Number of NH families in need grows
MANCHESTER — Homelessness, unemployment and cuts in food stamp benefits are the main reasons given by the increasing number of people turning to the Salvation Army this year for help in making sure there is a gift under the tree for their children and a meal on the table. (Santa Fund donor list, Page B1.)
"There is a big need we are seeing this year," Capt. Miriam Rader of the Manchester Corps of the Salvation Army said Wednesday.
The Salvation Army will help 1,185 families this holiday season — 200 more than last year, Rader said."It's probably true to say the need is growing and the donations are declining," Rader continued.
Many families are seeking help this year because they say they have lost their jobs, have no permanent place to live and saw cutbacks in food stamp benefits, Rader said.
"The shelters are full," she said. Many families are forced to lead itinerant lifestyles, moving in with relatives and friends for a few weeks or months at a time then moving on to live with someone else, Rader said.
"They are not out on the streets. They are just moving house to house, couch to couch," she added.
Families also are reaching out for help because they were just laid off or lost their seasonal employment, Rader said.
Lastly, she said she heard many applicants talk about cuts to food stamps as reasons why they cannot afford to buy gifts for their children this year.
Rader noted the Salvation Army's red kettles so far have brought in about 15 percent less in donations than last year.
But the kettles are not the primary funding source for the holiday program, which provides families whose applications have been approved up to four gifts per child and a grocery gift card, Rader said.
For that, the Salvation Army relies mostly upon donations made to the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army. Rader said she could not estimate how donations are going so far this year since the program continues into the holidays and some donors wait until then to make their gifts.
The red kettle donations are primarily used to run the Salvation Army's year-round programs, such as its food pantry, senior programs, but would be used to offset any funds needed for the holiday program.
"Christmas is going to be covered no matter what. We are committed to those families and we are going to provide for them," Rader said.
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 8 a.m. to 5 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.
Call Shannon Sullivan at 206-7833 for more information.