BRIDGE's W2W Partners with GCFU to Support Incarcerated Women in the Berkshires
This year, BRIDGE is continuing our work to support incarcerated women of the Berkshires--part of a growing partnership between BRIDGE's Women to Women (W2W) group, Greylock Federal Credit Union (GFCU) and Lindsay Maynard, a local she-ro who supports incarcerated women in staying connected to their families and reintegrating as they transition back home.
In January at the Great Barrington MLK Jr. Day service, BRIDGE invited community members to write heartfelt valentine letters to incarcerated women of the Berkshires, which were later delivered in February. And last month, for a W2W project proposed by BRIDGE CEO, Greylock Federal Credit Union approved and prepared care packages for Mother's day, a project that was generously sponsored by GFCU as part of their Day of Caring during Women's History Month, and coordinated by Cindy Shogry Raimer. Together we packed up 16 care packages with basic self-Care and personal health ítems a woman would appreciate and need and both teams together wrote 35 inspirational letters to be given to incarcerated (or previously incarcerated) women during their return home later in May.
Ari Cameron, BRIDGE Board member and participant, shares these reflections:
"Caseworker Lindsay Maynard visited the BRIDGE office early one April morning to pick up the bags compiled by BRIDGE and GFCU. She named some of the challenges faced by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women when reintegrating into Berkshire County. Lindsay said that the care bags make a difference by providing a few basic necessities and showing the women that they are cared for. She said that there would need to be a wait-list for the 16 bags to make sure they went to the folks who needed them the most. Her work as a caseworker is all about supporting women to reintegrate successfully and reconnect with their families, a cornerstone of which is treating them with respect and dignity. BRIDGE and GFCU contributed to that work with 16 beautiful care bags and many Mother's Day cards and by opening a channel for continued support."
BRIDGE is continuing to collect items for incarcerated women to reintegrate successfully, and there will have several opportunities throughout the year to get involved. We'd love to have more volunteers! For more information, please call or write to the office at email@example.com.
Women To Women Celebrate Mother’s Day together this past Thursday night
While our CEO Gwendolyn was being honored as 2019’s Woman of Achievement at the Berkshire Business and Professional Women of the year award ceremony, news came in that the Dr. W.E.B Du Bois initiative to rename a local Berkshire Hills school (in his hometown) passed in both West Stockbridge and Great Barrington.
The passing of this initiative speaks to the countless Du Bois lectures, celebrations, performances, forums, and much more BRIDGE has hosted. This also speaks to the community’s embrace of this education. Du Bois lived for freedom; he recognized that if some of us are not free, none of us are. He worked tirelessly and brilliantly to create the foundation from which civil rights could grow. What better way to honor that legacy than to inspire the next generations of students?
We are grateful this legislation has passed in two towns and we need the third, Stockbridge, to keep this process going. Please reach out to your networks and call for support for the next town vote at Stockbridge May 20th. Preceding May 20th, we are looking to host a community forum at the Stockbridge Coffee shop. Please stay tuned for how you can show up to this forum to support Stockbridge to understand the importance of Du Bois. More details on this event will be coming soon... you can join Gwendolyn in watching the impressive community discussion here: Berkshire Edge Du Bois coverage
On Monday May 6th BRIDGE through the Race Task Force organized a meeting between the Department of Justice and local superintendents, college and private school representatives, local racial and social justice organization leaders and DA Andrea Harrington. All but two of our Berkshire County superintendents were represented--and all expresses interest. Mildred Duprey de Robles, Conciliation Specialist with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services department presented us with the DOJ’s SPIRIT program. The DOJ CRS was born out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and refined with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Through community, school and consultation services the Department of Justice (DOJ) offers support for the 8 protected categories. SPIRIT stands for “Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together.” The DOJ trains local community members to facilitate student groups to identify and resolve school problems.
This program attracted us because it is student led, has the potential to sustain the work we are doing in schools and complements the work, like A World of Difference, schools are already doing. CBRSD will be the first school district in our area to begin the SPIRIT program by hosting the DOJ to offer a facilitator training for 2019-2020 school facilitators. For close to 10 years BRIDGE has being developing a relationship with the DOJ and the benefits of that are being brought to the community. The feedback from the local superintendents and education leaders was positive and we hope CBRSD’s lead paves the way for all school districts to follow. Additionally Pittsfield and Lenox superintendents have expressed interest and more are gathering information and gauging interest still. June 4th is our first SPIRIT facilitation training.
After the superintendents BRIDGE Race Task Force hosted a meeting for its partners and members to learn about how SPIRIT can be implemented city or county wide. Mildred shared an example of Easthampton’s (MA) experience with the SPIRIT program. After their school district used the SPIRIT program and presented the city with the student-created solutions the city was so impressed they took on the program city-wide. The impact of SPIRIT-CITY has been very positive evidenced by Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle’s offer to promote it.
For more information: Article on Easthampton's SPIRIT Program. We look forward to continuing the discussion of SPIRIT countywide and supporting schools to make use of this free government inclusive support service.
The Woman of Achievement award ceremony capped off a full May 6th. With DOJ meetings in the morning, networking Du Bois town meeting throughout the day, and last minute ceremony details it was a full day to say the least. Around 150 guests helped BRIDGE celebrate Gwendolyn’s award. You can hear this piece on WAMC in anticipation of the event and reflecting on her work at BRIDGE, and click here to see a program from the event.
Close to 20 speakers gave short and poignant invitations to honor Gwendolyn through their personal connection to her. A local author, a banking executive, social justice activists, dancers, co-workers, BRIDGE supporters, family, friends and her husband all shared gratitudes for Gwendolyn and the impact of the work she’s supported for years. Yes! It was beautiful as we represented our diverse community. Yes! we celebrated and Yes! we were back at work early the next day. Click here to read tributes from Christy Daignault, BRIDGE Vice Chair and Development Co-Chair, and John Bissell, President and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union.
The evening was capped off by a beautiful speech Gwendolyn gave connecting integrity, accountability and living for justice as a sustained and sustaining way of being in the world with immediate results and praise being rare. Please find her acceptance speech, Opening The Gates here.