Charis Barrett of Springfield honored with Achievement Award from Association for Community Living

SPRINGFIELD – After Charis Barrett moved into a new home on Parker Street for people living with a disability, she had a bedroom and a sitting room to call her own, but that didn’t alleviate the behavioral issues she had been struggling with.

What did have an effect on Barrett was an offer from the caregivers at her home, which is managed by The Association for Community Living: if you work on your composure and communication, we’ll help you live your dream to go on an overnight vacation. Barrett responded to staff, “I’m frustrated, but I’m not mad at you. And I want to go on vacation again!” 

Earlier this year, she traveled to Disney World in Florida and came home satisfied ─and with dozens of new photographs to show off.

“Charis showed determination in turning things around and proving that she was able to adapt to changes not only in her home, but outside her home, while maintaining her composure and being able to verbalize her disagreements in an appropriate manner,” said Barbara Pilarcik, executive director of The Association in Springfield, a nonprofit agency that provides an array of services to people living with disabilities, including Barrett.

Pilarcik’s comments were offered on June 16 during The Association’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, where Barrett received an achievement award “for the passion, courage and flavor she has brought to Parker Street while accepting and completing a new challenge.”

Pilarcik noted that Barrett also lost 40 pounds in her new housing community and maintained appropriate boundaries with staff and peers. 

Pilarcik told Barrett the organization was proud of her before an audience of roughly 300 individuals served, their families, staff, board members, volunteers and donors.

In addition to presenting 11 achievement awards to individuals served in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties, Pilarcik also honored staff with awards and discussed milestones the organization accomplished over the past year.

Pilarcik highlighted that the agency:

Held its first-ever Leadership Institute, providing high-quality management training to 20 emerging leaders at the agency.

Partnered with Baystate Health to present “Crash Reel” to over 200 community members.  “Crash Reel” is a documentary that tells the story of a New England family and their son, an Olympic ski boarder who is recovering from a horrific head injury.

Produced an original play, “Once Upon a Bog,” involving more than 30 teens and adults from the Whole Children and Milestones programs to a sold-out audience.

Opened a new, fully accessible Residential Services home on Meadow Street in Agawam.

“These are just some of the highlights we have experienced,” Pilarcik said. “They don’t begin to capture the many acts of kindness that occur daily at The Association for Community Living.”

For more information about the services and programs of The Association for Community Living, visit

Photo by Expos1225 via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under public domain.