For Pittsfield resident Cindy Shogry-Raimer, the season of Lent isn't all about giving up something; it's also about pitching in for the community.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of her "Lenten Labor of Love" project, an effort to collect and distribute care packages to the children, women and men receiving support through area shelters.
"Through generous donations of time, products and money from friends, family, co-workers, running buddies and even strangers that have become my friends, I was able to create 261 health and hygiene care packages," she writes. "The timing of this project is key because the shelters get tons of assistance around the November and December holidays but by March and April the assistance has dropped off but the needs of the people still remain high."
Throughout the month of March, Shogry-Raimer — who by day is the vice president and director of community development for Greylock Federal Credit Union — invited people to attend "build parties" to help sort donated toiletries and full-size personal care items, like shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste. She posted a list of needed items to her Facebook page and had dozens of people respond.
"We set a record at the first build party with 30 volunteers working the assembly lines, shopping for missing items to complete the packages and also a crew to make bows for the girls' and ladies' bags," said Shogry-Raimer, noting that 191 bags were created during that first build party. The remaining 70 bags were finished two weeks later with a team of eight volunteers.
Shogry-Raimer and her friends and family members this month have delivered packages to the following nonprofit beneficiaries: Louison House in North Adams; Barton's Crossing and the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield; and Construct Inc. in Great Barrington.
Shogry-Raimer said, noting the power of her word-of-mouth effort, "Making more people aware of this has been wonderful, since I get more assistance which means more packages for those that need it the most."
SHOP FOR SCHOLARS
The Berkshire Women of Color Giving Circle has partnered with the retail store, Five Below, at Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield, to help raise funds for The Rosemary Durant and Mabel Hamilton Community Service Scholarship.
This scholarship which will recognize a student of color with exceptional scholastic achievement who is also taking the time out to give back to their community. For store visitors who shop through Saturday and share their promotion form, the Women of Color Giving Circle will receive 10 percent of the sale. To get the flier, visit the group on Facebook or go to their event at https://goo.gl/MLKsER.
FIRST DIRECTOR, NOW DOCTOR
Julianne Mamana Boyd, founder of Barrington Stage Company, has been named as an honorary doctoral degree recipient at Arcadia University.
The Greater Philadelphia-based university will present the degree during commencement weekend of May 18-19. Her co-recipient is Samuel Cameron, mental health manager with the American Red Cross and professor emeritus at Arcadia.
Boyd, a 1966 graduate of the institution (then known as Beaver College) will address students at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 19.
After earning from the school a bachelor of arts degree in theater arts and English, Boyd went on to direct Mississippi's first racially integrated play, "The Crucible," in 1968, and earned accolades in 1978 for conceptualizing and directing the Tony Award-nominated revue, "Eubie!," based on the music of Eubie Blake.
She was the recipient of Beaver College's Golden Disc award in 1981 for her focus on social and community issues through theater. She also holds a master of arts degree from Adelphi University and doctor of philosophy degree from the City University of New York.
In 1995, she opened Barrington Stage Company, producing high quality theater in the heart of the Berkshires ever since.
KOLBERT WINS AGAIN
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Berkshire resident Elizabeth Kolbert recently earned the $25,000 Blake-Dodd Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is presented triennially to a nonfiction writer.
The prize is named for Anna Bowman Blake Dodd, a writer of travel essays and French history, "who left the academy the residue of her estate when she died in Paris in 1929."
The academy's 250 members propose candidates, and a rotating committee of writers selects winners. This year's award committee members were John Guare (chairman), Thomas McGuane, Anne Tyler, Rosanna Warren and Joy Williams.
Work by the winners will be featured in the 2017 Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, which will be on view in the Academy's galleries on Audubon Terrace in New York City, from May 18 to June 11.
Kolbert, the Class of 1946 Environmental Fellow-in-Residence at Williams College, is best known for her work, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," which won a the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2015.
She is a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and the author of "Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change."
County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.