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New Berkshire United Way CEO Preparing To Take Over July 1

Josh Landes
Candace Winkler

A leadership change is afoot at the Berkshire United Way.

In June, Kristine Hazzard is stepping down as CEO of the Berkshire United Way after 12 years.

Her successor, Candace Winkler, is on the ground in Pittsfield at the nonprofit’s headquarters preparing to take over.

“A lot of the work they’re doing – working on early childhood education really through that youth development and then income insecurity, that’s been the bulk of what I’ve done throughout my career has been focused on that, because I do think that education and access to high quality education, investing in that type of development for an individual is one of the best things we can do," said Winkler. "It’s the fastest way to help an individual and a family get out of poverty and be self-sustaining.”

Winkler comes to the Berkshires from Santa Barbara, California, where she served as president and CEO of the Scholarship Foundation starting in 2015. Before that, she spent five years as president and CEO of the Alaska Community Foundation and eight years before that as CEO of Child Care Resource and Referral Network, also in Alaska.

“It seems to me like you’ve got some really vibrant nonprofits," said Winkler. "You’ve got some large organizations – your Tanglewoods, your Jacob’s Pillow, your arts and cultural organizations, and then you’ve got some really strong social service organizations, your Berkshire Children and Families and many of the partners we work with, whether it’s providing support around health, CHP – you’ve got a variety of who are helping to meet the needs of the community.”

She’ll assume her new position running the Berkshire United Way on July 1st.

“One of the things that I was really impressed when I looked at Berkshire United Way and saw that one of the initiatives over the last six or seven years has been working to address some of the teen pregnancy rates and seeing how in partnership with other nonprofits around the area, that we were able to cut that rate by 50 percent," said the new CEO. "That’s significant. It’s significant in both the partnerships that came together to create that kind of an impact, but I also think it’s strategic. That’s what has drawn me to the work of Berkshire United Way, is the fact that they’re really committed to evaluation and committed to getting baseline information about some of the issues in the community that they’d like to see addressed.”

Winkler says that research and data collection is key to determining how the United Way allocates its donations to the nonprofits it supports with its donors’ funding.

“For instance, we want to see young kids arriving at kindergarten ready to learn and we want to see those kids going through their early elementary years and at third grade being proficient at reading, because we know that if those things happen in the early years and we see those results from the kids, they’re going to be much more likely to go one, they’re going to be much more likely to graduate from high school, either go on to post-secondary education or go into some sort of trade or other type of job and be able to have a successful life,” she told WAMC.

She says one of the great challenges of her tenure will be solidifying the United Way’s future as Berkshire County faces a growing wealth gap, a diminished population, and scarcer resources.

“It’s going to be really re-imagining for the Berkshire United Way how we continue to develop the support and donor base in an environment that has fewer large workplaces," said Winkler. "So how do we message to individuals who care about this community and explain the work that we’re doing? Because I think that it’s unique work. The work that Berkshire United Way is doing is really saying is how can we have a wide spectrum of nonprofits who are all working together to address some of the issues that we face, because we know that our investments will go much further if we’re working together.”

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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