County Fare | Black Excellence Awards for 2 Berkshire activists


Pittsfield residents Ty Allan Jackson and Shirley Edgerton were honored at the Statehouse on Monday with the 2019 Black Excellence on the Hill Award.

The award is presented by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus to local leaders, nominated by their state legislators, for their work in civic engagement, education, business and other notable fields.

Jackson, an author, motivational speaker, and founder of Big Head Books LLC, a literacy organization that seeks to introduce children to the joys of reading, was nominated by state Sen. Adam G. Hinds.

Jackson also co-founded the Danny Dollar Academy, a financial literacy program for Grades 3 through 5, and the Read Or Else movement, a program created to shine a light on illiteracy and how it impacts the country.

"Ty has been a true leader in ensuring kids of color get to see themselves in children's books," Hinds said in a prepared release. "His work has also been used to promote financial literacy in schools nationwide."

Nominated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Edgerton is founder and director of Rites of Passage and Empowerment Program, director of Youth Alive, cultural proficiency coach for the Pittsfield Public Schools, founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle, and co-founder of Lift Ev'ry Voice: Celebrating African-American Culture and Heritage.

"Shirley is the embodiment of educator and community leader. She has worked for decades with the youth of our community bringing out the very best of them and launching them into adulthood with confidence, pride and sense of responsibility," Farley-Bouvier said. "Many of the youth she once mentored are now rising community leaders in their own right."

Footloose in Hinsdale

Kittredge Elementary School had all the right moves last week to help Boston Children's Hospital outshine a West Coast counterpart.

The students and staff joined Boston Children's touchdown dance video challenge against Children's Hospital Los Angeles leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. The faceoff was to show which hospital video displayed the most enthusiasm for their home team, while helping raise thousands of dollars to research cures at both medical facilities.

Prior to the New England Patriots' 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Kittredge physical education teacher Jennifer Brandi tweeted on Friday a 56-second video showing the school's adults and kids doing their own touchdown dances in the hallways, followed by some impressive individual student end zone-type celebrations.

Brandi orchestrated the schoolwide event after coming across Boston Children's video posted on its website Jan. 28. Brandi's sister, Jessica Brandi, also happens to be the hospital's events coordinator.

"I have family ties there and it looked like fun," she told County Fare. "I thought, if we do this, hopefully it will be retweeted."

Boston Children's did just that, to the delight of the entire school.

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The 15 minutes of fame aside, Brandi said the dance-off was another way to show the youngsters, teachers and administrators exercise comes in many forms other than playing organized sports.

"We have a whole outdoor phys ed unit of games kids can play in their neighborhood," Brandi said.

She also teaches at Becket-Washington and Craneville elementary schools in the Central Berkshire Regional School District.

Currently this challenge has raised over $15,000 for both hospitals; Kittredge Elementary School raised $163 for Boston Children's Hospital in the span of two days.

To view the Kittredge video, visit

Safe kids kits

The Kiwanis Club of Northampton has partnered with It Takes a Village, a nonprofit organization based in Cummington, to distribute "Safe Kids Kits" to Hilltown families in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties.

The kits, which were assembled by the Northampton High School Key Club, include bath thermometers, electrical outlet covers, and other first aid supplies.

"We wanted to get these kits into the hands of families," said Maggie Wynne, Kiwanis Club chapter president. "Partnering with It Takes a Village is such a natural fit."

It Takes a Village provides free postpartum support to families in Western Mass., including a Home Visit Program for families living in the rural Hilltowns. It also runs a donation center, The Village Closet, in Cummington, and hosts parents' groups and workshops around the Hilltowns. Its mission is to revive the proverbial village, where community members take care of new families, and where everyone is responsible for the well-being of children.

The kits will be distributed to families in the Home Visit Program, which matches any family living in one of the 29 Hilltowns with a volunteer who visits the family once a week for up to 12 weeks. The volunteer helps with household tasks like dishes and laundry, assists in child care, and acts as a connection to the outside world.

The program serves about 45 families annually, about half of whom identify as low- or very-low income.

For information about volunteering with It Takes a Village, signing up for the Home Visit Program, or any of It Takes a Village's other programs, visit

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.


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