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December 13. 2012 11:49PM

Nursing degree is dream of mom caring for 2 kids

With just another year in school, "Iris" could qualify to take the test to become a licensed practical nurse, with higher pay and a work schedule that would allow her to meet her family responsibilities.

But with an autistic child needing around-the-clock care, a second child being evaluated for a form of autism and an estranged husband who contributes $50 a month in child support, it is a goal that remains outside of her grasp.

This year she's turning to the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, (See list, Page B1.)

Iris said she's been battling for the past two years, since her husband's drug abuse and a cut in hours at work left the small family homeless.

"I cannot tell you how I always manage to make it work," Iris said. "It's God. I can't explain it,"

After years of dealing with her husband's drug use, Iris, which is not her real name, filed for divorce.

"Every time we go to court for child support, he has no job," Iris said.

Iris works part-time as a secretary with a local health-care provider. She cares for her severely autistic 5-year-old every afternoon.

The boy has a tactile disorder that makes feeding him a time-consuming chore. Another son has autism-related school adjustment problems.

"As a nurse, I will have more flexibility," Iris said. "I could make more in a shift than I do some weeks."

Work toward her nursing license is put aside as she works and cares for her family.

"I try to shield my kids from things," Iris said.

An empty Christmas would pierce that shield.

"They love toys," Iris said. "That would make them happy."

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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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