Money School Returns

Workshops to be offered in Pittsfield and Great Barrington

PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts: Elizabeth Freeman Center’s financial independence series for people impacted by domestic or sexual violence will offer its second year of classes starting mid-March.

“Money School” is a five week series for survivors that covers topics like rebuilding credit, accessing benefits, building supports, getting by now, and action planning.  It was created through a partnership between Elizabeth Freeman Center and the American Institute for Economic Research.

A $125 stipend will be offered, as well as free dinner, childcare, one-on-one financial coaches from local banks, networking with other resource providers in the community, and ongoing supports.

Many times survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are left struggling financially.

“Money School is not your typical financial education program,” said Becca Bradburd, Director of Operations at Elizabeth Freeman Center.  “It recognizes that for most people, especially those who are living through or recovering from trauma, it can seem impossible to get ahead.  In Money School, we provide economic advocacy, social capital, financial know-how, and ongoing support to get people where they want to be financially – whether that’s being able to go to school or have an emergency fund or rebuild credit or something else entirely.”

The first series of five workshops will run on Tuesday evenings, March 15th-April 12th, in Pittsfield.  The second and third series will be held in Great Barrington and again in Pittsfield starting in late April.  All workshops are 5:00-8:00pm, with food, childcare, and a stipend provided.

To register for any of the series, contact Donna at Elizabeth Freeman Center, 413.499.2425 x613 or

Money School is made possible by strong community support, including grants from Guardian Life Insurance Company, TD Charitable Foundation, Berkshire Bank Foundation, and MountainOne, with additional in-kind support from the bankers at Greylock Federal Credit Union, TD Bank, Berkshire Bank, NBT Bank, and Lee Bank.


EFC-Logo-2015-RGBElizabeth Freeman Center is the domestic and sexual violence response center for Berkshire County.  Each year, it provides leadership and services to over 3,000 survivors in Berkshire County and offers violence prevention education to almost 1,000 youth in area schools.

aierlogo_PMS3015_Acronym_Name_stackedThe American Institute for Economic Research provides independent research and critical analysis of economic and financial issues. AIER researchers provide ordinary people with expert advice and insight they can use to improve their lives and communities. For more information, visit


Berkshire Eagle letter to the editor, Dec. 21: Domestic violence a community problem

Letter: Domestic violence a community problem

To the editor:

The week before last, Halena Irene Gill was murdered and police have arrested her husband. We at Elizabeth Freeman Center are greatly saddened by Ms. Gill’s tragic death and our deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.

Though we do not yet know all of the circumstances of her death, Ms. Gill would be the 17th victim of murder by a spouse or partner in Massachusetts this year. This figure is shocking. It also cannot be understood outside the context of domestic violence. Domestic violence is devastating and it happens a lot, often behind closed doors with no clear clue for outsiders. We know this and sadly, we have known this for a long time.

For well over 20 years, studies have shown that one in three American women and one in ten American men are beaten, stalked or raped. We know that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to girls and women between the ages of 15 and 44. We know that abuse can happen to anyone — of any income level, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or ability — and is deserved by no one. We know that it happens here in Berkshire County: our rate of restraining orders is 28 percent higher than the state average, and in the past 10 years, one-third of the approximately 18 murders in the county are domestic violence homicides. Perhaps most significantly, we know that violence is preventable.

For all that we as a society know, domestic violence is still shrouded in silence. Victims are still blamed for “tolerating” the violence. Society spends few resources on services to help violence survivors get safe and build a new life. Society spends even fewer resources on violence prevention programming, particularly for our youth who can be taught to talk or walk instead of hit. Violence prevention education is our greatest hope for breaking the patterns of violence.

Nothing can excuse cruelty and violence. In the names and memories of Halena, Rebecca, Julie, Michelle and all those who have been murdered or beaten up or beaten down or raped or terrorized by their partners, spouses, dates or family members, we will charge forward. The tragedy and loss caused by domestic violence must be acknowledged and prioritized. It can be stopped. This is a community problem and we as a community must respond.

Elizabeth Freeman Center provides 24-hour services to survivors of domestic, dating and sexual violence. If you sense something is wrong with someone you know, reach out to them in private. If you hear fighting or angry shouting next door, call the police — it is better to err on the side of safety. If you are worried for yourself or someone you know, if you are being bullied, beaten, or belittled by someone, call us. You can reach us any time, any day, toll free, at 866-401-2425. Our services are free and confidential. We don’t believe in telling survivors what to do, what to want, or how to proceed. We believe in offering concrete support, information, and help whenever and as often as needed. You are not alone.

Janis Broderick and Jane Lawless, Pittsfield

Janis Broderick is executive director and Jane Lawless is president, Board of Directors, Elizabeth Freeman Center.

iBerkshires, Oct. 23: Berkshire Bank Foundation awards grant to Elizabeth Freeman Center

Berkshire Bank Foundation Awards More Than $200,000 To County Nonprofits

Berkshire Bank

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Berkshire Bank Foundation has awarded $202,416 in grants and pledges to 41 non-profit organizations in Berkshire County during its third quarter grants cycle.

Some of the organizations receiving support include the Berkshire Museum, Berkshire Innovation Center, Pittsfield Public Schools, Literacy Network of Southern Berkshire, The Christian Center, Elder Services of Berkshire County, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Railroad Street Youth Project, the Dalton CRA and Construct Inc.

· Elizabeth Freeman Center based in Pittsfield  received a grant to support their annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event and Money School program.

“We are proud to support these non-profit organizations in the important work that they are doing to contribute to the economic and educational vitality of the communities that we serve,” Lori Gazzillo, vice president and Foundation director. said. “We are proud to play a small role in all of their efforts and look forward to working together to make our communities stronger.”

