Mom says for son's sake, she won't give up
Melissa (not her real name) had never even heard of the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, which provides Christmas joy to needy families through donations from the greater Manchester community.
After the father of her 3-year-old son left the family last summer, she struggled to provide a safe and happy home for him by herself. The 23-year-old mom works full time at a child care center, but her paycheck couldn't keep up with their expenses.
So they moved in with her older sister, and she tries to help out with the rent and expenses.
Then the letter came home with her son from his day care provider, telling Melissa about the Santa Fund. And so she went to the Salvation Army to see if they could help make this Christmas a happier one for her little boy.
"Everyone was wonderful there," she said. "They just welcomed you with open arms."
She asked the Salvation Army folks for "anything that's academic" for little Allen, who is strong physically but struggles a little with his verbal skills. "Maybe a game or a puzzle, something with repetition, so that he can continue learning," she said.
Now that there's some hope for a happier Christmas, Melissa is taking comfort in watching her son revel in the joys of the season. She wants to make sure he realizes it's not just about the gifts. "It's about the time and the sharing and putting up the Christmas tree, and staying warm and cozy and having a roof over our heads," she said.
Melissa knows she's learned some tough lessons at her young age. And she knows she can't quit even when she's exhausted or sad - because of her son.
"He just makes it possible for me to get up every morning, he really does, especially with times being so tough," she said. "He'll always love me, and that's what I know." And here's what she wants folks who donate to the Santa Fund to know: "That they make things possible for us. It's not only just donating, it's bringing joy and happiness to a family.
"It's not just about the gift; it's about showing you care. It begins with buying something, but it doesn't always end that way. ... It's just very warming to know that other people are out there caring - and they don't even know who you are."
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.