Dawn of new ID for longstanding Berkshires nonprofit

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PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Children and Families has lasted for 130 years by evolving with the times, say members of its leadership.

And that's what the nonprofit is doing now, leaders say, as they launch a rebranding campaign. On Tuesday, the agency will change its name to 18 Degrees, a reference to the position of the sun at the first signs of daybreak.

Colleen Holmes, president and CEO of the organization, said she and other members of the team decided to shift the organization's name to one that pointed to the consumer experience. Many local organizations take the county name as part of their own, and a new name needed to stand out.

"You can't champion things trying to blend in," she said.

The agency also wanted to stand apart, namewise, from the state Department of Children and Families, as people often conflate the two. "We think it's an opportunity to reintroduce ourselves," Holmes said.

The nonprofit group provides a range of services, including early childhood education, family support and adoption services. The symbolism in the organization's new name speaks to its mission, Holmes said, and it unites its programs under one unifying theme.

"We are the place where new beginnings come to light," she said.

Name game

The new name stems from a planning process last year, when revamping the agency's brand emerged as a priority, Holmes said.

"The new day that most of us look forward to can be a little bit harder to come by," Holmes said. Though the organization's mission is to provide family services, it doesn't always serve people in family units. Leaders wanted a name broad enough to capture the whole gamut, she said.

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"The beauty of 18 Degrees is that it is a name that allows people to write their own stories on it," she said.

Plus, Holmes said, the current name was too long.

Asked if she's concerned about confusing the organization's clients, Holmes said people are ready to spread the word. She said the organization shouldn't shy away from change simply because it's scary.

"Decisions made out of fear are rarely the way to go," she said.

Erin Sullivan, the agency's community relations director, said the outreach campaign will last about two years. "It will be a long process," she said.

The confusion between BCF and DCF was problematic for the organization, in part because the local agency works with families who might have had negative interactions with the state.

In a video produced for the rollout, one mother said it felt as if DCF "took my life" when it took her children away.

"And a lot of parents feel that way," she said.

But the mother added, "18 Degrees helped me get my kids back."

Holmes took charge of the organization nearly two years ago. Since then, she said she has worked to make it more inviting and inclusive. Front desk staff now stay on shift to greet clients through all program hours, which extend into the evening.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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