Williamstown Chamber of Commerce Hosts Fundraiser for HG

Higher Ground was fortunate enough to be the recipient of all proceeds raised by the annual Williamstown Chamber of Commerce meeting, which was held at Gala, the restaurant at The Orchids hotel. Local food vendors and organization, including Wild Oats and Williams College, offered food for those who came out for the event, which raised $4,000.

As this article in iBerkshires recounts, presentations by Higher Ground board members helped remind everyone that their was still work to be done. Carol Zingarelli, a resident at the Spruces and a member of Higher Ground, explained that most Spruces residents were in the “depression” stage of grief as the holidays approached. Although all were grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community, it is clear that some of the most difficult obstacles still lay ahead.

First Press Release

The following press release went out to local media today:

HIGHER GROUND NON-PROFIT FORMED TO PURSUE DISASTER RELIEF, HOUSING

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA—On October 21, Higher Ground became a non-profit group dedicated to providing immediate relief for those affected by Tropical Storm Irene, preparing for future disasters, and creating more affordable housing in the area. Higher Ground is providing services and raising money to meet long-term physical, emotional, and spiritual needs associated with the disaster, which is perhaps the greatest in Williamstown’s history.

Higher Ground currently provides fourteen trained caseworkers who are working closely with those affected by the storm. Other volunteers are facilitating communications between the town and affected residents, fundraising to cover families’ immediate needs, and networking with regional, national, and international resources that can provide guidance and financial support.

Higher Ground’s efforts will replace those of the Community Fund and serve to supplement the businesses, organizations, and individuals who have been essential in the relief process so far. The outpouring of financial and volunteer support exhibited since Higher Ground’s inception by the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Clergy in the days following the storm has been “phenomenal” says Rev. Carrie Bail, the organization’s chair. “Many disaster professionals have remarked on how quickly we have built an effective helping organization,” she adds.

Higher Ground is accepting donations by check, which can be made to Higher Ground and mailed to 906 Main Street, Williamstown, MA 01267. Those interested in volunteering should e-mail nbhigherground@gmail.com to contact Higher Ground Coordinator Robin Lenz. To stay updated on the situation and Higher Ground’s work, visit http://nbhigherground.org or sign up for the newsletter at http://tinyurl.com/nbhigherground.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

The All Saints Episcopal Church is making and delivering a home cooked turkey dinner with all of the fixings for anyone who is homebound and fifty-five or older. Call the church at 664-9656 to place an order. Those interested in helping with the program should contact Diane Bleau at the same number.

Nov. 21, 4:00pm: The Berkshire Food Project will be hosting its annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the First Congregational Church in North Adams.

Nov. 23, 11:00am: Williams College will be hosting a Thanksgiving meal in Driscoll Dining Hall.

Nov. 29, 5-7pm: The Williamstown Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting will be a fundraiser for Higher Ground. The dinner will be at the Orchards (227 Adams Road, Williamstown) and open to the entire public at a cost of $30 per person. Call 413-458-9077 or e-mail info@williamstownchamber.com to sign up.

Media Contact: Lauren Shuffleton, 603-490-5219, Lauren.Shuffleton@gmail.com

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Board Meeting Notes: Nov. 14, 2011

Tonight’s meeting featured, among other topics, the following points:

1. The sub-committee on affordable housing has decided to host a community meeting at some point in December to foster discussion, planning, and the sharing of resources among the entire community and also to continue to promote the issues at hand.

2. Plans are in the works for a “Blue Christmas” or other holiday event that can allow people to come together for the holidays in a way that accepts and supports those grieving.

3. The Berkshire Housing Development Corp announced that Proprietor’s Field will expand with eighty more units. Read the story at The Transcript here.

4. The Mass Mental Health budget was decreased by over 8% this year, which suggests that we need to continue making mental healthy availability a priority in our work. Right now people seem to be more interested in using caseworkers for support for now, but we want to keep it a focus in the future.

 

Robin’s News Update I

The following is a news update from Higher Ground Coordinator and case-working-extraordinaire Robin Lenz:

Coordinator Robin Lenz, Case Manager Susan Puddester and town resident Cheryl Shanks, representing Williamstown’s Committee on Affordable Housing, spoke to members of the First Congregational Church last week about the ongoing recovery difficulties for former Spruces residents as well as the issue of affordable housing in general in our area.  They are available to speak to any local faith community that would like to hear them.
Higher Ground’s Board of Directors meets weekly: it has established officers, developed seven working subcommittees, and received an EIN number.  Higher Ground has received funding from one national denomination, and has applied for two more grants.
Support groups for survivors from the storm, through the Riverside Trauma Center, will begin next week.
FEMA representatives Dick Balnicky and Susan Mills are located in Town Hall and will continue to aid our community. The emergency office on Main Street has closed.
Representatives of Higher Ground attend the Committee on Affordable Housing meetings, which are generally every Tuesday, 7 p.m., in Town Hall and are developing a working partnership to aid their mission.
We are proud of the tremendous amount of cooperation and collaboration we are seeing among everyone involved, and look forward to continuing the important work of helping each other.

New Beginnings

In October 2011, several community members throughout the interfaith community and beyond in Williamstown, MA came together to start Higher Ground.

This web site will be a source of information on the efforts of Higher Ground, the campaign for affordable housing, and disaster preparedness in the Northern Berkshires.