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Berkshire County Domestic And Sexual Violence Resource Center Kicks Off Fall Fundraiser Sunday

Elizabeth Freeman Center

Berkshire County’s 24-hour domestic and sexual violence crisis center kicks off its fall fundraiser Sunday night.

With offices in Pittsfield, North Adams and Great Barrington, the Elizabeth Freeman Center offers resources to survivors of abuse and their families.

“This is a community problem. I think we know that, right? And that needs a community response. We have a very high rate of violence in Berkshire County. Our rate of filings for protection orders is 57%, higher than the state average. We've had 11 murders in the last six years, from way up in Clarksburg to way down in Sheffield. So we know violence happens here, and it happens a lot. And it affects everyone, you know, ourselves, our families, our children. And it has devastating effects all around," said Executive Director Janis Broderick. “Our fundraiser is called ‘Rise Together for Safety and Justice.’ And it actually has two major goals. One is to continue building a community movement to end domestic, dating and sexual violence. And the other is to raise critical funds for our work at Elizabeth Freeman Center.”

Most years, the center’s fundraiser is a single, unified community walk in downtown Pittsfield. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the second year in a row it will take a new form.

“This year, we're going to have mini walks," explained Broderick. "And we actually have six scheduled, from Williamstown, which is this Sunday, to North Adams on Monday, Pittsfield on Tuesday, Great Barrington on Wednesday. And then the following week, we have one in Lee on a Monday and Lenox on Wednesday. There's lots of opportunity, and we have lots of groups signed up to be there.”

Broderick says local support is critical to the nonprofit’s mission.

“I would say fundraising is at least 10 to 20% of our budget, from these kind of events as well as from local donations," she told WAMC. "And it's a very important part because a lot of our grants don't pay the full cost of services. Many of our grants require match funding or supplemental funding. And so we're really dependent on local fundraising to meet those expenses. And we are bare bones. I mean, we put everything we have into our work. We maintain three offices, and we have an ever growing array of services, because that's what we need to respond to and address domestic and sexual violence.”

The center’s workload has only escalated during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen a continuing crisis because of COVID," said Broderick. "We are still seeing an increase in calls to our hotline for help, we're still seeing cases that are more dangerous than ever before. We're still seeing a lot of financial hardship and homelessness. So it hasn't abated. And I think with the new variants that are coming forth, we just have to stay flexible, nimble. And we have to stay open.”

The fundraiser’s structure also serves another purpose.

“I'm hoping through these walks, that people will speak up, I'm hoping that people will recognize that violence is a major problem, to kind of listened to their neighbors and coworkers and friends about concerns they might have, to be supportive when people have concerns, to call Elizabeth Freeman Center if they have questions or if they need help," said Broderick. "One of our major needs is to get the word out that we're here and able to help, and also how we can work together. Word of mouth is big in Berkshire County. We rely on it for people to know to call us.”

Broderick stresses that the center’s services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence are free, confidential and available 24/7.

“We need the entire community to be involved and to watch out for one another and to speak out," she said. "And so this walk is not just for people who can bring money, but it's for everyone to participate in. And it's for everyone to get involved. And we really had a lot of success over the years. These walks have gotten bigger and bigger. We've developed a lot of partnerships. And, you know, it's having an impact.”

Sunday’s “Rise Together for Safety & Justice” walk in Williamstown – the first of the rolling fundraising series – starts at noon at the Tunnel Street Café.

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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