Blog - Williamstown, MA
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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.

Update, Friday April 17, 2020

I’ve found another DIY mask/face covering resource, here’s the link; 

www.covidstudentresponse.org/resources/mask-making

The guide has all sorts of different designs, easy to follow script and some basic information about COVID-19, what types of materials are effective for protection from pillow cases, t-shirts to tea towels and coffee filters, design patterns, how to wear them and more. Check it out. The parent website is www.covidstudentresponse.org  It’s an actual curriculum on COVID-19 by Harvard Medical School students…

Earth Day is coming up-April 22nd, that’s next Wednesday. The official website for Earth Day is www.earthday.org and there are plenty of activities you can access to do with Grandchildren, or anyone else for that matter They’ve included a collection of virtual activities, challenges and information on environmental activities you can share if you’re interested. 

As we all weather the COVID storm and stay away from each other, some folks might begin to feel a little blue, isolated or alone. Our communal stay at home experience can be stressful and having someone to talk with can be just the right tonic during a rough period. The message here is simple, call us at 413.458.8250 and we’ll make arrangements for someone to contact you just to talk. Talk is good right? Especially now…

The St Patrick/St. Raphael Food Pantry will be open again on Wednesday, April 22nd, that’s next week folks. Use Mission Park drive to circle around the church and stay in your car, someone will help. Walkers go to the head of the line and they’ll try to serve you first. A new note from our friends at the pantry-elder participants who are unable to get there in person to pick up their food should call the church at 458.4946 and leave a message by the close of business Monday April 20th for home delivery. They’ll be assembling “go” orders on Tuesday.

Now here’s a couple COA housekeeping notes; If you should need to utilize our van to go out, please note that we’re doing life support trips only. We define life support as food shopping and medical appointments or medically related transport at this time. If you do ride the van, please wear a face covering and gloves if you have them. If not, we’ll get you a face cover. We’re really trying to help stop the spread of this monster and as always, it’s safety first.

Also note that we won’t transport more than two people at any time, we have space to effectively practice social distancing and we do, it’s part of the new abnormality. And by the way, the van is sanitized several times weekly.

There have been questions from some new folks (glad to meet ya) about whether or not we’re still shopping for elders who can’t or shouldn’t go to a grocery store themselves. The answer is yes and we’ll continue to do it until it’s safe to go out again. Call us at 458.8250, we’ll arrange for someone to call you, they’ll take your order from outside of  your door along with a check or cash and your store card, shop,return your food and receipt to your doorstep and viola! A restocked pantry. And once again, thanks to everyone who has gone out there to shop for others! We really appreciate you!

By the way, if you’re missing the movie experience and are sick of the tube, Images are screening, well, virtually, two movies this weekend, Extra Ordinary and another called The Wild Goose Lake. You can purchase them to watch via the website at www.imagescinema.org

Finally, it’s Friday and they tell me that it’s going to snow tonight. Too late for that. Or is it too early? Not sure which…Monday is a holiday, Patriots Day and the van won’t be running and under ordinary circumstances, I’d tell you that nobody would be here. These are not ordinary circumstances. Feel free to call and leave a message, we’ll be checking.

Have a great weekend and stay safe out there!

Brian O’Grady

Update, Thursday April 16, 2020

The phones and internet will stay on.. the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched what they are calling the “ Keep Americans Connected Initiative”  ensuring that people do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity during the pandemic.Over 600 broadband and telephone service providers in the country have signed on to commit to; not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due coronavirus disruptions,  waive any late fees for the same folks because of COVID related issues and open its Wi-Fi hotspots to public.At this moment, the agreement is good until May13th,2020.

Included in the 600 are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. You can find a complete list and see if your carrier has signed on at; www.fcc.gov  Look under the Keep Americans Connected page to find them

The Massachusetts  Registry of Motor Vehicles made some additional adjustments in their due dates for expiring licences, registrations, tests, permits and other items a couple weeks ago, I wrote about these at the time. Now they have announced some newer extensions and summarized them rather nicely for us.  Rather than me summarizing all the changes they’ve made, check out their website; www.mass.gov/rmv 

The information on the latest round of changes are listed in an April 15th press release on the page, scroll down, you can’t miss it!

So…are you wondering where your stimulus payment is? There’s a way to find out. The IRS created an online tool, called Get My Payment, that can be used to check on the status of your payment.. It launched yesterday and you can find it on the IRS website www.irs.gov There’s a button with the program title Get My Payment on the page at the top of the right hand column. Click on it. It will ask for your Social Security number, date of birth and mailing address in order to track your payment. They say that the site is updated once daily so if it doesn’t have any information for you, check again the next day.

