NORTH ADAMS -- Organizers think the 54th annual Northern Berkshire Santa Fund will have brought extra cheer to the holidays of more than 600 local children when all is said and done, after a crowd of parents were hosted for gift shopping in the city Saturday. Another group is slated do the same today.
Families arrived as early as 7 a.m. on Saturday for a 10 a.m. door opening and a chance to get a look inside the fully stocked Cariddi Sales building on State Road. Volunteers accepted a steady stream of visitors from then on.
"We're very satisfied," volunteer and City Councilor Marie Harpin said. "We had a better system this year -- great selection, wider aisles with more space and an arrangement in the back room, which was a first."
Peter Lynch, publisher of the Transcript and The Advocate and president of the Santa Fund's board of directors thanked Stop & Shop for providing carts for Saturday's shoppers, an addition that further streamlined the process.
According to Lynch, shoppers were pleased with the day's arrangements.
"You can see it on people's faces," he said.
Families were able to apply for the Santa Fund through Friday afternoon in order to open up the ostensible toy factory for as many as possible, Lynch added.
The fundraising goal for this year's Santa fund is $25,150, all of which will be used to buy toys for needy children in the area. At last count, the tally stood at nearly $9,000. The Santa Fund has provided gifts to more than 500 children a year for the past three years in a row.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, manned one of Saturday's three checkout lines.
Having volunteered with the fund since childhood, Cariddi said annual turnout depends on the local economy, and that people are still hurting.
Cariddi remembers, though, many years past, when only one, uniform item was available for each age group.
"I think it's a lot better for the families now," Cariddi said. "It makes for a better Christmas when the parents have aisles to browse through, and you can see everyone's very thoughtful in their decisions. It's enjoyable at this end to help bring a little extra joy."
A city couple remarked on the selection upon leaving, saying it was broader than expected. A remote controlled car was the outing's prize takeaway. Another city man said a similar offering of discounted items was being offered to Adams residents at the Meehan and Company building on Hoosac Street.
"It's a heart-warming thing to see around this time of year," he said.
The Santa Fund, a nonprofit, was established in 1958 by the Transcript and the former Sprague Electric Co. Management Club. It continues to be run by volunteers and has no administrative costs.
As shopping wound down Saturday, one North Adams resident left smiling and waved a box at someone else, who waited in a car.
"I found what I was looking for," he said.
To reach Phil Demers, email email@example.com.
How to help
* Donations for the Santa Fund can be sent to: Northern Berkshire Santa Fund, c/o the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams MA 01247, or drop them off in the large gift-wrapped box at the front counter of the Transcript and Advocate building.