Operation Santa Claus

Photos: Operation Santa Claus Drop-Off

OSC delivery day 005

Gifts are sorted by by district, waiting for delivery next week.

Tuesday was the deadline to drop off gifts for Operation Santa Claus. The OSC headquarters on Stickney Avenue in Concord were buzzing as people dropped off carloads … truckloads … even busloads (in the case of Bishop Brady High School) of gifts. Volunteers now have a week to sort through, and double-check, all of those donations to make sure they go to the right place.

The gifts will be delivered to DHHS district offices all over the state next Thursday. As the process draws to a close, we again need to thank everyone involved in the program. From the DHHS caseworkers to the volunteers to the people who sponsor the children, know that this couldn’t happen without you. Thank you.

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Hair Club for Elves

Chapter 29 Hits OSC Goal After President’s Hair-raising Challenge

A few months back, we told you about an interesting fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus at Chapter 29, Great Bay Community College. It’s kind of a long story.

Basically, Chapter President Ed Mayrand promised that if his chapter donated enough money for OSC, he would grow his hair out into a ponytail, then donate the hair to Beautiful Lengths, an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients. As you might expect, Chapter 29 members made the cut.

“I’m very pleased with the response I got from the chapter members, as well as a few non-members,” Mayrand said. “When everything was sorted out, we raised more than $560 in a month.”

In all, the chapter was able to sponsor eight children: four from Portsmouth and four from Rochester.

“Seven members volunteered to help me with the shopping and we’re wrapping that up — no pun intended — this week,” Mayrand said on Wednesday. “I hope to have all of the gifts delivered before Thanksgiving.”

This story, at least for Mayrand, will continue to grow after Thanksgiving, and he’s quite OK with that.

“I’ve gotten used to it,” Mayrand said of his lengthening locks.

He said he’s hoping they’ll be able to have a cutting ceremony at their second quarterly meeting.

“All in all the members are glad that they could make some children happy this Christmas and I’m happy to donate my hair to someone that will use it,” Mayrand said.

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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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Photos: DHHS/DPHS Craft Fair

On Halloween, workers at the DHHS Department of Public Health Services held its fifth annual craft fair to raise money for Operation Santa Claus. This year’s craft fair raised $2,500, which will allow them to help many children.

The team behind the craft fair includes: Cheryl Storey, Danielle H. Weiss, Gloria Zela, Joanie A Foss, Judith P. Rancourt, Michelle R. Ricco-Jonas, Sandra J. White, Stephanie M. Kelly, Susan L. Morrison, Royann Bossidy, Heidi Petzold and Judy Nicholson.

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Photos: DES Chili Bowl Raises Money for Operation Santa Claus

Workers at the Department of Environmental Services hosted their fourth annual Chili Bowl on Friday, Oct. 17, to raise money for Operation Santa Claus. For a $5 donation, those who attended got to try (and judge) 10 chili entries. The event raised a total of $330, which will be used to buy gifts for children through Operation Santa Claus.

The chili cooks were competing for top entry in three categories: vegetarian, beef and poultry.  And the winners were:

  • Best beef chili: Jennifer Kulacz, Department of Safety
  • Best vegetarian chili: Gail St. Onge, Department of Environmental Services
  • Best poultry chili: Melanie Doiron, Department of Environmental Services

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to all of the chefs as well as the judges.

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DES Chili Bowl Returns to Help OSC

Chile Bowl CroppedThe DES’ famed Chili Bowl returns for its fourth year on Oct. 17, with all proceeds from the event going to Operation Santa Claus.

The hot, hot, hot event will take place in the Atrium at 29 Hazen Drive from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the 17th. The cost of admission is a minimum donation of $5 (so you can donate more if you’d like). As usual, make sure you bring your own bowl and utensils.

Prizes will be awarded for the best beef chili, best poultry chili and best veggie chili. If you’d like to enter your chili, you can contact one of the members of DES’ Operation Santa Claus Committee: Trista Coulter – 271-6423, Elise Hubbard – 271-2988, Laura Filiau – 271-0675, Maria Michel – 271-3203, Pam Werner – 271-2906, Tina Stevens – 271-7174 or Tim Drew – 271-3306.

If you’d like to print out and post the flyer for the event at your worksite, you can find it here.

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Member Willing to Go to Great Lengths for OSC

Ed Mayrand, the president of Chapter 29, was joking at first … he didn’t really intend to cut off his ponytail.

Ed Mayrand, president of Chapter 29 at Great Bay Community College, pledged to grow his ponytail and donate it to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients if his chapter's members could raise $500 for Operation Santa Claus. Here, he shows the progress (the minimum length for donated hair is 8 inches).

Ed Mayrand, president of Chapter 29 at Great Bay Community College, pledged to grow his ponytail and donate it to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients if his chapter’s members could raise $500 for Operation Santa Claus. Here, he shows the progress (the minimum length for donated hair is 8 inches).

