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Berry Fund Provides Miracles for Those in Greatest Need

Mon June 21, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Patience. Commitment. Planting a seed in 2003 that bore fruit in 2010 and saved a life. That is the solid working foundation of Berry, a division of Suffolk Construction (formerly William A. Berry & Son Inc.) and its Berry Fund.

The Berry Fund started simply as a bake sale years ago. Some $1.5 million later, and at least one life — if not more — saved, the Berry Fund — the charitable arm of one of New England’s oldest and most prestigious contractors — is so much more than the dollars donated to individuals, families and charities.

The Fund is about support and hope. And in one case, it was literally about saving a little girl.

In April 2010, Tim Jozokos, husband of Berry project executive Sharon Jozokos, received a phone call that represented the closing chapter of an odds-defying story that began with the Berry Fund seven years ago. The call came from a 12-year-old girl from Moorestown, N.J., who got a second shot at life, thanks to a bone marrow donation Jozokos had made.

This story has its roots in a bone marrow blood drive co-sponsored by the Berry Fund in 2003 for a long-time Berry employee whose battle with large cell lymphoma was the impetus for the search for a bone marrow donor. Unfortunately, the employee passed away in 2004, but the Berry Fund donor drive still had a positive outcome in a very big way.

Rare Possibility

“The probability of finding a non-family match is pretty rare,” said Jozokos. “That you’d be matched with a perfect stranger is even more of a long shot.” At the time of the blood drive, Tim had opted to have the results sent to the national bone marrow registry.

Five years passed, and in December 2008, Jozokos got a call saying he was a match for a patient with leukemia. Would he be willing to take the next step and come into Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for some tests? He agreed without hesitation.

The tests included detailed medical screening and several blood drawings for secondary typing. Lab personnel told him at that time there was a one in 12 chance that he would be an exact match. A few weeks later, that improbability became a certainty. Jozokos was a perfect match for the patient.

Patient privacy rules allowed him only to know that the patient was a young girl. Donors and recipients are required to remain anonymous for at least one year.

Further Screening

Jozokos returned a few weeks later for further tests, including an EKG, chest X-ray and more blood draws before going into work. It was Inauguration Day, 2009, and while he watched the festivities on TV, lab workers drew 15 more vials of blood.

“Basically, there are two ways to donate marrow, which they want for blood stem cells. The old-fashioned way was to inject a large-gauge needle into a hipbone and suck the marrow out. It’s a surgical procedure,” he said. “The newer way is to get a series of injections of Neupogen, which boosts production of stem cells. The excess bone marrow gets pushed into the peripheral blood flow, which they then capture using aphaeresis to extract the marrow-rich blood from one arm and return the blood that’s been filtered through a port in the other arm.”

The procedure was expected to take two days at Dana-Farber’s Kraft Blood Center, but things went so smoothly, Jozokos completed it on the first day. During six and a half hours, he circulated 18 liters, or the equivalent of 38 pints of blood.

“It wasn’t painful, but a bit uncomfortable, because you had to keep your left arm immobile the entire time,” said Jozokos. “Also, for several days before the procedure, I got dull headaches and experienced pain, which was caused by the Neupogen injections. You needed two injections a day for four days prior to the procedure. The first day wasn’t so bad, but it got worse on the second and third days. The drug gives you chemically induced fatigue, so even if you take a nap, you wake up and feel exhausted.”

Closing the Loop

A year went by, and blood bank officials informed Jozokos that the recipient wanted to make contact. He signed the necessary forms agreeing to be contacted. Several weeks later, the patient and her mother called, thanking Jozokos for his invaluable gift.

“They were very thankful and asked me details about the process,” he said. “She is just graduating from 8th grade and will be heading to high school in the fall. They promised to e-mail some pictures and stay in touch.”

Jozokos is happy to have made a difference in a young girl’s life. “It feels good,” he acknowledged. “Being a parent, if you’re ever in that place, you’d like to think someone would be there for you. I know when we were going through this process; we’d try to explain what was happening to our little guys, who were then four and six. Their eyes would get big, especially about the injections. I’m not sure they understood entirely, but I think they got the point that something special was going on.” And it was.

