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The volunteers loaded the truck with gifts to bring to Morningside Community School on Thursday.

Dream Center 'Adopts' Morningside School for the Holidays

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The community came together to purchase more than 420 presents to give out to the students at Morningside Community School.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A few months ago Berkshire Dream Center's pastor Katelynn Miner came up with a seemingly crazy idea: let's adopt an entire school for Christmas.
"We are faith-based and I am the pastor so I was praying and asking God, what do you have for us this year? I really felt him drop it in my spirit, why not adopt a school?" Miner said on Thursday when a group of volunteers delivered more than 420 presents to Morningside Community School.
"We've never done this before. This is the most we've ever done. We took that step of faith and everyone pulled together in the community and did it."
Some 20 volunteers joined together over the last eight weeks or so and collected enough presents for every single child at the school. Businesses put up giving trees. Miner Combat and Zumba in the Berkshires, both based in North Adams, sponsored 80 students. Teachers joined in, buying some gifts for the students in their class. 
"Every gift was around $20 in value so it is a substantial gift," Miner said.
The volunteers were elated Thursday because the task was beyond what they had initially thought they could do. But the Dream Center had its mind set on rallying the community together to provide for an entire school and succeeded. 
"We said we're going to adopt the school so that every child would get a gift for the holidays. Initially, we thought maybe 200, 250 students and [the principal] said there was 420," Miner said.
"We said let's do it and set out get 420 gifts, for every child grades pre-K through fifth grade. And the community really pulled together. ... We not only met our goal but surpassed it."
Bags and bags of gifts, sorted by each teacher were loaded into the non-profit's mobile food pantry and taken down the street to Morningside, where the volunteers, teachers, and Principal Jennifer Stokes helped distribute them throughout the classes.
After all the children from the class received a present, the volunteers happened to find one remaining gift in the bags — chocolate for the teacher.
But wait, there is more. 
Stop & Shop donated boxes of food for families. The United Way contributed 200 books for the classrooms. 
"The school has a 97 to 98 percent poverty rate so that is why we identified Morningside. We are here and we serve here all week long through our food pantries and clothing. A lot of families come here, that's why we identified the school. All these kids truly do need help this year," Miner said.
The effort grew to be one of the biggest projects the group has taken on in its five years of existence. It began on Tyler Street with an adopt-a-street program, in which the members performed cleanups and knocked on doors asking residents there how they can help. Later, it developed a food pantry and provided clothing. It opened a location in North Adams to provide service to the community there. In September, the group got the only mobile food pantry vehicle in the city of Pittsfield.
While the group is faith-based, Miner says the organization is non-denominational. When explaining the day's game plan, Miner told the volunteers to be mindful that not every student celebrates Christmas and to respect that. 
"Our mission statement is to find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it," Miner said. 
"We love and serve others. That's it. We are faith-based but the things we do in the community, it is not like doing and waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's not our style... You don't have to believe what we believe to help other people."
Miner said she is still unsure if the group will do it again next year, but said it is likely. The Berkshire Dream Center is hoping the idea will catch on and more and more schools can be adopted.

Tags: holiday story,   Morningside,   

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