NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A collaboration of local community agencies have ensured that several hundred local children will have warm coats this winter.
The Rotary Clubs of North Adams and Williamstown, Berkshire Community Action Council, Northern Berkshire United Way, Santa Fund and the Elks Club of North Adams provided $4,455 to purchase 300 brand-new winter coats purchased from Operation Warm.
Volunteers from these local groups spent Saturday morning distributing the coats at Berkshire Family and Individual Resources.
"Today has run very efficient and smooth thanks to all our many volunteers from the organizations that have supported this process," said NBUW Executive Director Christa Collier. "And we have had a great response from the families that have received coats.
"They've all been very thankful and happy to get these warm coats for the winter."
BFAIR provided the use of its front portico so families could drive up to receive their coats safely and volunteers could stay under cover. The coats were sorted and bagged by staff at Berkshire Community Action Council, which also collected and collated the applications.
More than 200 coats were expected to be distributed but there were still a few left by the end of the morning. BCAC Deputy Director Aleta Moncecchi said she and her staff would be following up with families who didn't come on Saturday.
"They might not have had a car, a couple we're going to try to take the bus but we're gonna make sure the coats get out," she said. "We also have the ELF Program going on, which is the warm clothing ... The idea was for them to get their coats sooner and we're hoping every year we can push this up and get more coats out."
Operation Warm is a nonprofit that works directly with manufacturers to produce its line of colorful, high-quality coats for kids. Each coat comes with a fleece-lined detachable hood and deep pockets, and are machine washable. Operation Warm partners with hundreds of organizations across the country who raise funds and order coats in bulk to give to children in their communities.
Collier said the community's most vulnerable children have felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and that going back to school includes many challenges but being cold should not be one of them.
It's estimated more than 800 children in North Berkshire are in need of winter coats. Saturday's distribution included the first 300 and another 500 children will be supported through BCAC's ELF Program with fundraising through December.
The goal for next year is to secure increased funding and partners by Sept. 1 to provide all 800 coats by October.
"It's been great to see everybody come through, the setup is great," said Rebecca Dravis of the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund. "The weather's been pretty good and everything is going smoothly. And it's great to see so many people come out to help out the community."
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