By Tammy Daniels
02:21PM / Wednesday, December 02, 2020
Haley and Crystal Patella check in donations at All Saints Church for the Holiday Teen Stocking Program.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — When Berkshire Helping Hands put out a call for Christmas "stockings" for local teens, the response was overwhelming.
"We had more sponsors than we had kids," said volunteer Crystal Martin-Patella.
Patella and her daughter Haley were checking in the donations Tuesday afternoon at All Saints Church's parish center.
And the bags and stockings were piling up on the tables for parents and guardians to pick up.
The local nonprofit had been looking for people to help fill the gap in giving — younger children are eligible for holiday programs offering toys and clothing but their older siblings were often left out.
"Last year, I had a conversation with Aleta [Moncecchi of Berkshire Community Action Council] and I was thinking of doing things for teens," said group founder Marilyn Honig. "We were saying [the Elf Program] goes up to age 12. And it's kind of tough to buy for teenagers."
She had the idea of doing stocking stuffers and then the sponsors could spend what they could afford.
"It's just a little gesture, just something for them to know that somebody cares," she said. "And they don't have younger siblings getting something and they don't."
The group last year put together 70 stockings for the Holiday Teen Stocking Program. This year, Berkshire Helping Hands expanded the call and had more than 100 sponsors indicate interest. Each sponsor signed up to fill one or more "stockings."
The donations ranged from gloves and hats, slippers and jewelry to personal care items and gift certificates. Some came in large stockings but most arrived in holiday bags.
Berkshire Helping Hands grew out of an effort a couple years ago to help people left homeless by a devastating apartment building fire. Lead by Honig, the group raised donations, supplied food and goods, and helped connect the building's occupants with housing opportunities.
Since then, the group has become a 501(c)3. It has used its network to continue to help North County fire victims but also to link those in need with those who can help — whether its furniture and clothing or food and housing.
For the teen stocking program, it received names through BCAC and the Salvation Army. Since there were so many sponsors, there's a few extras that will be doled out with the stockings.
And some families have been paying it forward, Honig said.
"There's been so many families that either gave last year or were on hard times that we were able to help this year or vice versa," Honig said. "One lady had signed up her teens last year and now she's doing great, she did five stockings for other kids!"