North Adams Elf Program Helps 600 ChildrenBy Andy McKeever
02:00PM / Sunday, December 19, 2010
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local arm of Santa's helpers is making sure there's something under the tree for needy families this year.
Darlene Ellis, Gloria Senecal and Aleta Moncecchi wait for low-income families to pick up donated Christmas presents. This is the last year the program will run out the BCAC North office on Main Street.
The Berkshire Community Action Council North's Elf Program has collected gifts for more than 600 children this year and is now distributing them.
They'll also be getting a bonus bag off groceries because the agency's food pantry is closing. When families pick up the gifts, they'll get the bag of food, too.
"It was unbelievable what this community did," said Aleta Moncecchi, manager of the agency's food pantry on Main Street, on Friday. "We're closing this location at the end of the month and we know that they need the food now. They need it for Christmas so we're making sure they get some food to take with them too."
Local businesses, churches and residents sponsor a child and residents that qualify for fuel assistance are allowed to sign up before Dec. 1 to receive gifts. The sponsor is given a child's name and purchases Christmas presents that are dropped off at the BCAC office. Volunteers then call the parents to pick up the gifts. The rooms were nearly empty of presents Friday and the volunteers were sitting in the hall waiting for the last remaining families.
"These rooms were completely full," Darlene Ellis, a volunteer, said. "We had a lot of presents."
The pantry is closing at the end of the month or until the remaining food is given out. Moncecchi said the pantry should run out of food and the doors officially shut on Wednesday. However, it will not mean the end of the program. Moncecchi said Berkshire Community Action Council, based in Pittsfield, is searching for a new place in North Adams to open the food pantry and run the Elf Program. Otherwise, local churches have already stepped up and volunteered to take it over.
The location just does not work, Moncecchi said, and there is a misconception about the amount of people who are served. Only 40 people took food from the pantry in October.
"What we see in a month, they do in one day in Pittsfield," Moncecchi said.