Finally, I want to thank everyone out there who has worn masks, face coverings, whatever you want to call them, when you’ve gone out in public. I’ve been out there shopping and most folks are masked, alright, covered up. There are still holdouts. I suspect that there will always be holdouts. Fine. For the rest of my masked friends, kudos!

Stay Safe!

Brian O’Grady 

Update, April 15, 2020 

An early posting. I’m on the way to the grocery. Read this later. Go outside now!

The North Adams version of the Mobile Food Pantry from the Foodbank of Western Massachusetts is back on. They’re restarting the effort for the same days and times as before-the first and third Friday monthly, 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM.

That means this coming Friday folks.

Going forward, the Mobile Food Bank will be operating from the parking lot at the American Legion Post in North Adams on American Legion Drive, just down the street from the NA Fire Department/Police Station building. The First Baptist Church in North Adams has taken responsibility for managing the program. Kudos to them.

The Brown Bag delivery scheduled for Friday April 24th is happening as normally scheduled, same drop off routine as last month. More to follow on this next week.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to the conclusion that we cannot operate the Foot Care clinic this month so the April clinic is cancelled. Obviously, this virus has had more of an impact on us than we had hoped it would. So, we’ll postpone for now and keep everyone posted as we go along. The next clinic is scheduled, at the moment, for May 19th, Serena’s regular date. We have also slipped an additional date into the longer range view for June 10th, a Wednesday. The future is unknowable, we’re really hoping that we’ll be able to provide this service as scheduled but we’ll advise everyone if otherwise.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience arising from this.

Hare are a couple new postings from Jane

Harper Center Exercise Class 2 with Jane Jezouit 4.8.20

Harper Center Exercise Class 3 with Jane Jezouit 4.15.20

Here’s a new video from Mary.

Gentle Yoga Short Sequence: From Seated on Floor to Standing

You really didn’t think that we were going to let you stay at home and do nothing now did you?

Thinking about the current situation out there, many physicians have resorted to remote consultations with patients rather than bringing patients in to meet with them. It’s not the same, for sure, it is safer, however.

There’ve been recent questions from people about this new practice and for those of you who haven’t yet had the virtual consultation experience, AARP Massachusetts has come along at the right time with an interesting live electronic chat partially exploring this very subject and also touching on some interesting medicare information as well.

They’re calling this series  “Coronavirus Tele-health programming” The next  AARP Coronavirus Tele-health program is scheduled for tomorrow, April 16th at 1:00. Experts will share the basics of electronic and virtual telehealth services and how to access them. The discussion will also include how Medicare and private insurers have adjusted and expanded their rules for testing, prescriptions and out-of-network care during the pandemic.

They’re also indicating that these calls are recorded and will be posted on the website;www.AARP.org/coronavirus

 I have been informed that these informational calls are being done weekly at the same time/day and with a different topic each time. Past shows can be found at the same web address above.

Here’s how to join:

Date: April 16

Time: 1pm to 2:30pm

Call-in: 855-274-9507 (toll free)

The number above will work for future tele events they have as well. Check the website for a schedule.

That’s it for today.

Stay well!

Brian O’Grady

Updates, Monday April 13, 2020

Wow, is it windy out there. Wind, blowing rain, kites will fly…away… and if you open an umbrella, either you’ll do a Mary Poppins and fly away yourself or your umbrella will turn inside out. Better to stay in today right?

The Governor has indicated that Farmers Markets are an essential service and with that in mind, the North Adams Farmers Market has reopened virtually and will be taking orders online. You can find out more at www.Facebook.com/NorthAdamsFarmersMarket/ or you can call 413.664.6180. They’re delivering food to North County only.They’ll take limited orders live Wednesday at the Al Nelson Food Pantry on Wednesday. They will be doing home delivery  on Friday and Saturday, order online and pay by credit or debit card. There will be free delivery for EBT customers but your EBT card must be swiped in person either at order or delivery, phone and online transactions aren’t allowed for these, however because of a grant from the United Way Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County, EBT purchases will double up to $30. Not bad eh?

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, 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 but this week they’re only open to new people, as in “never been there before” and for emergency food supplies. By the way, they’re looking for rice, it’s in short supply so if you happen to see any while shopping and want to donate… 

The Community Bible Church Food Pantry, 160 Bridges Road,  Wednesday April 15th distribution will be from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM.

The FoodBank of Western Massachusetts Mobile Food Pantry is in operation again, this Tuesday, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM  in Adams.

