|Friday's annual meeting and breakfast recognized several BCArc clients for accomplishments in the areas of achievement, citizenship and self-advocacy.|
Berkshire County Arc Holds Annual MeetingBy Stephen Dravis
07:35AM / Saturday, December 03, 2016
Robert Glass of Sample Express, right, accepts BCArc's Employer of the Year Award.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire County Arc singled out a few of its 700 employees for awards at Friday morning's 62nd annual meeting.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, had a message for all those employees.
"I've been really focusing on a particular way I can be helpful … and that is the pay of staff," Farley-Bouvier said. "I feel that if we can pay the staff … Those are 700 individuals in our community who have families, and you need to be supported as employees of Berkshire County Arc and the other agencies.
"I will continue to fight for that, because when we take care of you, we're taking care of your families, and you are taking care of the individuals you serve. And that quality of life is so very important."
Berkshire County Arc is a non-profit human services agency that provides "a broad range of community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities, brain injuries and autism," according to its website. The majority of its more than $30 million operating budget comes from the government, which is where legislators like Farley-Bouvier can play a role.
In introducing her Friday morning at Itam Lodge, BCArc President and CEO Kenneth Singer noted that the agency has a long-time friend in Farley-Bouvier.
"Everyone here, I think, knows by now that she is a former staff member at Berkshire County Arc," Singer said. "She remembers the people she served. She always asks about them. She is truly part of the BCArc family."
Farley-Bouvier said she feels the support returned from that family.
"I enjoy working with you and for you, and that's why I do it," she said. "In the last six months, we had a tough [re-election] campaign. We had two campaigns: the primary and the general. And it was all of you who had my back, and I will never, ever forget that."
The annual meeting and breakfast was a time to celebrate BCArc's achievements at the institutional and personal levels over the last 12 months. A slideshow reminded attendees of two new homes for residents with traumatic brain injuries, field trips and art classes for BCArc's clients and the wildly successful Berkshire Buddy Walk that continues to grow each fall, promoting awareness of individuals with Down syndrome.
The awards portion of the program honored not only the agency's employees but also clients who have excelled in areas of achievement and self-advocacy.
The agency also recognized business partners like this year's Employer of the Year, Pittsfield's Sample Express, which employs BCArc clients to help manufacture and distribute roofing tile products throughout the country, Singer said.
"Since 2009, Bob Glass, the owner of the company, has made a commitment to hire and retain individuals with disabilities into his workforce," he said. "He has done this by hiring a crew of production workers supported by Berkshire County Arc's Advantage Employee Network.
"As a result, Bob has opened a door for many individuals to secure stable careers in the manufacturing sector."
Glass said his firm has benefited at least as much as have its employees.
"Sample Express Whipple Street is composed of 12 uniquely talented individuals who are pure production employees," Glass said. "We have a legitimate business. We service two primary customers from this location, and both customers feel that we provide them world-class service.
"We do all the nice things we do, but we do it in a legitimate business conducting legitimate transactions, and we have extremely satisfied customers."
Farley-Bouvier was just one of the public officials on hand for Friday's annual meeting. Another, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, said that attending events like BCArc's is one of the more pleasant duties of his office.
"I think my elected friends here this morning will tell you that we go to a lot of breakfasts," Alcombright said. "We don't miss many things, but I can honestly say … there are few things that I'm happier to attend.
"I say that because when I come here, I always get the sense of joy, the sense of pride, the sense of resilience, perseverance and, most remarkably, a sense of abilities that far surpass disabilities."