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The Eagle Santa Fund off to a good, early start

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John Porter has a sign at his garden stand on Dodge Avenue in Pittsfield for the Santa Fund, indicating that he has raised $480 selling vegetables.

PITTSFIELD — The Eagle Santa Fund is off to a great, early start, with nearly $5,000 in hand toward its $45,000 goal.

The Berkshires’ longest-running holiday charity received a $4,000 donation from Premium Waters in Pittsfield and a $895 gift in memory of Daniel C. Dillion, who died Jan. 4.

The Eagle Santa Fund now is accepting contributions throughout the holiday season.

Typically, the philanthropic effort officially kicks off on Thanksgiving weekend, but organizers say donations have been coming in before Halloween.

The Eagle Santa Fund, entering its 93rd year, is a nonprofit corporation that distributes holiday gift certificates redeemable at Walmart, allowing families to choose gifts for their children ages 3 to 11. Children 2 or younger receive a gift chosen by the Santa Fund.

Last year, the fund raised over $55,000, which helped hundreds of children in the Pittsfield area have an enjoyable Christmas and holiday season.

The fund has reached 11 percent of its goal before Halloween, thanks to the early donations.

Premium Waters plant manager Andy Swanton that says with a boost in employment from 30 to 40 people in the past 12 months, the company’s contribution, based on $100 per worker, was up $1,000 compared with what it gave in 2020.

“I talked to my boss [Bernie Zarda], and we thought donating to children was a great use of our philanthropy,” Swanton said.

Swanton said the water-bottling company also is noted for giving away cases of water to organizations and special events in the Pittsfield area.

Meanwhile, Dillon is being remembered through the fund, having died from complications of COVID-19. Dillon was known for giving to the community, dressing as Santa Claus during the holiday season and serving as the master of ceremonies for the annual Berkshires United Cerebral Palsy Telethon.

Those who knew Dillon described him as “selfless” and “caring” at the time of his death.

The majority of the The Eagle Santa Fund’s donations come from individuals, with a number of contributions courtesy of special fundraisers, such as Jay Porter and his grandchildren’s roadside produce stand in Pittsfield.

Donations can be mailed to The Eagle Santa Fund, 75 South Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201, or dropped off at The Eagle office.

Contributions can be listed in the donor’s name, in memory of loved ones or anonymously. Donors and their contributions will be listed in The Eagle, unless otherwise noted. A donation form can be found in the newspaper, and to ensure that your contribution is listed by Christmas Day, it must be received no later than Dec. 18.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.

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