Blog - Williamstown, MA
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Effective Wednesday, May 6, 2020, Governor Baker issued an Order requiring face masks or cloth face coverings in public places where social distancing is not possible. This applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces. Exceptions include children under the age of 2 and those unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition. Full details are outlined in the May 1 Order.

https://www.mass.gov/doc/may-1-2020-masks-and-face-coverings/download

Update,Thursday April 30th, 2020                            

Here we are on the last day of April and I want to say suddenly because yesterday was March, right? Well, we can see May from here and you know that everything is going green, at least trees, lawns and plants. The sun will shine and it will be warm out, you can hear the peepers screeching down by the river and soon it will be crickets. I’ve been seeing the classic American Bald Eagle here and there too.

Well, they are out there and at it again…There was a note from  National Grid indicating  that their customers are being contacted by telephone by individuals who claim to be from National Grid and demand payment on their utility bill. When folks actually answer the telephone, phone creeps demand payment to replace your old meter with new smart meters. They’re threatening to cut services if payment isn’t immediately forthcoming via telephone. They probably want your credit card, bank numbers and your guess at the winning lottery numbers too. Hey, what a great time to be a phone scammer right? Everybody is home and maybe answering their telephone….So here’s a link they’ve provided for more information on utility scams;

https://www.nationalgridus.com/Our-Company/Scam-Alert

Here’s another interesting connection regarding finances and the protection thereof…

The United States Consumer Finance Protection Bureau website has up-to-date information and resources to help people protect and manage their finances during this pandemic. Lots of stuff here. Check it out; 

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/

Here’s a reminder; if you’re a SNAP recipient (used to be called food stamps..) and you’re not yet receiving the maximum benefit, you’ll be receiving extra funds, a supplement, for  May.The difference will be calculated by comparing the amount each person currently receives and the maximum for their household size and then adding funds to bring everyone up to the maximum level. If you’re already at the max, there will not be an added amount. It’s only for the people who aren’t yet at the maximum.

If you do get a supplement, you’ll be notified by phone or text, and likely if you got one last month, you get one this month. You can check the balance on your individual account via the DTA-Connect website or by calling the number on the back of your EBT card so do call them with questions!

Ok, so you probably want to know what time the blood drives in Williamstown and in North Adams are… The first is at the new Williamstown Police Station on May 12, then at Walmart in North Adams on May 18 then back to Williamstown at the First Congregational Church on May 26 and the Berkshire Health Systems bloodmobile will be at these locations from 9AM to 2:30PM 

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has published two important informational posters in multiple languages regarding access to health care and other rights community members have during this time of COVID-19. Here’s the link to this website, which also includes phone numbers to call if people experience any issues or violations of the listed protections.

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/attorney-generals-office-multilingual-covid-19-publications

When the North Adams Regional Hospital closed a few years ago, BMC contracted with County Ambulance to provide transportation to the campus at Berkshire Medical Center to residents of North County, any town. The good news here is that they are still offering this transport option and you can access this by calling them at 413.499.2527

Stay safe out there and have a great weekend!

Happy May!

Brian O’Grady

Update, Wednesday  April 29th, 2020

“Today, the Baker-Polito Administration extended the essential services emergency order to May 18th and launched a Reopening Advisory Board that will produce a plan to the Governor by May 18th. The Administration also announced that the Department of Public Health’s Stay At Home Advisory remains in effect and gatherings of 10 or more people remain prohibited until May 18th” I guess this qualifies as the quote of the day…

National Older Americans Mental Health Awareness Day is May 7th this year. We thought that we’d call this to your attention as isolation causes all sorts of unhappiness under the best of circumstances, let alone this situation we have found ourselves in. Anyone can suffer from depression, it doesn’t matter how you felt before this new abnormal became a way of life, these days can be stressful. There are resources out there to help including;

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Berkshire  County Warm Line, 413-445-1136,

You can call 2-1-1 and choose the “CALL2TALK” option. 

The Samaritans. Call or text their 24/7 helpline any time at 877-870-4673.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, www.samhsa.gov is another excellent resource. Just in case…Speaking of these guys, they’re offering a conversation with a couple experts talking about combating isolation in seniors during the COVID-19 siege,further information is available on the website.

