BCAC Giving Tree Needs Another Miracle This Year

As in the past few years, BCAC’s ELF Giving Tree program is struggling through the holiday season to muster desperately needed winter clothing for over a thousand kids of low income applicant families in central Berkshire County this year.  While it had hoped for a finish date of December 15, it will now extend into the next week until the nearly 200 remaining children are sponsored.
I applaud the many different local charitable drives this time of year, and encourage all possible support to them. Without getting too preachy, making things a little brighter, especially for kids, around what realistically can be a very difficult time for many, is, well, probably the type of thing we’re on this Earth to do.  A lot of the rest is just ribbons and wrapping. In particular, though, I believe this 33rd year old, all volunteer-driven program coordinated by the Berkshire Community Action Council serves a crucial need. The Giving Tree, stationed at the Berkshire Mall these past many years, is remarkable in that it anonymously but directly connects the community with hundreds of real children under 12, children with names and needs.  The process of shopping for or donating for a specific child with a first name, ages, sizes and favorite colors gives back not only the sense of helping out, but also an opportunity to reflect.

Studies have shown that children who lack or have limited proper winter attire face many disadvantages beyond the obvious, limitations which have been linked to academic and social problems as well as numerous health issues.

Volunteering at the Giving Tree table this year, I saw a powerful awareness of this in the generosity of many, and so often from those who can scarcely afford it. Last week, I met an elderly veteran who had just successfully fought to have his rightful benefits, and one of his first acts with what “little extra” he could manage was to get to the mall to make a cash donation. These heart-breaking moments are the daily norm at the Giving Tree; the kids who ask their parents to donate for a poorer child instead of giving them presents, the teenagers who donate their slight earnings, the moms and dads who find a way to take on just a little bit more somehow, or the couple who lost their own child and came to shop for ones they’ll never meet.  And all these other people, people who just know what it is to be cold out there, to live at a lowest-legally-allowable quality of life that’s not actually livable.
Some say it’s the spirit of the season, but I think it’s the cold, too, the reality of New England winter.  This program is triage, a front line of the hierarchy of human needs, and the basic well being of children in our community… and for a few kids out there, maybe survival itself this year.
GT-Dec 21

December 21, 2012

Glasser memorial service, and the ongoing search for closure in Pittsfield slayings

Monday I attended a memorial for David Glasser at Price Memorial AME Zion Church, where 40 or so friends gathered for a service in remembrance of his life.

Despite worldwide media coverage of the circumstances of his death, and that of his friends Robert Chadwell Edward Frampton, I discovered Glasser’s name is still not recognizably familiar to many Pittsfield residents. As for myself, his name and face are pe etched in my mind, perhaps permanently, despite having never met the man.

It bears repeating, then, that these three men were slain three months ago in what by all accounts so far is arguably the most horrific crime committed in this community in two decades.

“He was an unpretentious, trusted to friend to many, and remained true and faithful until the end of a very difficult period of his life,” said Pastor Will Durant “But what we have to remember that that’s all it was, it was a period of life. It does not in any way diminish who we was.”

“I don’t know that many of us have as many newspaper articles written about them in their life as David did in one year of his life.”

All of this gave me pause to consider the day I first got to know the name David Glasser.

For me, it all began with a call from a friend of a friend, that a small army of police had blocked off Potter Mountain Road between Hancock and Pittsfield. This was September 4, a week after Hurricane Irene. I vividly recall hobbling around the road closure on a sprained ankle on a rainy Monday morning chatting up the officers to no avail; so vividly it’s as though it happened last week.

A press release from the DA’s office a couple of hours later connected the massive search I witnessed around the State forest with an earlier bulletin we’d run on iBerkshires. At this time the only mention of these three men had been the briefest media bulletin from the DA’s office that 3 men had gone missing, poorly and confusingly phrased, as though their disappearance was in some way connected to the storm.

Over the course of that afternoon I started Googling and began to comb LexisNexis, stumbling into a trove of mentions of David Glasser. I think over the course of that day myself, various Eagle staff, and other interested parties put together essentially the same theory that, although not confirmed until a couple weeks later, was law enforcement’s working theory from the very beginning. Indeed, a cursory search of news coverage easily uncovered the entire year’s worth of articles to which Reverend Durant referred. The whole sorry story of escalating conflict between Glasser and the primary accused, Adam Lee Hall, plays out within and between the lines of those news items.

Like everyone, I made certain assumptions, characterizations of everyone involved that are hard to avoid when all you know of people is what you’ve heard and what you read. Unlike some, I never lost a sense of the magnitude of the tragedy of what happened. Tragic from the very beginning, because long before the announcement came that the bodies had been found, all you had to do was look into the faces of certain friends and relatives of either the victims or the accused and you just knew that something brutally final had happened, that those men were never going to be found alive.

Worse, in many ways, was the seemingly muted, at times even mocking, reaction from the community overall. This was nothing like the terror, shock and outrage I remember over Lewis Lent, with the disappearance of Jimmy Bernardo and attempted kidnapping of Rebecca Savarese. It didn’t even resemble a fractional version of that, almost the opposite to some. As one commenter put it, “What’s the big deal? So some bikers took out some crackheads. Good riddance all around.”

I remember how truly sad, and embarassed, and ashamed I felt for Pittsfield when I read that comment. This was repaired in some measure by the backlash of responses from those who stood up to this naive and over simplistic view, residents and friends of David’s who depicted a different view of the man, a caring, helpful friend who did more good than harm, despite facing a lot of challenges and demons.

The picture that emerged of David, who was a frequent volunteer at the Christian Center and known to many throughout that neighborhood, was of a rather frail man, a man who had no doubt made some mistakes in his life, but nothing that anyone can sanely say merited or invited this horror upon himself. This was not a dangerous man, or common thug. This was not in a person that a couple of years ago could have reasonably expected to be swept up into a situation where he and two of his friends would be brutally massacred and buried in a gory pit in Becket. There is simply no sane way to spin what happened here as a case of “they had it coming.”

Not that I claim to know exactly what happened. We can’t even hope to know the complete story of what happened until the trial begins, and perhaps not even then.

I just know that I can’t help be haunted by what has happened, and I know there are others that feel the same way. I can only hope that as the steps of this process continue on through memorials to trials, some greater sense, some type of closure emerges.