Photo Gallery | First 'Chamber Night' of 2016
PITTSFIELD — A Williamstown woman listening to her voicemail Wednesday night heard the sound of 200 people yelling congratulations.
Next came the explanation.
"Kathy Quinn, employee of Berkshire Children and Families, donor to Berkshire United Way: You've won a brand new 2015 Ford Fiesta provided by Johnson Dealerships," said John Bissell, Greylock Federal Credit Union president and CEO.
Moments before, Quinn's name was drawn from a raffle basket containing 8,000 entries, all containing names of Berkshire United Way donors.
Quinn did not attend the drawing at Greylock Insurance Agency on Wednesday, so Bissell immediately hopped on the phone.
No answer. After the tone, Bissell hoisted the phone and let everyone's well wishes ring out. Then he got to explaining.
"I first let her know that it wasn't a crank call; that that was the sound of 200 people congratulating her and she just won a car," Bissell said.
Quinn, 62, later returned a call to The Eagle, saying, "I remember doing this last year and thinking, 'Boy, I really want to win that car. It could really help our family.' "
"This year it was our turn," Quinn said, who said her large family plans to share the vehicle. "It told them, 'You picked the right ticket, because we already know exactly how we plan to use it.' "
Wednesday marked the 16th time Johnson Dealerships had donated a new car — or $10,000 cash — to the raffle in order to boost donations to United Way.
Berkshire United Way President and CEO Kristine Hazzard said the total donation probably topped $200,000.
"We thought it was going to be one year, but it caught on," Johnson Dealerships President Gary Johnson said to laughter from the audience. "We hope to continue for a while; we're committed to continue this next year."
"The odds are way against it ever happening," Hazzard said, "but I'm still a little bummed that nobody who wins the car ever seems to be in the room for it."
She added, "We are at $2.3 million [raised] so far. Our goal is $2.7 million and we have until June 30 to do it, and we're going to do it. If we get there, it will all get reinvested into our community, helping a lot of folks who aren't with us tonight and don't enjoy the same benefits we do."
Berkshire United Way offers funds to worthy quality-of-life programs in the Berkshires focussed on issues such as early literacy, teenage pregnancy — the rate has dropped 55 percent in recent years — and financial stability.
Pittsfield Promise is a noteworthy early literacy initiative funded by Berkshire United Way, while the organization also invests in income tax assistance programs to benefit the underprivileged and support financial stability.