NORTH ADAMS — For Joseph McGovern, working with youth and serving communities means following in the footsteps of those leading the way.
"I think it all goes back to my parents," McGovern said this week. "It's the way I was raised. My parents owned a drum and bugle corps (Citation Drum and Bugle Corps) and there were always kids at the house. My dad spent 30 years working part-time at the Boys and Girls Club in Pittsfield and I was a 'club kid.' And one of the things at the Boys and Girls Club is leadership."
McGovern will step away from a six-year tenure on June 10 as executive director of Northern Berkshire United Way to take the job as executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Harford County in Aberdeen, Md.
His parents, Williams and Carol McGovern, of Pittsfield, always lent a hand when a child needed some help, McGovern said. In many ways, Berkshire residents act similarly.
"I am going to miss this place and I think I am going to bring a lot of North County with me," he said. "This is a special community. I know people always say that about the place they are from but it's a struggle up here and to see how people help each other is special."
The Northern Berkshire United Way has 20 member agencies, including the Adams-based Youth Center, the Berkshire County Kids Place and Violence Prevention Center of Pittsfield, the city-based Community Legal Aid and Northern Berkshire Community Action. It provides an assortment of services to members including program and financial planning as well as well as serving as a member of various member agency hiring committees.
McGovern's leadership has been invaluable, said Amy Giroux, president of Northern Berkshire United Way.
"Joe has made such great inroads with our agencies," she said. "He's left us in a good position to continue our work. Under his leadership we have strengthened our financial position and improved the agency board relationships. He's left us with strategies to be viable partners with our agencies."
During fiscal 2016, the Northern Berkshire United Way provided over $400,000 to member agencies as well as management services, McGovern and Giroux said. They said the agency offers some individual help, such as fuel assistance, through a small community needs and special grants initiative.
The paid staff is very small, McGovern said.
"The strength is our volunteers," he said. "The North County volunteers are special."
Giroux said Northern Berkshire United Way board members are set to meet on Thursday and will discuss how best to go forward after McGovern leaves the agency.
"It's bittersweet that we are losing him, but this is such a great opportunity for him," Giroux said, noting McGovern's community service away from work, such as youth sports team coaching. "We are not only losing an executive director but a community resource as well."
McGovern said he worked at the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires in Pittsfield while he attended the Berkshire Community College and later spent a decade as the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield. His time with the United Way provided another dimension to his experience, he said.
"I know there will be challenges," he said of the new job. "One thing that the new place wants is to improve communication between the locations. I am thinking about maybe doing a 'huddle,' which is something we did here."
A "huddle" involves people from various groups and sites setting aside some time on a weekly basis to chat with each other, he said.
"I will miss everyone up here," McGovern said. "But this is a great opportunity for me and my family. The club has always been in my heart and I love working with kids. That's my original love."
"I think that [McGovern] has made a lot of lasting friendships," Giroux said. "We are fortunate that he came into our lives six years ago. We wish him the very best."
To learn more ...
For information about the Northern Berkshire United Way, visit www.nbunitedway.org or call 413-663-9062.