BFAIR's Gelinas and Godfrey: Our people have a lot to offer


NORTH ADAMS — For Jason Godfrey, working with those who face challenges almost seemed like a calling.

"Growing up, I liked helping people," he told The Eagle. "I was kind of that guy who was always going around and helping people, helping the kid who was on crutches."

So he is well-suited for his new role as director of day habilitation for Berkshire Family and Individual Resources. His promotion was announced last week; he previously served as the agency's assistant director of employment services.

The day habilitation program operates from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday from September to June.

Godfrey and Theresa Gelinas, who was recently named director of program operations for day services, are gearing up for the start of a new session. Gelinas is the former day habilitation director and her promotion was announced by BFAIR about a month ago.

Day programs include speech and physical therapy, and programs focused on art or skills such as cooking. The goal is to improve independence and enhance the control over one's life, Godfrey said.

"All these things are focused on things that help with functioning in one's own home and community," he said.

BFAIR is dedicated to meeting the needs of those with a range of disabilities. A child and adolescents program offers services within Northern Berkshire and Southern Vermont public schools to children diagnosed with autism. A separate program offers programs and services to people challenged by acquired brain injuries.

Bringing people into the community and encouraging interaction as well as allowing them to showcase their abilities through employment and volunteer efforts is a key component to the BFAIR approach, Godfrey said.

"We want to turn things that may be seen as negatives into a positive light," he said. "It's about feeling more productive, more part of society, more part of the world. A lot of people view our people as a hindrance, but they have a lot to offer."

People who participated with the previous arts program displayed their artwork at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Museum during July. Some of the works were for sale, and some of the art was sold, Gelinas said.

Additionally, some of the 32 folks attending the 771 Church St. day habilitation program spend three hours on Tuesdays volunteering at the city's Union Street-based Visitors Center. Those who attend a similar program at a BFAIR facility on Roberts Drive volunteer on Wednesdays. Another person who participates with the program works part-time at the YMCA as a greeter. Still other participants associated with the agency's Community Based Day Services program deliver meals to the city-based Mary Spitzer Senior Center

"Another big part of these day programs is the socialization," Gelinas said. "People are with a peer group and with staff. There's a lot of support."

Godfrey said he hopes to add insights and possibly opportunities to the day program. A drumming program will be continued and employment programs involving the city have been well received, he said.

"This city is great and [Mayor Richard J. Alcombright] is very involved," Godfrey said. "If you propose an idea, they are in."

BFAIR clients operate a snack bar named "Snack Attack" at Windsor Lake for the summer season. This marks the first year of the endeavor and Godfrey said things are going well.

A planned Ashuwillticook Rail Trail bicycle path expansion is expected to pass very close to the agency's headquarters and that could open new outdoor opportunities, Godfrey said.

"I would love to get some bikes that our folks could use and implement some kind of a program with that."

Issues that are arising include an aging population of folks who are developmentally disabled and now must endure frail bodies or in some cases, dementia. The needs are ever-changing and programs must adjust and evolve to meet those needs, Gelinas and Godfrey said.

Neither see themselves working anywhere other than BFAIR, they said.

"We love what we do," Gelinas said. "I love every day."

"That's the nice thing, you can go home and feel good about what you've done that day," Godfrey said.


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