Holiday Bake Sale

The Berry Fund started in 1994 as a holiday bake sale organized by employees. It netted $700. Over the years, it grew in number. As word spread, and more and more requests were made, the Fund continued to grow to meet these needs. In 2009, the Fund surpassed $1.5 million raised since 1994.

Throughout the years, the Berry family has been steadfast in its commitment to help people whose lives have been touched by tragedy or a crisis that threatens their well-being or that of their loved ones. The company remains committed to this goal today. In many ways, the Berry Fund gives more than money. It gives hope.

Reaching out to help others has been the commitment of the Berry Fund since employees of Berry established it. “Throughout the years, the Fund has sought out those individuals who may have fallen through the cracks or have no other place to turn to for help,” said Carolyn Miller, Berry executive vice president of sales and marketing.

“All of our work is done with input from our employees and managers, who keep their ears to the ground in the communities we serve,” she added. “Over the years, the Berry Fund has earned a reputation for paying attention to individuals whose well-being is in jeopardy

A few examples of the Fund’s work include:

• Provided financial support to an individual with esophageal cancer during chemotherapy treatment, and provided residents of a local shelter for abused women much-needed grooming products and professional clothing for job interviews.

• Each holiday season, children under the care of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families receive age-appropriate gifts individually selected and wrapped by Berry employees. In 2009, the number of children receiving gifts from the Berry Fund doubled to 100 from 50 the previous year.

• While working on a construction project at Smith College, Berry learned that the nearby Northampton Survival Center was in dire need of additional storage space to meet growing community needs. The Berry Fund donated materials, and through a coordinated effort with subcontractors, refurbished a former parking facility into essential food storage space to accommodate the Center’s 3,500-plus annual visitors.

“The Berry Fund also helps organizations that have an exemplary record of assisting individuals in need,” added Miller. “From the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Floating Hospital for Children in Boston to smaller, lesser known but equally deserving nonprofits like the Plummer Home for Boys (Salem, Mass.) and the Strongest Link (Danvers, Mass.), the Berry Fund has helped a wide variety of non-profits fulfill their missions of community service.”

Working Since 1857

Berry, a division of Suffolk Construction, was established in 1857 in Danvers, Mass., and is one of the nation’s oldest and most respected construction firms.

Berry began when company founder and namesake William A. Berry, a member of a prominent local family, started building churches, schools and stately homes throughout Boston’s North Shore.

During the 1900s, the company prospered by specializing in high-end carpentry and millwork. The last member of the Berry family to own the company was “Max” Berry. A West Point graduate, Max created an unusual niche for the family business — moving historical homes. From the 1940s until the early 1980s, Berry dismantled houses in New Hampshire and Vermont, and rebuilt them in South Natick, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

In 1983, Max Berry sold the company to John Kavanagh, a senior project manager at the George Macomber Company. Kavanagh’s first employee was present-day Berry President Peter Campot. The two had worked together for years and brought complementary skills and personalities to the relationship as well as strong mutual respect.

The pair had major projects from the outset. The first was the renovation of two research labs at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a client Berry still works with today. The building boom of the 1980s triggered accelerated growth, and the company grew by 500 percent.

By the early 1990s, further expansion was fueled by surges in institutional markets of hospitals, colleges and research facilities. By 2000, Berry had 200 employees and a Liberty Mutual Gold Award of Exceptional Safety Performance. In 2007, John Kavanagh sold the company to Peter Campot who continues the tradition of quality, integrity and hard work.

With a focus on health care, life sciences and education markets, Berry’s clients span many of the nation’s most respected institutions. Berry’s meticulous attention to detail has earned the construction management firm an outstanding reputation for quality.

In 2009, Suffolk Construction acquired Berry. The Suffolk/Berry partnership unites two recognized industry leaders with shared strengths and a commitment to quality and client service.

Over the past 25 years, Berry has expanded from a budding local builder into one of New England’s largest construction management firms. It currently employs about 229 people.

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