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Update, Thursday January 21st, 2021

Two questions for which I do not have answers;

First; Yes, there is an AARP Tax Aide program coming however it will not likely be the traditional view. At this moment we’re collecting the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email contact information. Don’t worry if you don’t have email, there are still a few people in this category and they’re receiving the traditional telephone call…Everyone else will receive a packet of information electronically with information regarding documentation, etc. And please note that everyone who wishes to have  their taxes done here must bring their Social Security cards and a photo identification. Everyone. They can’t process your taxes without this.Call us with the requested information above and we’ll get you on the list. Apparently they’ll be starting to meet with people in mid-February. 

Secondly, I do not have any insights on when the vaccine will be ready for wider distribution but President Biden seems to be getting ready to open the floodgates.

In a bit of positive movement, I was asked to look at the elder housing facilities in Williamstown to see if folks were interested in participating in a Covid-19 vaccine clinic when one is held. A simple yes or no. As you might assume, it’s overwhelmingly in favor so far.The simple fact that community information is being gathered on a micro scale for members of the general public is good news right? Progress.. 

Today the Governor announced the lifting of some of the restrictions which were placed on businesses such as restaurants early closure orders and the “stay at home” orders restricting activities between certain time frames daily. Several crucial indicators of Covid presence are declining too. Things are getting better out there, you just have to keep wearing your masks, washing your hands and practicing social distancing for a little while longer, hold on!

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles  is extending Senior Hours at RMV Service Centers through March for customers aged 75 and older. RMV Senior hours are offered on Wednesdays at RMV Service Center locations, including North Adams, by reservation only.

 Beginning in February, the RMV will expand available senior appointments to include registration and title services and transactions in addition to in-person license renewals.

Here’s a link to the RMV website ;

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information

I guess the criminal creeps are still at it.I keep getting emails from somebody pretending to be the Minister of Something overseas who has a gazillion dollars left to me by a relative I never met and didn’t know I had. All I have to do is respond to their email and they’ll make arrangements for me to get the cash. Ah. Were that it was true, but alas, it’s not.I don’t even win on scratch tickets! Other fraudsters are attempting to take advantage of Covid and offer all sorts of bonuses like vaccines and special treatment including chances to make money. Nope. If it’s too good to be true, it’s not.

If you believe that you are the victim  of fraud or other criminal activity related to the pandemic, contact the United States Attorney’s Office at;  www.USAMA.victimassistance@usdoj.gov 

or call 888-221-6023. The Consumer Protection Hotline is also available at (617) 727-8400 to address questions or concerns. They’re still out there.

Tomorrow is Brown Bag day and for those of you who are recipients of the program, we’ll be popping by in the early afternoon. Brown Bag is a monthly offering of shelf stable foods, fruits and veggies from the FoodBank of Western Mass. We’re happy to answer questions, assist with applications.

By the way, if you know somebody who is struggling with food security issues, give us a call here at Harper and we’ll  try to help out.

Finally, yes, we have found someone to take Jackie’s place as our primary van operator. His name is Rick Andrews and while he’s not ready for primetime yet, he’s with us riding around with Jake and Dave learning the job. Some of you might have met him already.As for the van, it’s rolling along  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, we’ll be back to full operations on Thursday when Ricks is ready. We’re still doing medical trips, grocery runs every day. Need a ride? Call us, 413.458.8250.

Later!

Brian

Updates, Friday January 15th, 2021

If I leave here before 5:00 in the afternoon, it’s still kind of light out! Getting brighter every day!

OK, here’s the link to the  current vaccine information. Just as an FYI, I’m not sure that anything has changed from the last one…Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccine Information

Here’s something that has changed. We have an agreement with the folks at the Milne Library to be able to pick up, deliver and return books to homebound elders who’d like to read but really can’t go very far at the moment. It’s a simple process, you call them with your request, they’ll package the books and tell us and we’ll bring them to you and reverse the process when you’ve finished reading. Simple eh? Read on folks!

