NORTH ADAMS -- Every Christmas, Penny Caron does what she can to play up Santa Claus for her 6-year-old son, including leaving cookies and milk out or inviting over a co-worker dressed as Santa two years ago.
However, after she lost her job, Christmas was almost too expensive to celebrate, so she received some appreciated help from the Elf Program, ensuring both her 1-year-old and 6-year-old will have presents on Christmas morning.
"I probably speak for many million who [understand] the help it brings," said Caron, who said she lost her job after being replaced as a convenience store manager while away dealing with a newborn baby.
Throughout the last month, Caron said she has heard unprompted and excited words from her son that Santa was on his way.
"Our kids wouldn't be able to believe in Santa," she said.
Program Manager Aleta Moncecchi said 600 children, including Caron's two kids, will benefit from the Elf Program this year. The annual program, run by Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC), allows individuals, local organizations and businesses the opportunity to sponsor children, up to the age of 12, from low-income families for the Christmas holiday.
On Tuesday, Moncecchi said there are about 30 children still in need of sponsors.
In the coming days, trucks of presents will be dropped off at the Elf Program's temporary office at 85 Main St. thanks to the generosity of the community.
Moncecchi said there was a high number of applicants in need of gifts. Even after the application deadline closed, Moncecchi said applications were submitted and the application window was reopened for an additional two weeks.
"We had more families in need," she said. "We didn't have a wait list last year."
However, the community stepped up. St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Cheshire sponsored another 100 children. Walmart also sponsored 100 children, which included volunteer assistance by employees.
Scarafoni Associates provided the rent-free space for BCAC to operate out of on Main Street. The office came to have a backroom brimming with wrapped gifts.
Inland Management also, again, matched monetary donations made to the Elf Program. Michelle Ostrowski, a senior accountant for Inland Management, dropped off a check on behalf of the company Tuesday.
In many cases, Moncecchi said the children only ask for clothing and other basic necessities.
Ostrowski also said she was humbled after reading the requests from the young adults.
It was surprising to see the need in the community, she said.
"They want jackets, hats and sweaters," Ostrowski said about the demand. "They're not even asking for toys."