We have a limited number of masks some of our neighbors have made for us so-if you want one, do call us here, 413.458.8250. We’re working on getting more. Everyone needs one, they’re a fashion statement these days…

Stay safe out there. Wash your hands. Wear a mask.

Brian O’Grady

Update, Friday April 10, 2020

The Williamstown Council on Aging van will be out of service on Monday April  13th and Tuesday April 14th. We’ll be back to the new normal on Wednesday April 15th, also formally known as Tax Day. We all know that the deadline to file has been extended into July right?

Now, below is a post from County Ambulance’s Facebook page:

“We are proud to announce that County Ambulance has created a COVID Response Intervention Test Team (CRITT) to assist in performing in-home testing for COVID-19 testing for those patients who are unable to go to the BMC drive thru testing location. Patients should continue to call BMC’s screening line at 855-BMC-LINK to be screened and let them know if you have transportation challenges that prevent you from going to the drive thru testing. BMC will schedule your test with our dispatch center and we will confirm with you. We are providing this to Berkshire County residents to ensure no one goes untested. Thank you to our staff that have stepped up to be part of our CRITT team”

OK, so I called them and at this moment they are definitely covering North County. You have to go through the BMC screening line, that number is; 855.262.5465. I called the BMC number and they’ll  screen you for COVID symptoms and will arrange an actual in home screening. The hotline is open daily from 7AM to 7PM daily. So, if you’re interested and feel a need for this option, call the BMC hotline, do not call the ambulance company directly.

Locally, the North County resource is the Northern Berkshire COVID-19 Operations Center hotline, call 413-662-3614 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily or email nbcovid@gmail.com. Sorry if we’ve repeated this information, a little repetition these days doesn’t hurt right?

At 1:00 this Sunday, Hancock Shaker Village is offering a special treat if you’re interested. As the Village has closed like everything else, we won’t be able to go and see the baby animals in April this year. I was actually planning on bringing my Granddaughter to visit them but alas, not soon. The next best thing will be a live virtual tour of the Round Stone Barn  starring the newborn baby animals Sunday at 1:00 on the Village facebook page found at facebook.com/hancockshakervillage. If you have grandchildren, tell them about it, check it out yourself. It’s a little bit of normal.. 

Have a great weekend everyone, it’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow and Ok on Sunday. Get out of the house, go for a walk, play in your garden, rake those left over leaves. I’m planting grass. If you’re out in public, wear a mask. There will be a formal request from the Governor for everyone to do this coming soon I think. We all knew this would happen anyway right?

Talk soon! 

Brian O’Grady

Update, Thursday April 9th, 2020

Holidays can be stressful on their own, without added distractions. These spring days are usually times when we gather together to celebrate this season with our families and friends. This year it will likely be rather different.  Some of the people we know reside in nursing homes and this can be a really scary time for their families and significant others on the “outside” these days. Living in close proximity to each other, nursing home residents have been susceptible to this virus and with visitation in nursing facilities suspended, it can be worrisome for friends and family outside these facilities.Information could possibly be difficult to easily acquire as the dedicated staff members in these institutions attend to critical business inside. There is a new option which will allow families to connect with nursing homes and find some comfort. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services , also known as EOHHS, you’ve likely seen mention of them a lot lately, has launched a Nursing Home Family Resource Line – a dedicated phone line to connect family members of nursing home residents with the information and resources they need and want.

This new phone service will provide one contact number for families and community members with questions about the care their person is receiving wherever they are during this particular outbreak.The Nursing Home Family Resource Line is monitored daily from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily  and staff members covering the line will field questions from callers on related topics and will find answers for any question posed.The Nursing Home Family Resource Line will be another great option for information during this pandemic. The number to call is: 617-660-5399 and again, remember they’re available every day. 

If you know someone who is concerned about someone living in a nursing home, share this number with them.

Now another piece of good news. While the Williamstown Theatre Festival  has recently suspended live operations, Community Works is going forward with the scheduled Facebook and phone workshops early next week! The first workshop will be on Facebook Live, Tuesday April 14th at 5:00.They’ll be posting instructions on how to access the program on their Facebook site soon.The workshop will be examining how actors approach their scripts, all welcome, RSVP not required, join them as they innovate remotely! They’ll be doing a telephone audio only version of the same workshop the following day, April 15th at 5:00 as well. To join this workshop, simply call 253,215.8782 and when prompted, enter the meeting ID code; 322.974.939. Trust us, this is easy. You’re also welcome to email Hayley at; community@wtfestival.org with any questions you may have.

Have a great evening. Stay safe!

Brian O’Grady