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Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks at the 2015 Santa Fund Luncheon at the Radisson in Manchester on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Annual luncheon jump-starts Santa Fund for the Salvation Army

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas told those attending the Union Leader Santa Fund Luncheon Monday: “Go and visit Kids Café. You will understand why people give to the Santa Fund.”

Kids Café, which provides meals four nights a week for youngsters 5 to 17, along with homework help, games, computer lab and other activities, is just one of the programs that benefit from the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.

Gatsas was prepared to tap the giving spirit at Monday’s luncheon, auctioning four Red Sox tickets and offering to match the donation if they went for $500.

When the highest bid was $400, Gatsas said, “I’ll still match the tickets.”

The best-known program of the Santa Fund is the Toy Shop, along with grocery store vouchers for a special holiday meal and restocking food basics. The Salvation Army programs that the Santa Fund helps support have grown with donations large and small from individuals, groups and companies.

Master of ceremonies at the luncheon in the Radisson Hotel Armory was broadcast legend Ed Brouder, who told the 365 attendees that this is the 56th year of the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.

The first year, the Santa Fund raised $1,075, and the yearly totals have grown by leaps and bounds over the years. The Santa Fund has raised more than $7.5 million dollars for the Salvation Army.

Brouder read a letter from Gov. Maggie Hassan. The Santa Fund shows that when help is needed, “We roll up our sleeves and pitch in,” she wrote.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who made an unscheduled appearance, praised Union Leader President and Publisher Joe McQuaid and his wife, Signe, for their work on the Santa Fund.

“You are making such a difference,” Ayotte said.

McQuaid said the tradition of the Union Leader Santa Fund depends on the generosity of people who share what they can with those who are in need.

The Santa Fund supports the Toy Shop and Kids Café, as well as warm clothing for children, Teen Nights, summer day camp, a week at Camp Sebago in Maine, Thanksgiving dinner for seniors with music and singing, Thanksgiving baskets, and visits and practical gifts for the elderly and infirm.

“I thank you,” McQuaid said. “The Santa Fund thanks you.”


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