Blog - Williamstown, MA
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 Update, Tuesday  May 5th, 2020

 Happy Cinco de Mayo!  And it’s not the Mexican version of Independence Day, like our Fourth of July…On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French army at the Battle of Puebla. This single military battle signified defeat of a major European colonial power, and a victory for the Mexican people. This huge victory is the root of Cinco de Mayo. The celebration of Mexican Independence  is celebrated on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo has come to signify Hispanic and Mexican pride and a time to celebrate the rich culture.

Today, this holiday is celebrated by Mexicans, and especially the Hispanic community in the U.S. It is a time of song, dance, partying, and in general a time to be proud to be of Hispanic descent.

And the sun is shining!

The Williamstown Historical Museum, always a source of interesting local information, is offering an opportunity  to learn  about a different war and how it impacted folks locally. Fifty years ago, the largest Vietnam War protest  in Williamstown took place –  a student strike at Williams. Local historian, Dusty Griffin, has written an essay titled “Williamstown and Vietnam: The War at Home,” which detailing opposition to the War in Williamstown.  Dusty’s essay provides context to the local antiwar movement and presents  an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the events that took place on the Williams College Campus and in Williamstown in the 1960s as opposition to the war grew.  I actually went to a war protest by accident with my cousins. There was a newspaper article about the 101st Airborne paratroopers doing an exercise and parachuting down to earth so we went to see them. The protesters showed up in force, the full panoply of 1960’s anti war protesters, hair, flowers, hippies on the march!  At one point I looked up and saw boots dropping at me, it seemed so anyway, and being much smaller and more nimble than now, I scampered away unscathed, not that I was in any real danger. I think that’s as close as I got to a protest or the war…

The WTF Community Works workshop a couple weeks ago was so  successful that they’ll be doing another, but different style, workshop next week.  The next workshop will be broadcast to Facebook Live, in addition to having a few participants on camera via zoom. HERE is the link to info for Facebook Live  This workshop will take place on Monday, May 11 from 5-5:45pm. If you’re interested in being considered to participate on Zoom, fill out this form by 12 noon tomorrow (Wednesday, May 6). Space is very limited so filling out this form does not guarantee you a spot in the Zoom call. WTF will review submissions and confirm if they are able to offer you a spot by the end of day on Wednesday, May 6.

 The workshop, of course, will still be broadcast on Facebook, so anyone will be able to participate that way, no matter what! 

Participants will attend a trial session on Zoom this Friday, May 8th, to troubleshoot any technical issues ! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. They’re also doing a phone workshop on  May 13 at 5pm via phone. For the phone workshop, anyone interested should email Hayley at community@wtfestival.org or call Laura at 212.395.9090×101.

While many of the people reading these updates are retired, semi-retired or volunteering some folks are looking for work and may have been knocked out of the workforce by COVID-19. If you’re over 50 and are looking, Massachusetts COA is pleased to announce that the 50+ Job Seekers Program is going statewide! That means Berkshire residents who are, afterall, living in Massachusetts and not a neighboring state…Now that the program has been completely moved to a virtual platform, any Massachusetts resident 50+ years old can register and participate.  We’re  directing  those who are unemployed and want to participate in programs such as this to this website. Each session is guided by a professional employment coach.

 www.50plusjobseekers.org

While we’re at it, the same group, 50 + Job Seekers announces the first of four Town Hall style workshops. May is Older American’s month and supporting older workers is key. These are turbulent economic times due to COVID-19 and Dr. William Sharp-he’s on the faculty at Northeastern- has volunteered his time to speak about stress management. This program is open to MA residents 50 and older and FREE of charge, here’s a flyer advertising a pretty cool workshop about dealing with stress at this time of season…here’s  the flyer  link..

LIHEAP (Fuel Assistance): This deadline has been extended to May 31, 2020 for new applications. As of the date of this brief, there has been no announcement of increased benefit for current participants. Contact Berkshire Community Action Council at 413.663.3014 is the North Adams number, or you can call the main line at 413.445.4503, the website address is

www.bcacinc.org 

Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District will be at Whitney’s Farm , 1775 South State St, Cheshire, MA.Saturday, May 30th , 2020  10:00am to Noon. Remember when Linda came to the Harper Center and talked about these bins, 80 gallon Earth Machines,  and raffled one off? Now they’re for sale, just in time for garden season. The District is providing  home composting bins that cost $25.00 to member Town’s residents while supplies last. That means Williamstown residents.   

