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Children gather around a small marionette stage owned and operated by Carl and Susan Sprague at Ventfort Hall in Lenox for a showing Thursday of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." The play was part of Greylock Federal Credit Union's Youth Week, which encouraged children to start saving money early.

LENOX >> In timing with April being national Financial Literacy Month, Greylock Federal Credit Union wrapped its annual Youth Week celebration on Saturday with an encouraging theme for kids and teens to "Pump Up Your Savings."

Planned in tandem with the public school vacation week, the program also offered to participants "Passport to New Adventure" lanyards with free admission tickets to special events at local cultural institutions and special events, so youth and families could enjoy a local, fun holiday.

Victoria May, Greylock's assistant vice president manager of marketing promotions and partnerships, said the goal of Youth Week is, "to instill the habit of saving at a young age, offering positive encouragement, and providing financial education to young people."

Each day of the program also offers financial education materials and incentives and prizes for kids who make savings account deposits to, "help our community's youngest members to grow into financially capable adults," May said.

The Eagle caught up with May; Greylock Senior Vice President of Branch Administration Peter Mirante, and President and CEO John Bissell at Thursday's Youth Week presentation of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," which tells the story of a poor young woodcutter who dreams of being rich. The Victorian-era marionette show was performed by master puppeteer Carl Sprague in a velvet curtained parlor at the Gilded Age gem of the Berkshires, Ventfort Hall, a setting many kids said they had never been in.


Bissell said this year's Youth Week activities, which span from North Adams down to Great Barrington, intentionally included programs in Lenox, where Greylock opened a branch earlier this year.

At the door, May and Mirante gave each younger child a free copy of either "The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with Money" — which on the cover depicts two young bears trying to break into their piggy bank — or "The Berenstain Bears' Dollars and Sense," which show the same cubs with out-turned empty pockets and a concerned looking parent. Adolescents and teens received a copy of "Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids," by Gail Karlitz and Debbie Honig.

Shannon White, of Pittsfield, brought to the program her own four children and one of their friends, ages 9 to 17, and said that she appreciates the theme and messages of Youth Week each year.

"As a parent, I like it for a couple of reasons," she said. "For one, it gives you the opportunity to visit various cultural things in the Berkshires as a family. I've lived here all my life and have never been [to Ventfort Hall]. I also like the learning about money aspect. The kids have been depositing money all week to get tickets in the raffle."

Mirante said staff each day enjoy seeing the kids in the branches and also getting their entries for the "Create Your Own Currency" contest, which led to entries like "The Man Dollar," "Dog Dollar" and "Cat Money."

Other opportunities included: a day at Mass MoCA, the Norman Rockwell Museum, Berkshire Museum and Mass Audubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary; a free screening of "Minions" at the Beacon Cinema; free bowling and activities at Valley Park Lanes in North Adams and The Cove in Great Barrington; and free swimming at the Dalton CRA.

Year-round, Greylock will send bankers to classrooms to talk about financial literacy and offer online tools and materials for kids, as well as programs and information about college savings. All seventh-grade classes in Pittsfield participate in the credit-union sponsored Banzai financial literacy software-based program.

Greylock also will offer the family workshop, "Value of a Dollar: Teaching Your Children About Money," at 5:30 p.m. May 3 at Greylock Insurance Agency at the Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield, and again at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Williamstown Youth Center.

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.

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