Santa Fund toy shop

Diane Fitzgerald of Loudon gives a doll to another volunteer during the annual Salvation Army Toy Shop last week.

MANCHESTER — Joe Lacasse joined hundreds of other parents in picking out free Christmas gifts last week at a downtown hotel.

If not for the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, the Manchester dad said his children on Christmas morning would have had “nothing at all besides the snow” that fell that morning.

The Santa Fund will bring plenty of smiles come Christmas, but donations improve the lives of children and others throughout the year.

“The Santa Fund does help us year-round with some pretty big things that we do,” Salvation Army Maj. Capt. Michael Harper said Friday.

And it’s not too late to donate.

All donations must be received by Jan. 2 by mail, by drop-off or online.

The Santa Fund made a big splash last Monday when 1,200 families picked out toys for their children. Families also received gift cards ranging from $25 to $100 depending on family size, $46,000 in all.

As of Friday, the Santa fund had raised $170,604.

Last month, 300 kids went shopping at J.C. Penney with $100 each to spend on winter clothing.

During the summer, the fund helps 18 to 25 kids have fun at a weeklong residential summer camp on Sebago Lake in Maine.

Money helps fund a senior program where a handful of seniors play cards two days a week and receive a meal.

Santa Fund toy shop

Volunteer Sarah Gagne of Candia, a student at Trinity High School, fills a parent’s request during the Salvation Army Toy Shop at the DoubleTree in Manchester on Monday.

The fund also helps pay for Kids Cafe, an after-school program for 80 to 100 children who eat a nutritious meal and can get music lessons, work on art projects and socialize with others.

Kids Cafe “has a summer day program designed, so parents can continue to work,” Harper said.

Money raised also helps pay for two senior-citizen luncheons, around Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day week, that attract 120 to 150 people.

Before Christmas, those working with the Santa Fund help organize toy drives. Some businesses take “angel tags” that list kids’ ages and a few items for Santa to bring. Employees at those businesses will shop for that child, with the gifts dropped off at the Salvation Army.

The calendar comes full circle to the annual Santa Fund toy shop, where parents can choose toys and play Santa.

“I think it’s great,” Lacasse said.

“My daughter loves Legos,” he said, so he chose Crayola building blocks packaged in a large plastic tube shaped like a crayon.

Santa was loaded for deliveries.

How to donate:

• Santa Fund donations can be made online at www.unionleader.com/santafund. It’s fast, easy and convenient.

• Donations also may be made by sending a check to the Union Leader Santa Fund, c/o New Hampshire Union Leader, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester, NH, 03108.

• Or drop your 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.

mcousineau@unionleader.com