4/1/20 newsletter

 
Dear Greylock Together,

It’s scary out there.  But we’re all in this together.

Thank you to those who have forwarded these newsletters to people who need the information.  If you haven’t already, you can subscribe on our website.  Please think who else might need to find out about these things or who might want opportunities to help (even with a phone call!  Call the sheriff!).  Forward this to them.  If you’re on Facebook, make sure you join our group.  We sometimes have quick requests for assistance from people in our communities who need help.  It’s been primarily an Indivisible political group dedicated to advancing progressive values, but any port in a storm!

We Need People for Errands!  The Williamstown Council on Aging is looking for people to run basic errands for elderly citizens who are afraid to leave their houses.  This is low-risk and just takes a small amount of time and kindness on your part!  Contact Bonny DiTomasso, Home and Community Based Programs Supervisor for Elder Services of Berkshire County at bditomasso@esbci.org or (413) 499-0524 x750.  You can also call the Williamstown Council on Aging at (413) 459-8250.

Think You Might Be Sick?  There’s a new site from the state that will walk through your symptoms and talk about your risks, plus recommend things to do and where to find care.  Visit it here at buoy.com/mass.

Donate/Sell/Acquire PPE.  If you are a member of an organization that needs Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or if you have some to donate or sell, go to this state site to do so.  They’re looking for donations of the usual stuff (N95 masks, surgical masks, etc).  You might actually have some extra bottles of hand sanitizer — donate them!

Healthcare Workers Volunteers.  Are you a former or current healthcare worker interested in volunteering to help during this terrible time?  Go to this site to step up and assist.

Donate for Undocumented Workers.  Undocumented workers throughout Massachusetts have been badly hurt by COVID-19.  Not only are they suffering from the same economic straits and social distancing (if they’re even able to do that!), but they’re also deliberately excluded from most of the relief and rescue efforts.  Donate a few dollars to help them at the MassUndocuFund.

Reminder: Mutual Aid.  Facebook group for mutual aid and dispensing info in the county here, with a website here.  The Greylock Glass has also set up this mutual aid board.

Reminder: Sheriff.  Please call Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler and ask him to use his authority to release with GPS bracelets any inmates who are on mandatory minimum sentences and don’t present significant threat to the public. The focus should be on the populations most at risk (60+, immunosuppressed, or other underlying problems).  Call Assistant Deputy Superintendent Diane Maynes at (413) 443-7220 ext. 1102 to leave feedback as a member of the public and ask for the Sheriff to take this important step:
Hi there, I’m <NAME> and I live in <TOWN>, and I was calling to ask if the Sheriff would please begin releasing people from the county jail on GPS bracelets where possible, to help limit the risk from the coronavirus.  There’s a lot of people on mandatory minimums who aren’t a threat to anyone, and they should be helping their families and not sitting packed in close quarters with others.
Consider also leaving a message on their Facebook page.

Reminder: Masks.  If you are willing and able to sew surgical masks, please consider making some for the front-liners who need them.  Instructions are here.  Contact Jessica Chittenden at Jchittendenlmhc@gmail.com if you’re willing.

Food and Resources Info.  Here’s a fast visual emergency food locator from The Greylock Glass.  Here’s info from the Northern Berkshire COVID Operation Center regarding food and community resources:

  • As a reminder, the First Baptist Church in North Adams will be providing a grab-n-go hot meal on Saturday from 11-12. There will also be some grocery supplies available.
  • Berkshire Food Project is open for grab-n-go meals and emergency groceries on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:30-1pm. More information: www.berkshirefoodproject.org 
  • Friendship Food Pantry will be open on 4/1 from 10-2 & 3:30-5:30. The pantry is now being operated out of the St. Elizabeth Friendship Food Pantry. Watch for updates at www.friendshipfoodpantry.org. 
  • Salvation Army Food Pantry, Tuesdays, 12-3 pm. Meet at the front door. COVID Emergency Food boxes are available. Please call Major Corno at 663-7987
  • The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition is open by appointment only, Monday to Friday from 9-4:30 pm. They can be reached at (413) 663-7588. For a listing of services please visitwww.nbccoaltion.org.  Our 510 North Street & North Adams WIC sites are currently closed until further notice, but we are serving our Participants over the phone. If you already have an upcoming appointment, we will call you in the near future to help you and to load your benefits onto your WIC Card. If you do not have a scheduled appointment or if you have questions, please call our Pittsfield office at (413) 447-3495 – if we are unable to answer, please leave a voicemail. We will call you back as soon as possible and apologize for the delay.
  • MassHealth has expanded eligibility and coverage in response to COVID19. See https://www.mass.gov/topics/masshealth for more information. 
Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.

