James White II, the new executive director of BArT Charter Public School, speaks about community at the NBUW breakfast.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — There was a lot of talk about numbers at the Northern Berkshire United Way annual meeting and campaign kickoff breakfast on Friday.
Twenty: the number of member agencies the NBUW funds. Eighteen-thousand: the number of Northern Berkshire individuals served through these agencies. Five-point-eight percent: the increase from the last year of this year's goal.
And, of course, the biggest one of all: $470,000. That number represents the campaign goal, which is a 5.8 percent increase — or $26,000 — over last year's goal, campaign co-Chairmen Dianne Cutillo and Bernie Pinsonnault announced on Friday.
"With your help, we look forward to achieving that goal," Pinsonnault told the crowd gathered at the Williams Inn. He and Cutillo, a married couple from Adams, are longtime supporters of the United Way and were tapped to lead this year's annual campaign.
Executive Director Christa Collier also expressed confidence in that goal — and in the duo leading the charge to meet it.
"We can do it because we have a stellar team this year," she said.
But of course, an agency like the United Way is about more than numbers: It's about the people that are helped, and the sense of community that leads people to want help others. To further emphasize that, the breakfast included a talk about the meaning of the word community by James White II, the new executive director of Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School.
White spoke about the twin notions that communities are made by geographical boundaries — your neighborhood, your town, your country — but also by self-made communities such as school groups, clubs and common interests.
"We definite our notion of community by the context," he said. "We construct community based on affinity. … Community can be constructed."
White talked about the "Dunbar number," a term coined by Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist. According to Dunabr, 150 is the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships.
"These are people you know in such a familiar way," he said. "It's someone you know so intimately that you can sit and talk and have shared community."
When it comes to relating that sense to a community like the one served by the Northern Berkshire United Way, White said, it's shared notion that a community must take care of its young, its infirm, its elderly.
"That sounds almost organic in a way," he said. "Community is the sense of something that comes from us.
"[It's a] natural outcome of is being kind and loving individuals."
Indeed, the crowd at the breakfast responded well not only to White's talk but also to the debut of a NBUW video produced by local videographer Keith Forman that tells the story of the 20 member agencies. The video, Collier said, brought her to tears when she saw it for the first time.
"This work can not be done alone," she said in thanking the new and outgoing board members, including outgoing president Amy Giroux and incoming president Jason Dohaney, as well as Forman and other supporters. "The United Way isn't just about the agency you fund, it's the community.
"We're all in this together."
And that's why Cutillo pointed to perhaps the most important number of all: one.
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