A broad spectrum of agencies involved in the prevention of child abuse joined Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless for a unity breakfast on Tuesday, April 2, 2014, at the Country Club of Pittsfield, kicking off a month-long calendar of activities in recognition of April as National Child Abuse Awareness Month. 

The breakfast brought together many stakeholders in the field of child protection, including representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, state and local law enforcement, Department of Children and Families, The Kids’ Place and Violence Prevention Center, Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc., the Brien Center, community coalitions, and Berkshire Juvenile Court as well as state and local elected officials.    

Joan McMenemy, First Justice of the Berkshire Juvenile Court, gave the keynote address honoring the work being done in Berkshire County and the success of the collaborations among various agencies charged with protecting children.  Other speakers included Shaun Cusson, Executive Director of Hillcrest Educational Centers; Christa Collier, Program Director of the Berkshire County Kids’ Place and Violence Prevention Center; and State Senator Benjamin Downing. 

The breakfast also featured the award ceremony of the 11th Annual Gerard D. Downing Service to Children Award, which is presented each year by the Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network (SAIN) Team in honor of the late Gerard D. Downing.

Gerard Downing's tragic, untimely death in December of 2003 left a void not only in our county but across the Commonwealth.  Gerry served as Berkshire District Attorney for 13 years.  Prior to his election Gerry served as an Assistant District Attorney for seven years.  He selflessly dedicated his legal career to public service, protecting the community in which he was raised.  He had an unwavering commitment to advancing the rights of victims, in particular those most vulnerable – children, seniors, and the disabled. 

This year’s award was presented to Al Bashevkin, Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. 

Al has overseen the overall operation of the Coalition including administration, fundraising and management since its inception in 1986.  

Al is responsible for all the core activities of the Coalition including the monthly community forums, a monthly newsletter of community events, a monthly television show on public access TV, and special events that bring together those working in the community for a common purpose. 

For the past 28 years he has helped the organization grow from a concept to a program responsible for many new initiatives in the region. 

Achievements during his tenure as Director include the creation, development and advocacy of numerous programs to improve the quality of life within the northern Berkshire region.

Al is humble about his work and accomplishments and is always looking to give credit to others.  If you asked him about his work he may say, “No big deal, I’m just doing my part to be a good citizen.”

Al Bashevkin is more that a good citizen – he is a community champion who knows that when people have support and feel connected to their community it gives them hope, and from hope comes courage, and courage creates resiliency and resiliency helps to build strong children and families and communities.

Al exemplifies the best qualities of a public servant, and his service to this community continues to make a positive impact not only in Northern Berkshire but across Berkshire County.