NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Santa Fund is joining a collaborative effort spearheaded by Northern Berkshire United Way to bring together several of North County's largest holiday gift-giving programs under one unbrella.
The purpose of this collaboration is to eventually create one point of signup, administration and access.
This also will eliminate possible duplication issues and create additional resources for Northern Berkshire County families that may need to be served.
The two largest program partners joining forces are Berkshire Community Action Council's Holiday Elf Program and the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund.
Berkshire Community Action Council will be the single point of contact for all applications for the Holiday Elf Program and the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund.
The Santa Fund will continue its mission to ensure every child 12 and under has a toy by looking to its past, when volunteers purchased gifts for families. Previously, the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund had kept a separate list of applicants and offered vouchers for reimbursement, most recently at the Walmart Supercenter.
The Northern Berkshire Santa Fund has been working with a limited amount of time and volunteers, and the need to stretch dollars to serve more children. BCAC has generously offered to take on the administrative end of accepting and processing applications.
"This single point of entry will make signups and access to gifts and other needs for families far smoother," Northern Berkshire Santa Fund President Tammy Daniels said. "We found some families had difficulty getting to Walmart during the limited hours when the fund was operating, especially last year when we had a snowstorm. There was also confusion about what could be purchased with the gift vouchers. We hope this way, no one gets left out and parents and guardians will have an easier time picking up their holiday packages right at the BCAC offices when it's most convenient for them. ...
"We want to thank Wal-Mart Corp. and our local Walmart managers for their generous support over the past few years. We could not have done the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund without them. We hope as we continue to pilot this new process, Walmart will continue to be a part of the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund family."
Instead of vouchers this year, applicants will fill out one form at the BCAC offices at 85 Main St. and the shopping will be done by volunteers. Those who have not already applied for fuel assistance need to bring identification and a document showing income.
The form will include children's ages, sizes, and three toy wishes each for children up to age 12. The Northern Berkshire Santa Fund will do its very best to ensure those wishes are filled as close as possible. The Holiday Elf Program will provide the warm winter clothing. Parents and guardians will be able to pick up the donations all at once, when they are ready.
The Holiday Elf Program is still seeking sponsors and the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund donations to make these children's wishes come true.
Other partners working in the collaboration are the Rotary Club of North Adams, North Adams Public Safety (Fire, Police and Ambulance), Child Care of the Berkshires and Berkshire Family YMCA-North Adams Branch.
All the programs previously have held separate sponsorship programs for children with holiday gifts and/or warm clothing each year.
"Last year, we estimate that over 1,500 children were served by these holiday giving programs," said Christa Collier, executive director of the Northern Berkshire United Way. "While the need is very present in our community, area donors and agencies have communicated they often have to choose which program to fund. Having one program that collaborates and shares information and resources ensures that all children are served once and that resources and donor funds are put to the best use."
Families that may be eligible must sign up at the Northern Berkshire office of the Berkshire Community Action Council, in person, with proof of income eligibility at 85 Main St., Suite 201, North Adams, by Nov. 16.
Other Northern Berkshire holiday gift giving agencies or programs that would like to join the collaborative can contact Northern Berkshire United Way at 413-663-9062.
Families in the Pittsfield area that need assistance can contact the Pittsfield office of BCAC at 1531 East St., Pittsfield, or by phone at 413-445-4503.
Businesses and individuals that want to assist this new North County collaboration can donate online to the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund at http://www.iberkshires.com/NBSantaFund for toys or send a check to sponsor a child's warm clothing through BCAC to 5 Main St., Suite 201, North Adams, MA 01247.
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