MANCHESTER — For many families in New Hampshire, donating to the Union Leader Santa Fund has become an annual tradition.
The drive brought in more than $167,000 to support the Salvation Army, which uses the money for holiday assistance, after-school programs and summer camps.
Just before Christmas, 1,245 families (2,700 children) received toys and Market Basket gift cards. Many people just need a boost to make the holidays special, said Capt. Mike Davis, associate commanding officer at the Salvation Army in Manchester.
“With the money that is raised through the Santa Fund, we are able to help many of those families in need,” he said. “For me, it is a joy to see the families come through during the sign-up days and the distribution and not have to worry about what they are going to get for their families.”
Since 1960, the fund has raised more than $8 million for the Salvation Army.
“Without the partnership with Santa Fund, I don’t think we could do what we do,” Davis said.
Taylor Stratton of Manchester and her husband both work lower wage jobs and picked up gifts for their children from the Salvation Army’s toy shop the Monday before Christmas. They have six children, ages 1 through 12.
“It was helpful to be able to get toys for our kids,” she said. “I am grateful that people donate toys and are able to help people who need the help during Christmas time.”
The fund started after then-Union Leader editor Hugh O’Neill discovered the need after running into Salvation Army officials at the old Post Office Fruit, a luncheonette near the newspaper’s former building on Amherst Street, the day before Thanksgiving in 1960. Publisher William Loeb signed off on the idea, and the fund was born, raising more than $1,000 that year.
Many families donate every year in memory of loved ones, like Catherine-Ann Day who gives in memory of her cousin, Seaman 1st Class Joseph S. Rozmus, who died aboard the USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 78 years ago.
“We see the same names year after year, so it has become part of people’s Christmas tradition,” said Union Leader President and Publisher Brendan J. McQuaid.
“We keep doing it because it is one of the ways that we can give back,” McQuaid said. “People end up down on their luck, and the Salvation Army is one of the organizations out there that can help them, so we do our part to help the Salvation Army. I can’t imagine the Union Leader not being involved in the Santa Fund.”
“We are grateful for the 60 years of having a partner in the Union Leader so we are able to give back to the community,” he said.
McQuaid thanked Merchants Auto in Hooksett, which helps the Union Leader with the logistics of the Santa Fund, including hosting a silent auction at the Santa Fund’s annual luncheon.