Here’s another reading note. The First Friday Book Discussion Group, who normally meet in person at Milne but have been covidated, meet monthly via the magic of Zoom. The next gathering is on Friday February 5th, the book up for discussion is  titled “Our Souls at Night” by Kent Haruf. The book for March is “We’ve Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson.Interested in discussing books and meeting new people even if remotely? Contact Julie Mackaman at jmackaman@gmail.com for further information

We’re still collecting new or gently used coats for our annual drive so if you have a warm garment you’re replacing, don’t need or don’t know what to do with, bring it to us here at the Harper Center, the NBT office on Water Street (the former Village Ambulance) or the NB Ambulance headquarters on the corner of Harris and River Streets  in North Adams. We’ll be accepting coats through January 31st and thanks for thinking of us!

There will be more information on the AARP tax plan next week. At the moment we’re just collecting names, home as in street addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers. Feel free to call us with this information.

But not next Monday-it’s Martin Luther King Day, most government offices will be closed to honor this great American and subsequently we won’t be here either. We’ll be back on Tuesday January 19th.By the way, today is Rev. King’s actual birthday…

And don’t forget to complete your Town census!

Have a great weekend!

Brian

Updates, Wednesday January 13th, 2021

There’s so much uncertainty  right now it’s just ridiculous. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing something to make you queasy. Around here,  everyone wants to know about the vaccine plan. Hey, you know what? So do I! I’ve had calls from people who know that they were vaccinating at Williamstown Commons Monday and additionally first responders on Monday in North Adams as well. 

I can tell you that today Governor Baker indicated that people who live and work in public and private low income senior housing will be in phase 2 of the vaccine priority line. We have a few sites fitting that description here in Town. But…there’s no date for this yet.Stay tuned!

  Now you know what I know. The plan that has been released is the same one which has been circulating. There just aren’t any dates or other instructions at this moment.We’ll let you know what we know when we know it. Yogi may have said something like that eh?

OK, here’s something we do know. The AARP Tax Aide program is not making appointments to meet with anyone until February 16th. In the meanwhile interested individuals should call us so we can get the ball rolling. We’ll need your name, telephone number and email address. Your information will be sent to our local tax folks, they’ll send you an electronic link to materials you’ll have to download and fill out.Someone will contact you about when you can come in. At the moment I guess you could look at this as a preliminary step. Our number here is 413.458.8250. For people who do not have access to email, and if you’re reading this, it’s likely not you…anyway, we’ll need to know if a participant does not have email, name and phone so that they can get you actual paper to fill out.

Here’s a couple other important notes; You have to have a photo identification and your Social Security card or they will not be able to process your paperwork. www.ssa.gov is the email address for Social Security, you’ll find information on replacement cards there. No email? You can contact the North Adams Social Security office at 877.319.5709for help.

The Williamstown Historical Museum is hosting a lecture  via Zoom on Saturday, January 16 at 11 am when Dusty Bahlman presents a free talk entitled “The 1918 Flu Pandemic Strikes Williamstown”  It’s a 45 minute talk and will be illustrated with numerous photos and documents provided by Michael Miller from the WHM. It will be followed by a 15 minute question and answer session..just click on the event title to be connected. 

By the way, if you’re not familiar with Mike Miller you should be. He regularly posts a blog talking about Williamstown, our history illustrated with photos and narrative. There’s also an opportunity to comment and offer personal recollections which always add to his stories and frequently prompts discussions among participants. Might even rekindle lost friendships, who knows? Sarah Currie at the museum can get you his email contact if you’re interested. You can email her here;  sarah@williamstownhistoricalmuseum.com for information.

Speaking of zoom lectures, the Williams College Faculty Club is hosting one 

on Friday, January 29th at 4:30 p.m. Lois Banta, Chair and Professor of Biology will present  a lecture entitled “From Research Labs to Shots in Arms: What goes into developing a vaccination strategy During this event, Professor Banta will discuss the ongoing effort to vaccinate the public against the Covid-19 virus, followed by a question and answer period. This talk is free and open to the public.

