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.
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.
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:
Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to all of the chefs as well as the judges.
The 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.
Ed Mayrand, the president of Chapter 29, was joking at first … he didn’t really intend to cut off his ponytail.
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.
DHHS Scoops Up Sundaes for Two Great Causes
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.
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.
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.
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/.
For many years, members of Chapter 50 – DES have opened their hearts and wallets to support hundreds of children who are in desperate need of love and support from those who are able to give. The 2013 Operation Santa Claus (OSC) campaign was no exception.
This year’s DES OSC campaign was coordinated by a dedicated, creative and motivated group of DES employees, including Pam Werner, Kimmi Durgin, Laura Filiau, Maria Michel, Trista Coulter, Elise Hubbard, and Tim Drew, as well as “Santa” (Ray Gordon) and the many elves who helped to wrap and deliver the gifts to OSC headquarters on December 3. This year DES sponsored 90 children plus provided gifts to several more children at the Youth Development Center (the Sununu Center) in Manchester and the Philbrook Center in Concord.
The OSC crew at DES was able to provide this amount of support due to fundraising efforts over the last year. Through donations, auctions, events, and raffles DES raised $6,325 in 2013 for OSC.
We thank all who helped make DES’s OSC efforts so successful. No doubt, there will be many smiles on the recipients’ faces Christmas morning as a result!
Volunteers Help Send Off Presents to Children Around State
It was just a short break in the action, but a meaningful one. Gov. Maggie Hassan stepped to the microphone, donned a navy Operation Santa Claus vest, and delivered a heartfelt thank you to those helping load gifts on trucks for delivery to children statewide Wednesday morning.
“It’s what I love about this state – it’s an all-hands-on-deck state,” Hassan said. “We know that particularly during the holidays, giving back is so important.”
The hands on deck Wednesday morning included dozens of SEA members – both active and retired – along with National Guard troops and special guests that included Gov. Hassan and Miss NH Samantha Russo. Once Hassan finished speaking, everyone went right back to what they were doing: loading donated gifts onto National Guard trucks to be delivered to DHHS district offices all over the state as part of Operation Santa Claus.
This is the 53rd year that Operation Santa Claus has helped bring Christmas cheer to children who have been identified by DHHS caseworkers. Operation Santa Claus is run by volunteer members of the State Employees’ Association. In its first year, Operation Santa Claus helped 14 children; this year, with gifts donated by individuals, schools, businesses and state agencies, it helped nearly 3,000 children.
“I would just like to thank everybody that has participated in making this whole operation a success,” said OSC Chairwoman Linda Farrell. “The National Guard who take the packages to district offices, the social workers who give us the names of the children who are going to have a Merry Christmas because of everybody here, all of the state agencies, state employees, the individuals and organizations that contributed … it’s all a team effort and without all of them it wouldn’t happen.”
Hassan singled out the ever-dedicated Farrell for her involvement. For Farrell, OSC is a family affair: her husband John is nearly always by her side, and her sister and mother were there to help Wednesday (her son and daughter-in-law were there to help with drop-offs last Tuesday).
“I want to thank you Linda for your work,” Hassan said after Farrell introduced her. “I know you stepped into an empty spot at some point as a retiree, and I’m sure you have many other things to do, but the fact that you remain as committed now as I know you were as a state employee is extraordinary.”
The process everyone followed Wednesday morning is also fairly extraordinary. Ahead of time, OSC committee members pre-sort gifts by destination into massive piles spreading throughout a football field-sized DOT warehouse. Then on delivery day, National Guard trucks back up to one of two massive garage doors, and volunteers form a human chain, handing gifts down the line and up into the trucks.
National Guard troops then headed out with the trucks full as Santa’s sleigh, traveling north to Berlin, east to Rochester, west to Keene and south to Nashua, along with many points in between. DHHS caseworkers will then help distribute the gifts in their areas.
It’s a lot of effort on the part of all involved, but the ultimate result – getting gifts to children who otherwise would have received nothing – is what keeps all the volunteers and donors involved. Merry Christmas to you all.