Not a member? Become one today!
         iBerkshires     Berkshire Chamber     MCLA     City Statistics    
Community Hero of the Month: Maryam Kamangar
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
04:15PM / Saturday, December 30, 2023
Print | Email  

The food delivery program is nearing 1 million pounds transported. The program was so successful, the nonprofit was able to obtain a grant to buy a truck dedicated to the program.

Goodwill Vice President Maryam Kamangar and Chief of Staff Fran Zarubik talking about grant applications. Zarbik says Kamanger has the 'passion and drive' to make sure people have access to food. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Goodwill Industries' Maryam Kamangar has been selected for the December Community Hero of the Month. 
The Community Hero of the Month series runs for the next 11 months in partnership with Haddad Auto. Nominated community members and organizations have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact on their community. 
Kamangar is going on her 11th year working for Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. 
Everyone has different pathways to help different people, Kamangar said. "And the pathway that I chose was to bring the community together and work with different ideas, and listen to [the community.]" 
Kamangar's been working in the nonprofit area for some 40 years. Her first job as a teen was at a for-profit company but switched to nonprofits a year later after not finding enjoyment her work. In addition to Goodwill, she has worked for a few nonprofits in New Jersey and Massachusetts. She has masters' degrees in science and education and in business administration. She was an adjunct professor at the college level and was an area director for various child cares and after-school programs. 
She fell in love with the mission and values at Goodwill. 
"I thought, this is the best place that I would like to work and give back to the community," Kamangar said. 
She started as a volunteer and has worked her way up to serving at the organization's  vice president of executive affairs and territory expansion.
"So we wear many hats at Goodwill. And I do six or seven different things at Goodwill to make sure that the pathway that we have for the community and for ourselves, it's something that we connect the community together," she said.
Some of the ways Kamangar helps fulfill Goodwill's mission is by aiding at the donation center and with donations, grant writing, community development, fundraising, and more. 
Goodwill President and CEO David Twiggs said Kamangar is an "agent for change" through her interactions with the community and the initiatives she helped spearhead. 
"You can see the magneticness that she had where she would be a part of implementing change for movement," Twiggs said. 
"I say movement because you automatically want to think for the better. Yes, it is for the better, but sometimes you have to move laterally to move up. And so, she's really capable of being a change agent for the betterment of humankind."
She has spearheaded multiple Goodwill initiatives including the Goodwill Food Bank Truck and the Suit Your Self program for helping people enter the professional workforce and has been instrumental in store openings. 
"She's like a dog with a bone. When she sees something that needs to be done she doesn't stop until it's done," Goodwill Vice President of Mission Services Kathy Anker said.
During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs and the food banks had a great need for food but did not always have the transportation capacity to keep up with the high demand, Kamangar said. 
She was a community development manager at that time, and could see the line of cars pull up to the food pantries. 
During COVID-19, every nonessential company closed its doors including Goodwill but Kamangar pushed on to continue its mission. 
Goodwill's mission is to build "pathways to help individuals pursue their goals through employment, career development, and community support programs," Kamangar said. 
With the support from Twiggs and grants from the Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Foundation, the company's trucks — capable of carrying 9,000 pounds — started their engines once again to carry food to food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. 
Between Nov. 17, 2022, to Nov. 16, 2023, the Goodwill Food Bank Truck program helped transport 296,549 pounds of food to 7,091 households. It moved more than a half-million pounds the first two years of the pandemic and, today, the program is close to transporting 1 million pounds of food throughout the Berkshires. 
"With 9,000 pounds of food, you can provide all the frozen meat, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, all the frozen meals, dairy, all of that juices and everything. So, it has been a great partnership with the Food Bank [of Western Massachusetts] and the food pantries in this area," Kamangar said. 
With the success of the program and now that doors are back open, Goodwill has applied and received a Community Development Block Grant of approximately $145,000 to fund the purchase of a new truck specifically for the food bank program. 
It should be in service in about six weeks and the nonprofit will continue to expand its services in 2024 with hopes to add more food pantries over the next 12 months. 
"Now we got our own truck, which is going to be specifically for the food truck. The reason we did that was even though we are kind of at the end of the COVID, the people who lost their job, they cannot go back and get those jobs or they physically cannot have the same jobs as in the past," Kamangar said.
Food prices for grocery stores and farmers markets continue to increase, she said. Getting a truck for the Goodwill Food Bank Truck program will allow the nonprofit to help provide healthy food to community members and will help the program grow so it can serve more people.
"Miriam is a Community Hero, because she has the passion and drive to make sure that people who don't have access to food can be served through Goodwill's delivery of food to the food pantries. She volunteers at the food pantries and I know it's in her heart to make sure that we can do the very best for these people," Goodwill Chief of Staff Fran Zarubik said. 
"We know that children can't think if they don't have food in their tummies. And we know that adults have problems going to work if they're hungry and she makes sure that they get fed."
More Featured Stories is owned and operated by: Boxcar Media 102 Main Sreet, North Adams, MA 01247 -- T. 413-663-3384
© 2011 Boxcar Media LLC - All rights reserved