month and every other weekend. For 29-year-old Matthew McCormick, the Lee couple say the facility is a home away from home for the young man with Downs Syndrome and a godsend for them.

"It gives him some independence, to be on his own, and it gives us a break," said Annmarie McCormick.

The need to boost funding for Respite \e Yoked Parish of Becket, who often perform at various local events, some of them fundraisers.

"Our church band looks to help the local community," said Joe Choon of Cross Talk prior to the concert. "This is our biggest event to date."

Choon also oversees BC Arc's Advantage Employee Network, which assists developmentally disabled adults find jobs with area businesses. He had no trouble convincing the Becket church band to help out with Sunday's concert that had a free-will offering during intermission.

"[BC Arc] is a worthwhile organization," said the band's musical director, Bill Mul-
holland. "We've also held a fundraiser for the Cummington church and the Becket Food Pantry." Mulholland was referring to the West Cummington Congregational Church des-
troyed by fire four years ago, which was later rebuilt.

BC Arc officials were appreciative of the benefit concert, just as Respite House families are grateful for the only such facility in the region.

Terry Clark of Lee says her son Jon, 42, looks forward to going as its akin to a sleepover with friends.

"It's doubly important for Jon as he gets to spend time with his peers and the staff will take them to a movie," she said. "They have a real good time."

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