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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog breakfast brings laughs, tributes, recognition

NASHUA – In Vermont, legend has it, farmers are so frugal that when a squirrel falls into a bucket of sap, they fish it out, toss it aside and finish collecting the sap.

But their Granite State counterparts, not an easily “out-
frugaled” lot, have been known to do them one better: Taking a minute to wring the sap out of the animal before tossing it. ...

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NASHUA – In Vermont, legend has it, farmers are so frugal that when a squirrel falls into a bucket of sap, they fish it out, toss it aside and finish collecting the sap.

But their Granite State counterparts, not an easily “out-
frugaled” lot, have been known to do them one better: Taking a minute to wring the sap out of the animal before tossing it.

So goes one of many Granite-flavored yarns that Yankee Publishing president Jamie Trowbridge spun as guest speaker at Friday’s 13th annual Granite State Groundhog Gathering Breakfast, a morning of fun, tributes and recognition hosted by the Salvation Army of Nashua.

One of the agency’s two major fundraisers, along with October’s annual Sullivan Farm Applefest, the Groundhog Day event goes a long way toward replenishing lean coffers typical of post-
holiday season weeks at its Montgomery Avenue home.

A perennial favorite of former Gov. John Lynch, who returned in a civilian capacity this year, the breakfast featured a series of awards ranging from community sponsors and top bell-ringers to the coveted Salvation Army Citizen of the Year award.

Lynch, this year’s recipient, was praised for “coming out whenever he can to support this agency” by Maj. David Moore, the agency’s commanding officer.

“Gov. Lynch has supported, and continues to support, so many agencies across the state. He’s only missed one (Groundhog breakfast) in his eight years in office,” Moore added.

Lynch, in turn, commended Jennifer Buskey, who shared her story of how the Salvation Army helped her and her family through what she called a “very devastating” period in their lives.

“The courage you displayed is so inspiring,” Lynch said to Buskey during his brief acceptance remarks. “Yours is such a heartwarming story.”

Buskey, apologizing for her occasionally shaky voice, stood with Salvation Army social services director Rosemarie Dykeman as she recounted the ways the agency helped her.

Shortly after her son began volunteering at the agency and her daughter joined its after-school program, Buskey said “we had a couple of devastating things … I became a single parent and lost my home. It became very difficult to afford day care, but I had no choice but to work.”

Recognizing her plight, the Salvation Army reached out, she said. “They came up to me and said, ‘We want to sponsor your daughter,’ ” Buskey said, referring to the after-school program and its summer camp. “Because of that, she made lifelong friends. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without (the agency’s) help.”

Always able to provide for her children, Buskey told the audience of nearly 200 how hard it was for her to seek help from the Santa Fund last Christmas.

“It was a very humbling experience,” she said softly. “They provided things for my kids that I never could have. It was our best Christmas ever. I hope that someday I’m able to pay it forward, to give back.”

Because no Groundhog breakfast would be complete without meteorological facts, figures and prognostications, Hometown Forecast Services meteorologist Rob Carolan once again was called upon.

Citing the record warmth of 2012, Carolan quipped that “it probably won’t happen again, because John Lynch is no longer governor,” a reference to the standing joke about Lynch’s four terms being fraught with abnormally strong, and frequent, storms.

Interestingly, Carolan said, while 2012 tied 1878 for New Hampshire’s warmest year on record, the warmest five years in the books all came between 1870 and 1881.

He also noted this is the 15th anniversary of the Great Ice Storm of 1998, reeling off facts and figures like extended power outages that led to “people showering in car washes in Quebec,” a claim that raised a few chuckles.

Master of Ceremonies Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, told the group that the Salvation Army assists 300 people with clothing or food each month, and “because of all of you, 1,856 children had Christmas and an average of 52 children went to summer camp each week” in 2012.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said Lynch “likes Nashua so much that he came this year even though he’s no longer the governor.” She also praised the efforts of Nashua firefighters, who, she said, collectively logged more than 800 volunteer hours and served 2,500 people at scenes of fires and other disasters last year.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said her first Groundhog Day breakfast impressed her as “the quintessential New Hampshire event. We are a state that does things together, from the ground up,” she said. “We are a state of partnerships.

“The only complaint I have is that everywhere I go now, someone always says, ‘Gov. Lynch came here every year,’ ” Hassan said with a laugh, adding that she may find herself quite busy this year.

Also recognized Friday were:

Nashua Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brian Rhodes, Salvation Army Advisory Board Member of the Year.

Representatives of the New Balance store in Merrimack Premium Outlets, Community Sponsor of the Year.

St. Christopher School, “Angel Award” winners for holiday contributions by students.

Linda Leedburg, Salvation Army Volunteer of the Year.

Even Moore, the commander, got off a pretty good one before delivering the benediction by announcing he will be cheering for the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“After all, the city is named for my great-great-great-grandfather: Baldy-Moore,” the follicle-challenged commander deadpanned to a round of laughter.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).