To join the lecture via Zoom, use this link: https://williams.zoom.us/j/92345422660?pwd=OTd0eXJPdlhjODA1ZGlVWTNGdHM4dz09

Or to join via telephone, call (646) 558-8656, and enter Webinar ID: 923 4542 2660

That’s all for now…

Brian

Updates, Thursday January 7th, 2021

They are beginning to vaccinate folks out here starting on the 11th, that’s next Monday, first responders and apparently folks at Williamstown Commons staff and residents as well. They have already been vaccinating direct care health care people,nurses,doctors and so on. My daughter is a Hospice nurse, she’s gotten it. They give you a little card with vaccination information on it. Nothing special, just a card that looks a lot like something you’d get in the mail to check and return to renew your magazine subscription. Our  “I Voted” stickers have more color. These cards carry more weight however…

And yes, people over the age of 75 are slated to follow in February. That’s all I know about the current situation, I have no scoops. There is a chart on the Williamstown Municipal website listing all the current configurations where the latest COVID 19 updates are found,  www.williamstownma.gov , or you can follow this link; 

www.mass.gov/info-details/when-can-I-get-the-covid-19-vaccine

Oh, here’s a note for healthcare workers. SVMC has started COVID vaccination of local healthcare workers, you do not need to be an employee of SVMC to qualify as Williamstown and North Adams are considered within their catchment area. Go to their website-www.svhealthcare.org and Covid information pops right up. They’ll likely be a vaccination site as well, especially if your primary care is located there.

I’ll add information as it becomes available

Now, for our friends and neighbors who may be experiencing Covid related stressors including isolation during the new abnormal, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter in Berkshire County has added a Warm Line phone number (413.445.1136) where people can call to speak with either a NAMI BC staff member or a community trained volunteer who can help with mental health issues, trauma, and/or to assist individuals through a difficult time, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.They’ll  provide support over the phone as well as resources as available. You can reach them during the day and evening until 8 p.m. 

Callers experiencing isolation, fear, stress can speak to someone so they will not feel as isolated and find some coping strategies that have worked for the operators staffing the phone.  If nobody can take your call,  leave your phone number and first name and they will call back within 24 hours or sooner. The information is strictly confidential

Incidentally, on a more local level, the COA has some folks m who are willing to talk as well. You can reach us at 413.458.8250

.

January is Glaucoma awareness month. More than 2.2 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma, and experts estimate that half of the people who have glaucoma don’t even know they’re afflicted. You’ll find out when you go to your ophthalmologist and they check your eye pressure. Been there, done that. I have one eye which is affected, found it during a routine exam. Eye drops each evening for me, no subsequent problems going on ten years now..

The Glaucoma Research Foundation reports that glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. While glaucoma  impacts people of any age, the risk increases with age. People over 70 are three to eight times more likely to develop some forms of glaucoma than their younger counterparts. I fell into the younger counterparts cohort…and yes, I was surprised by the diagnosis.

Glaucoma is the umbrella term for a group of conditions that occur when the optic nerve is damaged, potentially affecting the quality of your vision. There is a buildup of pressure inside the eye, and that pressure damages the optic nerve—the main transmitter of information from the eye to the brain. The optic nerve rests at the back of the eyeball. They discovered mine before there was damage from it and the drops keep the pressure in my eye at normal levels. The message here is to get your eyes checked regularly. You just never know so if you haven’t seen your eye doc lately, think about it.

Finally, here’s another note from our friend Nicole, the Town Clerk;

As many of you are aware, the mail slot (located directly to the right of the front door of Town Hall) has been used as the primary source for dropping items off for Town business.  I’m pleased to report we will now be using the drop box for Town business.  The mail slot will be closed and a sign will direct people to the drop box.  Nothing is changing besides the location of the box which is near the front door of Town Hall opposed to in the wall of the building.  

So, no excuses for completing your annual Town census right?

Brian

Update, Monday January 4th, 2021.

