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Williamstown Community Chest Enters 91st Year Of Giving

Josh Landes

The Williamstown Community Chest celebrated 91 years of giving earlier this month.

The Williams Inn was teeming with philanthropists and the agencies they support April 4th, as the Williamstown Community Chest convened its 91st annual meeting. Anne Singleton is the Chest’s executive director.

“The Community Chest encourages members of the community to make contributions — mostly financial contributions — to support the work of 17 member agencies that provide human services ranging from Berkshire Nursing Families that helps little tiny babies and their families up to the elders that are served through elder services,” said Singleton.

Melody Fisher is a board member at Berkshire Nursing Families.

“They’ve been so supportive with funding, really," said Fisher. "Just so that we can pay the lactation consultants who do the work with families. We can buy equipment that allows us to track families and make sure we’re checking in with them the way we need to or where help might be needed. Really just providing the hand on support person to person that we rely on.”

Fisher says the meeting provides the agencies with a rare opportunity to pool their knowledge in one room.

“So many of us see problems from slightly different angles, so it’s a really nice chance to network a little bit and hear more about, what have you been seeing in regards to families that are struggling with traumatic history, and how is that coming up in your area of childcare or your area of housing or your area of homelessness or providing support for mental health, and those are all things that we see, interconnected,” said Fisher.

Randy Kinnas, CEO of the Berkshire Family YMCA, says his group gets about $20,000 from the Williamstown Community Chest. He says the networking the group provides yields very real dividends.

“Over the summer, this past summer, the United Way and the Community Chest got together to do a summer camp program that invited some of the youth agencies to participate in. So we worked around identifying some children in our service areas to give free scholarships to a summer camp at MCLA,” said Kinnas.

“Our annual allocations, this year that we’re in right now, we’re distributing $257,000 to our agencies, and then the Flynt grants are another $37,000 in addition," said Singleton.

She is talking about the $750,000 donated to the Community Chest in 2016 by Mary and Henry Flynt. The Flynts both worked at Williams College- she in the president’s office, and he first as Director of Financial Aid and eventually rising to titles like Associate Dean of graduate fellowships, academic prizes, summer adviser, Officer Candidate Programs consultant, and Freshman Soccer coach. Mary died in 2014, and Henry in 2015.

Juliet Flynt is their daughter.

“Dad was very involved, he was on the board when he was alive," said Flynt. "My parents were very community oriented, they did a lot of things in the community. Worked for the church, for the Clark Art, the Williamstown theater festival.”

“The terms of the bequest are that every year a certain percentage of the amount in that bequest has to be distributed to organizations that promote a good quality of life for people in Williamstown, broadly defined,” said Singleton.

The bequest allows organizations outside the 17 member agencies to apply for funding from the Chest.

“We thought the work of the Berkshire Immigrant Center right now is especially timely for our community and our country,” Singleton said.

Brooke Mead is the Executive Director of the Pittsfield-based agency, and was the meeting’s keynote speaker. This is the second year the Berkshire Immigrant Center has received funds from the Flynt grant.

“The first time we got $6,000, and the second time we got $2,000," said Mead. "But, I will be honest with you — as fundraising is difficult and never ending in nonprofits, every bit helps. And what’s really special about this particular funding is that it’s pretty unrestricted, and that is also something that is harder to find in grants these days.”

Mead’s talk addressed the role of immigrants in the Berkshires.

“Our population is aging and declining, immigrants are actually the only growing segment of our workforce, and so I want to talk about how important it is to welcome people, how important it is to honor this next generation coming in,  and I’m hoping people will want to get more involved and support the work of the immigrant center," said Mead.

For Juliet Flynt, the bequest and its allocations reflect a living legacy for her parents.

“My father and mother would be so happy that people are really benefitting from it in this way,” said Flynt.

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