Nextdoor in Vermont, the United Counseling Services at 802.442.5491 are ready to help. Sometimes you just don’t want to talk to someone close by…

Here in Berkshire, the Brien Center at 413.499.0412 has staff who are very able to talk with anyone about anxiety or depression, call them at 413.499.0412, and there’s an 800 number to call if the situation is urgent-800.252.0222.

Ok, so there will be some blood drives I want to remind you about happening here in Williamstown and in North Adams. The first is at the new Williamstown Police Station on May 12, then at Walmart in North Adams on May 18 and back to Williamstown at the First Congregational  Church on May 26.They say they really need blood at this time so if you’re able to donate, think about it.

Yeah, there is a lot of May news here. Hey, May is the day after tomorrow folks…

Back to the conversation we had a couple days ago about the proliferation of single use plastic bags. Linda Cernik at NB Solid Waste sent along this website; www.plasticfilmrecycling.org It appears to be a listing of places where you can ultimately return all those plastic bags you’ve collected. 

The Williamstown Farmers Market will soon be accessible electronically, they’re preparing to make all the food we enjoy  picking up in person available again in a different format to start with. At the moment there are no details available to tell you, just that they’re hoping for a May 15th launch…That’s great news right? There will be more to follow on accessing the yet to be named site and ordering when the process becomes clear. 

Finally, the last note for today is a reminder that the North Adams Mobile Pantry from the FoodBank of Western Mass is happening on Friday, 10-11 at the North Adams American Legion

located on American Legion Drive in North Adams. There are no eligibility requirements to receive food from our Mobile Food Bank. Anyone in need of assistance can attend. AS with everything we’re experiencing during the current abnormality, the routine is different; you have to stay in your car, put your hazard lights on and someone will assist.

Get out now, it might rain later..

Brian O’Grady

Update Monday April 27, 2020

Some folks had advice on what to do with plastic bags and here are a few suggestions…

Throw them away! We don’t know who’s handled them!

Put the groceries into the bottom of the cart and put them into your reusable bags at your car.

Just ask for paper. Better than more plastic in the environment.

Collect them and make them available to dog walkers as poop bags.

Just do small shopping and carry out what you need. 

And here’s a vid from Linda Cernik at Northern Berkshire Solid Waste on mats-ok, make smaller ones and use them to kneel on in the garden. Something to do while at home…

Preview YouTube video How To Make Plastic Bag Sleeping Mats (Where You Live)

The Williamstown Historical Museum is  doing a scavenger hunt of sorts. Since we are in the midst of the new abnormal, there won’t be any lectures on the subject anytime soon,  so a kind of hands on virtual experience is in order. Yeah, it’s a new thing…  

There are nine historic sites marked with plaques around Town describing their significance.  Eight were placed by the  Williamstown Bicentennial Committee during the  Williamstown 200th anniversary celebration in 1953, and one by a Town resident. (I was a member of the 250th Committee, we talked about the plaques but I didn’t know that there was a private donation. Something new every day!) The Museum is currently featuring the markers in a series on their FaceBook page and on the Museum’s home page as well.

Here are the links:

www.facebook.com/williamstownhistoricalmuseum

www.williamstownhistoricalmuseum.org

Each week they’ll post information about one of the Williamstown historical sites marked by a plaque. Go out and find them! OK, if you live here you likely know where they are. No matter,  take a walk or drive, there is parking near each one. Take a picture and send it to the museum folks. Maybe they’ll post it on their sites! Anyway, it’s getting nicer out, this is a great excuse to take a socially distant walk about town!

Here’s another informational outlet from Boston for information on the pandemic. Apologies if this has already gone out but accurate information is good isn’t it?

www.mass.gov/covid19 is the address for the latest news, casecounts, and lab testing results from all around the state.You can also call 2-1-1 with questions  or text COVIDMA to 888-777 to receive notifications to your phone. You can receive these notifications in Spanish by texting COVIDMAESP to 888-777

As we go along, we’re closer and closer to lifting some of the restrictions we’re observing  to help flatten the curve in Massachusetts. Social distancing can be stressful. Here are some options to help take care of your emotional health:

Try calling  2-1-1 and choose the “CALL2TALK” option.

