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New Executive Director Begins Work At N. Berkshire Community Coalition

Tuesday marks a change in leadership at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.Roughly three decades ago Al Bashevkin helped create the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, also known as NBCC, after a number of regional factories closed their doors, leaving many families looking for help.

“In my eyes, I think it’s been huge,” Bashevkin said. “I think the northern Berkshire community knows how to talk about issues. We’ve got forums and ways that we address local issues that other communities sadly don’t have the opportunity to address those issues in the same way.”

One of the coalition’s more public functions is the monthly forums Bashevkin mentioned. Drawing more than 50 people including political and business leaders as well as the general public, they’ve focused on drugs, healthcare and youth involvement. With a staff of about a dozen people, NBCC runs prevention, healthy living and family assistance programs throughout northern Berkshire County while serving as a guide for other regional resources. In March, Bashevkin announced he was stepping down as executive director come June.

“I love this work and it’s really hard to step away from it,” Bashevkin said. “But I also realize I can’t die doing this work. When I look back at life I want to be assured that I’ve done everything I can in terms of helping my community in many different ways and in terms of growing myself. So I think it’s time for me to try something different.”

In July, NBCC announced it had selected Adam Hinds to replace Bashevkin. Since 2014, Hinds has been working as Pittsfield’s youth and gang violence prevention coordinator overseeing the city’s Shannon Grant.

“To me the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition is a real model for community development,” Hinds said. “It empowers people to solve problems together. They’re focusing on the right issues; youth development, families, neighborhoods and how all of these interact together to create a healthy community. Quite frankly they’re leaning forward on how they do this in a way that really puts the community first and that’s what I believe in and it’s pretty inspiring work.”

During his time in Pittsfield, Hinds launched Pittsfield Community Connection, bringing on outreach workers and starting a mentoring program. Dr. Scott Murray, who oversees the mentoring effort, is serving as PCC’s director while the city searches for a full-time replacement. Pittsfield intends to make the post a city position, whereas Hinds was hired as a contractor. The next director will still be paid by the city’s Shannon Grant funding, a state-run program. Mayor Dan Bianchi says while Hinds will be missed, PCC is not going to miss a beat.

“I think that we may be able to expand the Community Connection program that he started here up in North Adams and throughout the county,” Bianchi said. “So I look at it as a benefit.”

Hinds, a Shelburne Falls native, is staying on as chairman of PCC’s steering committee.

“You can’t put your heart and soul into something for a year and a half and walk away,” Hinds said. “The issues are just too important. I have a strong passion for them so I’m going to stay strongly involved in the work and even build on that work. The mayor has talked about the possibility of applying as a region or dual city application for some of this work when we approach the state. I think that’s a great idea. Along side of that is another grant we are working with the state to be even more deliberate about targeting proven risk youth. Folks who are already getting involved in the system and making sure they’re a part of our work.”

Before returning to western Massachusetts, Hinds spent about 10 years with the United Nations handling conflict resolution in Iraq and Syria. His first monthly forum as NBCC’s executive director is September 11 from 10 to noon at the First Baptist Church in North Adams. The needs assessment forum is intended to identify emerging and current community issues.

“I really want to drill into use of outreach workers and meeting people where they are literally on their couches whether it’s the youth we work with or families and how to mobilize neighbors so that they’re doing that with each other,” Hinds said. “There’s a recipe for how to do community development that the coalition is getting off the ground now and really sharpening that model is a priority.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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