Coalition receives $50K it needs to finish year


Staff Writer
Published: 2/14/2020 9:47:04 PM
Modified: 2/14/2020 9:46:51 PM

ATHOL — The North Quabbin Community Coalition is breathing a little easier now that it has received $50,000 from the state to cover this year’s costs for utilities and building maintenance, its online presence, outreach and more.

Executive Director Heather Bialecki-Canning said she was relieved to learn that the money was coming. She said it is the first year in the five years she has led the nonprofit and community-wide alliance committed to improving the quality of life for all those living and working in the North Quabbin region that it didn’t receive funding from the state Department of Public Health, which typically covers those costs.

“It’s our core funding, and we didn’t get it this year,” Bialecki-Canning said. “We really appreciate the the help of Sen. Jo Comerford and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan in this last-ditch effort. It shows the goodness toward and care for North Quabbin Community Coalition.”

Bialecki-Canning said after she spoke with Comerford, D-Northampton, about the funding, she and others “jumped into action” and remedied the situation.

“I’ve had wonderful interactions with these people,” she said. “The senator put in a request for money from the state’s supplemental budget, and it came through.”

The North Quabbin Community Coalition is a community-wide alliance committed to improving the quality of life for all those living and working in the North Quabbin region. It is located at 251 Exchange St., Athol.

Comerford said it was a “total and complete team effort by her, Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.

“I was certainly delighted to respond on the Senate side,” Comerford said. “I know the work NQCC does and the impact it has on its community. The issues it works on are so diverse. It responds to some critical needs, and it deserves the state’s support.”

She said Sullivan got involved, which is not typical in situations like this, but he’s “such an ally and so community-minded.” She said he reached out to his colleagues and legislators to make sure the coalition got what it deserved.

“This is very unique,” Comerford said. “We are all so partnership-minded. We all made a case for NQCC. We kept trying until we got the funding in one of the supplemental budgets.”

Bialecki-Canning said funding for North Quabbin Community Coalition comes from different and diverse sources each year. She said its budget is somewhere around $300,000 a year. The Department of Public Health, as well as the state Department of Children and Families Community Connections program, provide funding each year. She said while the Department of Public Health funding typically takes care of core expenses, like utilities and website maintenance, DCF’s funding helps pay for policy and smaller contracts with other social services agencies help fund different projects.

She said this year North Quabbin Community Coalition received money from the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, which helped cover the costs the annual funding from Department of Public Health has in the past.

“Thank goodness for that,” Bialecki-Canning said. “But, that was just a one-time opportunity, so hopefully that money will be built into the budget again next year.”

Comerford said the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation will continue to work as a team, because as a team, they are stronger.

“This is a perfect example,” Comerford said. “And it was all for a good organization. We do a lot of work, which can differ year to year. We look at the community’s needs and strengths and we fill in the gaps. We advocate for what’s needed and celebrate what’s going right.”

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