April 22, 2024
The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — From her helm at Second Street Second Chances, Lindsay Maynard uses skills she built as an adolescent to lead an expanding team that supports people leaving jail and re-entering the world of the Berkshires.

Named executive director April 1 of Second Street Second Chances, Lindsay Maynard says she enjoys direct contact with clients, “whether they’re homeless, living on the street or getting out of jail and trying to build their life again.”

Photo: Ben Garver, The Berkshire Eagle

Those skills came from having a stable family, learning handholding as a babysitter at 13 and as a nanny as a teenager, and by connecting with customers and thinking on her feet as a waitress for 10 years at Bob’s Country Kitchen. In addition, some skills came from being an athlete at Mount Greylock High School, where she captained both the softball and soccer teams and had a chance to learn leadership through teamwork.

Maynard was named executive director of the nonprofit April 1, but she’s been in on the planning and development of 2nd Street since before it was named. She holds a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, having also studied rehabilitation and disabilities studies at Springfield College.

Maynard found herself drawn to a forensic psychology course in college and did internships at both a Connecticut state prison and at the Western Massachusetts Women’s Regional Correctional Center in Chicopee.

At 33, she comes to the task with a deep background of the challenges facing — and presented — by people who have been incarcerated. At the Western Massachusetts Women’s Regional Correctional Center, she worked as a case manager correctional officer, then returned as a reentry case manager for women from Berkshire County.

“Every day looks the same in a way,” she said of the experience of being in jail. “There’s no curve balls. There’s no intervention or making last-minute decisions. It’s pretty consistent. Their days look the same. I think when they get into the community is when they run into trouble because they have no foundation of life skills.”

Many women go to jail after being bounced from one foster home to another. Their lives are often punctuated by a series of traumas. They lack things as basic as opening a checking account or even grocery shopping, Maynard said.

“Not everyone’s life experiences have set them up to thrive,” she said. “In most cases, these folks are surviving.”

Maynard herself finds a way to thrive as a singer-songwriter. She performs locally as Lindsay Anne, introducing originals as well as covers.

Navigators, as the direct-care workers at 2nd Street are called, see people in jail as well as after jail, partly to introduce themselves and the services of 2nd Street, which include referral and direct support.

As part of her work at 2nd Street, Maynard is hoping that both the arts and gardening offer ways for the people served by 2nd Street to thrive.

Examples have already taken place: an art show at the Berkshire Museum, a play at Berkshire Community College, and now there’s a creative writing group that will produce a literary magazine as well as a community garden that will take shape outside the 264 Second St. office.

Maynard is open to hiring people at 2nd Street with lived experience of life behind bars, and is expecting her first such intern to start this spring.

“We encourage people with lived experience to apply for jobs here,” she said, adding that people with lived experience can offer a common ground.

2nd Street is not quite two years old. Maynard served on the working group that set up the nonprofit, which is tied to the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department.

A $700,000, three-year grant awarded by the city of Pittsfield through American Rescue Plan Act funds fueled 2nd Street’s launch. Since July 2022, it has seen more than 700 people, with eight-to-30 people walking through its doors on a daily basis.

Jason Cuyler was its first executive director and has been promoted to assistant deputy superintendent of community engagement for the sheriff’s department.

Maynard’s previous title had been sergeant of women’s reentry and aftercare for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s office.

Maynard says she grew up in a stable family and learned leadership skills as an athlete at Mount Greylock High School. But of the population her nonprofit serves, Maynard says, “Not everyone’s life experiences have set them up to thrive. In most cases, these folks are surviving.”

Photo: Ben Garver, The Berkshire Eagle

She is confident that local support will help 2nd Street thrive in coming years. Maynard said the arts events, open to the community, have drawn interest and donations from within the Berkshires and have served to educate the public about the lives of people before they were incarcerated.

Donors recognize that programs like 2nd Street help ensure community safety, she said. While the recidivism rate for people who have been incarcerated in Berkshire County is 36 percent, those at 2nd Street have a recidivism rate of just 11 percent.

Under Maynard’s watch, 2nd Street is in the midst of expanding, with the hiring of a fourth navigator, adding space on the first floor of its building, and creating that community garden.

Clients of the program can either walk in or be seen wherever they are — staff will meet them from North Adams to Great Barrington.

Maynard said she really enjoys direct contact with clients, “getting through each day, whether they’re homeless, living on the street or getting out of jail and trying to build their life again.

“It’s like holding their hand through the process, but having a friend to reach out to,” Maynard said. “Clients say, ‘how long do I cook the chicken for in the air fryer?’ It’s just those basic things that no one taught them. We become their family.”