Families, children counting on the Santa Fund

Nearly every day, it seems, there are signs the U.S. economy continues to recover – albeit ever so slowly – from the depths of the Great Recession of 2008-09. Employment is up. Home sales are up. Consumer confidence is up. The stock market is up.

But statistics are one thing; individuals and families are quite another.

And as we’ve come to learn over the years, there may be no quicker way to check the economic health of Greater Nashua than by examining the demand for assistance this time of year through The Telegraph Santa Fund.

Based on the numbers alone, it’s not much better than a year ago.

This year, 1,050 families with 2,176 children registered for assistance when the Salvation Army and the Front Door Agency accepted applications for three days in late October on behalf of the Santa Fund. That’s comparable to the 1,150 families who signed up in 2011.

But the numbers tell only part of the story. Unlike earlier years, when many of the people seeking assistance were out of work, 70 percent of those seeking help this year are working
at least one job – and, in some cases, more than that – yet still qualified for assistance.

“Not only do these people have jobs, but some have two or three – and they still can’t afford to pay all their bills, let alone gifts for their children,” said Maryse Wirbal, chief operating officer of the Front Door Agency, which along with the Salvation Army distributes gifts and food vouchers for the Santa Fund. “These people are making minimum wage, and their hours have been cut back. It’s just not enough income to stay afloat.”

While layoffs and a reduction in hours are taking a toll on individuals, they also reflect similar tough times for local businesses. As a result, organizers already are hearing that some businesses won’t be as generous as in years past – if they are able to participate at all.

On the other hand, they are also taking calls from local businesses wondering what they can do to help. If history is any indication, some will conduct internal toy drives or donate money that otherwise would have gone toward their company Christmas party.

As of Tuesday, the Santa Fund had raised $10,447, down slightly from the same time a year ago. That means there is still a long way to go to reach this year’s goal of $120,000.

Beyond monetary donations, there is also a need for clothing, toys and gift cards. Teens are particularly fond of receiving gift cards.

Here is how you can help:

• Checks can be mailed to The Telegraph, 17 Executive Drive, Hudson, NH 03051 or financial contributions can be made online at www.nashuatelegraph.com/santafund.

• Money, clothing and toys can be dropped off at our Hudson office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Money, clothing and toys can be brought to our 60 Main St., Nashua, office Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Clothing and toys also can be delivered to 14 other drop-off locations in Greater Nashua, which are listed online at www.nashuatelegraph.com/santafund.

Telegraph Publisher Charlie Weaver founded the Santa Fund in 1962, raising enough money that year to purchase gifts and bring joy to nearly 1,000 children.

Please help us to do likewise in 2012.