The Samaritans are available 24/7. This new set of daily restrictions can feel very overwhelming and may be problematic if you let it get to you.  Call or text their 24/7 helpline any time at 877-870-4673.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any disaster including disease outbreaks like COVID-19. This toll-free, multilingual,and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.

Locally you can contact the Brien Center at 413.499.0412 and they’ll be happy to talk with you. For more urgent responses, call them at 800.252.0277 anytime any day.

Here’s the food news for the next few days;

The Salvation Army Food Pantry on River Street in North Adams will be open tomorrow, Tuesday-12:00-3:00. Please use front door

The Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry is operating from their temporary home at the  St. Elizabeth’s Parish Center, 70 Holder Street, North Adams, and they’ll be open Wednesday, 10:00-2:00 and then again from 3:30-5:30. They are also looking for volunteers. If interested, contact them at northernberkshireinterfaith@gmail.com.

The Saints Patrick & Raphael Parish Food Pantry is open this Wednesday from 9:30-12:00. Circle to the rear of the church via Mission Park Drive, stay in your car and someone will help. Walkers, go to the front of the line and they’ll try to get to you first.

The Community Bible Church Food Pantry, 160 Bridges Road, is open to distribute food every day. They have food and are more than willing to distribute. Contact Phyllis Babcock at 413.663.6094 and she’ll meet you at your convenience. .

The FoodBank of Western Massachusetts Mobile Food Pantry is in operation again, this Tuesday, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM  in Adams.

One positive effect of this abnormality we’re living in currently is that people I meet out there, walkers, people in cars, everywhere, all  seem to be friendlier, smiling and waving more often. That’s a good indicator of community spirit, dontcha think?

Brian O’Grady

Update, Friday April 24th, 2020

So, I have a question for everybody out there. Now that we’re unable to use our reusable  shopping bags at the grocery, some of us are acquiring an impressive collection of single use plastic bags…again, what do we do with all the plastic? Yes, you can ask for paper and they can’t charge you for them. Great- I try to use paper whenever possible but it doesn’t always work, sometimes you need something more substantial…thoughts?  

Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia can find this pandemic and our new abnormality to be stressful.  You or anyone else – can reach out to the Alzheimer’s Assoc. 24/7 Hotline at 800-272-3900 to ask questions.Here are a couple links to helpful information from them;

COVID Tips – Caring for a Person with Dementia at Home

COVID Tips – Supporting Person with Dementia in Residential Care

Just a brief note to remind everybody that Elder Services is still out there delivering a hot meal on wheel every day so if you know someone up here who needs a hot, ⅓ USRDA nutritious meal, tell them to call Elder Services at 413.499.0524 and somebody will be glad to help arrange a  daily meal. 

Williamstown’s annual town election has been rescheduled to Tuesday, June 23rd due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So- if you would like to vote early by mail, there are early voting applications available outside Town Hall and at the back door here at the Harper Center.   Complete and sign the application, it must be received by Monday, June 22nd at noon. You can drop them off in the drop box at Town Hall or mail the application back to the Town Clerk at the address on the form. The application is only for use in the  annual town election. You’ll then receive your absentee ballot to vote formally.

You can also download an application from the Williamstown official website at www.williamstownma.gov 

Remember folks, there are deadlines, remember the time it might take to mail things back and forth…

And finally,here’s a new video from Mary, get stretching people!

Kitchen Yoga Morning Stretch

Have a great weekend everyone!

Brian O’Grady

Update, Wednesday April 22, 2020

The Berkshire Health Systems bloodmobile will be at the following locations from 9:00 AM to 2:30PM  North Adams Elks, 100 Eagle Street-they’re the brick building next to McDonalds, on April 29 it will be at the new Williamstown Police Department on May 12, Walmart North Adams on May 18 and First Congregational Church Williamstown on May 26.  All donations made via Berkshire Health Systems will help local patients, and for those dealing with cancer, other illnesses, and emergencies, the need is great.  Blood donations are still needed urgently.  Donors are requested to be healthy without any symptoms of cough, cold, or fever.  Please schedule an appointment today, which helps prevent long wait times and assists BHS to plan for this event.  To sign up, please contact (413) 447-2597 x 2 or camuso@bhs1.org.

