Local News & Views
Local News & Views
By Susan Stetson Clarke
I met Suni Ton, native of Vietnam, when she was doing my nails two years ago in North Adams. She told me she was going to classes at Berkshire Community College and struggling with English. I said, “Maybe I can help.” That conversation began an experience that has given me great personal satisfaction. In our sessions, Suni quickly earned my great admiration with her retentive mind and dedicated concentration on her academic work. We began with pronunciations and grammar, then extended our work to rehearsing oral presentations for school classes (speak slowly, loudly and use words easy to pronounce), and to introducing her to resources in the community (for an environmental studies class, Hopkins Forest and the Rural Lands Foundation). Most importantly, we learned about the Berkshire Immigrant Center.
I knew only vaguely of the Center from serving on a board with Brooke Mead, Program Coordinator. I went with Suni to help her learn about her citizenship application, exam, and interview. Not only did Brooke advise her about what to expect in the citizenship session and how to prepare for it, she told us about the many other services offered by the Center. The mission of the Berkshire Immigrant Center is to assist individuals and families in making the economic, psychological and cultural adjustment to a new land, not only by meeting basic needs, but also by helping them to become active participants in our community. Their services range from provision of food and shelter funds and furniture and clothing donations to citizenship assistance and voter education.
Suni has now completed studies as an honor student at Berkshire Community College and has been accepted for transfer to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she plans to study accounting. With the help of the Immigrant Center, she has become a US citizen, registered to vote, and helped guide her family though the process of arranging for her sisters and nephew to come from Vietnam to join the rest of the family. She speaks highly of the Center, the staff’s immediate responses to questions, its affordable fees for services, and its generosity with free books, clothing and household items. After she has completed her studies, she plans to volunteer at the center as a Vietnamese/English interpreter.
I have no doubt that this capable, dedicated and generous young woman is well on her way to becoming a productive member of our society and will contribute in many ways to the betterment of our community. At a time when some Americans are opposed to foreigners, each of us can help new arrivals who will bring many benefits to our society. The Berkshire Immigrant Center welcomes volunteers and donors and provides the opportunity for individuals to experience great satisfaction from helping newcomers adjust to our country and to contribute to its welfare. Learn more at the Center’s website at http://berkshireic.com/.
Services offered by the Berkshire Immigrant Center
- Citizenship assistance including application support, disability and fee waivers, English as a Second Language/Civics classes, follow-up and advocacy with the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Settlement Services: orientation, information, referrals and general counseling for recently arrived immigrants
- Advocacy and public education including consultation, group information sessions and workshops, and outreach to communities and other not-for-profit organizations
- Referrals to and enrollment in English classes or with private tutors
- Work with state and federal legislators in support of immigrants’ initiatives
- Monthly walk-in clinics
- Referrals to immigration attorneys throughout the state
- Referrals to other community services to facilitate access of daycare, health care, continuing education, career counseling, housing, and other social service needs
- Voter education and promotion of civic participation
- Interpretation and translation services
- Information and distribution of forms for a variety of immigration issues including adjustment of status, green cards, visas, political asylum, work authorization and family sponsorship
- Distribution of Federal Emergency Food and Shelter funds and furniture and clothing donations
On May 17th, Town Meeting passed a zoning bylaw that creates a new ‘Waubeeka Overlay District’ on the 200-acre property owned by Michael Deep, and would allow the development of a 120 room country inn and related buildings and facilities. The resort could include an inn, restaurant, membership club and golf course. The major buildings are restricted to a building envelope of not more than 10 acres.
Any development of the resort would need a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The new bylaw also requires, as a condition of resort use, a Conservation Restriction (CR) on a 67 acre wooded parcel that currently is not part of the golf course. The CR, however, would allow construction of wells, solar panels, and geothermal facilities as well as forestry or tree farming.
My garden at 386 Oblong Road is open for viewing during the growing season. It took twenty years for me to build the garden around four very old apple trees,recently pruned by John Sherman. It includes vegetables and is easily walkable. You may park in the driveway – no need to phone. Please no dogs.
The establishment of a Town Dog Park in South Williamstown in part of the field behind the South Center School had to be abandoned because it proved to be divisive. We withdrew our effort on Monday, January 25, and returned all of the contributions on January 26. Forty-nine people contributed and survey results showed great enthusiasm for the project. Two donors requested that we keep their donations for other SWCA projects and we also gained at least two new SWCA members from the outreach we did for the dog park project. Thanks again to everyone who contributed and worked hard to make it happen.
By Bette Craig
The new year brings new things to the Store at Five Corners. We will be introducing Sunday Brunch featuring a well-curated prix fixe menu with live music. We will also be having cuppings with Assembly Roasters and other events. Our catering is under way, both in house or on site as well as our monthly special farm to table dinners. Our market/general store area will house more meats, produce and prepared foods and finally our new website will be launched very shortly. Thank you to those who make The Store at Five Corners a daily or weekly gathering place. How wonderful it has been to get to know and serve you.
By Melissa Cragg
(Melissa and Tom Cragg have recently become full-time Williamstown residents.)
Tom and I have just scratched the surface of area trails. Keep in mind that we’re trying to shake off 35 years of sitting behind desks so we’re in early days of walking — what we do is too basic to be called hiking! The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation has a great website, www.wrlf.org. There are two trails near us, the Phelps Trail south of Cricket Creek Farm and the Mills Hollow Trail, which is south of that. Both trails connect to the Taconic Trail.
Tom and I have planned our retirement to Williamstown for six years now. We bought our house here on Oblong at the end of 2009 and have traveled back and forth to Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan (a Detroit suburb) which is where we lived for the last 28 years. We retired on October 1st this year. We are both “financial types.” Tom retired from the health care trust established by the United Auto Workers in the post-auto company bankruptcy days of 2008 and 2009. I retired as the Chief Investment Officer for a single-family office established for a prominent Detroit-area family. I continue to work part-time for the same family, mostly from here but am traveling back to Detroit once a month or so.
Tom is working on his PhD in US History, something he has done in his spare time for the past several years. He is almost finished with the coursework and will be working on his dissertation soon. He has no plans to teach but loves the research and study. I love “all things fiber” including knitting, weaving and a little bit of spinning. We look forward to making new friends here and encourage people to call us at 413-884-6047 or to visit us at 981 Oblong, just north of Cricket Creek Farm.