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She wants something special for her sons to celebrate

MANCHESTER - Things have been falling into place for Caroline recently, but the young mother of three still needs some help from the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.

She lost her full-time assembly job at a defense contractor in Hudson three years ago. Since then, it's been a struggle keeping up with the needs of three boys, ages 5, 9 and 12.

Two of the boys have been diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and one of them has a dysfunctional bladder. Getting them to school, sporting activities and health care appointments was challenging for a single mom with no car.

Caroline (not her real name) feels lucky to have landed a part-time manufacturing job in Manchester, and she now has a car, thanks to the Good News Garage program of Lutheran Social Services. It has 200,000 miles on it and recently needed a new starter, but it gets her to work, gets the boys to school and helps her maintain an active lifestyle, despite the economic challenges.

There's just not enough money to give the boys the Christmas they deserve, she said, which prompted her application to the Santa Fund.

"I think the kids deserve it," she said. "I come from a large family and have never really gone anywhere, never really had anything. I always wanted for my kids to have a little more than I did. I always try to do the best I can for them."

The youngest loves cars, anything to do with cars, but Caroline takes a more practical approach. "A learning system of some kind would be great for him right now," she said. "A LeapPad or LeapFrog is something he would love."

The 9-year-old is a football fan. "His big thing is football," she said, "especially the New York Giants. He's a big Giants fan. So anything having to do with football would be really good for him - a jersey, a hat, things like that."

Her oldest is a basketball fan. "He just made it to middle school and made the basketball team, and had honors when he brought his report card home last week, so I am very proud."

Cars and sports are typical boyhood obsessions, but Caroline takes a practical perspective as well. "All my children are always in need of clothing because I really can't afford it," she said.

After losing her job at the Hudson manufacturing plant due to illness, she operated a day care out of her home, taking care of three children in addition to her own. She lost that opportunity when she had to move into a smaller, rented home in Manchester.

The part-time job she now has may not last past the holidays. "A friend of mine got me in there because she knew I was very desperate for work, and they were looking for part-time help," she said. "They actually offered me a few more hours this week."

To qualify for the Good News Garage program, she had to participate in the New Hampshire Employment Program through the Department of Health and Human services. She is now taking online courses.

"I worked my butt off for six months in that program, started working this part-time job, am doing online classes and got a car," she said. "I've just been bending over backwards trying to make things work. The past few Christmases haven't been that great for the kids. I would love to get them something they deserve."

And if there's a little left over for mom?

"I'd probably invest in one of those new tablets," she said. "I could do my online classes and take pictures, because that's my favorite thing to do."

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The generosity of Santa Fund donors makes it possible for the holidays to still be a joyful time. The Santa Fund makes food, clothing and gifts available during the holiday season, so financially stressed families can put their resources toward paying bills for basic needs.

Santa Fund donations may be made by sending a check to the Union Leader Santa Fund, in care of the New Hampshire Union Leader, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester 03108; or by placing a donation in the Santa Fund box in the lobby of the newspaper, at 100 William Loeb Drive, Manchester, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Donations can also be made online at

Every effort is made to promptly publish Santa Fund contributions. Donors who wish to see their contributions listed before Christmas are encouraged to submit them as soon as possible. The Union Leader publishes photos of donors of $1,000 or more.

For more information, call Christy DeTrude at 668-4321, ext. 507.


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