At Veterans Home, Friends Help Friends and Strangers, Too

SEA members are great at coming together to help others, and the work of Chapter 11 members at the New Hampshire Veterans Home is a great example of that. Members — and nonmembers alike — have long taken part in Operation Santa Claus, but in the last five years they’ve also mobilized to help their own.

Chapter 11’s Friends Helping Friends program came about five years ago during the economic downturn, according to Jonna Prendiville, who is a co-chair of the Friends Helping Friends committee along with Flo Davis, who helped found the committee.

“There are single parents here, and the wages are nothing to get too excited about,” Prendiville said. “People were having a really tough time. The Veterans Home is very active in Operation Santa Claus, so we thought, ‘why can’t we do something like that for our fellow employees?’ ”

And so Friends Helping Friends was born. In the first few years, Prendiville said, employees went out and spent their own money on gifts. But in order to help more children, they realized they needed to be great fundraisers.

“When we do the fundraisers, lots of people get involved,” she said.

With the money raised from bake sales, barbecues and raffles (to name a few), they have been able to help more than 30 children a year. That couldn’t happen if not for the members who organize, raise money and shop for gifts.

Prendiville said the feedback on the program has been very positive, especially from the colleagues they’ve been able to help.

“If they didn’t have the option of participating, they wouldn’t have had much to give their kids for Christmas,” she said.

The chapter’s work to help their colleagues hasn’t lessened their participation in Operation Santa Claus. This year, they were able to sponsor 70 children using money raised from weekly 50/50 raffles. Chapter members such as Denise Corey, a nurse manager on the dementia unit, have made shopping for Operation Santa Claus a yearly tradition.

“Darlene Smith and I have been consistently doing this for 20 years, at least,” Corey said. “Usually we each take a child and we go out and do the shopping together. We usually request siblings, and that’s what we have this year.”

She said they usually make an evening of it, and they have a plan going into it.

“We start with the needs — winter hats, mittens and stuff like that — and we balance it out with some wants,” she said.

In order to help as many children as Chapter 11 members do — they’re helping more than 100 this year between the two programs — many people need to play a part. Corey said she’s happy to be doing her part.

“It really is a rewarding feeling,” she said.


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