Kusik 2021 Awardees Announced

Annually, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission recognizes projects, groups, or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to planning in Berkshire County. The award is named for Charles Kusik, a nationally recognized volunteer planner. A resident of Richmond, for over three decades he placed his expert imprint on the zoning bylaws of nearly every town in the Berkshires. Click here to learn more about this fascinating Estonian immigrant. This year we recognize two remarkable collaborations that grew out of the pandemic crisis.  The Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative was formed by the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association, Berkshire County Public Health Nurses, Berkshire Health Systems, Community Health Programs, Fairview Hospital and Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee. They were instrumental in keeping people in Berkshire County as safe as possible in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal of getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible— safely, effectively, and efficiently – was extremely successful with at least 90,000 vaccination shots provided in all three public clinics from January 11, 2021 through June 26, 2021. This was a major effort that required intense planning and coordination. Challenges included vaccine supply, securing sites, site logistics, traffic management, finding and managing volunteers, signage, trained medical professionals to administer the vaccine and the safety of all involved. Many thanks also to site partners: * Berkshire Community College * St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish * W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School The clinics ran long hours, multiple days of the week, requiring tight scheduling of locations and personnel. While maybe not “traditional” planning work, the efforts made to get people and organizations working together was essential to improving the overall situation of Berkshire County. The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County is a collaborative effort by the Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way, and Williamstown Community Chest. It was established to assist non-profit organizations to withstand the financial impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was instrumental in minimizing the potentially disastrous impacts from the pandemic on the region’s non-profit organizations and their beneficiaries. It efficiently and quickly distributed funds reaching every corner of the county. Grants funded frontline human services organizations with deep roots in the community and strong experience working with vulnerable populations. These operating grants addressed gaps in services and increased capacity to meet basic needs of individuals and families during an unprecedented public health crisis. From March 19 to August 3, 2020, the emergency fund awarded more than $2 million through 132 grants to 95 nonprofits supporting low-income families, communities of color and immigrants, and seniors through services such as food pantries, health care, and housing. Earlier this year the focus of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund shifted from emergency response to recovery. The fund is offering a new round of grants to provide flexible resources to Berkshire County nonprofits to support innovative approaches to addressing emotional well-being for children, youth, and families.