PITTSFIELD — With more than $1,000 in hand, The Eagle Santa Fund is off to a solid start toward helping local children enjoy the holiday season.
The 87th annual charity sponsored by The Berkshire Eagle has set a goal of $45,000, an amount organizers have held steady the past several years.
Established in 1929 during the Great Depression, the fund traditionally kicks off in mid-November, but this year's campaign began with early contributions from those who frequented The Eagle Santa Fund tent at Pittsfield's Third Thursday downtown block party in July. Two months later, volunteers holding buckets stood outside the Walmart in Pittsfield seeking donations.
In 2014, all the money collected benefited 1,137 children from nearly 500 families. The program targets children in the Berkshires, except for communities in North Berkshire and the Lee area, which are served by separate holiday funds.
Donations to the Eagle Santa Fund pay for preschool toys for children age 2 and under. Children age 3-11 receive gifts chosen by their parents or guardians with gift certificates redeemable at Walmart in Pittsfield.
"In today's toy market, a $40 gift card per child to Walmart, our toy partner, only goes so far," said fund coordinator Jude Forrest. "Parents are hard-pressed to get that perfect toy on their child's wish list [and] we are a small part of making that wish come true."
Families seeking to access The Eagle Santa Fund this year have until Wednesday to apply at the Salvation Army on West Street, with the South Berkshire deadline Nov. 20 at the CHP Family Services Building on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington.
In recent years, special events have bolstered contributions, including Soldier On in Pittsfield sponsoring a benefit pasta dinner next month. The third annual event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Elks Lodge, 27 Union St. in Pittsfield. Tickets are $10, $5 for children and senior citizens and $25 per family.
Last year's gathering netted more than $6,100, up from the $5,000 raised in the dinner's 2013 debut.
While such social gatherings spotlight The Eagle Santa Fund, individual contributions are at the heart of the fund as donations can be listed in the donor's name, in memory of loved ones, or anonymously.
Donors and their contributions will be listed in the paper unless otherwise noted. Donations are tax-deductible and must be received by Dec. 17 to ensure they are listed in the newspaper before Christmas Day.
How to help ...
Donations must be mailed to The Eagle Santa Fund, 75 S. Church St. Pittsfield, MA 01201, or dropped off at The Berkshire Eagle office.
Cecile Campbell $20
Cash collected on Third Thursday 7/16/15 233
Best Wishes 5
Merry Christmas 5
Keith & Patti Parker Families 5
Jonina Decker 5
Night Cruzers of Berkshire County 500
Cathy & Alan Righi 200
Walmart anonymous cash donations 460.25
IN MEMORY OF
Jeff Crosier 5
My family members who have gone before me. 5
George & Alma Wright 5
Patrick Rotondo 5
The Mauke Family 5
Christine "teeny" DiNicola 5
Grandpa Bob from Taylor 10
Ruth Sondrini 25
Today's total: $1,603.25
Total to date: $1,603.25
Needed to reach goal: $43,396.75