Events (GCal,iCal)
None.  Stay inside.  We do have a digital fundraiser coming up, though!  Stay tuned!
 
Resist and persist!
    Alexander

3/25/20 Newsletter

Dear Greylock Together,

It feels like it’s been a while since we asked you to make some calls.  Put your activism skills to work and let’s make the world a little better than it was yesterday.

Sheriff.  The county jail has the potential to be a COVID-19 hotspot, with the captive population spreading the virus in their close quarters.  The facility is only half full, but it’s still a big risk.  Isolation measures can be taken, but they also make life more miserable for the inmates. Please call Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler and ask him to use his authority to release with GPS bracelets any inmates who are on mandatory minimum sentences and don’t present significant threat to the public. The focus should be on the populations most at risk (60+, immunosuppressed, or other underlying problems) but simply reducing the overall concentration will help.  They are taking some measures, but this is an important one!

Call Assistant Deputy Superintendent Diane Maynes at (413) 443-7220 ext. 1102 to leave feedback as a member of the public and ask for the Sheriff to take this important step.  She isn’t in the office today (Wednesday), so leave a message along these lines:

Hi there, I’m <NAME> and I live in <TOWN>, and I was calling to ask if the Sheriff would please begin releasing people from the county jail on GPS bracelets where possible, to help limit the risk from the coronavirus.  There’s a lot of people on mandatory minimums who aren’t a threat to anyone, and they should be helping their families and not sitting packed in close quarters with others.Consider also leaving a message on their Facebook page.

Food Info.  Here is a spreadsheet put together by Wendy that has detailed info on what food pantries are still open.  We know that it is accurate as of yesterday.  The Greylock Glass has also consolidated information about food supplies at shelters, churches, and the like on this map

Masks Need Sewing.  If you are willing and able to sew surgical masks, please consider making some for the front-liners who need them.  Contrary to last newsletter, BMC won’t be using them, but there are at least a dozen other healthcare providers that are asking for them (often as covers over proper surgical masks, which are running low everywhere).  Instructions are here.  They’re very simple, but a ton of info is available.  Contact Jessica Chittenden at Jchittendenlmhc@gmail.com if you’re willing, and she’ll tell you about safe drop-off procedures.

Notifications.  The Baker-Polito Administration just announced a new “Alerts MA” texting service to allow Massachusetts residents to receive latest updates & information about #COVID19 from trusted sources. To sign up, text “COVIDMA” to 888-777.

Reminder: Mutual Aid.  Facebook group mutual aid and dispensing info in the county here.  The Greylock Glass has also set up this mutual aid board.

Vote by Mail.  Election officials in both parties call for emergency funding to expand voting by mail before November.  It’s just common sense.

Social Distancing Plaudits.  Massachusetts and Berkshire County earn As for social distancing. Public health professionals agree that social distancing is critical to reduce the spread of this pandemic. Data scientists are using smartphone data to determine how well different states and communities are complying with this recommendation; you can see the results on this interactive map. Massachusetts, and Berkshire County have both earned A-grades, among the top in the country. Statewide, travel is down by 47%. Here in Berkshire County, it’s down by 43%. Let’s keep it up, Berkshire County; this is how we take care of one another.

