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Monday, January 21, 2013

Readers deserve big thanks from Santa Fund

Feel that? The gentle tapping between your shoulder blades? That’s the pat on your backs you so deserve.

Telegraph readers never cease to amaze. After the Christmas trees have been recycled and the wrapping paper has been cleared away, we’ve added up all contributions to The Telegraph Santa Fund this holiday season, and cash donations added up to a bit more than $109,580 and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of new toys, clothes and gift cards. ...

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Feel that? The gentle tapping between your shoulder blades? That’s the pat on your backs you so deserve.

Telegraph readers never cease to amaze. After the Christmas trees have been recycled and the wrapping paper has been cleared away, we’ve added up all contributions to The Telegraph Santa Fund this holiday season, and cash donations added up to a bit more than $109,580 and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of new toys, clothes and gift cards.

All of your donations went directly to more than 1,000 families, with more than 3,000 children, on Christmas day. You didn’t see their faces and neither did we, but we were there when parents picked up dozens of bright, shiny bicycles, gorgeously wrapped baby dolls and toy trucks and warm, winter coats to put under their trees.

Said one mother as she picked up Santa Fund gifts at the Salvation Army, “without this, there just wouldn’t be a Christmas for my kids.” That was right before she thanked volunteers once, twice and once again.

That mom came in with another 100 or so parents, who missed the initial registration for the Santa Fund, because they had either just moved to town or didn’t expect to need Santa Fund help.

Rosemarie Dykeman, director of social services for the Salvation Army, was concerned that there was practically nothing to give teenagers that day. In fact the teenager table only had a handful of items.

Each year, the Salvation Army and The Front Door Agency – formerly the Pastoral Care Center – partner with The Telegraph Santa Fund to register families and distribute gifts and food vouchers.

But in true Christmas spirit, our community came through. A volunteer worker at the Gray Nuns Thrift Shop, told the manager about the situation and the two went around the store and piled new jewelry, key chain hats and other items suitable for teens in shopping bags and saw to it that it got onto those distribution tables within minutes.

That mom, who cried when she saw the gifts for her children, had a job but it didn’t pay enough to enable her to buy gifts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. She wasn’t alone.

This year we learned that 70 percent of those who applied for and received help had jobs and in some cases two and three jobs, but still couldn’t afford rent, heat and the luxury of Christmas gifts and a holiday meal for their sons and daughters. That’s the largest portion ever of working poor families who have asked for help from the Santa Fund, according to those involved with the application process.

Also this year, some of the businesses and individuals who traditionally gave to the Santa Fund, found themselves in tough financial straits and had to pull back their help. Yet still, people dug deep and kicked in. A small business in Hudson got so carried away with holiday spirit that office workers had to make at least five trips to the car to bring in the towers of gifts they all purchased and brought to the Front Door Agency.

Maryse Wirbal, CEO of Nashua Pastoral Care, also said this year more and more of those seeking help from the Santa Fund, did so because of illness.

“One of the people who called us has a child with a rare disease,” she said. “The father, a single dad, was laid off from his job for taking time off to be with his son.”

Dykeman said she had a father call from his hospital bed to see if he could get gifts for his small children for Christmas.

Yes, it was a tough year – financially and otherwise. In mid-December, when news of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy came out, many readers decided to honor the memory of those fallen boys and girls, by donating hundreds of dollars to the children in need in the Nashua area. It was a moving tribute to the children of our community who would enjoy Christmas morning in the name of those who never would again. It was another example of thoughtfulness and generosity of our community, which always rallies, no matter what.

Not everyone who donates to the Santa Fund can contribute money or even a new toy, but that doesn’t stop them from giving. This year, as in years past, there are women, who never leave their names, but do leave bags and bags of exquisitely made hand-knit hats, sweaters, mittens, scarves and even toys.

All year long, they buy or receive donations of yarn, and even before the new year begins, they begin to knit or crochet for the following Christmas. They sew and craft throughout the spring, summer and fall and right up until Christmas day.

And while those of you out there may not leave your name or ask for a thank you, we can tell you the delight of a mothers as she holds up a tiny pair of handmade mittens, the perfect size for her little girl or the dad, who held a knitted Santa Claus to his chest, to test its softness for his child. Your work was appreciated and loved.

At the beginning of our Santa Fund season, when it looked like the need in our community was daunting, Salvation Army Maj. Norma Moore said it all. “I’m impressed every year how the Greater Nashua community rallies when their fellow residents are hurting.”

Your generosity is never taken for granted, but each year The Telegraph and our Santa Fund partners, the Salvation Army and the Front Door Agency, have faith that our readers will come through. They always have, and we believe they always will.