New leadership for gang diversion program expanding into North Adams
PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield Community Connection, a human services program that works to counter gang activity, will expand into North Adams, propelled by two new leaders.
Barry King now serves as director for the Pittsfield-based program, which operates under 18 Degrees — the former Berkshire Children and Families. Gary Doughty serves as the senior director for gang-diversion efforts in both cities. Both men started July 8.
Doughty said he's hiring four staff members at the office at 6 W. Main St. in North Adams. The northern branch of the program will open within six weeks, he said.
The Pittsfield office has a staff of 11, nine of them full time.
The organization received a $127,000 boost this year from the state's Shannon Community Safety Initiative. Under the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, it will receive an additional $350,000 to fund its North Adams extension.
Doughty and King say they've been working with young people for decades.
The two used to work at Berkshire Farm Center & Services for Youth in Canaan, N.Y.
"This is sort of a reunion for both of us," Doughty said.
"We're kind of in the hope business," he said. "It is about illuminating a path for young people."
That can be a risky business, he said, and they'll need support along the way.
The work hinges on convincing young people to change their course of their lives. King said he specializes in building that connection.
"My piece in this is to establish relationships," he said. "And that's just simple — a simple phone call, a simple thank you. I meet them where they're at and a relationship is developed over time."
King said he was stabbed more than once and is no stranger to struggles in the street. Lived experience informs his work, he said.
"That just lights me up to know that I can effect change," he said.
Doughty said he, too, has been on the receiving end of services.
"We made it out," he said. "Not everybody does."
Doughty said he's working to build the team and fine-tune the program. He also has been meeting with county leaders. "I think that the reception has been fabulous."
Doughty said the program needs more employers willing to hire its young people, as well as volunteer mentors.
The challenges Pittsfield faces are the same as those affecting any urban community, King said. The solution lies in rallying the community to help people who need assistance.
"That's what's missing," he said.
Doughty recalled his first experience with Pittsfield about 30 years ago.
"It was dirty. It was desolate," he said.
Improvements the city has undergone in recent years are remarkable, he said. But as the city rises, it's important not to leave people behind.
"There's always those vulnerable populations," he said.
The new leaders say they took the reins of an organization full of dedicated people who are deeply connected within the community.
"I call them my foot soldiers," King said. "I was just blown away with what was established."
Amanda Drane can be contacted at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
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