PITTSFIELD, Mass. (Feb. 20, 2020) — The Rotary Club of Pittsfield, now celebrating its 100th anniversary, raised a record-setting $78,305 at its annual auction and dance party on Feb. 1, held at the Holiday Inn & Suites. Charitable funds raised included $16,065 in donations designated for Roots Rising, an award-winning, women-led nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower Pittsfield teens and build community through food, farming and the transformational power of meaningful work.
“The substantial amount of money raised at our recent event says as much about the caring and generous people of Pittsfield as it does about the Rotary’s commitment to serving and supporting our community,” said John McLaughlin, president of the Rotary Club of Pittsfield. “We’re proud to be celebrating 100 years of giving to our local community and are thrilled to support Root’s Rising’s admirable work. It’s a great synergy.”
Alex Reczkowski, a member of the Rotary Club and director of the Berkshire Athenaeum, presented a check to Roots Rising’s founding co-directors Jamie Samowitz and Jessica Vecchia on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. at Mazzeo’s Ristorante, following the Club’s weekly lunchtime meeting.
“This speaks to the power of the Rotary and the power of community. We left that auction feeling so grateful to the Rotary Club of Pittsfield for their support, generosity and belief in our work. We couldn't ask for better advocates,” said Vecchia.  
The Pittsfield Club was organized on March 30, 1920, and received official certification from Rotary International on May 1, 1920. The Club participates in international projects, including support of Rotary International's leadership in the eradication of polio and a number of clean water projects, but the club’s largest impacts are felt on a local level.
Each year, the Pittsfield Club distributes more than $90,000 in community support, raised through special events, fundraisers and donations during the year. The club’s annual food drive results in tons of food donated to programs, as well as $1,000 cash donations to each of twelve local food pantries and kitchens. Annual events (an auction in late January, a wine pairing dinner in March, a golf tournament in May, and a special event in the fall) raise the funds for benevolence in the community. The Club provides grants in support of activities benefitting low-income and under resourced individuals, serving primarily Pittsfield residents. This support is seen in annual scholarships, camperships to many of the local summer camps, domestic violence and child abuse awareness support, employment support at organizations, and direct funding of local charitable projects, notably the Club’s recent donation of $180,000 to build a splash pad at Clapp Park to celebrate the Pittsfield Club's 100th anniversary.
The Pittsfield Rotary Foundation was established in 1986 with a mission to create an endowment to support capital and special projects which have a long-term community impact, including scholarships. The Literacy Fund of the endowment supports distribution of dictionaries to every third grader in Pittsfield and Richmond each year. Another endowment supports paying the fees for Advanced Placement tests for under resourced Pittsfield students. To learn more, or to become a member of the Rotary Club of Pittsfield, go to rotarypittsfield.org.
The Rotary Club of Pittsfield is one of over 35,000 Rotary clubs around the world, who meet every week to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders. Together, the clubs comprise a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change—across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. Each year, this network of change makers donates upwards of 111 million volunteer hours to their communities.
Roots Rising, established in 2017, has two main initiatives: their Pittsfield Farmers Market and their youth crews. The organization’s Pittsfield Farmers Market is the first teen-run market in the region and was the first year-round market in Berkshire County. It was founded with the belief that everyone should have access to fresh, healthy food and the organization has implemented several food justice initiatives to make their market affordable for all. This includes Market Matchwhich doubles the purchasing power of low-income shoppers by matching SNAP, WIC, Senior benefits, and Summer Eats, a federally funded program that provides free lunches to all youth under the age of 18.
Roots Rising hires Pittsfield teens to work on farms, in food pantries and at their market, providing an opportunity for teens to engage in meaningful work—work that needs to be done and serves a larger social good. As both an employment and a youth development program, Roots Rising offers workshops on essential life skills, such as culinary and financial literacy lessons, as well as regular feedback circles.
This spring, Roots Rising will launch a truck crew, who will run a teen-run food truck with ingredients sourced from local farms. Crew members will learn entrepreneurial and culinary skills while offering the community a healthy food option. The food truck will operate at the Pittsfield Farmers Market, as well as at local and regional cultural events.
In 2019, Roots Rising’s farmers market distributed 350 free meals to kids, increased food access for 450 households, donated 2,500 pounds of food to shelters and food pantries, put over $36,000 worth of fresh food onto the tables of families in need, and helped farmers and food producers make $200,000 in direct sales. The organization provided 43 Pittsfield teens with meaningful work, devoted 591 program hours to strengthening the local food system, and stocked and distributed 3,600 pounds of food each week at local food pantries. For more information, see rootsrising.org.