BTCF Blog | Grants for Continuing Mental Health, Food Needs Total

BTCF Blog

Grants for Continuing Mental Health, Food Needs Total Over $180,000

By Justin Burke / July 1, 2021 / News & Announcements
Grants for Continuing Mental Health, Food Needs Total Over $180,000

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County has awarded a round of grants for nonprofit programs addressing mental health and the emotional well-being of children, youth, and families, as well as regional food coordination to sustain partnerships established at the height of the pandemic. Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Berkshire United Way, Northern Berkshire United Way and Williamstown Community Chest – the partners behind the fund – recently granted a total of $182,000 for 33 projects estimated to reach over 8,500 residents.

Grants for Mental Health and Well-being
A recent survey by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found a 300% increase in adults reporting poor mental health as a result of the pandemic, with people of color, lower-income households and those living with disabilities experiencing more worry about COVID-19 than other groups. At the same time, almost half of all youth in the state (48%) report feeling sad or hopeless nearly every day for two straight weeks or more, to the point that they stopped doing some usual activities. One in three youth reported worrying about continuing their education in the fall.

Four grants will support projects with potential for wide reach and replication. MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board received a grant for a professional development program for Berkshire County teachers and families focused on social-emotional learning. Immigrant youth ages 10-22 and those struggling with family separation, substance use and/or behavioral disorders will receive mentoring support through a grant to Iglesia Fuente de Salvacion Misionera. Berkshire South Regional Community Center will pilot a project to provide behavioral health consultation for program staff and the children and families they serve. A grant to Busy Bee Learning Center will help fund integrative expressive arts lessons, coupled with mental health support, for children and their families. 

The fund also awarded resiliency grants to 26 nonprofits for programs serving children, youth and adults, including reading, literacy and academic support; arts and storytelling workshops; playgroups and summer camps; and employment training, coaching, referrals and peer support. Participants will include youth and adults with disabilities; immigrant and BIPOC youth; people experiencing homelessness and substance abuse disorders; and other residents experiencing economic fallout from the pandemic.

Grantees are: Arts in Recovery for Youth; Berkshire County Arc; Berkshire County Head Start; Berkshire HorseWorks; Berkshire Nursing Families; Berkshire Pulse; Berkshire South Regional Community Center; BFAIR; Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires; Central Berkshire Regional School District; Child Care of the Berkshires; Dalton CRA; Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center; Goodwill of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont; Hoosac Valley Regional School District; Manos Unidas; National Alliance on Mental Illness Berkshire County; New Hope United Methodist Church; Price Memorial AME Zion Church; Rites of Passage and Empowerment; Roots Rising; Railroad Street Youth Project; the Salvation Army; Stewards of H.O.P.E; the Stockbridge Library, Museum and Archives; and WAM Theatre.

Grants for Food Distribution Systems
Food insecurity has risen across Berkshire County, with Feeding America projecting an overall rate of 11.9% for Berkshire County in 2021, up from 9.8% in 2019. The county has the highest projected rate for child very low food security in Massachusetts, at 6.1%, meaning households with disrupted meal patterns and food intake at less than what caregivers consider adequate. 

Throughout the pandemic, food pantries, nonprofits, schools and businesses have collaborated to identify needs and design efficient distribution systems, working through the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and new regional food access collaborative networks. 

In northern Berkshire County, a grant to Goodwill of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont will help fund an ongoing food access transportation project across six sites. The North Adams Farmer’s Market received support for a trailer and for its Market Match program to double the impact of federal food benefits. Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative, Roots Rising, South Congregational Church and over 10 pantries and meal sites will use grant funding to hire two part-time coordinators to sustain the current system and build the network’s capacity. A meal distribution project in southern Berkshire County with two aims—filling gaps in access to prepared meals and building system infrastructure while developing residents’ skills to work in existing businesses or start their own—was awarded a grant to partners including Berkshire Bounty, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, BRIDGE, Fairview Hospital, Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires and several area restaurants.

Above: Staff from grantee Berkshire South Regional Community Center at their summer camp site in 2020. 

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