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'Stockings' piled up for delivery to local teens.

Berkshire Helping Hands Fills 'Teen Gap' in Holiday Programs

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Haley and Crystal Patella check in donations at All Saints Church for the Holiday Teen Stocking Program.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — When Berkshire Helping Hands put out a call for Christmas "stockings" for local teens, the response was overwhelming. 
"We had more sponsors than we had kids," said volunteer Crystal Martin-Patella.
Patella and her daughter Haley were checking in the donations Tuesday afternoon at All Saints Church's parish center. 
And the bags and stockings were piling up on the tables for parents and guardians to pick up.
The local nonprofit had been looking for people to help fill the gap in giving — younger children are eligible for holiday programs offering toys and clothing but their older siblings were often left out. 
"Last year, I had a conversation with Aleta [Moncecchi of Berkshire Community Action Council] and I was thinking of doing things for teens," said group founder Marilyn Honig. "We were saying [the Elf Program] goes up to age 12. And it's kind of tough to buy for teenagers."
She had the idea of doing stocking stuffers and then the sponsors could spend what they could afford. 
"It's just a little gesture, just something for them to know that somebody cares," she said. "And they don't have younger siblings getting something and they don't."
The group last year put together 70 stockings for the Holiday Teen Stocking Program. This year, Berkshire Helping Hands expanded the call and had more than 100 sponsors indicate interest. Each sponsor signed up to fill one or more "stockings."
The donations ranged from gloves and hats, slippers and jewelry to personal care items and gift certificates. Some came in large stockings but most arrived in holiday bags. 
Berkshire Helping Hands grew out of an effort a couple years ago to help people left homeless by a devastating apartment building fire. Lead by Honig, the group raised donations, supplied food and goods, and helped connect the building's occupants with housing opportunities. 
Since then, the group has become a 501(c)3. It has used its network to continue to help North County fire victims but also to link those in need with those who can help — whether its furniture and clothing or food and housing. 
For the teen stocking program, it received names through BCAC and the Salvation Army. Since there were so many sponsors, there's a few extras that will be doled out with the stockings.
And some families have been paying it forward, Honig said.
"There's been so many families that either gave last year or were on hard times that we were able to help this year or vice versa," Honig said. "One lady had signed up her teens last year and now she's doing great, she did five stockings for other kids!"

Tags: Christmas story,   donations,   

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Drury Graduate to Direct Horror Film in North Adams

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate is hoping to bring his dream — or, more appropriately, his nightmare — to film life. 

The horror film "The Uncredited," written by Nick Burchard, will be filmed in North Adams this spring, pending fundraising and the COVID-19 pandemic. Burchard's Tiny Viking Productions is making the film in conjunction with Sancha Spiller and Kasey Rae of Skylah Productions of New York City.

"I grew up in the area, and I've always appreciated the historical places, in particular the Hoosac Tunnel, Mohawk Theater, and the old mills," Burchard said. "I think North Adams has a very unique setting, with the mountains surrounding the city and of course, all the steeples.

"The Uncredited" follows a young woman who appears in an independent film. While watching it, her friends notice something disturbing in the background of her scene. This leads to rumors and distrust in even the closest group of friends.
"My goal is to make great characters, and even though it's a spooky thriller the characters in it are just friends sitting down to watch a movie together," Burchard said. "They crack jokes, roast each other, and are all collectively trying to have a good time … but that juxtaposed with the realization that one of them might be hiding something is what creates the thriller edge to this. I think it's really fun."
Spiller added that the film does not rely on horror tropes such as jump scares. She said the screenplay is character-driven.
"It showcases our greatest fear of not knowing the people around us as well as we think," she said. "It makes us second guess who we trust and remember that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have horrifying consequences."
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