In addition to financial support, the XTEAM, the Bank’s nationally acclaimed Employee Volunteer Program, provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours. In 2014, over 70 percent of Berkshire Bank’s employees provided more than 40,000 hours of service to benefit community organizations across the bank’s service area. The volunteer program is another way for the bank to give back to the communities where it does business. In recognition of their work in the community, Berkshire Bank has received more than two dozen awards and accolades, most recently being named by the Boston Business Journal as one of Massachusetts Most Charitable Companies for the third consecutive year.

iBerkshires, Oct. 22: Verizon gives Hopeline grant to Elizabeth Freeman Center

Verizon’s Hopeline Program Protects Domestic Abuse Victims

By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff

Verizon Hopeline Program

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With today’s technology it can be pretty easy to track someone down. When it comes to domestic abuse victims, Verizon wants to make sure that isn’t the case.

Each year, Verizon donates boxes of secure cell phones to the Elizabeth Freeman Center to give to victims — getting them off the family plan and onto a secured line.

“The Hopeline gives us a safe phone to give folks so they can call for help or call for services,” Elizabeth Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick.

“They really do save lives. We give out at least 100 phones per year.”

The phones given to the center is part of the company’s ‘Hopeline’ program. On Thursday, District Attorney David Capeless turned over hundreds of old cell phones to the company. Verizon will now recycle the parts and use the proceeds to send new phones and a cash donation to the Freeman Center. The new phones are all stocked with minutes and texts for victims to use.

We couldn’t do these grants or Hopeline phones without the community’s help,” said Verizon spokesman Mike Murphy. “Through the revenues we generate fro this program we can give grants to our partners.”

In its 10th year, Verizon gifted the Freeman Center a $5,000 check. Broderick says that’ll go to support the organization’s 24-hour emergency services. That response gives families whatever emergency needs the family has at the time. Broderick said the needs vary on a case by case basis.

“We’re confident our resources are being put to good use,” Murphy said.

The money is generated from Capeless’ collections in which hundreds of old cell phones are collected and shipped to the company. Capeless said the partnership among the three agencies isn’t just finances but the collection process sheds light on the problem of domestic abuse.

“It reminds them that this is an ongoing issue,” Capeless said.

He credited Verizon with putting in the effort to make it happen because “for Verizon this is not simply a public relations event” but a program requiring a significant amount of work.

“This is such a great program,” the district attorney said.

Broderick said the Elizabeth Freeman Center operates on a “bare bones” budget so it relies on community partners like Verizon and the district attorney’s office.

“I think our partnerships in Berkshire County make our work more effective,” she said.

Berkshire Eagle, Oct. 16: State designates BMC a “SANE Hospital”

BMC joins Elizabeth Freeman Center in bid to curb domestic violence

By Phil Demers, Berkshire Eagle staff

Cheryl Re, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Mary Walz-Watson


PITTSFIELD — Drugs, poverty and homelessness all contribute to a higher incidence of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Berkshire County, per capita, than in much of the rest of Massachusetts, according to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

To help turn that around, Berkshire Medical Center soon will become part of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, a new initiative launched by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker.

“Victims can go to this hospital and get the right response that he or she needs,” Polito said Thursday during a visit to the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which provides services to victims of domestic violence. “These examiners then document the medical evidence needed so when the batterer or abuser is prosecuted, the [district attorney] and his team have the evidence and a witness to come forward.”

She added, “It’s a tool that many people in this county can use to break that cycle of violence.”

The SANE designation will greatly enhance collaboration between hospital and Elizabeth Freeman Center staff. When a victim enters the hospital, nursing staff will summon center staffers as part of standard protocol.

Additionally, nurses will be provided with — many already have — more robust training on how to best deal with victims seeking help after these traumatic events.

Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick said her staffers are highly trained but rarely get called to the hospital when victims come in. The new program represents an unprecedented level of collaboration between the hospital and domestic assault/sexual violence workers.

“It’s been shown that if you can have a rape crisis counselor there right at the moment, it makes a big difference,” Broderick said. “We can offer immediate support. Obviously, this is going to increase the number of calls we’re getting, and we’re glad.”

She added, “We’re thrilled. This is a huge step.”

The rate of restraining orders given out in the Berkshires meaningfully exceeds the statewide figure, an indication that relationships here are more likely to become abusive, advocates say. Episodes of abuse can derail victims’ lives, through loss of employment and economic insecurity or subsequent substance abuse.

In 2014, The Freeman Center served 3,034 individual survivors of abuse, people from every corner of the Berkshires, all 32 cities and towns. More than half of these, 1,641, were residents of Pittsfield. The total figure was down slightly from 3,107 in 2013.

“When the lieutenant governor first saw those numbers — those very stunning numbers — from right here, she knew they were making the right decision,” said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, “We have some super-good news here today. There’s another tool in the toolbox. But we have a real issue, and it impacts every single one of us. We have to continue working on this.”

District Attorney David Capeless, who attended Polito’s announcement at the Freeman Center, said he has advocated for such a program for 20 years.

“We need people who are specially trained working with these victims so they can later testify in the courtroom,” Capeless said. “I’m glad this program will be bringing us people prepared to do that.”

Polito said she’d observed a high level of collaboration between Berkshire organizations and was happy to announce news that it would soon increase.

“This room is filled with people who care an awful lot about their neighbors,” Polito said at Thursday’s event. “You come with a tremendous amount of dedication and experience. This collaboration will unite the Berkshires in keeping people safe, making them well and getting them on a path to a successful and good life.”