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Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive for the tree lighting in Pittsfield last year. The event is not likely to be as public because of the pandemic but the couple will still be making calls to Pittsfield children.

Santa Will Call Pittsfield Children This Holiday Season

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The pandemic may be putting a damper on Santa Claus' local appearances but he's still eager to reach to local children by phone. 

The Department of Community Development's Recreation Program has once again recruited Santa and Mrs. Claus for the annual North Pole Calling Program.

Children ranging from kindergarteners to second-graders, or any children who believe, will be receiving phone calls from the Clauses on Wednesday, Dec. 16, and Thursday, Dec 17, between 5-7:30 p.m. if signed up for the program.

Last year, more than 140 Pittsfield children were called.

Santa will be doing a majority of the calls with Mrs. Claus or an elf sometimes hopping on the line.

The North Pole Calling Program is a longtime Pittsfield tradition. City staff, volunteers, and the Claus family could not even recall how long this program has been going on.

This year, the program description on the city's website and the forms for the program are also available in Spanish, so that even more young residents can enjoy a call from Santa.

Signup forms will be emailed to parents from the School Department. Electronic forms that can be saved and emailed are available through a link on the homepage of the city's website.

Hard-copy forms are also available at City Hall; those looking for a paper form can call 413-499-9368 to schedule a pickup time.

On the forms, parents can specify a day they would like to be called and give Santa and his team some basic information about their child so they can have a robust conversation.

The team will be doing their best to call children on the night parents specify, said Recreation & Special Events Coordinator Rebecca Manship.

Completed forms must be returned or submitted online by Monday, Dec. 14, so that Santa can plan his time accordingly.

Manship emphasized that this program is for Pittsfield children of any who believe.

"I know there are believers past second grade," she said. "We want to reach as many believers as we can."

Additionally, children who don't attend Pittsfield Schools but are residents of Pittsfield are also welcome to participate.

Manship said the program was not going to be stopped by COVID-19, as it only required some minor adjustments to make it COVID-19 friendly.

"It's definitely a little different because of COVID-19," she said. "But it's an important and long-standing tradition we definitely wanted to make sure to continue because it brings so much joy."

In previous years, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the other volunteers gathered in her office to make the calls, but this year they will be making them from their own homes.

Up to 10 volunteers assist Santa and Mrs. Claus with these calls each night of the program. Manship said they have many long-standing volunteers who love the program and come back every year.

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Regional Planning Commission Tackling County Housing Issue

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is taking steps to address the ever-growing problem of housing that Berkshire County faces.

"What we have been hearing and learning is that housing is becoming increasingly a problem in Berkshire County," Executive Director Tom Matuszko said at Thursday's commission meeting. "And a problem for a number of different ways and a number of different venues."

BRPC has partnered with countywide economic development organization 1Berkshire to develop a regional housing strategy, a policy that will set the stage for solutions and legislative support. The commission's former director, Nathaniel Karns has agreed to take this project on and help shepherd it through the process.

Matuszko explained that a group of planners and other housing-related entities has been formed to develop the regional strategy. This group will dive into the issue of housing in Berkshire County and brainstorm solutions whether it be a legislative fix, additional funding, or another programmatic element from the state government.

This initiative is not just about affordable or subsidized housing, Matuszko said, because you have to have higher-end housing for those in the applicable income bracket to move into, which then frees up more affordable housing for another group.

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