 Questions lcernik@nbswmd.com or call 413-743-8208  Linda Cernik,  to place your order.

Finally, one of our neighbors received a call from the 857 area code but the message said “Boston MA” and not COVID-19. I called it for her, just in case, you know…and the person answering said “Thank you for calling the fundraising center” I guess the message is, if it doesn’t say COVID-19, it ain’t them. 

Oh…I did report them to Mass DPH…

Enjoy the sun!

Brian O’Grady

Update, Monday May 4th, 2020

Governor Charlie Baker issued COVID-19 Order 31 requiring everyone to wear a mask in public if you are unable to maintain the 6 feet between yourself and others as social distancing indicates starting Wednesday, May 6, 2020. That doesn’t mean that you have to wear a mask if you go for a walk, a run, or out with the dog, only if you’re in close proximity to other people. Grocery stores, Walmart, pharmacy, anywhere you’re likely to encounter people and will be unable to distance-like when you’re cashing out, right?

Here’s the link the Governor’s order;

May 1, 2020, Masks and Face Coverings Order

There are a lot of “whereas” this and that but the words you want are on page 2 in the middle. 

By the way, the BRTA says that all customers using the BRTA bus and/or paratransit must wear a mask or face covering over their mouth and nose, as recommended by the CDC, while onboard any BRTA vehicle. They’re also stressing that riders should practice social distancing while riding on the bus; maintain space when seating. Additionally, they asked us to remind everyone that all riders must be traveling to a critical, essential destination. Critical trips are defined as work related, vital appointments, or necessary shopping trips. All riders are required to exit the bus at the end of the route, or your stated destination, and may not re-board the same vehicle for a return trip. Multiple or consecutive round trips are not permitted and riders who appear to be loitering will be asked to hit the road! It’s good to see that they’re still operating on a regular schedule despite all…

Now here’s the food news for the week.

Salvation Army Food Pantry, River Street in North Adams -Tuesday-12:00-3:00-Please use front door

The Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry at the temporary location in the Parish Center on Holden Street,(it’s across from the Big Y) Wednesday, 10:00-2:00 and 3:30-5:30. They are also looking for volunteers to help out-you can reach them  at northernberkshireinterfaith@gmail.com or through their website www.friendshipfoodpantry.org if you’re interested in helping

The Community Bible Church Food Pantry, 160 Bridges Road, Williamstown, has food and are happy to share. Call Phyllis Babcock (413) 663-6094 and she will meet you at church at your convenience.

The Williamstown Food Pantry at St Patrick/St Raphael Church, 9:30-12:00 Wednesday. Southworth St. Use Mission Park Drive to circle around  the church, stay in your car, someone will help. Walkers to the front of the line, they’ll try to help you first.

Berkshire Food Project: 11:30-1:00, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Grab and Go only meals available, there will be two meals prepared on Monday and Wednesday to have one for Tuesday and Thursday as well. Please don’t enter the building! The meals will be available under the tent at the Kitchen entrance on Summer Street. They’re across from the Post Office in North Adams. 

So, we’ve all heard about the plan for the community tracing program being enacted in Massachusetts. The idea is to reach out to individuals who may have come into contact with COVID-19 in one way or another, through exposure to an infected person or having tested positive for the virus. They will be calling daily between 8AM and 8PM. The phone prefix they will use is either 833 or 857 and your phone will say that the message is from the MA COVID Team. If you receive a call from either of those special prefixes, answer it please! It’s not a scam. And don’t worry about your information getting out there. It’s totally confidential, it’s a medical record and your information won’t be shared with anyone at all.Nor will they release the names of anyone you’ve been in contact with.

Here’s a link to the Massachusetts website talking about Community Tracing. Check it out and pass it on. You never know who may need this: 

Learn about the Community Tracing Collaborative

Finally, the Williamstown Historical Museum has posted the second historical Town marker in their weekly scavenger hunt series, You can find it here;   www.facebook.com/williamstownhistoricalmuseum

www.williamstownhistoricalmuseum.org

Talk again soon,

Brian O’Grady

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