The Berkshire Community Action Council is the anti-poverty Community Action Agency for Berkshire County, Massachusetts. It serves the needs of low-income, elderly and working poor people. The primary purpose of BCAC is to promote the well-being of low-income people in all of the cities and towns of Berkshire County.
Over the years, BCAC has not only supported people and families in financial need, but also sought out the causes of poverty and worked to change negative perceptions of the poor and to remove the stigma attached to receiving BCAC services. The Council also attempts to broaden the skills, knowledge and motivation among Berkshire communities and families to assist all people in claiming the right to live with dignity and the opportunity and responsibility to achieve self-sufficiency by opening opportunities for education, job training and safe, affordable housing.
Our Friends’ House is a family shelter facility that provides emergency shelter services for 30-35 families in central Berkshire County. Shelter services include GED preparation, ie: work readiness, college preparatory training, adult literacy, parenting skills, housekeeping, budgeting and nutrition education services. The program also provides approximately 400 referrals for additional support services.
This federally funded program that is designed to save heating dollars by increasing the energy efficiency of homes. BCAC has weatherized over 5000 homes in Berkshire County since 1979, with insulation for attics, walls, floors, heating pipes/ ducts, weather-stripping, minor repairs, and heating system modification, all permanent improvements to the home. The program is available to anyone who is eligible for the Federal Fuel Assistance program unless the home had been previously weatherized. But it does give priority to households with elderly or handicapped individuals or children age 6 or under, then the general population may participate depending on availability of funds. BCAC will do an assessment to determine what energy improvements can be performed.
This is maintenance program for heating systems and has a preventative maintenance component as well as emergency “no heat” services. This program not only evaluates the heating system for efficiency, but also cleans tunes and repairs oil or gas heating systems. It also provides replacement of entire heating systems, if needed. Once the work is completed, families are trained to become more energy efficient. Applicants must live in Berkshire County and qualify under the federal Fuel Assistance Program eligibility guidelines.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Also known as the Fuel Assistance program, provides eligible households with help in paying winter heating bills. The program pays benefits up to a fixed amount based on household income. An additional benefit is available to eligible households having a higher than average energy burden. Homeowners & renters are both eligible. Households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides one-time emergency assistance such as payment of rental arrears for those facing eviction, utility assistance to those in imminent danger of shut-off, or food assistance for those who have no other resources. Also, other emergency situations are eligible for assistance, such as natural disasters. Funds are limited and not always available. Eligibility recipients must prove that their situation is an emergency.
Berkshire Community Action Council, Inc. operates 8-10 vans accommodating up to 15 passengers each on daily routes from its operations center. It provides shuttle services for consumers between their places of residence and day program sites. The program also provides transportation for approximately 50 consumers primarily funded through the Department of Mental Retardation, along with approximately 50 consumers funded through private subscription, primarily children to and from day care centers/schools. This service helps eliminate barriers in allowing their parents to work. In 2002-03, BCAC transported 35,000 clients’ approximately 500,000 miles.
Rulers for Schoolers
This program equipped over 200 low-income children with the necessary tools to start the school year.
Summer Camp Program
This program is a collaborative effort with The Berkshire Taconic Foundation to financially assist young low-income children to be able to attend Camp Ashmere, Camp Abenaki, and Berkshire Horizons with reduced camper rates. Over the last three years this program has provided the means for dozens of children to participate in camping activities.
Telephone Reassurance Program
This program provides “reminder” phone calls to elders and physician refereed individuals to “reassure” medical appointments are kept and/ or prescription medicines are taken as prescribed.
Food Distribution and Nutrition Assistance
This program serves 1500 working poor, elderly and low-income families yearly from the agency’s five-pantry sites.
Sponsor – a – Child Program
This past year, this holiday program supplied some 3,600 low-income children with Christmas gifts.
Homeless Prevention and Transitional Housing Assistance
This collaborative effort with the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority provides space and support for housing specialists to assist families and individuals find safe, affordable housing.
Brown Bag Program
This BCAC program delivers food to primarily elderly shut-ins in Southern Berkshire County.