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Coming together to solve key needs


Berkshire Eagle 01/23/2015, Page B01


Countywide consortium meets Sunday at St. Mark’s

By Derek Gentile

dgentile@berkshireeagle.com @DerekGentile on Twitter

PITTSFIELD >> A countywide consortium of clergy, lay leaders and their regional affiliates will gather on Sunday to forge a grassroots approach to solving key areas of need in the county: Transportation and food security.

The meeting will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Mark Catholic School at 400 Columbus Ave., according to Wendy Krom, lead organizer for the Berkshire Interfaith Organization (BIO).

The group includes representatives from Roman Catholic, Congregational, Jewish, Muslim and other congregations, Krom said. Since the organization’s formation about two years ago, members have been conducting outreach to determine in what areas they can be helpful.

“We traveled to a large number of homes in the county and just asked, ‘What makes your day tougher? What is it that can be improved?’ ” Krom said. “And the two responses we got the most were transportation and food. Fifty years ago, having enough food was a problem for families in poverty. Now it’s a middle- class issue.”

Area food pantires now face difficulties staying stocked, said Krom, and she said she hopes that the organization can also work with the BRTA to better coordinate bus routes between various towns and regions in the Berkshires.

Krom said the group has also invited local representatives state Sen. Benjamin D. Downing and state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, William “Smitty” Pignatelli, Gailanne Cariddi and Paul Mark to participate in the discussion.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Pignatelli said. “Improving the situation with our food pantries will be a huge help. There is a huge need there.” Pignatelli said his brother Scott Pignatelli, who is very active with the service organization UNICO, has had to make trips to Boston to pick up food to replenish local pantries.

He added that there are already several organizations working on county transportation issues, “so I don’t think they’ll have to reinvent the wheel. But there may be places they can help.” The Rev. James Lumsden, pastor of the First Church of Christ at Park Square, is serving as interim president of the organization.

He said the group will seek to address other issues as it moves forward.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a faith-based grassroots effort that is the first in the county that I know of.”

Contact Derek Gentile at 413- 496- 6251.