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Londonderry Rotary Club member Fay Sell and her granddaughter, Taylor Fitton, 16, picked out some shoes for an anonymous recipient during the club's holiday shopping trip to Walmart Thursday. This year the Rotary Club purchased gifts for around 110 neighbors in need. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

'Shopping spree' helps neighbors in need

LONDONDERRY - Members of the Londonderry Rotary Club made their Christmas lists and checked them twice Thursday afternoon during the club's annual shopping trip for local families in need. Gathering in the front foyer of the Derry Walmart store, nine Rotarians and their family members readied their carts, preparing to fulfill holiday wishes for the 110 anonymous neighbors on their list.

Club member Fay Sell, who owns Martinelli Travel in Londonderry, said the economic climate has made it tough for many of the folks in her community this year.

"I think this is the longest list we've ever had," said Sell, who brought along her granddaughter, Taylor Fitton, 16, to help her out.

"We love shopping," Sell said. Each year the club typically spends around $3,000 on gifts for those in need, with an anonymous list of the recipients' gender, age and clothing size provided by St. Jude's and St. Mark's parishes.

Funds from the community Santa Fund assist the club in its mission, and the Rotarians are encouraged to stick to clothing items such as sweaters, jackets and boots since other area charities tend to handle the toy requests.

A half-dozen store employees were on hand help the shoppers find everything on their list, with two checkout aisles reserved for the Rotary.

Rotarian Reed Page Clark sat by the registers, checking off items on the list to make sure no wish went unfulfilled. "We'll deliver these items to the churches and they'll wrap and deliver everything in time for the holiday," he explained.

Londonderry resident Ron Bechard said this year was his 16th year doing Christmas shopping with the club.

Though Bechard recently stepped down from his club membership on account of his hectic work schedule, he said he wouldn't consider skipping on the holiday shopping trip.

"We always have a pretty big demand for coats," Bechard said. "This year, we're seeing bigger families with bigger needs," he added, noting that at least two of the households listed have at least six family members or more.

Karon Renik, who is the chief executive officer of the Granite State South Board of Realtors, said the holidays are a busy time of the year for her since she's involved in two area gift drives: her real estate office recently gathered 30 gifts to be distributed through the Salvation Army.

Renik said she often takes her daughter Jessica, 17, along on her holiday excursions. "She's definitely getting the chance to do lots of great community stuff," she said.

Nearby, Jessica pored over a display of brightly colored ladies' parkas, finally settling on a chocolate brown one.

"I've got this one covered," she told her mother.

Around the corner a Santa-hat wearing Dave Harrison, a pastor with the Londonderry Christian Church, dug through a rack of men's sneakers.

"This has got to be my favorite part of being in Rotary," Harrison said.

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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.


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