A Friendship Like No Other
The story of one very special Citizen Advocacy match

   Have you ever had a friend that was so close to you, that you felt like they were a member of your family?  I recently met with two women who have that exact relationship. Martha Panagopoulos and Judy Brunell are part of the Citizen Advocacy program at Berkshire County Arc; a program designed to match up individuals served by BCARC with members of their community.  Martha, Senior Employment Manager of the Advantage Employee Network of Berkshire County Arc, is Judy's Citizen Advocate.
   These two women have an even longer story to share than just their relationship in the program.  Before Martha became Judy's Advocate, she already had a growing friendship with Judy.  Martha and Judy met in 1990 when Martha was assigned to be Judy's employment manager at Berkshire County Savings Bank, where the women worked together for 6 years.   They soon became friends and began to spend time in the community together outside of work. 

It was not until four years ago, however, that the ladies became a Citizen Advocacy "match".
   What does this mean? It means that Martha and Judy spend time together on a regular basis, enjoying many activities like going to holiday parties and their favorites, shopping and dining out.  Judy, who is a Mold Master Production Worker, also really enjoys visiting Martha and her two kittens.  This pair has a relationship that goes beyond their roles as Citizen Advocate and Protégé.  Both women view the other as a part of their family, and someone that they can depend on for support.  It is not uncommon for one to call the other "just to chat". 
   A Citizen Advocates is anyone in the Berkshire County community who is willing to spend time at least once a month with an individual from Berkshire County Arc, or "protégé".   It is up to the match to decide what activities they would like to participate in together, and matches are made based on interest and preferences.  Even talking on the

phone can be considered spending time together in the Citizen Advocacy program.  There are currently 42 matches in the agency's program, however there is still a long list of individuals eager to be matched up with an Advocate.
   Not every BCARC individual is lucky enough to have a friend in their life like Martha.  It is not expected of a Citizen Advocate to have a relationship with their protégé as close as Martha and Judy's.  However, you never know when you are going to meet up with someone who could change your life, or become a new member of your family.

Are you interested in becoming an Advocate in the Citizen Advocacy program?  For more information call Marie Tiffany at Berkshire County Arc at
(413) 499-4241 Ext.265.

Martha Panagopoulos, Berkshire County Arc AEN Senior Employment Manager, and her Citizen Advocacy Protégé Judy Brunell consider one another to be a part of their family. 

Visions 6

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