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Benefactor lifts Santa Fund tally

MANCHESTER - A gift from one of its most generous benefactors has helped push the New Hampshire Union Leader Christmas Fund for the Salvation Army to $216,845.12 for the 2012 campaign.

The family of retired business executive Robert Smith of Gilford donated $5,000 to the fund's 53rd annual drive this week, a substantial donation any year, and especially appreciated by fund organizers at a time when many in the community are still struggling economically.

"We've been supporting the Santa Fund for years," Smith said. "We started at least 15 years ago."

Joseph McQuaid, president of Union Leader Corp. and publisher of the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News, said the gift, received Monday, was a fitting way to round out the holiday season.

"The Smiths' last-minute gift puts a wonderful exclamation point on the 2012 Santa Fund story," McQuaid said. "It has been a tough go with this stubborn economy but somehow, some way, people like Bob Smith and his family and many others find a way to write a happy ending."

Smith is a former treasurer of American Express Corp. and was chief executive of its American Express Bank.

He was also a partner in Car Component Technologies of Bedford, which manufactured automobile parts. His work with that firm brought Smith into direct contact with people working to improve their economic standing.

"We used to hire some of the immigrant people landing in Manchester and realized how important it was to give back to the community," Smith said. "It supports children and children in need."

McQuaid stressed that the success of the fund lies in the generosity of all donors, the people who contribute what they can every year, ranging from substantial gifts such as that received from the Smith family to the coins of schoolchildren.

"We thank them all," McQuaid said.

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