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Berkshire DSA Carrying Out Winter Donation Drive

Two hands embrace under a rose over a red backdrop with "Berkshires Democratic Socialists Of America" in a ring around them.
Berkshires Democratic Socialists of America

The Berkshire County Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is carrying out a countywide drive to collect items like warm clothing and toiletries for those in need. DSA member Michael Lavery – also a Becket, Massachusetts select board member – tells WAMC that the effort is focused at filling gaps in the American social safety net.

LAVERY: Because these items aren't covered by SNAP benefits and other paper products and cleaning supplies are prohibitively expensive. And we know that churches, it's past the holiday season. And nonprofits have sort of lapsed into a low, and we're trying to fit the need where folks are still out there struggling. So we're taking donations and we're creating care packages – custom care packages. We're trying to reach over 50 people in the Berkshire County from north to south, from Adams all the way down to Sheffield.

Now what's the distribution plan to get these items in the hands of that population?

We're a little over a week into it. And we've got less than a week left for taking donations. We have three methods to donate directly. You can email Berkshirebreadandroses@gmail.com or through Venmo at Berkshires_DSA or Gofundme. And once we get the funding level that we're trying to reach, it's either going to be $1,000 cash, or if we get a lot of enhanced donations, then we won't need as much cash. Folks will be able to sign up on a Google Form that will be entirely confidential and 100% of the cash will go directly to these care packages. We're going to have a phone number or some other way, because of course, people that are in need might not have internet access, which is a struggle in the Berkshires as we know as well. So we're going to look into the logistics of how people can reach out in other ways. But once we get the number of people and we have at the amount of care packages created, then on the 20th or 21st of February, we will hand-deliver everything all of these directly to folks so they'll maintain their dignity and confidentiality.

How does this tie into the larger political goals of the DSA?

Well, we're out to help the working person. And in a lot of ways, this pandemic has proved that the people who were feeding us – the waiters and waitresses who now can't work because everything's takeout – are in need of food. So in a lot of ways, we're helping working folks who can't make ends meet and their families are struggling. So it's right in line with the DSA's national goals.

Are there other DSA projects in line for this spring?

The young DSAs are working on outreach through phone banking, and I've taken part in that for the incoming Biden administration to cancel all the student debt. That's one of the major national level outreaches that we're doing. As far as locally, we will have more Bread and Roses working groups. And I don't know if that's going to be food or more care packages. I do know that we're looking into putting a free pantry out. It's also been called "Blessing Boxes" in other areas. And that'll be available 24/7, we just have to work out the logistics of power for the refrigerator and making it accessible to all people. And we want to make it central too, so probably a first free pantry will be in Pittsfield, and then we'll work towards the north and south.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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