Gift from the heart
9-year-old makes touching donation for family in need
GREENFIELD — Since the Landis family of Jaffrey lost its home in a house fire on June 6, donations from the community have been pouring in, but it is the donation of a small bag of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from 9-year-old Nicholas Merzi that has touched the hearts of so many.
Nicholas said Thursday that he earned the pocket change doing chores around the house.
"I heard about it and I thought, 'Oh this is not cool.' And mom said they lost everything and it really came to me that they need some money," he said.
Nicholas' mom, Laura Merzi, said she heard about the call for donations through an online yard sale group she belongs to through Facebook.
Crystal Bechard, the assistant manager at Hubert's clothing store in Peterborough, had posted the request for donations after a member of the Landis family came in with her 18-month-old daughter to shop for clothing.
On June 6 an explosion and fire destroyed the Sanders Road home of Hugh and Terry Landis, their two sons, their daughter-in-law and 18-month-old granddaughter, displacing the family of six.
Bechard was helping the mother shop for her 18-month-old when she learned they had lost everything in a fire.
Hubert's was able to help the family by donating some outfits to the little girl, Bechard said. The store and employees started coordinating donations from the community.
On Sunday, after driving to several communities throughout Cheshire and Hillsborough counties to pick up donated items, Bechard returned to Hubert's in Peterborough to meet Merzi in the parking lot. Merzi was bringing items from her home.
Nicholas jumped out of the car and handed Bechard the bag of change, she said.
Merzi said she was at home gathering items for the family when Nicholas asked what she was doing.
"He has a two-year-old sister and I don't know if that triggered anything," Merzi said. "He got all his change, wrote a note and put it in with all the donations. I told him I was proud. I don't believe I even read the note."
Bechard said she didn't read the note till she got home that day and when she did it brought tears to her eyes.
"I hope that this is enough money to buy some food, water, or even a bar of soap. Hope all's well and happy. This is all the money I erned in one year! Use the money wissly. Love Nicholas Merzi," he wrote in the note.She was so moved, Bechard took a photo of the note the way it came, inside the bag of change, and posted it to the Ellen DeGeneres Facebook page.Since then the post has received over 2,600 likes, over 200 comments and has been shared nearly 500 times.
"It's just touching people from all over the place," Bechard said. "It was even shared in a different language yesterday."
"We've become celebrities," Merzi said. "It's unbelievable what people are saying. We certainly didn't expect all the attention from it. It was just a nice thing for him to do and makes me very proud."
Bechard said she is not surprised so many people are touched by the gesture.
"No one else can say they gave everything they have," she said.
Nicholas said part of him did hesitate before he gave, but said he was shocked by what happened to the family.
"I felt really proud of myself and it's funny because half of my brain said, 'I don't want to give the money' and the other half of my brain said, 'Do it,' so I did it anyway," he said.
His mom said she hopes all the attention draws awareness to the very real need of the Landis family.
"I hope that all this attention brings to light the true issue that these people lost their house," she said.
Bechard said Hubert's in Peterborough is still collecting donations and is working to coordinate with other efforts in the community to provide for the Landis family.
A friend of the family, Cassie Cleverly of Dublin, is also collecting donations.
Mona Adisa Brooks is also accepting donations at her art gallery, Trumpet, in Peterborough.
Route 119 Storage in Rindge is donating a storage unit for the family to use and money jars are on the Hubert's counter as well as the counter at River Street Market in Jaffrey.