Couple tries hard, but pay doesn't let them get ahead
"Normally, we do great at Christmas and don't need to apply for any assistance because there used to be kids more in need than ours," she said.
"But we did it this year because we're more in need."
Susan and Joe, a mid-20s married couple from Manchester's West Side, are not asking for your help through the Santa Fund this year because they like the idea.
And it's not because they aren't trying to make a go of it on their own. They are trying - hard.
He works full time as a welder in a manufacturing business. And she is enrolled in college courses working toward an associate's degree in human services, which she is expecting to get next June.
"We're one of those few who are actually trying. But we just can't seem to get ahead," she said.
The couple is hoping your generosity through the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army can help make Christmas a little brighter for their two children, ages 4 and 2, while they struggle to find enough money each month to pay their current bills while also paying off thousands of dollars in debt.
Living in subsidized housing, Susan said the rent went up as soon as her husband earned a modest raise earlier this year. At the same time, the increased income, while still meager, prompted a drop in their food stamp assistance.
"We keep trying to get by," she said, "but we just can't seem to.
"We're behind in bills. My husband had to file for bankruptcy because he's so much in debt," part of it as a result of loans he received for his own college courses, earning an associate's degree in business.
"For the degree he got, he couldn't find a job," Susan said. "He has an OK job now, but we don't want to be on food stamps or anything like that for the rest of our lives."
Susan wants to pursue a career working with disabled children from low-income families.
She said she has a job at a local social services agency waiting for her when she receives her degree and hopes to eventually work for the state Division of Children and Youth Services.
Another goal is to move out of subsidized housing early next year and "hopefully" rent a house.
Susan and Joe's son and daughter are "characters," Susan said.
She said her son is "very smart" and loves any toy or game that will help him learn.
"He's into video games. He's into puzzles. He loves learning," she said.
Their daughter, a typical 2-year-old, "loves anything Dora or Princess."
Susan hopes this is the only year she needs to rely on the Santa Fund for gifts for her children.
Once she receives her degree and begins her job, she's hoping the situation improves.
But, she said, "It's just hard, because you never know what's going to happen with anybody's job. The economy is pretty bad."
For now, the family will enjoy the Christmas tree she decorated right after Thanksgiving.
The kids will continue to build up their anticipation by listening to their "Countdown to Christmas" toy she picked up at a local store.
But, said Susan, "It's just hard this year, and anything under the tree is helpful."
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.