First off, Happy New Year to all! Here’s to sincerely hoping that this year will be much better than last year!

Here we go again. You’ve probably heard about recently passed legislation that includes a second round of stimulus checks. I hear that as of December 31, 2020, payment disbursement has begun. If you already have your direct payment information on file with the IRS, you will likely see the payments first. Just like the last time. To check on your stimulus check, here’s a link to the  IRS website information, you’ll find it by clicking 

https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.

The IRS will use direct deposit information provided in 2019 tax returns to begin issuing direct deposits to eligible recipients. If you do not have direct deposit information on file with the IRS or you provided information for an account that is now closed, you will be mailed your payment instead.I don’t know what you did last year so I would be prepared to do the same this time around.

At the moment the stimulus check amount is $600, Trump signed the bill last month. I hear that they’re all talking about it being boosted to $2000. Don’t get your hopes up…

Now here’s a message from our Town Clerk, Nicole Pedercini. A true bit of normalcy in the new abnormal!

The Williamstown 2021 Annual Street Listing will be mailed to all Williamstown residents this week.The census is a requirement of the Massachusetts GeneralLaw and it is important that all residents return them to the Town Clerk’s office promptly. Failure to respond to the census will result in removal from the active voting list and may result in removal from the voter

registration rolls.

Residents should not use the census form for the purpose of voter registration.

Parents of college students or members of the military who are registered voters

in Williamstown should be aware that by deleting those children from their

census form will remove them from the active voters list. Also, households with dependent children who are not listed on your census form should add their children to the form and complete the information that pertains to each child. Information regarding the children is not a public record and is used only by the schools for enrollment purposes.

The Federal 2020 US Census has just wrapped up and should not be confused

with the Town’s Annual Street Listing (census). The Federal Census is conducted

every 10 years while the Town prepares ours annually. Please complete the

Town’s 2021 Annual Street Listing.

All forms should either be mailed back in the enclosed return envelope or

dropped off in the Town’s new drop box, located outside the front door of

Town Hall. The drop box is to be used for all Town business. Anyone who does

not receive their census form in the mail within the next three weeks or who has

questions pertaining to the form should call Town Clerk, Nicole E. Pedercini at

458-3500 Ext. 101.

Now, here’s some information regarding the annual AARP Tax Aide program.

It’s on. We just have to get the website access information and set up a schedule account for them so we can schedule you. No more paper sign in!

As usual, you’ll have to make appointments to come in and meet with someone but that’s where the familiar will end. The appointment is simply to fill out preliminary paperwork,  provide documentation and sign your name on documents. We don’t know how long  each session will take but they aren’t going to be the usual sessions where you will meet with your favorite person to complete the operation.  This is strictly to insure that they have the pertinent paper necessary to file. They’ll complete the paperwork and you’ll be notified to come back and pick it up. I suspect that this will be more of a rolling process without the usual designated slots.These days are not the same as usual, please don’t expect the usual. We’ll get your taxes completed and that’s essentially what it’s all about, right?

In advance of your visit, please note that you will be required to wear a mask and socially distance. If you have any of the Coronavirus symptoms we now all know by heart, stay away until you’re sure that you’re clear. Nothing personal, just safety.

Final instructions on what to do  will be posted very soon. We’re just waiting for more info…

Later!

Brian

Updates, Monday December 28th, 2020  #2

OK, here’s a reminder; If you traveled for the holidays you must quarantine or test. For more information visit Mass.gov/holidays  

Enough said about that. 

As you know, Massachusetts law requires drivers who are age 75 or older to renew in person. The RMV has designated Wednesdays in January to serve these customers. Between the hours of 9:00 am and 10:30 am, service centers will be dedicated to processing license renewals for older customers whose licenses expire in January, 2021.The North Adams site is available.  A reservation is required. A renewal letter has been sent to eligible individuals who currently hold a driver’s license or ID card expiring in January.  If you are a AAA member, you may make a reservation now to renew your driver’s license/ID at an AAA location  to schedule your visit. 

