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December 07. 2012 12:56AM

Tough times, but a better life for son

Elias Torres always pays the rent. Always.

"We always make sure we have a roof over our heads," he said.

After that, it's a guessing game as to what gets paid. One thing that won't be at the house this Christmas, without the help of the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, is gifts for his 6-year-old son, who wants toys based on the characters from Transformers, Power Rangers and Angry Birds.

"It would be a very dull one," he said of a Christmas without help from the Santa Fund. (See list, Page B1.)

Torres works as a licensed nursing assistant at a nursing home, where he tries to pick up extra hours to help pay the bills. On his application to the Santa Fund, he listed $2,279 in monthly income, which is all he has to pay the more than $3,000 in monthly bills.

"I'm barely making ends meet, but I'm trying," he said. "It's just hard, you know?"

Torres said he moved to New Hampshire to get his son out of Bridgeport, Conn., where he said he grew up in a rough part of town.

"It's very peaceful here," he said. "I never hear sirens where I live, unless it's an ambulance going by."

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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 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.

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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