The Gospel Gang rehearses for a pair of Christmas concerts this weekend to benefit oil emergency funds in Pittsfield and South County. The South County
The Gospel Gang rehearses for a pair of Christmas concerts this weekend to benefit oil emergency funds in Pittsfield and South County. The South County concert will be held Friday night in Great Barrington and the Pittsfield concert is set for Sunday afternoon. (Jenn Smith / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

A faith-based musical group is expanding its successful holiday fundraiser in an effort to help heat more county households this winter.

The Gospel Gang and The Messengers will stage two Christmas concerts this weekend to benefit fuel oil assistance programs for Construct. Inc. in South County and the Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations.

The fourth annual PACC benefit performance is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Pittsfield. New this year is a concert scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Congregational Church in Great Barrington to assist Construct. The nonprofit has provided a variety of housing-related programs in the South Berkshires for more than 30 years.

Since the PACC concerts began in 2010, the events have raised a total of almost $10,000. But with the need for fuel assiatnce increasing and public funding declining, the local contemporary/gospel group felt compelled to add a second show, according to the group's director, Geoff Simpson.

"South County seemed like a natural progression," he said. "With the musical program in Pittsfield, we've increased our draw each year, benefiting more people in need."

Construct Executive Director Cara Davis anticipates her agency will at least match the 200 households it helped last winter.

"The concert will provide much needed money for fuel assistance down here," Davis said. "Many people we help are still paying down last year's fuel oil bills."

While admission is free, concert organizers rely on donations from the free-will offering conducted during the events. The money collected Friday goes toward Construct, with Sunday's donations presented to PACC's Emergency Oil Fund administered through the Pittsfield Salvation Army.

Last year, the fund helped nearly 30 families and individuals pay their fuel oil bills, a number expected to rise for the current heating season, according to local Salvation Army officials.

"The jobs aren't there, unemployment is running out; there's many more people in severe situations this year," Major James Fletcher said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233

How to help ...

In addition to this weekend's fundraising concerts, contributions can be sent directly to Construct Inc. and the Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations to benefit their respective fuel assistance programs.

n Checks payable to Construct Inc., 41 Mahaiwe St., Great Barrington, MA 01230. Attn: fuel assistance. Call (413) 528-1985 to access the fuel assistance fund.

n Checks payable to the council should be mailed to PACC c/o First Baptist Church, 88 South St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.

n Those seeking to access the PACC Emergency Oil Fund should call the Pittsfield Salvation Army at (413) 442-0624.