His colleagues at Great Bay Community College called him on it, though: If they collected $500 for Operation Santa Claus, he would cut off his ponytail and donate it to Beautiful Lengths, an organization that makes wig for cancer patients.

Since this story starts and ends with hair, it’s important to note the backstory to this ponytail. As Mayrand noted, it starts out pretty sad.

“About a year and a half ago, my barber of 20 years passed away,” he said. “I could never connect with any of the other barbers at the shop, they were never open.”

He went through most of last summer without a haircut, until he “started looking like Elvis.”

“In the winter, I said ‘I’m not going to cut it,’ ” he said.

That brings us back to Operation Santa Claus. Mayrand said this all started way back in his chapter’s first quarter meeting, when he brought up the topic of Operation Santa Claus.

“In the past as a chapter, we maybe had sponsored one or two children at a time and it bugged me,” he said. “I thought, we should do better.”

So at his chapter’s third quarter meeting, Mayrand set the goal of raising $500, and put his hair on the line.

“If we take it up to $500, I’ll grow my hair until I hit the mandatory 8-inch length, and I’ll donate it,” he said. “I think we’re going to hit the goal. It’s been two weeks, and we’re at $175.”

Of course, it may take a lot longer to get to that 8-inch length: he’s got at least a few inches to go.

You can read about Beautiful Lengths here. You can find more about Operation Santa Claus, including the 2014 sponsor form, at OperationSantaClausNH.tumblr.com.


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Cool Fundraiser Helps OSC, Food Bank

DHHS Scoops Up Sundaes for Two Great Causes

Volunteers man the topping table at DHHS' "Groovin' on a Sundae Afternoon" fundraiser.

Volunteers man the topping table at DHHS’ “Groovin’ on a Sundae Afternoon” fundraiser.

Though it had to be moved inside due to rain, DHHS’ “Groovin’ on a Sundae Afternoon” fundraiser scooped up more than $750 each for Operation Santa Claus and the NH Food Bank on Wednesday.

Workers from DHHS and Employment Security enjoyed sundaes served up by Commissioner George Copadis and Deputy Commissioner Rich Lavers of Employment Security, Deputy Commissioner Marilee Nihan of DHHS and SEA First Vice President Ken Roos, who was also on the committee that organized the event. SEA member Sara Kelly was also on that committee, and she was there snapping photos of the fun. She said a lot of hands helped make the event happen.

“There were about eight of us that were on the committee, and we met for months prior to make a plan,” she said. “We all had little jobs that we took part in, which led to today.”

She said the bulk of the sales came ahead of time, so they knew they were in for a crowd.

“We had 415 presale tickets, plus whatever we’re doing today, so we’d already raised more than $1,200,” she said.

Elizabeth Maynard, who also helped organize the event, was at the door taking tickets on Wednesday. She said the sundae fundraiser came out of a bake sale and silent auction held over the winter.

“It was very successful because everybody worked well together and everyone in the department was very supportive — the donations were amazing,” she said. “So we thought we’d do something in the summer and came up with the ice cream sundae fundraiser.”

Operation Santa Claus Chair Linda Farrell, who was there helping out on Wednesday, was excited with the turnout.

“This has turned out fabulously,” she said. “I heard there were 415 presale tickets, but more people keep coming in and buying them. That’s a lot of tickets.”

A big thanks to all who helped organize and carry out the event to benefit two great organizations. Also, big thanks to NH Hospital, which donated all of the toppings, and Blake’s Creamery, Arnie’s Place and Jordan’s Ice Cream, which donated the ice cream.

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Featured Committee: Keeping the SEA 5K Running

Charlene "Clarkie" Clark and Carol Beaudoin, both members of Chapter 1 and the Road Race Committee, pose for a photo before the 2013 SEA 5K.

Charlene “Clarkie” Clark and Carol Beaudoin, both members of Chapter 1 and the Road Race Committee, pose for a photo before the 2013 SEA 5K.

Over the last few months, we’ve been profiling the SEA’s committees (see the previous ones here). This week, with the 21st SEA 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk a little more than a week away on April 5, we profile the Road Race Committee. We caught up with Jennifer Day, who is in her first year as committee chair, to find out more about the members who keep the SEA 5K running.

Question: What does your committee do? What function does it serve for the SEA?

Answer: The committee plans and executes the SEA 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk. This year marks the 21st edition of the SEA 5K. Every year, all proceeds from the SEA 5K benefit the SEA’s Operation Santa Claus, which provides Christmas gifts to more than 3,000 children across the Granite State.

Road Race Committee Chair Jennifer Day, left, and committee member Dianne Blodgett hand out bibs to runners before the 2013 SEA 5K.

Road Race Committee Chair Jennifer Day, left, and committee member Dianne Blodgett hand out bibs to runners before the 2013 SEA 5K.

