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Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013

Lessons in Compassion: giving back to our communities

Just as Berkshire’s Workforce Development Program prepares our youth to succeed in the workplace, myriad forms of community service prepare them to be strong members of their home communities. Young people come to us because of their need for services, yet often the best way for us to serve them is to teach them to serve others.

Berkshire’s many programs give back to communities throughout New York State, and in doing so, teach teens that they too have talents and gifts to offer. Helping others is an important part of the healing process, building self respect, confidence and pride. Through projects such as these, Berkshire students gain compassion and caring:

Community Garden helps needy families and teaches kids social responsibility

This past summer, Berkshire Farm Center’s Prevention Programs in Schoharie County coordinated a community garden. Each week, Berkshire’s Family Specialists brought youth from our Home Run, Stepping Stones, and Turnabout programs to the garden to plant vegetables and nurture it through to a bumper crop of tomatoes and eggplants.

“This was an opportunity for the youth to reflect on social learning and responsibility,” said Leasha Cherry, a program coordinator at Berkshire. “The garden was a huge success,” she added.

In creating the program, Berkshire partnered with the Veteran Affairs office giving the youth an opportunity to work alongside local veterans. When the produce was ready for harvest, local families were able to stop by and take what they needed, and the youth also distributed vegetables to area families in need.

Running for a cause

Sarah Palanjian, Residential Treatment Coordinator at Berkshire’s Twombly Leadership Academy, is an avid runner and is always on the lookout for events. Her enthusiasm caught on over the summer and in time, five of the young men living and learning at the Academy were running with her – up the mountain on Berkshire’s 2,000 acre campus; to nearby Lake Queechy; and to other interesting spots in the region.

image“We decided to start running for worthy causes,” said Palanjian, “and it wasn’t long before we were traveling around the area." Meredith Bodenstab, who works with Palanjian, joined the group and the hunt for causes was on.

The group ran in the Susan G. Komen Run for the Cure event to raise awareness about Breast Cancer. They also ran on Veteran’s Day to support the Wounded Warriors Project. Palanjian is pictured (left in photo), along with Bodenstab (right in photo) and some of the boys.

“We’re running a lot of 5k races,” says Palanjian, “but I’m trying to encourage the boys to step up to 10k runs.” She then added that maybe someday they’ll be tackling marathons. “As long as it’s for a good cause, we’re interested,” she said.

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