With all sorts of masks in short supply, the Williams Mask Initiative  is hoping to make a serious dent in the problem. This effort is calling for assistance from others who are able to sew and are willing to help by creating CDC designed masks/face coverings from home and sending them to designated collection areas. From these locations, the completed masks will be sent to organizations in need of these items. Here’s the link to the handy manual we supplied last Friday for DIY face coverings;www.covidstudentresponse.org/resources/mask-making.

After you are finished making your masks, please contact Julia Pham at jhp2@williams.edu with your mask count. She’ll provide packaging instructions and a shipping address to ensure that everything runs smoothly.  If you would like to help but can’t sew,

contact Rachel Cross at rec4@williams.edu for information about other ways to help out. Chloe Henderson at cgh1@williams.edu is the person to contact if you want to make a donation. They have a facebook page as well if you’re interested, search on Facebook for Williams Mask Initiative

The Brown Bag food delivery program will happen as scheduled this Friday, April 24, afternoon of course. By now participants have been contacted to let everyone know that they’re coming. As with last month, we’ll be delivering the bags of food to you, there’s no need to come to Harper for a pickup. Watch for us, we’re coming to see you!

Brown Bag is a monthly program of the Foodbank of Western Massachusetts and consists of shelf stable food items as well as fruits and veggies in season literally packed in a brown paper sack. Individuals interested in participating in the Brown Bag program can contact us here at the Harper Center, 458.8250 for further information. There is a very simple application process, we’re happy to talk with you about it.

By the way, the COA van will not be in operation tomorrow, Thursday, but will be back out there Friday.

Have a pleasant evening and stay safe out there!

Brian O’Grad

Update, Tuesday April 21, 2020

As we’re practicing the art of self isolation, there are clusters of people out there who are involved in the day to day task of providing care to frail and compromised others who may live with them or nearby. This can be a very frustrating time as we’re artificially restricted from having in person contact with our social networks. Caregiver groups have proven to be essential, a great way for caregivers who make the daily sacrifice for others to meet with people doing the same routines as they do.  Camaraderie in experience as it were…but what do you do when the groups can’t meet?

Caregiver Homes, one of our allies in the elder serving network, created a private Facebook page for caregivers to share their experiences back in 2017. I would suggest that it might be a good resource for folks to check out in 2020 and particularly at this time. They call it “Caregiver Nation” and it’s an opportunity for caregivers to share with others. Here’s the link www.caregivernation.org 

You may have read the article in iberkshires about our Town Affordable Housing Trust and the Emergency Rental Assistance program. If you haven’t, I’ll refer you to the article by Stephen Dravis in iberkshires.com today. Check it out. This will be a boon to renters in Williamstown who are struggling and juggling expenses in the midst of the pandemic.  It’s not quite ready to distribute yet, as with all good plans there are technical details to work out before a launch but it’s coming soon.So, watch for it. You might want to tell your friends and neighbors who might really be helped by this opportunity to read the article and be watching for the option to be ready. And thanks to our friends on the AHT for pitching in during this crisis. 

Today is officially 20 days after Census Day and if you haven’t been counted yet, get to it! It’s really critical for all sorts of reasons including funding and representation in government that we get a truly accurate count If you don’t want to respond electronically for whatever reason,or if you know somebody who’s not attached to the internet, the census has a website with different response options including via phone or mail. Here’s the link www.2020census.gov/ways-to-respond 

Oh, here’s the telephone number for English speakers to respond; 844.330.2020 and if you’re more comfortable doing it in Spanish you can call 844.468.2020. There are other language options available at the website above as well.

Remember, today is Northern Berkshire Cares day. Go to the Williamstown municipal Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/townofwilliamstownma and follow the directions to participate. 

The Williamstown Food Pantry at the Church of St.Patrick/St Raphael is open for business tomorrow, April 22 from 9:30 to noon. Use Mission Park Drive to circle around the church, stay in your car, someone will help you. Walkers please go to the front of the line, they’ll try to help you first.

That’s it for now. Stay safe out there!

Brian O’Grady

NORTHERN BERKSHIRE LEADERS PROMOTE CONTINUITY OF LEARNING, ACTS OF KINDNESS

NORTH ADAMS, MA (April 17, 2020) – In a joint statement released today, municipal and school district leaders from the largest communities in the Northern Berkshires, the City of North Adams and the Towns of Adams and Williamstown, affirmed their commitment to remote learning and food access for students in the region during the school closure period required in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group also announced that Tuesday, April 21, 2020, has been designated as Northern Berkshire Cares Day (#NorthBerkCares).

