PITTSFIELD -- When Berkshire County Kids' Place was just getting started back in the mid-1990s, the founders didn't have a lot to offer Jennifer Tierney-Stokes, whom they wanted to serve as the nonprofit's first executive director.
No job security. No full-time employees. A business budget dependent on how much grant funding she could secure.
Still, she took the job, and grew the nonprofit into an eight-person operation that last year assisted 226 children with physical and emotional needs.
"It was starting to gain attention and it was something close to my heart and something I wanted to be a part of," said Tierney-Stokes, who is now dean of students for Pittsfield Public Schools.
Tierney-Stokes will be honored, with key contributors and others, next week during a gala celebration to mark the 20-year anniversary of Berkshire County Kids' Place & Violence Prevention Center.
The gala, to be held at the Country Club of Pittsfield, will include a magic show, dinner, award ceremony and silent auction. Tickets are still available for $75.
The nonprofit was an early trailblazer in the state advocating for children and would be accredited as a Child Advocacy Center by the National Children's Alliance. The nonprofit offers a single location for multiple law enforcement agencies to come together and interview children that have been impacted by sexual and physical assault or other conditions.
Since its humble beginnings, the nonprofit has grown thanks to generous contribution from private and state funding sources.
Timothy Shugrue, a private attorney who previously worked for the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office, co-founded the nonprofit with Pittsfield Detective Joseph Collias and North Adams Detective Robert Canale.
There now are nearly a dozen locations across the state.
Shugrue knew Tierney-Stokes, a therapist at Cooley-Dickenson Hospital in Northhampton, and he saw her as the perfect fit to lead the fledgling organization.
In 1995, all he could offer her was a one-year position as executive director. The office was staffed in those early days with only one part-time employee. Tierney-Stokes accepted the position, which she held from 1995 to 2007.
Contributors Robert Smith and William Hines Sr. will be honored for their important role leading a capital campaign to pay for the nonprofit's current building.
"That early belief about the need in Berkshire County has helped countless children live more helpful lives," said Christa Collier, the current executive director.
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