Kristine Hazzard: Gift of advocacy can help fill post-Sabic void


PITTSFIELD >> More than any other community I've been a part of, Berkshire County's willingness to unite and face head on the toughest of situations is astounding and inspiring. It happened when GE left, and we'll see it happen again after the departure of Sabic.

The impact that the company's leaving will have on families can't be understated, and the ripple effect will be a heartbreaking loss for the region as a whole. Communities can't thrive if one link in the chain is broken, unless they rally to repair it.

Sabic employees and the corporation have been generous donors to Berkshire United Way, helping to bring our work to thousands across Berkshire County. Sabic employees go far beyond contributing to Berkshire United Way: they serve on boards of local nonprofits, including Berkshire United Way, volunteer in the community, and provide additional financial support to many schools and organizations.

Less cash, more need

With the impending loss of jobs, we're faced with a conundrum: more families will need assistance but less money will be available to fund the services needed. The good news is that there's a way to do your part to ensure the community continues its upward rise and that all of our great coalitions and funded partners continue to get the support that they need.

Most people know that we raise money in order to support our ongoing efforts to implement long-lasting, sustainable change in Berkshire County by focusing on early childhood literacy, positive youth development, and financial stability for families.

While money is an important ingredient in what we do, it's certainly not the only one. In fact, one of the biggest non-financial contributions community members can make is to simply advocate for the issues impacting Berkshire County. In a time of uncertainty — like now — advocacy is essential.

One of the most valuable things you can do to support Berkshire United Way — or any organization, coalition, or movement that you believe in — is to share your passion about it. Getting your friends and loved ones to understand what it is that we and other organizations do — and why you're involved — gets them invested and increases our impact in the long run.

We can speak at events and present at workplaces, but that only goes so far. It is much more effective to hear about an organization firsthand from a close friend. This is why we encourage all of our donors and volunteers to talk openly and proudly about the reasons they believe in Berkshire United Way.

Easy, and effective

This could be sharing Facebook posts, writing letters to the editor, writing senators and congressmen, or participating in the many events and coalitions we sponsor throughout the year. All are great and easy ways to advocate for the causes we believe in, which in turn is going to bat for our community as well.

Coalitions like Pittsfield Promise and Chapter One are devoted to improving early childhood literacy across the county. It's proven that third grade marks the turning point in a child's development — where they progress from learning to read to reading to learn. This fundamental shift will impact the rest of their school career, so it's imperative that they are able to read at grade level.

That's why we're so involved in advocating for pre-natal to kindergarten development through services such as early intervention, parent cafes, home visiting and quality early education and care. By bringing awareness of critical community needs to those who believe in them, we can in turn engage more volunteers, give tools to more advocates, and raise more money to maximize impact.

In these unsettling times I will not ask donors to dig deeper, but if we all make the commitment to advocate for our community – to show the value and importance of the work that we do in times like these – we'll be able to continue supporting all of the great initiatives and partners that are helping the Berkshires thrive.

Remember, you too can give, advocate or volunteer. Please visit for more information.

Kristine Hazzard is president and CEO of Berkshire United Way,


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