iBerkshires.com reports after serving the Northern Berkshire community for more than 60 years as its own nonprofit organization, the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund will be merging into the Northern Berkshire United Way after this holiday season.

The decision was made to enable the organization to continue its mission of providing toys for Northern Berkshire youths in need in a more fiscally and structurally sound way, said board President Tammy Daniels.

"The Santa Fund has sought partners over the last few years who can provide a sustainable foundation for the program to continue," Daniels said. "The Northern Berkshire United Way has offered to give the nonprofit the needed administrative support it requires so our small volunteer board can concentrate on its most important mission -- ensuring a happy Christmas for children in our area."

This move will put the Santa Fund under the operational umbrella of the Northern Berkshire United Way. Donations still will be able to be funneled to the Santa Fund through the United Way, and applications will be taken by those who are applying for the Elf Program at Berkshire Community Action Council. The Santa Fund worked with both organizations last year.

For this year, donations can still be sent through the secure online portal at http://www.iberkshires.com/NBSantaFund/ or by mail to Northern Berkshire Santa Fund, PO Box 1724, North Adams, MA 01247. However, because this is a transition year, the fund will only be able to take in a limited number of applications.

Daniels and other staff at iBerkshires.com took over operation of the Santa Fund several years ago after the closure of the North Adams Transcript, which had run the program for many years. At that time, Santa Fund recipients could pick out their own toys at the Cariddi Toys store on State Road. When Cariddi Toys closed, Santa Fund organizers worked with the North Adams WalMart for a couple years; while WalMart was extremely generous with its time and money in helping with the transition, the logistics there didn't work out as well as hoped.

So last year, the Santa Fund teamed up with BCAC, with BCAC accepting applications and Santa Fund volunteers buying toys to accompany the clothing donations BCAC received during its Elf Program. Those toys were distributed with the Elf Program gifts.

This year, however, Santa Fund gifts will be distributed separately over two days at The Green at 85 Main St. in downtown North Adams. Parents who have signed up for a gift through the BCAC application process can pick up their gift from noon to 4 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Dec. 21 and 22.

Applications can be filled out starting Monday, Oct. 15, at BCAC's North Adams office on the second floor of 85 Main St. Santa Fund applications are limited to the first 250 children this year.

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