Kristine Hazzard | Live United: Donations benefit community in myriad ways

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It's October. Fall is here, which means Berkshire United Way's campaign season is in full swing.

Our team is hard at work advocating for our efforts to build our community, and raise the money we need to make sure that our work touches as many Berkshire County lives as possible.

Last year, one measure of our impact was 23,651 people touched by one of our funded programs, coalitions or services. Our goal in the coming year is to invest in strategies that will increase those numbers by inspiring new donors to give and current donors to consider giving more.

Why should you give? One of our newer donors, Becky Ringer, recently shared the following story about how giving to Berkshire United Way changed her life.

Becky was 29 with two kids, a husband, and a full-time job. She was about to graduate from Berkshire Community College when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Becky tried her best to support her mom during this difficult time, but she wasn't quite sure what to do. One thing she did know was that her mom had always wished that one of her daughters would go to Smith College. Becky applied. Guess what? She was accepted.

At the time, Becky was driving a 13-year-old car that she and her mom knew wouldn't survive the commute from Pittsfield to Northampton. So they set out on a search for a new car, together.

The search proved fruitless; they just couldn't find a car that Becky could afford. The last day of their search, just before school started, they drove by a sign, "You can win this car!"

Becky's mom looked at her and said, "I am going to win that car and I am going to give it to you!" They laughed and Becky began her first semester at Smith driving over Route 9 every day in her old, rusty, rattling car.

One semester and three major car repairs later Becky was ready to throw in the towel. As she told her husband that she was going to quit, the phone rang. It was her mother, "I won the car!" Becky knew at that moment everything was going to be alright.

Becky's mom gave her the car and Becky completed her degree at Smith. She is now paying it forward as the education and training manager for Pittsfield Community Connection, a local program providing mentoring services for youth. Becky understands firsthand how Berkshire United Way is building our community and has vowed, "to always be a donor."

Doug McNally, retired principal of Taconic High School shares Becky's passion for supporting Berkshire United Way.

"As a long time educator, I have personally seen the impact of the work that Berkshire United Way has been doing over the years," he said. "Our high schools have seen a significant reduction in drug and alcohol abuse by students and the teen birth rate has been cut in half.

"Support for quality early education has led to many more children prepared to enter kindergarten ready to succeed, and stronger, stable families provide the support children need to prosper in school and life," he said. "For these reasons I have always been a strong supporter of Berkshire United Way."

Leadership donor Rob Coco, vice president of agency finance, individual markets, at Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, gives for a number of reasons.

He gives "because the fortunes of our community rise and fall with the individuals in our community." He gives "because Berkshire United Way has a proven track record of assessing a vast landscape of needs and bringing resources to bear on systemic issues and improving lives." He gives "because I feel like a small part of a solution."

Together, we can make a difference.

Becky, Doug and Rob give to Berkshire United Way, because they believe in building our community. I know you do too, so please consider joining our family of donors.

You can give online via our website, through payroll deduction if your employer has a workplace campaign, set up payment through your financial institution or call us, we will be happy to take your pledge and bill you.

Kristine Hazzard is president and CEO of Berkshire United Way, berkshireunitedway.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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