Berkshire County Arc reorganizes and expands leadership roles

Singer 

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County Arc has received a five-year, $1 million state contract that will allow the agency to continue to support local families who have members with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The funding from the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services is a renewal of an earlier year contract that BCArc had received for similar services, according to the agency's president and CEO Kenneth Singer.

The new funding will allow BCArc to continue to support more than 300 families in both Central and Southern Berkshire through trainings, two support centers, networking activities and respite services, and helping them access the system of services that are available.

"We originally got the contract in 2009," said Sonja Stewart, BCArc's director of family support and advocacy. "It came up and we reapplied and we got it a second time, which is really exciting."

The new funding will help support BCArc's family support center at 46 Elm St. in Pittsfield. The center helps families identify and navigate local, state and federal resources, including financial options.

"It's a hub for all our families to come to and get resources," Stewart said. "If a family walked in off the street with any need, whether they needed heating assistance, food stamps, getting connected to health insurance, we would be there to help them do that.

"When you enter this world it can be really overwhelming," she said. "There's an alphabet soup of acronyms. You don't know what you don't know. We're just a place where they can streamline all this and say here are some of your options."

Other services the funding will help provide include educational events and trainings, and networking opportunities for caregivers and individuals. They include support groups, recreational events, including BCArc's annual Buddy Walk, workshops, an after school program, spring break camp and more.

"We have 11 years of relationships so if we didn't get this it would be pretty hard for us to call all those families and say, "You know what, we've been here for you all these years but unfortunately we don't have the funding to continue," Stewart said. "This helps us insure for the next decade we can foresee giving those families that robust wrap around support."

“We appreciate the state once again recognizing the value BCArc brings to families of the Berkshires,” Singer said. “For 66 years we have been fortunate to be doing this work in an area where the disability community is embraced and integrated.”

“You can be sure that we will once again provide far more than the contract requires,” said Maryann Hyatt, chief operating officer, who oversees the program. “Our rich relationships with the families makes the work incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing to support every one of them.”

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-2755.