 If you are not a AAA member, visit www.Mass.Gov/RMV  Mass. Gov/RMV to make a reservation to renew. Select the “Seniors License Renewal” option on the “Make/Cancel a Reservation transaction”  

I have heard that the process works very smoothly. That’s a good thing, dontcha think?

Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont is offering scholarships to North County residents who are interested in adapting to a new work world. The next virtual Employability Skills Certificate Program, featuring skills that can help you get jobs, is  on the following dates: January 5, 6, and 7 from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM and January 18, 19, and 20 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. 

There is a new option is starting in January for Customer Service Certification. This program is 4 weeks long, meeting Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week beginning January 12, 2020 and ending February 4, 2021. Please visit their  website at Goodwill-berkshires.org to register.  Or you can call Kathy Anker at 413-442-0061 x14 for registration. Check it out yourself or share with someone you know who might be interested.

Community Legal Aid  provides free legal service to low-income and elder residents. They have received funding to launch a new COVID-19 Eviction Legal Help Project  to provide legal assistance in pandemic-related eviction cases. Their local offices are in North Adams and Pittsfield.

 The project is part of a statewide deployment of legal services, community agencies and local attorneys to fight potential evictions arising out of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. The project is funded by the Baker-Polito administration’s Eviction Diversion Initiative. Here’s a link to that program; https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-eviction-diversion-initiative-overview Legal assistance through the project is being offered to tenants who live in households with income up to 200 percent of the poverty level (for 2020, $4,367 a month for a family of four). Here’s a link; www.communitylegal.org

Remember, if you’re a Williamstown resident affected by Covid 19, there are also options available through the Williamstown Affordable Housing Trust/Berkshire Housing initiative.You can call Berkshire Housing  at 413-499-1630 Ext. 100 to leave a message, they will call you back, or you can visit their website at www.berkshirehousing.com  to find an online application.

See you later

Brian

Update, Thursday December 17th, 2020

A few brief notes on a snowy day…

The BMC administered North Adams Covid test site still requires appointments, no walk in processing yet, sorry about that. The test site hours are 8:00 to 4:30 daily. They tell me that test results will be available within 36-48 hours. If you’re interested in being tested for Covid-19, the number to call to make an appointment is 855.262.5465. The testing site is located on Church Street in North Adams, right next to the Library. 

They’ll be closed on Friday December 25th, Christmas.

Our Bennington neighbors at Southern Vermont Health Care also have a Covid testing program which is open to all on a drive through basis. The test site is located at the front entrance of the Southern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday 11:00 am-3:00 pm and Saturday from 1:00 pm -3:00pm. Appointments are required here as well and you can schedule by calling 802.440.8844. This afternoon they’re telling me that folks have started to get test results back in 24 hours. That’s the goal. There’s more information  and details to be found here; www.svhealthcare.org/COVID-19/Testing 

This is kind of like a deja vous moment but…here’s an excerpted message from the US Census Bureau;

“The Census Bureau is hiring field representatives in many areas of Massachusetts to collect data for surveys. The scale of recruits is not like the 2020 Census, but these surveys are ongoing and critical. We are looking for field reps. in the following counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk 

 Language skills are a plus in any location”  

  For more info visit: https://www.census.gov/about/regions/new-york/jobs.html 

I have no other information to offer regarding the census note. If it seems like something you might be interested in, it might be worth your time to follow the link above and see what they might have for you.

We’ve been receiving calls regarding our annual AARP Tax Aide service. The 2020 sessions ended abruptly in March when the Coronavirus came to town. Here’s a partial answer to your questions. 

We will be back in business for the 2021 session It will definitely have a Covid  impacted tinge to it and It’s going to look something like this; We’ll be accepting appointments (and I’m not sure that appointments is the correct word as there will likely not be any in person sessions) beginning in January. You’ll bring your paperwork here, someone will accept it, the Tax Aides will complete the work and we’ll call you to come and get your completed documents. It’s relatively simple and of course there will be more to it than this, we haven’t worked all the details out yet but we will shortly. We’ll let you know in a couple weeks.The takeaway is good, we’re soon back in action, albeit differently. Who knows? This might be a better way to do it.

