NASHUA - Families shared Christmas memories, sang holiday songs and feasted on green frosted cup cakes and other treats at the Tolles Street Mission's Christmas party, an annual event hosted by the Nashua Boys and Girls Club.
The party is an annual event for the church that was started more than 25 years ago to help out families in need in the French Hill neighborhood. Although the church membership is tiny - fewer than two dozen regular members - The Tolles Street Mission runs a food bank and provides other services for families in Nashua and surrounding towns.
"It's an old-fashioned Christmas party for families that don't have a lot," said Pastor Josephine Norwood, who has overseen the mission for the past three years. "We want to make sure that every little girl and boy has something for Christmas because you have to realize: Christmas is about giving."
Nashua has been giving to the mission for years, and this season was no exception. Norwood was happy to show off a slew of toys, coats, hats and mittens that were set up on tables waiting for a rush of children to come through the door and choose a gift.
Inside the kitchen in the basement of the Boys and Girls Club, a small group of church members worked quickly to fill trays with pizza, drinks and holiday cookies that were served to a gym filled with families.
Adults and youngsters were invited to share stories from Christmases past. Several people told stories of struggles with health or family or work that have been overcome, and the crowd seemed happy to celebrate those personal successes.
Several children, including Hannah Patterson, 9, stood up to sing holiday solos.
"That's my girl," said Hannah's mother, who captured her daughter's performance on her cellphone. "She wrote that song herself."
Nashua resident Jana Morrin, who was at the party with her two sons, said the event was a nice tradition.
"It's good to celebrate a little with other people in the city," she said.
Norwood said the tradition of churches stepping in to help families that need a hand started during the Depression and is just as important today
"This church was started 25 years ago by Sister Peggy Smith, who was sent here by God," she said, adding that Smith was a force of nature."
"I'm more the administrative type," she said with a laugh.
While children and parents had a good time, nobody seemed happier than Norwood and church volunteers who worked non-stop through the morning and afternoon.
"I am blessed out of my socks," said Norwood. "It's because we serve God."