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Brien Center Celebrates New North Adams Location
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
10:49PM / Thursday, June 28, 2012
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The former Transcript building on American Legion Drive has been renovated as the new Brien Center.

Top, Ce Swanson, director of Adult Day Health, stands in the program's new room at the Brien Center as she talks about the struggles to keep it alive. Left, interim director M. Christine MacBeth said the new center is inviting to staff and clients alike.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The transformation of 124 American Legion Drive has been dramatic.

The publisher's office and darkroom are filled with couches, toys and books for an after-school program. The press area hosts rooms for exercise and education. The dark warehouse that once held huge rolls of newsprint is now a bright, clean sunlit room for seniors to watch the trains go by.

The Brien Center's North County offices have been settling into the completely refurbished 16,000 square-foot building that once held the North Adams Transcript since this past March, filling the former newsroom with clinical offices, program spaces and meeting rooms.

"I love it," said April Berger, a participant in the Adult Day Health program. "It's so much better than what we had before."

The center opened its doors Thursday evening for tours of the building and to thank the many individuals and organizations that had made the move possible.

"We're celebrating an incredible accomplishment and that accomplishment is right here at 124 American Legion Drive in North Adams, Massachusetts. ... It is absolutely perfect and I'm sure that you can see that," said M. Christine MacBeth, interim chief executive officer.

"They did it to our specifications, so we got what we needed," she said. "The staff really love the space."

The 50-year-old building was purchased by Scarafoni & Associates last year in an agreement with the Brien Center to rehab the property and then lease it back to the mental health and substance abuse services agency. The newspaper moved its offices to Main Street.

"We've kind of had this vision for the Brien Center," said MacBeth. "We've been in different locations throughout Berkshire County with no real kind of center or no real campus. We have one now in Pittsfield (the former Mount Carmel Church complex) and we have one now in North Adams."

All the services that were being provided at the former location on Marshall Street have moved into the new center along with the Adult Day Health program, which was located on Curran Highway for more than 25 years. Also at the new location are Adult Outpatient Services, Child & Adolescent Services, Community Based Flexible Support Services, and Adult Day Health. It also has some residential locations and employs nearly 100.

"The clients we serve love all the bright light coming in and enjoy watching the trains go by," said Timothy Armstrong, chief financial officer. "We're excited to be here."

MacBeth said it had been important to "improve the environment where our employees work as well as the persons served and where they come."

The center provides services to some 3,000 to 4,000 North County residents, from children to seniors. There had been concern the center — and its nearly 70 jobs — would leave the city after its lease for Marshall Street expired last fall. 

Mayor Richard Alcombright described the Brien Center's possible departure "very, very scary" not only because of the loss of services but the economic impact on the downtown. He said he was pleased that the center was right in the main corridor with a "big green sign" declaring its name.

"We're not ashamed of this, we don't need to hide this," he said. "It's a wonderful place, you folks do wonderful hard work. I'm proud of each and every one of you and I'm so happy that you're all still here."

Retiring facilities manager Robert Podolski got a special thank you.
MacBeth and Ce Swanson, director of Adult Day Health, thanked those that had been instrumental in brokering the deal and renovating the facility, including the mayor, David Carver, Bradley Architects and Berkshire Bank. The staff did much of the work in packing and moving over a marathon week in March with some help from Soldier On and the sheriff's department.
Swanson also gave a heartfelt thanks to the state and local officials who had gone to bat last year to ensure that the endangered adult day programs across the state were funded.

A special thanks was given to retiring facilities manager Robert Podolski.

"We're not happy you're retiring, not happy at all, but we know you are," said Swanson, who presented him a plaque that said, "in appreciation for all you have done for us with great affection, all your kiddos."

MacBeth said that while the saying goes it takes village a to raise a child, "well, it's taken a community to get us here."
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