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November 30. 2012 10:34PM

Santa Fund: Mom works hard but struggles with hours cut


MANCHESTER - Jessica considers herself fortunate. Even though her work hours have been cut back, and she has no benefits, she has worked as an optician at the same eyeglass store for nine years.

Like many of the applicants to the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund, she is among the working poor. Her $20,000 annual income, the sole source of support for her and her two daughters, barely exceeds the federal poverty level for a family of three.

Jessica (not her real name) has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Hesser College and at one time was making more money at work.

"Because of the economy, things have really slowed down," she said. "Before, we were seeing anywhere from nine to 12 patients or walk-ins each day, now we are lucky if there are two or three."

People are delaying new eyeglass purchases, having new lenses put into old frames and avoiding many of the extras they used to purchase, like tinted lenses or designer frames, she said. Sales commissions, which once supplemented her salary, dried up. Her hours were cut from 40 or more, with overtime pay, to a maximum of 35 to 36 hours a week.

She has not asked for help before, but now she finds herself barely able to pay the bills, let alone afford Christmas presents for her two girls, ages 2 and 8.

Some toys for her daughters and maybe a food basket or a gift card to a grocery store are all that she is hoping for through her Santa Fund application.

The older daughter just turned eight on Saturday. A second-grader at Hallsville School, she likes the American Girl dolls and games for her Wii. The younger daughter looks up to her sister.

"She thinks she's eight years old, so she likes all the stuff my other daughter likes. She likes dolls, but during the summer I bought her a boy's tool set and she loves it. She likes to build. She always wants to play with computers, phones, that kind of thing."

Jessica's finance are about to get more complicated after this week, when her mother, who has been providing day care for the 2-year-old, moves to Virginia. "This is her last week baby-sitting," she said, "So I'm going to be trying to figure that out pretty soon."

As a single mom working five days a week, Jessica has done her best to make sure her girls enjoy the holidays, but this year she could use a helping hand. "It would be great to get gift certificates for food or presents for my girls," she said. "I'd be happy with that."

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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 ?nancially 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 www.unionleader.com/santafund.

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.

Click here to donate to the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.

How to donate

Santa Fund donations can be made by completing the online form by clicking "Donate" below or send a check to:

c/o New Hampshire Union Leader
P.O. Box 9555
Manchester, NH 03108

You can also drop off the printed form in our newspaper and a donation in the Santa Fund box at the Union Leader, 100 William Loeb Drive in Manchester from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will also have a donation drop box at the Intown Manchester Holiday Market on Thursday, November 29 and every Thursday in December.

Share a holiday greeting

With your donation, the Union Leader will publish a short holiday message in the newspaper. Just write it up exactly as you would have it appear, printing clearly, and mail it along with your donation. If you prefer to donate online, follow the link on the page following the transaction to submit a Christmas message.

For more information, please contact Shannon Sullivan, Union Leader Community Relations Manager, at (603) 206-7833 or ssullivan@unionleader.com

The Union Leader Santa Fund is a community tradition that has supported the Salvation Army for more than 50 years. The Santa Fund was first established at the Post Office Fruit in Manchester after a chance 1959 meeting between the Salvation Army major and the then-editor of the Union Leader.

In its first year, the Santa Fund brought in $1,000 to support the Salvation Armys Christmas effort. Since then, the Santa Fund has raised nearly $6.8 million, thanks to the generosity of the community and local businesses. Santa Fund dollars continue to provide warm clothing, meals and toys during the holidays, as well as support Kids Caf, summer camps and other critical programs throughout the year. Last year's drive brought in over $240,000 thanks to the generosity of local businesses and residents, bringing the lifetime total to nearly $6.8 million.

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