GOP Profiting Off Insider Trading.  After being briefed on the coronavirus — on 1/24 — as members of the senate intelligence committee, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)  did nothing to help Americans understand the seriousness of the threat the virus posed. Instead, they cashed in:  

Burr and Loeffler had an opportunity to sound the alarm. They could have broken ranks with other congressional Republicans and told the country to take the situation more seriously. They could have criticized Trump for not doing more. Such criticism, coming from Trump’s own party, would have received major attention. It would have had the potential to alter Trump  administration policy and, by extension, the course the disease took….Here’s what the two senators did instead: They sold large amounts of their personal stock holdings, cashing in before the market sharply declined, as the severity of the virus became apparent to everyone.Read more about it at the NYT.

Reminder: Unemployment Benefits Help.  If you need help applying for unemployment, virtual town halls are here.

Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.

Events (GCal,iCal)None.  Stay at home. 

Resist and persist!
    Alexander

3/21/20 COVID-19 Info

Dear Greylock Together,

Usually our newsletter is on Tuesdays, but events are moving fast and people need help.  Here’s more info about local needs and opportunities.  Share this with other local people, please.  Anyone who wants to sign up for this newsletter may do so at our website.

This is important.  Even if you don’t need anything or have anything extra, you should try to find a way to help if you have the time and energy.  It’s not enough to just sit back and ride things out — to hope for good things from a distance.  Find ways to help.  Remember: “hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” (Francis Bacon)

Masks Need Sewing.  BMC recently got some supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment) from the federal stockpile, but stocks are still quite low.  This is one way in which our community might be able to help.  If you are willing and able to sew surgical masks, please consider making some for the front-liners who need them.  Instructions are here.  They’re very simple and the design is already approved by BMC.  Contact Jessica Chittenden at Jchittendenlmhc@gmail.com if you’re willing, and she’ll tell you about safe drop-off procedures.

Food Info.  Do you need food, or do you want to donate some?  The Greylock Glass has consolidated information about food supplies at shelters, churches, and the like on this map.  If you recently lost your job and you’re suddenly food insecure, don’t be shy!  These services exist for you!

Mutual Aid.  There’s a Facebook group set up for setting up mutual aid and dispensing info in the county.  Check it out here.  We’re also looking into joining this campaign for mutual aid, but if you need help before then with something, please join their Slack and ask! And finally, The Greylock Glass has also set up this mutual aid board.  If you have services or supplies to donate, including being willing to deliver things, please volunteer on the board.

Unemployment Benefits Help.  If you’re out of work and need help applying for unemployment, go to one of the virtual town halls that the DUA is running here.  Please apply ASAP in case there’s delays!

Petition for Grocery, Pharmacy, Food Workers.  There are a ton of people doing simply vital work right now and risking themselves to do it, but they’re not entitled to appropriate benefits.  Sign this petition to have them designated as essential emergency personnel.

Tax Day Delayed.  The federal government is moving tax day to July 15.  Current understanding is that returns and refunds will still be processed if you submit by the usual date of April 15, but the deadline for doing so is now extended out to July, and you will suffer no penalties if you wait.

RMV Inspections Delayed.  There’s a two-month extension for anyone whose inspection sticker expires in March or April.  More (and complicated) details here if this affects you.

Reminder: Blood Drive.  Reminder that there is a blood drive this Tuesday!  The South Williamstown Community Association is organizing a blood drive at the South Williamstown Historical Museum on Tuesday, March 24th from 9am – 2pm.  All donations made via Berkshire Health Systems help local patients, and for those dealing with cancer, other illnesses, and emergencies, the need is great.  Blood donations are needed urgently as many have stopped donating due to COVID-19.  Donors are requested to be healthy without any symptoms of cough, cold, or fever.  Please schedule an appointment today, which helps prevent long wait times and assists BHS to plan for this event.  To sign up, please contact (413) 447-2597 x 2 or camuso@bhs1.org

Reminder: Stop and Shop.  Reminder that each Stop & Shop has early hours for customers who are aged 60 and older from 6:00 to 7:30 AM daily.  In Williamstown, the Council on Aging can provide transport — contact the Harper Center at 458.8250.