The  First Congregational Church of  Williamstown  is hosting an event they’re calling  “Blue Christmas – A Service of Lament” this Sunday, December 20 at 3:00 PM

 It’s a service to  remember  the lives lost to COVID-19. All are welcome. Please visit the church’s Facebook page to participate here; FB page 

Finally for today, the monthly Brown Bag delivery from the FoodBank of Western Massachusetts will be here on Monday December 21st, not the usual fourth Friday as it’s Christmas. We’ll be delivering to you around 1:30 on Monday. Brown Bag is a monthly offering of shelf stable food with seasonal fruits and veggies mixed in. If you’re interested in learning more about Brown Bag, call us here at Harper, 413.458.8250.

One more thing…when we tell you to find your shovels, we’re not kidding! Enjoy the snow!

Brian

Updates, Monday December 14th, 2020

The first doses of Covid 19 vaccine have arrived in limited doses in Massachusetts today. These are, as they say, “out east”, Boston and Cape Cod. The indication is that we’ll have 300,000 doses in the Commonwealth by the end of December. This represents the first dose application, as you know it’s a two dose process with the second dose to follow 3-4 weeks later. The wait for true immunity for recipients will then be 6 weeks. 

There  will be an initial  mix of Pfizer and Moderna therapies and Moderna is apparently expecting approval on December 17th, which is this Thursday. That’s good right?

 It will be a few months before there is widespread coverage so masks and good hygiene will be an ongoing expectation into the summer of 2021. 

Here’s the latest;

www.mass.gov/info-details/preparing-for-a-covid-19-vaccine#-update-in-ma

Locally, it appears that the folks at the Covid hotline are fielding maore questions regarding quarantine and isolation. Stacy, the coordinator, indicates that there has been a concern with people who are continuing daily routines while waiting for test results.Hey! If you were tested as a matter of course, as in a weekly test at your workplace, you might just look at it as a prudent monitoring technique. If you’ve been tested as you think you may have been exposed, stay away from the rest of us until you’re cleared by your test.

Here are some links she forwarded to us as an FYI. We’re sharing with you!

CDC: Quarantine & Isolation

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html

CDC: What is the difference between quarantine & isolation

Tips to Make Isolation and Quarantine Easier: 

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/tips-to-make-covid-19-isolation-and-quarantine-easier

You may be familiar with the Northern Berkshire based Multiple Sclerosis Support Foundation. They’re in North Adams and they provide educational opportunities, support and resources for individuals and families of individuals affected by MS. They’re a great organization and you can find them here; www.mssupportfoundation.org

One of their current support programs is a yoga series being offered on Willinet Channel 1303 taught by our own Yoga instructor Mary Edgerton. The daily schedule for this activity and others can be found here; www.willinet.org Check it out and take a look at the MS website too. They’re a great organization and resource for you to pass on, as needed, to people you know.

While we’re talking about Willinet, our friend Jane Jezouit is posting new exercise videos, new routines as it were, on Willinet TV. You can find those on the Willinet site listed above as well. You asked for it, here it is!

Here are the next 4 books scheduled for the First Friday Book Discussion  Group;

January 8, 2021 – Train Dreams  by Denis Johnson 

 February 5, 2021 – Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf 

 March 5, 2021 -We Have Always Lived in the Castle  by Shirley Jackson 

 April 2, 2021 – Transatlantic  by Colum McCann 

It won’t be the first Friday in January however, January 8th is the date for the first “meeting” of 2021 as the First Friday is a holiday. Interested? Contact Julie Mackaman at jmackaman@gmail.com

We’ll remind you once more about this group before the January gathering…

Just another note of thanks to all the people out there who donated coats to the 2020 Coat Drive. At this writing we have reached 166! Fantastic! Keep it up Williamstown!

Happy Monday.

Brian