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Veteran Mike Hanson poses with Tina Samson and Mayor Thomas Bernard on Friday at the Veterans Office.
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Veterans Agent Stephen Roy with the bags filled by Administrative Assistant Tina Samson and volunteers for local veterans.
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The mayor took some time to welcome veterans. His father, also Thomas, had volunteered in the office for years archiving records.
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Samson holds one of the cards made by local students.
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Christmas Comes Early at North Adams Veterans Office

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mary LaPierre, whose late husband was a Korean War veteran, says the Veterans Office has been helpful in getting her widow's benefits. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Santa came early this year for nearly 200 local veterans and family members.
 
Lined up in ranks across tables and the floor were shopping bags, wrapped gifts, cards and sports bags filled with necessities were ready for pickup on Friday morning at the North Adams Veterans Office. 
 
"This is a precision operation," said Mayor Thomas Bernard, who donned his favorite "ugly" Christmas sweater and a Santa hat to spend an hour welcoming veterans and shaking their hands. 
 
Operation Christmas for Veterans is the passion of Tina Samson, the office's administrative assistant, who has been coordinating the effort and cajoling for donations for the past five years to benefit the veterans served in the regional office's 10 communities. 
 
"Two weeks in December my mind's a mush," Samson said. "It's getting bigger and bigger every year."
 
Veteran Agent Stephen Roy laughed at Samson's description but added that he's planning to nominate her for administrative assistant for the year for all the work she's done. 
 
"Since we've taken on Dalton and the other communities her responsibilities have increased and there's a lot going on," he said. "It started off small with cards and gift certificates, but then it just exploded."
 
The city engaged with Adams and Williamstown nearly seven years ago to create a regional portal for veterans to access benefits; since then, Roy's duties have grown as more surrounding towns have signed on. The office now covers Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dalton, Florida, Lanesborough, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown.
 
Samson, who joined the office six years ago, began small with gift cards, then businesses and organizations began responding to her call for more donations. Over the years that's meant tote bags, coats, socks and hats, blankets, food and personal necessities and even toys for children and gifts for spouses and survivors. She's even opened a food pantry for veterans in City Hall, and reminded each person who arrived on Friday for their benefit check and gift not to forget to stop by the pantry.
 
"Oh wow," said Navy veteran Katherine Bliss as she opened an envelope with gift cards. Bliss called her service during the 1970s "one of the best decisions I made." 
 
She said she was appreciative of the office's efforts. "Anything they do for us is nice, they recognize us," Bliss said. 
 
"Not that long ago, we weren't recognized," added Army veteran Shaun LaValley, standing behind her. 
 
Mary LaPierre indicated the support had been crucial after the death two years ago of her husband of 61 years, Robert, a Korean War veteran. Her income had been cut as a property taxes on their retirement home increased and her granddaughter had come to live with her. 
 
"My granddaughter is a blessing," she said.  
 
Quite a few veterans had younger granddaughters living with them, Samson said, and donated comforters had been put aside for them. 
 
Samson tries to equal out the gifts each year, keeping everything on a spreadsheet. Her efforts are supported by a number of groups on a regular basis, such as Probate Court and the Elks. This year, first-graders created Christmas cards to place in each bag. 
 
"The volunteers are great, everybody's just great," she said. 
 
Most of the gifts, not surprisingly, go to North Adams residents but more veterans are coming in as they become aware of eligibility for benefits. Those in Adams will get their gifts on Monday and the few in Cheshire had them mailed. 
 
The work that the veterans office does was clearly on display Friday as Roy got a phone call. A veteran from Cheshire who'd spent years trying to get his claim recognized had turned to Roy for help. On Thursday, he'd gotten his first Veterans Affairs compensation. 
 
"He's now got $21,000 in the bank ... that's what we do here," said Roy. 

Tags: Christmas story,   holiday story,   veterans,   

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North Adams Happenings: July 24-30

North Adams Happenings July 24 - 30, 2019

SAVE THE DATE
AUGUST 6th - National Night Out
4:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.Neighborhoods throughout North Berkshire once again join the North Adams Police, Fire, and Emergency Departments to host a variety of special events such as cookouts, games, contests, music and more!
More information.

