PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Berkshire Bank has recognized six of its employees for outstanding community service with their Volunteer of the Year Award.

This annual award celebrates bank employees in each of Berkshire Bank's regions who have made outstanding contributions to their communities. Award recipients were selected based on their strong record of volunteerism and service to nonprofit organizations through both bank-sponsored volunteer projects and individual service to the broader community.

A luncheon was held at Berkshire Bank's headquarters in Pittsfield where the recipients received their awards from the Berkshire Bank Foundation, which administers the Bank's Employee Volunteer Program. In addition to the award, each recipient received a $500 donation that will be made to the nonprofit organization of their choice.

This year's Volunteer of the Year recipients are:

  • Heidi Higgins, Assistant Vice President & Branch Officer in Pittsfield, Mass. Donation made to: Berkshire County Goodwill's Suit Yourself Program.
  • Jean Deschaine, Branch Manager in South Hadley, Mass. Donation made to: Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry.
  • Jerry Gaudette, Assistant Vice President & Branch Officer in West Hartford, Conn. Donation made to: The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society.
  • Sheila Hudder, Assistant Branch Manager in Albany, New York. Donation made to: Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany, New York.
  • Mary Chmielewski, Assistant Vice President & Branch Officer in Rome, New York. Donation made to: YWCA of the Mohawk Valley to support Lucy's House in Rome, New York.
  • Leslie Lever, Branch Manager in Ludlow, Vermont. Donation made to: Fletcher Memorial Library.

Linda Johnson, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Berkshire Bank, stated, "The generosity of our employees continues to inspire all of us at America's Most Exciting Bank as these award winners went above and beyond by donating their time, talent, and skills to help dozens of nonprofit organizations. The employees selected as this year's Volunteers of the Year embody our values as a company and share in our commitment to making a difference in our community. We applaud them for helping make our community a more vibrant place to live and work."

Berkshire's Employee Volunteer Program was established in 2008 to help the bank and employees give back to the communities in which they live and do business. Every Berkshire Bank employee receives paid time off to participate in company sponsored projects that usually occur during regular business hours. In 2013, Berkshire Bank employees completed 179 volunteer projects in which nearly 70 percent of Berkshire's 1,000 employees participated donating 40,000 hours of service through both company-sponsored and individual volunteer efforts. Berkshire Bank will host a company-wide day of community service on June 11, 2014 to benefit communities across Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.