Q: What would happen if the committee didn’t exist? (Put another way, if there was no committee, what wouldn’t get done)

A: Well, the road race certainly wouldn’t happen, and Operation Santa Claus wouldn’t be able to help as many children.

There’s a lot that goes into planning the SEA 5K. A bit of what we do includes: updating the application brochure before the applications are sent to the printers; picking the colors for the race T-shirts for the runners and the volunteers; completing the necessary paperwork for the permits and contracts to hold the race; and maintaining the database of runners who have entered the race. We meet the afternoon before the race to start setting up for race day. On race day, with the help of our volunteers, we register runners, hand out drinks and snacks, and distribute T-shirts. One committee member, Bruce Vanlandingham, brings his motorcycle to guide our lead runners along the course. Afterwards, we pack everything up and load it in our rental van. It sounds like a lot, but it’s worth it, placing state employees in a positive light; encouraging exercise and ensuring that Christmas gifts go to New Hampshire’s disadvantaged children.

Q: How many are on the committee?

A: The Road Race Committee has 10 members from various agencies across the state; Safety, DOT, DOIT, DES; DHHS, and retirees from Chapter 1.

Q: Can any SEA member serve on the committee?

A: Yes, and the committee would certainly welcome more members, as many hands make light work.

Q: How often does the committee meet, and what kind of time commitment is involved? What’s a typical meeting like?

A: The committee meets the second Tuesday of every month at 5 p.m., from September to March, with a recap meeting in May. The committee has the summers off. 1. A typical meeting consists of an update from the committee member who regularly attends the CARS [Capital Area Race Series] monthly meetings, as the SEA 5K road race is part of  CARS.

Q: Why should members join your committee?

A: It’s a great event to be a part of. Every year, it draws a mix of walkers, competitive runners and casual runners, which gives it a great atmosphere. Plus, you’re helping raise money for Operation Santa Claus.

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SEA Members Keep CARS Running

SEA 2012

Upcoming SEA 5K Is Part of Concord Race Series

When SEA members Perry Seagroves and Tom Walton first started the Capital Area Race Series (CARS), they viewed it mostly as a way to get more runners to their race, the NHTI/Delta Dental 5K. Seagroves and Walton coach the NHTI cross-country team, and started the collaborative race in 2005.

“In 2004, I got the idea that we should have a race,” said Seagroves, who teaches chemistry and biology at NHTI. “We have a sports management program, and I thought that’d be a great experience. So we had our first NHTI/Delta Dental 5K in April 2005.”

Walton said he and Seagroves then began discussing the idea of creating a series and including several other springtime road races.

“We thought that it made sense to take some of these local races, string them together and offer some incentive to get people to do a few of them,” said Walton, who is an adjunct professor at NHTI in addition to his job as a fitness coach at Delta Dental. “The idea was mostly to encourage participation in the Capital Region.”

Walton said the success of the series has been a good surprise.

“It’s taken off way beyond our humble beginnings,” Walton said. “It’s gone a little bit crazy, but in a good way.”

The SEA 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk is the second race in the seven-race series. This year, the SEA 5K will take place on Saturday, April 5.

“Over the years, the SEA has always been a part of our race series,” Seagroves said. “We’ve had other races come and go, like the Rock ‘N Race. I’ve always enjoyed the SEA race. I’ve run it most years.”

Seagroves said once they started the cross-country team, they started bringing the students to the race, too.

“We always run a team, and we use it for a good, beginning-of-the-spring workout,” Seagroves said.

For one NHTI runner, Heather Searles, the SEA 5K was her first race. She went on to become a three-time All American and won the USCAA Women’s National Championship in 2008.

“She’s a famous runner, and her first race ever was that 2006 SEA 5K,” Seagroves said. “That’s a neat distinction.”

While CARS brings many runners in to the SEA 5K, Seagroves and Walton both said the atmosphere at the race is a tremendous draw.

“The course may not be that memorable, but the atmosphere definitely is,” said Seagroves, playfully jabbing at the SEA 5K’s mostly flat course through the state office complex on Hazen Drive in Concord. “It’s one of the most upbeat races, as far as the volunteers and people involved in it.”

Walton, agreed, saying he encourages the people he works with at Delta Dental to try it out to get a sense of the community of running.

“They find it’s very inclusive,” he said. “It’s not just about going out and being good, it’s about the camaraderie and joy of it.”

Walton said it’s a race for all ages and abilities.

“At the SEA 5K, you’ll see people come in under 15 minutes and people come in in an hour and 15 minutes,” he said. “That’s a unique thing, and a uniquely wonderful thing.”

If you’ve never taken part in the SEA 5K, or any road race, this is the perfect time to try. You can run or walk your way through it, taking it casually or engaging in a little friendly competition. If you sign up before tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 21, you’ll even be entered in a drawing to win free entry into all of the CARS races.

You can find out more about the SEA 5K, including how to sign up, at http://www.seiu1984.org/sea_5k/. You can find out more about the CARS races at http://www.capitalarearaceseries.com/.


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