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July 2010
Hillcrest Celebrates 25th Anniversary 07/24/2010

Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc. is celebrating its 25th year of providing treatment and special education services to New England’s most abused and neglected children. 

 “Since the early days of this organization, we have always had support from people who just believed in Hillcrest,” said President Gerard Burke. “That notion of never ever give up, is the same spirit we bring to our programs for these kids. We have created an environment where children can resume their childhood again; to be safe and to trust people. We go the extra mile and tell our kids no matter what, we will hang in there with them. Trust is the cornerstone of everything and just when things seem most bleak – we try one more time. Frequently, that extra effort is what makes the difference.”

In a special reception planned for Friday, July 23, Burke will announce plans for celebrating the anniversary of the school. “With the ceremony we will celebrate 25 years of service,” Burke said.  “After remembering our roots - we will look to the future with a recommitment to the individuals and communities served by Hillcrest.” More than 250 special guests are expected to include Michael S. Dukakis, who served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1975-1979, 1983-1991 and was instrumental in the founding of Hillcrest; community leaders and dignitaries; state-elected officials; locally-elected officials, Hillcrest friends and supporters; staff members, Hillcrest students and their families.
Burke said, “I like to say that we are 25 years young. We are always striving to do better because our kids deserve nothing less than that.” This summer construction was completed on the expansion of the Housatonic Academy which allows Hillcrest to provide more services for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Burke added, “We are still growing - most recently Berkshire County Kids’ Place & Violence Prevention Center, Inc. has become affiliated with Hillcrest. This move brings into partnership two organizations that are focused on improving the lives of children who have suffered abuse or trauma.”

As part of the celebration Burke added, “We are thrilled to announce the inception of the Founders’ Society at Hillcrest. We are proud of our heritage and of those who believed in us from the beginning, for without their efforts, there may not be a Hillcrest today.” Members of the Founders’ Society include Governor Michael S. Dukakis, Judge John A. Barry, William J. Goggins, Eugene A. Dellea, Sheila N. Keator, Anthony J. Rinaldi, Jr., Philip W. Johnston, John A. Barry, Jr., and former State Senator Peter C. Webber.

Hillcrest Chairman of the Board, Mark Mathews was part of Hillcrest from the beginning.  He said, “Judge John A. Barry was chairman of the Hillcrest Hospital Board of Directors and Foundation. He sought support to develop an agency called Hillcrest Educational Centers, once Avalon School had closed.

Over the years, rather than become distracted and discouraged by the uncertainties and challenges of this ambitious endeavor, Hillcrest Educational Centers’ board members, administrators, staff and community-at-large rose to the occasion time and time again. Thus, 25 years later, we are pleased and proud to celebrate what we have endured, what we have provided, what we have become, and what we intend to become tomorrow.”

Hillcrest  Board Member Eugene Dellea said, “It all began with discussions at Hillcrest Hospital in 1984. At first, there was not a lot of willingness by the board members to support this enormous effort, but we took the challenge and I am very proud to say we made it. When you meet the children and hear how instrumental Hillcrest has been in their lives, it’s easy to see we made the right choice.”

 Stacey Ahlman of Torrington, Connecticut has high praises for the program at Hillcrest.  Her son Taylor Rosado, was a student at Hillcrest for three years. “Taylor now lives in a transitional home and is working on gaining independence to live on his own. Taylor struggled so hard for so many years and now I am proud to say that he is going to college. He has come so far, thanks to Hillcrest. Hillcrest has encouraged and strengthened my child to become the young man that he is today, ready to embrace the world.”

Founders Society Member, Sheila Keator was instrumental in Hillcrest’s humble beginnings, as well.  She said, “When Avalon School closed, I called Judge Barry. All the tiny pieces began fitting together and after a zillion of planning lunches at the Stanley Club, it happened. I knew in my heart that Hillcrest Educational Centers would be good for the community and especially for the children.”

As a private, not-for-profit corporation, Hillcrest’s core mission is to help their students develop the educational, vocational, social and emotional coping skills to return successfully to the communities from which they come. Matthews said, “I am proud to say we have had a high degree of success in helping our kids.”

Hillcrest’s anniversary celebration in 2010 will include an awareness campaign of TV ads filmed on location at the residential centers at Hillcrest.  The unscripted TV spots feature real students speaking from the heart about their experiences with Hillcrest and how their lives have changed. As part of the same campaign, radio and print ads will also feature the students in the TV ads.

The Hillcrest students featured in the campaign are Bryanna Moniz, Shanece Hyams, Marlene Fuentes, Jordan Balser, Dominique Bess, Kohl Barkman and Gavin Williams.  Burke said, “The messages from the TV ads speak to the success of Hillcrest and makes us very proud to watch these kids grow as a result of their time with us.”  Bess said, “Now that I am at Hillcrest, my confidence is higher than it was before.” Balser said, “At Hillcrest I learned that I am a good person.” Hyams said, “They opened up my heart. I thank Hillcrest for that.”

 “Hillcrest’s commitment to serving and supporting the needs of others extends beyond its everyday work. As a community, Hillcrest has developed a strong culture of supporting numerous local and national efforts to help others whenever possible,” Burke added. Though not a United Way funded agency, Hillcrest staff members participate as a Pacesetter for the Berkshire County United Way fund drive, pledging $15,000 to $20,000 each year to support local programs for kids and families.  The Hillcrest staff members also support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, conduct an annual staff blood drive for the Berkshire County Red Cross and contribute to many other local community fundraising efforts. Hillcrests staff serves on the board of directors of numerous community organizations including The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Berkshire Red Cross, and Berkshire County Regional Employment Board.

Hillcrest also instills this spirit of helping others in the children they serve. In the past several years Hillcrest kids have organized car washes, arts and crafts sales, bake and plant sales to raise funds for the Lenox and Great Barrington Fire Departments, the Shriners Hospital Burn Unit, needy families during the holidays, victims of Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake in Haiti.

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