School calendar updates

The North Adams Public Schools (NAPS), Hoosac Valley Regional School District (HVRSD), and Mount Greylock Regional School District (MGRSD) school committees each voted recently to adjust their respective school district calendars for the 2019-2020 school year. The changes will allow the districts to continue remote learning over the days that previously had been scheduled as April vacation. 

The approved changes support the remote learning plans recently launched in each district to accommodate student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote learning and grab and go meal distribution will take place Tuesday, April 21 through Friday, April 24. In observance of the Patriots’ Day holiday on Monday, April 20, students received Monday’s grab and go meals during the Friday meal distribution.

Speaking for the City of North Adams and the North Adams School Committee, Mayor Tom Bernard said, “We are asking a lot of our students and our professional educators right now. To stay home, to not be with classmates, teachers, students, and colleagues, and to learn, study, and teach in new ways. We’ve only just launched our remote learning plan, and sustaining momentum is so critical right now. I’m grateful to the North Adams Teachers Association executive board, as well as the district’s leadership team for supporting this adjustment to our school calendar, and for their ongoing support of our students.”

NAPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Malkas said, “As we learn and teach in a new way this spring we continue to emphasize to our students, their families, and the community at-large that the North Adams public schools remains committed to supporting everyone in our district in realizing our shared aspiration to nurture our students as respectful, responsible, resilient learners. 

ACRSD Superintendent Aaron Dean said, “There has been great collaboration between staff and leadership to maintain meals services, supply families with devices for remote learning, and to get remote learning off the ground.  It hasn’t been without its challenges, but many folks have stepped up to make these things happen. We continue to evaluate and make adjustments in this work every day.”

Jason Hoch, Town Manager of Williamstown, said, “I appreciate the willingness of so many members of the community to support our students, their families as well as our teachers and our District administration. More than ever, this takes the collaborative spirit of a community working together to navigate through these challenges. Some days will be challenging and some will be rewarding. Over the coming weeks, our kindness, caring and patience will bring us together and make us stronger to face our new future together.”

MGRSD Superintendent Kim Grady added, “Our educators, students and their families have embraced this new form of education over the past week. We are all learning together through this and I know we all share a common desire to continue to support learning and personal growth even when we cannot be in the classroom together.”


Northern Berkshire Cares

Leaders at the state and local level continue to encourage people to stay home unless absolutely necessary, and to practice physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. However there still are things we all can do to perform acts of kindness for our families, friends, neighbors, our first responders and front line workers, and people battling the virus or mourning loved ones who have passed away.

Mayor Bernard said, “Even as we ask our Northern Berkshire community to make sacrifices, we hear from people who want to help. So, let’s create an easy, public, and most of all, safe way to invite and encourage that help.”

Earlier this week, Mayor Marty Walsh and the City of Boston marked One Boston Day, an annual tradition that celebrates the resiliency, generosity, and strength demonstrated by the people of Boston and those around the world. Recognizing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Walsh invited Bostonians “to stand together by staying apart,” to download a checklist of acts of kindness, and to use the hashtag #onebostonday to share their acts of kindness with the world.

“This is a great idea, and one we easily can emulate to activate, celebrate, and engage the compassion, resilience, and strength of our Northern Berkshire community,” Mayor Tom Bernard said. “It is in that spirit that we invite leaders and residents from across the Northern Berkshires to join us in supporting and promoting the first Northern Berkshire Cares Day on Tuesday, April 21.”

Adams Town Administrator Jay Green said, “It is important in a time where for our safety, health, and well-being, that we have to be physically apart as we continue to practice social distancing, that we find concrete ways to demonstrate care and compassion for our neighbors.  This community-oriented initiative will allow all of us to demonstrate acts of kindness for our local organizations, responders, and neighbors, but in a safe and meaningful way.”

Using One Boston Day as a model, local leaders created a Northern Berkshire checklist, and will promote #NorthBerkCares so that people can share their acts of kindness with the community and to prove that now, as always, the Northern Berkshires stand together, and that no matter what challenges we face we always look out for our neighbors.