Front Door Agency fundraising campaign helps change lives

NASHUA – A few years ago, a mother and her child showed up at the Front Door Agency in Nashua with all their belongings in two garbage bags, with nowhere else to go. Today, that same woman has completed her master’s degree, earned a fellowship and is a proud homeowner.

Hers is just one of many success stories from the Front Door Agency, whose mission is to “offer support and provide services to assist individuals and families (to) transition from crisis to self sufficiency.”

The Front Door, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, helps approximately 2,500 individuals per year and has 22 families in their transitional housing facilities at any given time.

As Lucie Bryar, media relations manager put it, “We work on stabilizing people in many different ways.” Some of these ways include the transitional housing, assistance with back rent or utility disconnections in order to prevent homelessness, crisis advocacy and resource education and financial literacy workshops.

The Front Door is a nonprofit organization. Roughly 40 percent of its budget comes from fundraising efforts, said Jean Perry, special events manager.

One of their largest fundraisers is the yearly “High 5 Give 5” campaign (formerly known as the Penny Pickers), which relies on volunteers to collect spare change from homes in Greater Nashua.

In the last 26 years, volunteers have raised almost $1 million from this campaign alone, Bryar said.

Perry noted that volunteers often consist of families, church groups and individuals, but the largest percentage is made up of student-athletes from Nashua High School North and South, Merrimack High School, Souhegan High School and Rivier University.

“Students really get behind it,” she said, noting that athletes usually have their uniforms on underneath the signature bright yellow “penny picker” bibs that volunteers wear.

“It’s a great way for students to give back, do something with their teams and get involved with the community,” Perry said. “They get to give back together.”

She also added that by going door to door, it has allowed some students to “come out of their shells” and develop some leadership skills, as well as providing visibility for the team.

Perry and Bryar both said that in the last 26 years of the grassroots campaign, the community has been incredibly generous, and in one year they raised as much as $40,000.

Each year the organization has between 200 to 300 volunteers to canvas neighborhoods. Several coaches have been involved for more than two decades, and some families have volunteered for more than 10 years, their children growing up as penny pickers.

“Almost everybody can give something,” Perry said, adding that even some of their clients have donated.

“These are people receiving assistance, and they give what little they have,” she said. “We see that type of dedication.”

This year’s goal is to get a $5 donation from 4,000 households to help local families combat homelessness.

“This (fundraiser) creates great awareness for Front Door. It makes people aware of how we are strengthening the community and helping families,” Perry said.

The Front Door is looking for people for this year’s campaign to volunteer Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and Oct. 14 and 15. To sign up, visit or call 603-886-2866. For more information, or to donate online, visit

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashua