David Bissaillon, recipient of the Spirit of Community Award, with his son, Tyler, vice president of Northern Berkshire United Way, at the nonprofit's annual Spirit of Caring celebration on Thursday night.
Rosalie Girard, retired founder of Berkshire Nursing Families, is the recipient of the Al Nelson Spirit of Caring Award.
State Rep. John Barrett III reads a proclamation from the House of Representatives recognizing Spirit of the Future recipient Matthew Tatro for his good works.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Three North Berkshire residents were recognized on Thursday for their roles in making their communities a better place for all.
Matthew Tatro was presented with the Spirit of the Future Award, David Bissaillon with the Spirit of Community Award, and Rosalie Girard with Al Nelson Spirit of Caring Award.
The celebration was Northern Berkshire United Way's fifth annual Spirit of Caring Awards, held at Norad Mill and attended by its member agencies, sponsors and community members.
"It's good to see so many people who are integral in the success and support so many of our neighbors here in Northern Berkshire County," said NBUW Board President William Blackmer. "We cannot thank you enough for your support in supporting northern Berkshire United Way. You enable us to support the critical, compassionate services that our member agencies tirelessly work to provide."
The awards, he said, allow for the community to "recognize individuals, businesses and organizations for their impact as caring leaders and how they benefit the community through the length and breadth service."
Tatro, owner of Grazie Italian Ristorante and Tres Ninos in North Adams, is a graduate of Drury High School and studied business management and marketing at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. He worked at the former Mill on the Floss during high school and has held executive chef positions, including at Newton's The Biltmore and The Local.
He was introduced by last year's Spirit of the Future recipient Stacy Parsons.
"He's provided meals to our first responders during the COVID clinics. Those long hours he fed many of us. He's offered weekend and holiday meal programs to address food security and social isolation," said Parsons. "And as somebody who took many of those phone calls from people who are in need, I hope you understand how much that meant to people that someone not only heard them but that they felt seen and connected."
Tatro said he was very proud and honored to get this "very unexpected" award.
"I want to thank the United Way for having me and [officer manager] Patti Messina for tireless efforts on putting this event together and her exquisite taste and caterers," he said to laughter, as he was the caterer.
Tatro credited his staff and fiancee Gabrielle Gauthier for organizing and getting the meals to where they need to go.
"I wouldn't be me without any of them — my family, friends and everyone who supported me along the way," he said. "I'm very, very blessed to be a part of a such a caring community that really puts people first and very humbled and proud to be standing up here to receive this award."
Adams Selectmen Chair Christine Hoyt, standing in for past winner Alex Daugherty, presented Bissaillon, owner and president of Smith Bros. McAndrews Insurance, with his Spirit of Community Award, offering a "bissaillon" ways that he's volunteered in the community.
"Whether you call him David, Dave, Biz or Original Biz, many of us call on him regularly and Dave Bissaillon, always answers the call," she said. "As I began my research for tonight, I looked up the word community and all that was there was this this photo of Dave Bissaillon (holding an image of him) and at first I thought, wow, that's odd. But as I thought more about it, that is the best definition of community since Dave is involved in a 'bissaillon' things."
Bissaillon is one of the founders of Pro Adams, a group that promotes the Mother Town, and a current and past member of numerous boards including the Adams Theater fundraising committee, the Adams-Cheshire educational board, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, the Northern Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Workforce and Plunkett Hospital trustees, as well as being a corporator of Adams Community Bank.
"Dave is someone who cares deeply for not only his hometown of Adams, but for this whole region. He cares about the people and the causes that are important to each of us. He has probably helped organize your event, been a member of your organization, volunteered for you, sponsored an event, made a donation to your organization, attended your function, shared the information on social media, or is just cheering for you to succeed," she continued. "Dave is a master of relationship building and is always looking for what is best for the greater good. He is simply the best at getting people to the table in a meaningful and thoughtful way to ensure ... that all voices are heard."
Bissaillon said being active in the community was in his blood, pointing to his 89-year-old mother at his table and how she misses her old committees. He'd encouraged his son, Tyler, to get involved early on; Tyler is now vice president of Northern Berkshire United Way.
"Once you start doing it, you're going get a lot more back than you'll ever put in to helping other people. And that's always been my experience," he said. "Honestly, my volunteer work whether it was coaching football, or helping with economic development, or schools or sports or tourism or transportation, talent issues, social services, whatever it's been, I've always been paid back 100 times over because you meet a lot of great people. ...
"I would always say to young people, as I did the Tyler, I would say you should at least get onto one committee and do something as a volunteer. It's so so important. And I think it really rounds out a meaningful life."
The final award of the night was given to Girard, the retired executive director of Berkshire Nursing Families. Girard founded the nonprofit in 1998 after nearly 15 years as a volunteer with its precursor, Berkshire Nursing Mothers. She holds a degree from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a master's in psychology from Kansas State University. She's been an adjunct professor at Williams College and an instructor in McCann Technical School's nursing program.
She's been a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker Award, the Unsung Heroine Award and the state Department of Public Health Commissioner's Leadership Award.
The Al Nelson Spirit of Caring Award is named in memory of the former executive director of NBUW.
"As I read Rosalie's bio, I couldn't help but think here's somebody that just gave of herself for the betterness of others," said Timothy Burdick of Adams Community Bank, presenting on behalf of Amy Giroux. "She recently retired as the executive director of Berkshire Nursing Families in December of 2022. It's an organization she founded in 1998 as a nonprofit providing comprehensive lactation support, serving about 800 pregnant and breastfeeding families per year in Berkshire County.
"So if my math is correct, and I look at the years of service, that comes to about 20,000 families, so quite, quite an impressive number of people served."
Girard said parents are just getting to know their babies in the first hours of birth.
"Their experience can run a gamut of excruciatingly painful and difficult to, you know, magical and blissful," she said. "It has been my and our daunting responsibility to help move the family experience as close to magical bliss as possible.
"As we're doing that it is so very clear what an honor it is to even be with them in that moment in those very first formative experiences that they have with their baby."
Girard said she wanted recognize and give tribute to all the people, groups, agencies who helped Berkshire Nursing Families be able to serve these families, and that Northern Berkshire United Way was one of the first organizations to agencies to invest in lactation.
"Kudos to you and, of course, everyone in this room, that supports the Northern Berkshire United Way in some aspect," she said. "I also wanted to acknowledge the unfailing support of my dearest family, friends and colleagues that have been part of our mission. And finally, I'd like to recognize all the families who trusted us to walk beside them and as they embarked on that really important mission of raising their babies."
State Rep. John Barrett III presented each of the awardees with a proclamation from the House of Representatives, thanked each for their efforts and recollected some personal moments. To Girard, however, he said that she and other advocates like her had changed the thinking of a Legislature that "knew very little about the service you provide."
"What this lady has done during this period of time, has made an awareness of the importance of it, and it's helped so many young families and young children to get through a very difficult period," he said.
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