NBCC volunteers, including MCLA alumni and community members, help with a gardening project in North Adams.
Down the street from campus, MCLA alumni are making a major community impact through their work at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
Founded in 1986, the NBCC works to empower the Northern Berkshire region, raise the quality of life for all residents, and connect, convene, and support all facets of the community. That work takes shape through many programs, from family resources to prevention strategies, youth development, and community connections. It’s deep community work with many intersections, including with the College, whose community routinely collaborates on NBCC work and participates in NBCC programs.
Tim Shiebler ’14 is NBCC’s youth development coordinator; he majored in psychology with a minor in anthropology at MCLA, and stayed in North Adams after moving here for college from Winchendon, Mass. He works directly with the region’s young people as well as convening with other youth development professionals in the area. “I think of it as two parallel tracks—one directly with young people and one at a more community change level,” he said.
“I see my role as giving young people opportunities to grow in a supportive environment,” Shiebler said. “It brings me a lot of hope for the future. A big piece of that is what the young people we work with bring to the table. I’m consistently amazed by the art that is made, the conversations we have, the level of depth they have.”
Shiebler crosses paths with plenty of other MCLA alumni in his work, including NBCC Youth Support Associate Carrisa Sacherski ‘15. He said he didn’t originally intend to stay in the area, but felt a true sense of community in the Northern Berkshires that kept him here, as well as many of his college friends. “We were all engaged in building our own community, and also were involved in the community at large,” Shiebler said. “I think that impacts a lot of MCLA students, and there’s a carryover of that sense of community after graduating.”
Liz Boland ’84, NBCC’s business manager, has been at the coalition since 2005, and has seen it grow into the organization it is today. “I immediately loved working here,” she said.
During the 17 years she’s worked there, she’s seen programs start and grow, including the Friendship Center Food Pantry, the idea for which was sparked by a coalition forum on food insecurity. “It’s exciting to be part of that process,” she said. “I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of person, but I am supporting the people at the NBCC who are out front.”
In addition to keeping track of things like payroll and grant balances, she is part of the committee that organizes the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service, a collaboration between NBCC and MCLA.
MCLA students take part in an NBCC activity at the Church Street Center.
“We work with MCLA folks all the time,” she said. Other current alumni working at the coalition include Stephanie Puc, '07 Family Support and Neighborhood Coordinator and Lindsey Rosa, '21 Program Support Associate. Another MCLA alum and former NBCC employee is also Liz’s sister, Bert Lamb ‘79, who recently retired as NBCC communications coordinator.
Boland grew up in North Adams and said she feels it’s important for local organizations to connect with institutions like MCLA. “You have to keep strong connections,” she said. “The MCLA students—they are our future!”