AUGUST 14th - 23rd Annual Downtown Celebration
JOIN US! The  23rd Annual Downtown Celebration will take over downtown North Adams on Wednesday, August 14 from 5:30 – 9 PM.  
RAIN DATE: Thursday, August 15th
BUSINESSES AND VENDORS: Application still available.
More information.
Wednesday 7/24
10:00 A.M. (FREE, $5 to park), NATURE WALK, Nice 'N' Easy Walk Natural Bridge State Park, McCauley Road More information.  

10:00 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Terrific Tots Playgroup The Family Center, 210 State Street, (413) 664-4821 More information.  

10:30 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Preschool Story Time North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.   


6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. Keene Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

6:30 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, Concerts at the Lake Presents The Matchstick Architects and Bang on a Can Windsor Lake, 200 Windsor Lake Road, (413) 664-6180 More information.

8:00 P.M. (FREE), GAMES, Trivia Night! Ramunto's, 67 Main Street, (413) 398-5152 More information.

Thursday 7/25
5:00 P.M. (FREE), ART, 2019 DownStreet Art Main Street More information.

5:30 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, The Chalet: Apocalypstick Redd The Chalet at Courtyard D, MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way  More information.

6:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Party in the Park Presents The Hotshot Hillbillies Noel Field, 310 State Street   More information.
Friday 7/26
7:30 A.M. (FREE), MEET UP, NAMAzing Eagle Street Parklet Coffee Date NAMAzing Eagle Street Parklet, Eagle Street, thenamazinginitiative@gmail.com More information.

10:00 A.M. (FREE), KIDS, Drop-In Playgroup The Family Center, 210 State Street, (413) 664-4821 More information.

11:00 A.M. (FREE, PARKING $5), KIDS, Kidleidoscope New England's Natural Bridge, 1 McCauley Road More information.

6:00 P.M. ($1 and up), GAMES, BINGO! North Adams Elks 487 Lodge, 100 Eagle Street, (413) 664-9039 More information.

6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. Upper Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

7:00 P.M. (BY DONATION), CRAFTING, Knitting Nights with Common Folk Common Folk, 73 Main Street More Information.

8:00 P.M. ($66-300), CONCERT, The Prentenders MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.

8:30 P.M. (FREE), MOVIE, Movies Under the Stars at Colegrove Park Colegrove Park Elementary, 24 Church Street More information.

9:00 P.M. (FREE), MUSIC, Karaoke Friday! State Street Tavern, 167 State Street, (413) 664-9152 More information.
Saturday 7/27
9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. (FREE), MARKET,  North Adams Farmers Market St. Anthony's Parking Lot at Marshall Street and St. Anthony's Drive (413)664-6180 More information.

12:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Peace & Rhythm InStore Belltower records, Norad Mill, Suite 301, 60 Roberts Dr More information.

2:00 P.M. ($25), ART, Artist Talk with Chrissie Hynde MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.

4:00 P.M. (FREE), ART, Open Studios at MASS MoCA Assets for Artists, 1320 Mass Moca Way More information.

6:30 P.M. ($3-5), SPORTS, SteepleCats V. New Bedford Joe Wolfe Field, 310 State Street  More information.

8:00 P.M. ($18-44), CONCERT, Adia Victoria MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way More information.
Sunday 7/28
12:00 P.M. (FREE), PICNIC, Annual Summer Picnic Horrigan Road, Clarksburg More information.

3:00 P.M. (FREE), CONCERT, Public Puberty/Carbus/Human Pontiac Belltower records, Norad Mill, Suite 301, 60 Roberts Dr More information.

4:00 P.M. (FREE), FOOD & MUSIC, Racks and Stacks (barbecue and vinyl music) A-oK Berkshire Barbecue, 2601 Mass MoCA Way More information.
 
Monday 7/29
1:00 P.M. (FREE), KIDS, Crafternoons! North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.

6:00 P.M. (FREE), KIDS, Discovery Mondays- Space Themed North Adams Public Library, 74 Church Street, (413) 662-3133 More information.
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