Reminder: Command Center.  The COVID-19 Command Center is open for inquiries from individuals become aware of resources, needs, and individuals who would like to volunteer.  Call 413-662-3614 (7am to 7pm) or email at nbcovid@gmail.com.  There’s a lot of calls, so you might be on hold for a short time.

Events (GCal,iCal)

None.  Stay home.

 

Resist and persist!
    Alexander

Not a Drill

Well, folks, I guess we’ve been training for this moment since 2016. Being able to wake up, strap on our hope-is-an-action armor, and step out into the uncertainty of every single day. Now that the universe has made it literally a matter of life-and-death to pay attention to the signs that the world simply is NOT normal (and yes, people thought we were extreme and “radical” back when we warned that everything was on fire at the beginning of this very dark presidency)…like it or not, WE are the most equipped for this. Staying focused and united #TOGETHER, even when we are #socialdistancing from our separate home nests, is critical. Sharing organizing tools, trusted information, resources, action steps and hopefully, best practices as we keep each other safe (from at least 6 feet apart).
 
We’ll be cancelling all formal GT meetings, rallies, fundraising gatherings and in-person book groups and voter empowerment letter-writing get-togethers, but we will NOT be going through this alone. We’ll do our best to continue newsletter and FB outreach and welcome others to add to our growing list of resources. Meanwhile, we’ll put on our creative pandemic face masks and remember what got us here. The belief in a TRUE and possible form of democracy based on bold new progressive policies–one that can include us all through justice and equity–one that doesn’t rely on borders, and one that doesn’t separate us from each other because of our ideologies, identities or socioeconomic status. Thank you to the #Cartfamily (whose happy home I pass each day on my morning walk before the killer hill) for reminding me this morning that the HOPE we can all maintain on a daily basis comes from actual, discernible, visual, tactile expressions that we must add into our every day “walks,” wherever they may be, from one uncertain day to the next. @blogalacart #GreylockTogether 
 
Join in and help lead your neighbors–from afar–because every single small act truly makes a difference, now more than ever. #GreylockGetTogether #evenwhenapart 
#resist #persist #washyourhands
 
-Jessica

Five-Minute Action to Save Healthcare!

Did you get a chance to call your senators? If so, awesome (it’s kind of empowering, no?). This weekend, let’s pay it forward with our final 5-minute action of this week. Let’s all reach out to friends and/or family —particularly those in states with GOP senators who are most likely to be on the fence about the AHCA (list provided below) — and ask them, directly, to call their senators. 

The moment to do this is right nowTopher Spiro, from the Center for American Progress, has reported that for senators who are on the fence about the AHCA, this congressional recess is the test. If they get too much backlash in their home districts, they will tell Mitch McConnell that TrumpCare is dead.

So every one of these on-the-fence senators need to be met with more backlash than they can possibly imagine. We need everyone in this effort — both those who have been visiting/calling/protesting, and also those that haven’t yet started. This is entirely within reach; we need only three Republican senators to defect for the AHCA to fail.

The task, should you choose to accept it.

  1. Look through your contacts list, Facebook friends, twitter followers, address book. See if you can find at least one person (ideally more!) who lives in these states: 

Tennessee

West Virginia

Maine

Louisiana

Arkansas

Arizona

Colorado

South Carolina

Nevada

Alaska

Ohio

These are the states whose senators are on the fence. These senators must be completely unnerved by the end of next week. 

  1. Call these loved ones. Or write to them. Don’t just communicate to a broad audience in a general Facebook post. Write to at least one person specifically. Use their name. Use their senator’s name. Here are the names and contact numbers for the target senators. 

Ask them to contact their senator/s. Tell them you’re worried about health care, and that because they’re a resident of (NAME STATE), they are in a better position to influence health care than almost anyone in America. Say, “will you please pick up the phone, or go to a protest?” Tell them you’ll walk them through it if they’re nervous. Some suggested phrasing is below.

