Hannah Van Sickle | Berkshire Edge
Great Barrington — Vanessa LeGrande first met Gwendolyn VanSant a decade ago—the pair got to talking at the fitness facility where LeGrande was working and the idea of a barter took shape, one that would capitalize on the women’s respective strengths: LeGrande would help VanSant create a fitness regime and, in exchange, VanSant would teach LeGrande Spanish. With myriad commitments pulling the pair in different directions, neither woman was able to prioritize herself in order to make good on the deal. While the barter never worked out, the friendship blossomed nonetheless. Last Monday evening, LeGrande was one of the first in a long line of friends, colleagues and admirers speaking on behalf of VanSant, who was honored by Berkshire Business and Professional Women as the 2019 Woman of Achievement for her outstanding leadership, creative energy, and numerous contributions to the Berkshires and beyond.
“You are an amazing power of example, not only to the little black girls, but to the little white girls, and the Chinese girls, and the Hispanic girls,” LeGrande said in her impassioned remarks at the Country Club of Pittsfield. “I thank you for them, I thank you for me, I thank you for letting me know by your power of example that there is nothing too silly for me to say or do,” she added. “It is never too late.”
LeGrande, who spoke on the heels of District Attorney Andrea Harrington and Multicultural BRIDGE co-founder Bob Norris, recognized her friend as a person of amazing character, integrity and pure, humble honesty—one who has paved the way for so many in the community. In a follow up interview, LeGrande elaborated: “Gwen, through conversation, has helped me to understand that I should no longer remain silent for fear of what change might bring. In fact, if I do that, I help stagnate the possibility of change. The people who have strong words and who know how to use them, if they are continually backed down from the same baseline society, then how do we bring about change?”