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Apple Fest in Nashua raises money for Salvation Army

Union Leader Correspondent

October 07. 2012 9:07PM
At Apple Fest on Sunday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass chats with former Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter and Bobby Williams, the owner of Sullivan Farm. The farm is the last remaining working farm in the city, and has hosted the Salvation Army fundraiser since it began five years ago. (SIMON RIOS PHOTO)

NASHUA - When karate master Bobby LaMattina was growing up in the streets of East Boston, the Salvation Army was like an embodiment of Santa Clause.

'They took care of my family when I was a kid,' said LaMattina, decked out in his karate gi yesterday at Apple Fest, a fundraiser for the Salvation Army of Nashua.

'My mom and dad were separated so we were on welfare, and the Salvation Army was there for us all the time.'

The organization would provide the LaMattina family with turkey each Thanksgiving and toys during Christmas. Currently the head of Tokyo Joe's Studios of Self-Defense in Nashua, LaMattina said things would have turned out different for him if not for the help of the nonprofit.

'I think every child should have a happy and healthy and enjoyable childhood,' he said. 'They should have the memories of Thanksgiving being bountiful, not being poor.'

Apple Fest has taken place each of the last five years at Sullivan Farm, the last remaining farm in Nashua's city limits.

Droves of fairgoers filled the farm to the brim, stuffing scarecrows, getting their faces painted, munching on ice cream and burgers and apple pie - all the while supporting one of the city's most active service organizations.

The Salvation Army of Nashua runs a food pantry and clothing donation program. The organization provides assistance with utilities, rent, mortgage, prescriptions and other vital needs. Volunteers also support first responders through emergency relief efforts, and are a regular presence at the scene of fires in the area, no matter what time of day.

Mary Ann Picard, director of development at the Salvation Army, said since the economic downturn the group has doubled the amount of service it provides.

'We'll close out 2012 having served more than 10,000 individuals,' she said.

Every dime raised at Apple Fest goes to the group. In 2011, over $30,000 was raised through ticket sales and corporate sponsorship. This year - with support from BAE Systems, Triangle Credit Union and 11 other sponsors - Apple Fest organizers are hoping to reach new fundraising heights.

Major Norma Moore, a lifelong Salvation Army member, said the majority of beneficiaries constitute the working poor; those who have jobs but aren't able to make ends meet.

'They're just not making enough,' Moore said. 'You can't live on minimum wage anymore.'

Moore said some politicians are more supportive than others. Election time can be somewhat nerve-racking for organizations who receive government support.

'We try to show the (politicians) what we do, the importance of what we do and why it's needed, and we just hope that they're going to help us when they get into office,' she said.

Hot on the campaign trail, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass was making the rounds at Apple Fest. He said he's worked as a bell-ringer during the holidays, and that it's a thankless but important task.

'Organizations like the Salvation Army ... are an absolutely critical part of making us the society that we are today,' said Bass, who's seeking his eighth term as District 2 Congressman. 'It isn't all government, it isn't all private - it's a combination.'

Bass is active with the Salvation Army in his hometown of Peterborough.

'Forget about federal welfare programs,' he said. 'I need $286.19 (to fill a client's oil tank), and there's a group of us in town that when we're called we do it. That's what the Salvation Army means to us.'

The giving spirit was alive in fairgoer Rose Gutierrez, who came to Apple Fest with her daughter and grandson Nicholas. She said she donates to the Salvation Army every chance she gets.

'I think that it's very nice to help others, and if you ever need it you know that somebody's going to be there for you,' Gutierrez said.

'Everybody wants to work, and everybody wants to make their own way. But it's very hard, especially when you have all the little ones going to school at one time. You have to help with every little bit you can - and we do.'

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