Tell them your own story about making a first phone call. Tell them that you were nervous, that your voice shook, that you stumbled over your words, and that’s okay. It is so much more important that they call then how they sound when they call.

Tell them you’ll check back in with them. And that as long as they pick up and dial, and say manage the words: “do not repeal obamacare, or do not repeal the ACA,” you will cheer like heck for them.

Please provide the senators’ contact number in your email. Give them everything they might possibly need. 

Not sure what to say? Here’s a possible model:

Hi, _________. 

I hope you’re well! I don’t know if you’re aware, but like many people, I’ve become much more politically involved since November. I’ve been calling my own senators and representatives about a variety of issues — one of which is health care. I believe — and all the data suggest — that the AHCA (TrumpCare) would be a disaster for the nation’s health — far, far worse than Obamacare, which I’m committed to help improve. 

Here’s why I’m writing to you: the GOP needs 50 senate votes to pass the AHCA…which means we can block this by convincing just three moderate Republican senators not to vote for it. Your senator, Susan Collins, is very much on the fence…and word is that she’s spending this congressional break trying to figure out where her constituents stand. This means you (yes you specifically!) are in an extraordinary position to influence the health of this nation. Can I ask you to pick up the phone and call Senator Collins? 

I don’t know if you’ve ever made a call to your senator before…I will offer that I was super-nervous the first time I did it. What I learned is that (a) the first phone call is always the hardest, (b) it doesn’t matter what you sound like when you call…it only matters that you call, and (c) it actually feels really, really good when you’re done. 

You don’t need to know any specific policy points. As long as you say that you’re opposed to repealing Obamacare (the ACA), or that you’re opposed to the AHCA, you’ll have done what you needed to. If you stumble over your words (as I did), or if your voice is shaky (as mine was), that’s actually great — it’s a sign that you’re an ordinary citizen. 

If you’re nervous, I’m happy to help coach you through the phone call. Please know that I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe that both the issue and the moment were critically important. I spent my whole life not talking about politics…but this moment, right now, matters too much to for me to stay quiet.

Susan Collins’s # is 202-224-2523. Phone calls are much more effective than emails, FYI. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get through.  If you want a sample script, there’s one here: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/resource/demand-member-congress-oppose-trumpcare/

Let me know if you have any questions…and let me know when you call: I will cheer like heck for you!

Why ask friends and family? 

Many, many people hesitate to make that first phone call. They want to call. They intend to. Maybe they’re sitting there right now, feeling like they should, but…something’s holding them back. While that “something” might be different for every one of them, all of them are much more likely to take the leap if they’re directly asked by someone they know. 

But isn’t it rude to pressure loved ones about politics?

Don’t think of it as pressure. Think about it as encouragement. If any part of them wishes they can do something, then they’re going to feel empowered when they make that first call. They’re going to feel good.

I say this with experience. Back in January, I wrote to my mother-in-law — a southern woman who is deeply uncomfortable discussing politics. I knew she didn’t like Trump and that she was worried about the country. But I also knew that 70+ years of not talking politics meant she probably wouldn’t pick up the phone on her own.

I didn’t feel comfortable asking. But I asked anyway. She did call, and then she wrote me to say, “I’m afraid I’m not very good at this, but I did it!” She was relieved, and proud…and it was a beginning. Now, she’s calling regularly (woohoo!).

But it’s so uncomfortable to talk about politics.

You bet it is. But the folks out there who are rooting for Trumpism— all those who support white nationalism, who want to ban all members of an entire religion from entering the country, who are discrediting legitimate journalism as fake news, and who are shouting “lock her up” like we’re living in Salem 1692— aren’t uncomfortable. Nor are they being quiet. This means the alternative to talking with our loved about politics is having them hear the Trumpists in one ear…and a vacuum in the other.

And if you think it will help them relax, you can always send them these humorous tips for calling your elected official, from the New Yorker.

Want to take it one step further? Help them find a resistance event near them: https://twitter.com/TopherSpiro/status/868080004290183168

Ali Benjamin