NORTH ADAMS -- A local agency that ensures children have gifts under their tree during the holiday season is reaching out to make sure every family that qualifies has signed up.
Northern Berkshire families have until Nov. 8 to sign up for Berkshire Community Action Council's (BCAC) Elf Program. The program, run out of BCAC's satellite office in the city, provides the first name, gender and age of children signed up for the program to sponsors -- individuals, organizations and businesses -- who purchase clothing and gifts for them.
Program Manager Aleta Moncecchi said Wednesday that the program provided gifts for roughly 600 children in Northern Berkshire last season.
"We think our numbers this year are going to be much higher than 600," she said. "From what we're seeing with fuel assistance and emergencies, this is one of our more difficult years."
The program, which is open to children ages 12 and under, serves low-income families in North Adams, Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Savoy, Williamstown. BCAC's Warm Clothing Program is a similar initiative serving families in the greater Pittsfield area.
Each sponsor, referred to as an elf, receives information about the child, including clothing size, interests and a wish list. Gifts will range from hats and coats to even bikes, Moncecchi said.
The Walmart Supercenter has already pledged to sponsor 150 children, she said, and Saint Mary's of the Assumption in Cheshire has pledged to help 100.
"But we need at least 30 more sponsors for the children we think are coming in," she said.
Moncecchi said one reason this year's numbers are lower is the office has changed locations. The satellite office moved from 10 Ashland St. to 85 Main St., Suite 201, this past spring.
The program relies heavily on volunteers from the community to run the program, she said, noting that last year a group of 10 Walmart employees volunteered for a total of 50 hours.
"It's my favorite program we have," Moncecchi said. "It's people helping people. Everybody's struggling right now in this economy, and its people going out of there way to make sure children in our community have the things that they need."
Anyone interested in being a sponsor (an elf) can contact BCAC North Adams at 413-663-3014, or visit the office, between 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"We ask everything be brought in by Dec. 16, so we can get everything out that week to the families," Moncecchi said.
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