Berkshire Immigrant Center aims to raise $10K, honor local immigrants

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PITTSFIELD — With more than 10,000 immigrants in the community it serves, the Berkshire Immigrant Center plans to kick off National Immigrant Heritage Month in June by honoring local immigrants and launching a $10,000 fundraising campaign for the organization.

The group has raised more than $70,000 for a COVID-19 relief fund since March 20, which has been used to help those impacted the most by the pandemic by paying for basic needs, including rent and utilities.

"As soon as we realized the scope of the crisis, we reached out to two of our most generous supporters, knowing they are deeply committed to helping immigrants," said development coordinator Sheryl Lechner. "We received $10,000 in grants from the Neighbor 2 Neighbor Fund at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and a $25,000 grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund, put together by Berkshire United Way, BTCF and the Williamstown Community Chest."

While all of the money raised for the relief fund has been used to help community members throughout the pandemic, BIC is asking for donations so it can continue to serve the local immigrant community for years to come.

"After focusing for two months on emergency aid, we are now asking the community to help erase the shortfall that the center will experience because of postponing our second annual One World Concert," Lechner said. "We know that those among our supporters who are able to help will make sure that BIC stays strong, so we can continue to serve the Berkshire immigrant community."

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BIC has helped immigrants become legal citizens of the United States, worked to reunite families and obtain work authorizations, along with visas and green cards. It also provides free citizenship exam preparation classes and monthly clinics with an attorney on nonimmigration issues.

"We know we need to keep helping vulnerable clients, but we are also playing the long game," Lechner said. "The pandemic has shined a bright light on how local immigrants fill critical labor gaps in health care, senior care, hospitality, agriculture and food service. Immigrant Heritage Month is arriving at the perfect time: just as the pandemic has driven home the point that immigrants are truly essential workers."

To learn more about the BIC, or to donate, visit berkshireic.org or at Berkshire Immigrant Center on Facebook. Donations by check should be made out to Berkshire Immigrant Center and mailed to the center, located at 67 East Street in Pittsfield.

"During Immigrant Heritage Month we proudly honor the many ways immigrants make the Berkshires a better place," said Michelle Lopez, the center's executive director, in a press release. "This year we are especially grateful for the hundreds of foreign-born doctors, medical technicians, nurses and staff who are caring for people at Berkshire Medical Center, Fairview Hospital, and nursing homes, and for local immigrants who are essential workers at our grocery stores, restaurants and farms."

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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