The Giving Tree Needs Your Help!

giving tree

A time honored local tradition of holiday helping has faced tough times in recent years.  Last year, this important initiative struggled right to the last day to nail down enough donors to provide much needed gifts of warm winter clothing for local children in need [see story:iBerkshires.com].  This year, the challenge has been increased by about two hundred additional children on the list.

The Berkshire Community Action Council’s Giving Tree Program, which collects donations of warm clothing to children in need, came to the mall with more than 700 names of low income children in need of these most basic essentials, and is currently down to about 220, with three days remaining to its {Thursday] December 20 deadline. [Update: 150 names left at 4pm Wednesday] 

“What can we do?” said volunteer Regina White, “We can’t turn down any applicants.  These kids need our help.”

The non-funded program, run by staff and numerous volunteers, depends on generous individuals and businesses who sign up to “sponsor” a particular child.  Donors pick an envelope of a young girl or boy, complete with sizes and clothing items needed, purchase the items at the retailers of their own choosing, wrap them, then bring them back to the Giving Tree in the Berkshire Mall’s center court, near J.C. Penney to be sent on to the family that needs them.

The mall tree is but one component of the countywide program, with additional lists of names being handled by North and South county branches of BCAC, along with many hundreds that are picked up by local businesses and their employees before the remainder go to the mall volunteers.  In total, members of the community help gift clothes to more than 2000 kids who need them each year.

This year, a special 30% off discount is being offered for Giving Tree sponsors by The Children’s Place (must show giving tree envelope to qualify), also located at the Berkshire Mall.

About 80 more names were generously picked up today (Monday), leaving approximately 220 remaining to be helped by caring people like yourselves!

What are you waiting for? Let’s do this thing.  I’m off to pick up a few things for a little boy named Thelonious, whose favorite color is black.  If you make it there, please drop me a comment here or email me at joe.durwin@gmail.com to let me know what the current count is.

The Week in Pittsfield: Dec. 2-8, 2012

SCHOOLS

DSC_0603Quite a bit going on in local schools this week, most notably a visit by Lt. Governor Murray to PHS Thursday, in which local officials mildly pressed the Lieutenant on the sometimes frustrating slow process of school building planning… meanwhile, PHS’s principal spent some time this week addressing a parent’s complaint to media about the style of safe sex flyers around the school, and a new subcommittee of Reid educators finished dispensing with an open meeting complaint filed against it by city school committee member Terry Kinnas.  On a brighter note, 488 local 3rd graders received colorful new dictionaries as part of an annual literacy initiative by the Rotary Club. Ongoing discussion of vocational programming at Taconic HS since last week’s school committee meeting will continue this coming Wednesday, when the public will have another opportunity to address the future of such programs as auto body and metal fabrication at the committee’s Dec. 12 meeting- though in the grand tradition of mudlike online transparency, no agenda has yet been posted to the school department’s website, and the meeting is not even listed on the main city calendar [UPDATE: Agenda was posted by end of day Monday 12/10].

BIZ

A local developer received a go ahead from the Community Development Board for a renovation project aiming to convert former Crane & Co warehouse space on Dalton Ave into new retail space, despite some neighbor concerns about traffic congestion; the proposal will now go before the City Council for final approval. City Hall this week touted one promising success story in local green job training, but the overall employment picture outlined at a BCREB meeting this week remains grim, and the impending cutoff of unemployment insurance for 45,000 Mass. residents could result in further negative economic impact.

DTR and I also had some continued conversation on Berkshire Viewpoint DSC_0091this week about developments in the key Upstreet District area where Melville Street meets First, with Hist. Commission Chair Will Garrison on Tuesday (podcast), then again with former Notre Dame church owner Crispina Ffrench on Wednesday.  A derelict former convent house at that corner is slated to be torn down as part of the way paved for an anticipated development of the former catholic middle school building adjacent to it by Scarafoni Associates, most plausibly another downtown housing enterprise.

GOV’T

To City Manager, or not to City Manager? This recurring discussion resumed before the Charter Review Study Committee this week; in contrast to the unanimous opposition of a panel of Pittsfield mayors two weeks ago, several city councilors voiced strong favor Tuesday toward the idea of splitting the responsibilities of city management between an elected mayor and a hired administrator.

Local law enforcement was in the news for matters beyond just the crime blotter, with their Cops on Top fundraising at Berkshire Crossing this weekend, which drew $22,000 for local Special Olympics… Pittsfield’s re-activated police advisory committee, meanwhile, was brainstorming Monday on funding sources for a new station, the need for which has been a matter of ongoing discussion over the past year.

Plans are in the works for projects in both state and local park lands, with the announcement this week of a $400,000 grant awarded for Phase 2 of the Pittsfield Common, and a public hearing held at DCR’s Pittsfield headquarters Thursday on proposed forestry initiatives that will bring back commercial logging into state forest sites for the first time since 2008 (though perhaps with a more calculated silviculture than the chaotic slash job green-lighted by the administration earlier in the 2000s).

ARTS

In cultural news, Pittsfield put on its last Artswalk of 2012 despite dismal weather Friday, including a new invitational show at City Hall put together by the Mayor and First Lady; Julianne Boyd attributed BSC’s success to youth DSC_0313and community involvement at a luncheon Wednesday,  the Festival of Trees continued with Family Day and several Museum activities this week, the aforementioned Melville Street church- aka Shire City Sanctuary- was opened up for its handmade holiday “Shindy,” along with a procession of MANY other holiday events continuing all around Pittsfield this month…