Making Christmas Bright
The most unique aspect of the ELF Fund is that for the past 30 years there have never been any administrative costs. All of the Officers, Directors, and numerous others have volunteered their time and talents to fulfill the ELF Fund Mission that no child or senior in Bradford awakes without a gift on Christmas morning.
It all started in 1983; Bradford was hard hit by the economic recession which gripped most of the country. People were out of work, jobs were scarce, and some residents were having trouble even meeting their basic needs.
David Antill, the captain for the Salvation Army in Bradford, was among the first to see – and sound – the alarm, particularly as Christmas approached. He noticed that more people than ever were seeking assistance from the Army that year, and many worried that they’d be unable to afford Christmas gifts for their kids.
The thought of a Christmas tree without a single gift beneath it – and for some, not even a tree – was too much for Capt. Antill and he decided to do something about it.
He approached The Bradford Era to see whether the newspaper would be willing to help him provide toys for needy children in the Bradford area on Christmas morning. The idea was simple.
The newspaper’s reporters would write stories about some of these individuals telling their stories of unemployment, illness, unusual bills, etc. which had left them unable to fulfill their parental role as Santa Claus. Although the people were not identified, their stories were authentic and struck a real chord with Bradford people who were unaware that these needy folks were their neighbors, friends, and possibly even family. They wanted to help.
For its part, the Salvation Army agreed to provide that outlet. If people would be willing to spend a modest amount of money for a single gift for a child – a new toy or item of clothing – the Army would make sure they got into the hands of needy children on Christmas morning. The results were overwhelming.
At that time, Pennbank (now PNC Bank) agreed to accept wrapped gifts under the gigantic tree in its lobby, and soon it was overcome with mountains of presents. The program worked like a charm, and kids all over Bradford got at least one gift from Santa Claus – or in this case, an “elf.”
The program became known as the Era’s Less Fortunate or ELF Fund, and has continued for over 30 years.
Initially, it was meant to be just for that year only, but its success demanded a repeat – year after year after year. After all, the Army noted, there would always be some kids without gifts if it weren’t for the Bradford community of elves.
Since that time, the program has grown and developed in a variety of ways.
Senior citizens were added not just in the gift program but through an annual bus tour of the holiday lights in Bradford. The Army’s food program was augmented with a Menu for Bradford, and many local industries and organizations became involved through gift and food drives.
As we moved into the 21st century, the ELF Fund continued to receive remarkable support from our community members. In January of 2003, the ELF Fund became a designated 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, enabling monetary donations to become tax deductible. In 2005 we began accepting stock transfers for those interested in supporting the organization in that manner. The ELF Fund has established an Account with Northwest Savings Bank Trust Department for this type of contribution.
As we entered 2006, the responsibility to protect personal information and maintain confidentiality had become essential. The Salvation Army Divisional Commander notified the ELF Fund that due to an updated Client Confidentiality Policy, the Salvation Army can no longer share their Client Information with the ELF Fund. Under this new Policy, the program was divided that year requiring a separate Application and Distribution Process for each non-profit entity.
The ELF Fund has maintained its original mission by continuing to provide Christmas Gifts of new toys and clothing for Children and Senior Citizens. The ELF Fund Application Process is held annually during the second week of October at the Bradford Public Library. ELF Fund Tree Tags are then distributed throughout the community for individual participation, and those wishing to adopt an entire Family may email ELF Fund Adopt-A-Family. Seniors continue to enjoy the Bus Tour of the Holiday Lights followed by a Reception with Entertainment at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
Also in 2006, the ELF Fund teamed up with Project CARE, a Visiting Nurse Association Outreach Program that affords the ELF Fund its first opportunity to assist elderly shut-ins that need our help the most. To insure that special diets are maintained, the ELF Fund offers all Senior Applicants the Choice of a $25.00 Food Purchase Card.. The ELF Fund conducts a separate Distribution Day for Family Gift Pickup and assists senior citizens and elderly shut-ins with home delivery.
Financial contributions made payable to the ELF Fund help provide:
● New Toys and Clothing for needy Children and Teens ages 17 and under
● Christmas Gifts and Food Purchase Cards for Senior Citizens
● Ten $30.00 Food Purchase Cards given out every month at the Bradford Senior Center
● Cookies and Refreshments for the Senior Reception at UPB
The program continues to remain very successful and to this day, we make a priority of achieving our primary goal: making sure no child or senior citizen in Bradford goes without a gift on Christmas morning.