This community program is supported by local organizations that provide warm winter coats to children in need in advance of winter each October.
Berkshire Community Action Council, BFAIR, Northern Berkshire United Way, Northern Berkshire Santa Fund, The Rotary Clubs of North Adams and Williamstown, and Williamstown Community Chest have formed a community partnership to hold this annual event. This is the third year that local groups have come together to fund this effort.
This year, Greylock Federal Credit Union provided a $4,000 donation to support a substantial increase of brand-new winter coats for local children that could be purchased. This funding has made it possible to purchase more than 425 brand-new winter coats from the Operation Warm organization.
The national organization works directly with manufacturers to create its own line of brand-new, high-quality, colorful coats for kids. It partner with hundreds of organizations across the country that raise funds and order Operation Warm coats in bulk to give to children in their communities.
Being given a brand-new coat brings a giant smile and excitement to the faces of children and an enormous sense of relief to families. Distributing the coats at the end of October, before the cold weather really sets in, is a big help for families.
"We see so many kids who have never had a brand-new coat of their own," said Christa Collier, executive director of Northern Berkshire United Way. "The kids we help are getting more than a coat. They are getting the gift of confidence and hope, knowing that we care about them and want to help, because they deserve nothing less."
Aleta Monchecci, deputy director of Berkshire Community Action Council, said the donation has a multiplier effect: "When children can safely get to school on cold days, they arrive eager and ready to learn."
Berkshire Family and Individual Resources was the host for this year's coat distribution on Oct. 16. Families were able to drive up to the Church Street facility's covered front entrance to be handed the coats all packaged by name. This drive-through distribution was used last year as well to protect everyone from the pandemic. The coats were handed out by volunteer representatives from the participating organizations.
Collier said it has been determined that nearly 1,000 children in Northern Berkshire are in need of warm winter coats each year. The remaining children are supported with ongoing fundraising efforts through BCAC in December through their ELF program.
The goal for next year is to secure increased funding and partners by Sept. 1 each year to provide all 1,000 coats each October.
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