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Second Wine Tasting Scheduled to Support Pittsfield Educators
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:17AM / Tuesday, March 05, 2019
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Last year's event raised more than $5,000 for the non-profit, nearly of all which went directly back to helping teachers.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Seven school teachers were able to hone their craft over the summer in ways they previously wouldn't have been able to.
 
One took courses on how to better teach children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, another to bolster literacy, another to work deeper with curriculum, another learned to speak Spanish to communicate better.
 
The seven teachers were all given grants to attend conferences or classes by the Pittsfield Education Foundation. The non-profit formed a year ago to help educators in the Pittsfield school system. The organization, formed by teachers, raises money to help educators do more.
 
"The challenge is that there is only a small pot of money you can get from the district. This is an additional opportunity to attend something that may not be paid for," said PEF President Kimberlee Chappell.
 
Not only has the organization been able to help teachers better their craft but it has even been able to help facilitate programs. The Berkshire United Way granted money for the organization to launch a health and wellness program and PEF helped fund a lecture by a South African artist.
 
That year of work all started with a wine tasting. The charity event last year raised more than $5,000 to support the organization's mission.
 
"Everything we earned, we pretty much gave back out," Chappell said.
 
On Friday, March 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Berkshire Hills Country Club, the second annual beer and wine tasting looks to generate the next round of funds for programming and professional development. It also will feature light hors d'oeuvres, a 50/50 raffle and the raffling off of some two dozen donations from local businesses. Ticket details can be found on the foundation's Facebook page.
 
"It's going to be a time for the community to get together, network, and have a good time for a good cause," Chappell said of the second annual event.
 
Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door and Chappell is expecting the event to be even better than the inaugural one. She said the organization has gained much more support from local businesses.
 
"We just have a little bit more support because people know who we are," Chappell said.
 
The wine tasting last year mostly drove the number of grants the organization could give out. The foundation was in its infancy and then went through the process to create a grant application, which was then dispersed to all of the teachers through Superintendent Jason McCandless.
 
Teachers were able to apply in May for funding, making pitches as to how the grant funds will improve education, and PEF's board then chose recipients and wrote the checks.
 
The types of grants the organization looks to award have few restrictions other than that they fit with the goals of "student support, student enrichment, and professional development." The grants can be for any subjects, for enrichment programs, tutoring, academies, or for teachers to get extra training.
 
The board of directors review the applications and asks the recipients to provide photos and testimonials about how the grant was used to better teaching and learning. 
 
Chappell said as the organization took shape, "we're getting better at everything." The hope is to continue growing in support and in reach to let people know about its mission.
 
"It's mostly whenever we can get somebody's ear," Chappell said of how they've been spreading the word.
 
The nonprofit held a second fundraising event in November — a wellness and fitness festival — and raised $1,500 but that first kickoff wine tasting proved to be the biggest fundraiser. Last year, the majority of the ticket sales were at the door and, so far it's looking the same this  year. 
 
"We're just looking to do as well or better than last year," Chappell said.
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