ADAMS — Kathy Keeser has been named executive director of the Family Life Support Center.
"I'm excited," she said on Wednesday. "it is a little unusual to start a job in the middle of a fire, water damage and moving people into a temporary shelter but I am very happy about this opportunity."
Keeser takes the reins from interim Director Alan Bashevkin, who was appointed to the job in June. Bashevkin stepped in after former support center Executive Director Lindsey Errichetto left the job to accept a position as executive director of the Bennington, Vt. Sunrise Family Resource Center.
Keeser is jumping right in to the role. While speaking to the Eagle for this interview, she was transferring meat that will be used at Louison House into a freezer at her home in Florida..
"We need a place to store it," she said.
A June 26 fire at the 395 Old Columbia St. shelter left the site saturated with water, causing residents to relocate into area motel rooms. On Wednesday, residents moved into a temporary shelter at the Flood House in North Adams.
Needs for the Louison House are great, Keeser said. Once renovations there are completed, the three-story building will again be used as a homeless shelter.
"Make this more about what we need at Louison House and less about a new job for me," she said.
An intense project removing things from Louison House is set to begin on Thursday. Volunteers with trucks are needed to help, Keeser said. Keeser said a campaign currently called "Rebuilding Hope At Louison House" is being launched by Berkshire Family and Individual Resources Director of Marketing Jennifer Civello.
"We can get the word out now about some of the things we will need," said Keeser. "We need a couple decent desks, some file cabinets, and we could use a couple desktop computers. We need something within a couple years old in working condition. We need to keep the office open."
Despite the tumult of the past three weeks, the center is the primary Northern Berkshire resource for those facing homelessness and the office must be able to handle phone calls and inquiries about services, she said.
Additional needs are neutral colored curtains, a few rugs, pots and pans, large skillets, and a television in working order.
"One of the things we want to do is something like an adopt-a-room type of thing, where people could help pick colors and then donate the paint," she said. "There will be more details about what we need as things move forward. For instance, right now we are not looking for clothing donations because we don't have a good place to put the clothes."
Keeser was working as a program coordinator at the Mohawk Forest apartment complex as part of the Caleb Group. The group bought the complex in 1999. She has twice served on the Family Life Support Center Board of Directors. Keeser spent many years as the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition program director.
"There's a really good staff here and a really good board of directors," Keeser said. "Our community has always been strong and giving. I am looking forward to moving forward and helping people."
Community members wishing to donate items, volunteer to help with renovations or those with facing homelessness can call the center at 413-663-6323.