Tea for the Troops raises funds to assist local war herosBy APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
November 10. 2013 6:24PM
LONDONDERRY — Proceeds from a casual tea in Londonderry last weekend will assist local casualties of war with some brave new beginnings.
Saturday afternoon's Tea for the Troops event at Lions Hall yielded hundreds of dollars for the Home Base Program, a charity proving clinical care and support services to Iraq and Afghanistan service members, veterans and their loved ones.
Londonderry resident Kerri Kennedy, whose husband, Matt, is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the Army National Guard, said she was inspired to give back after accompanying her spouse to Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) in 2008.
Matt Kennedy, who works for BAE Systems, was travelling to the West Coast as part of the company sponsorship for the Wounded Warrior Project. The local company regularly hires and trains qualified wounded veterans as they readjust to civilian life.
Kerri Kennedy, who kept a journal of her travels, said her experiences at the medical center truly hit home.
"I met so many spouses there. I saw myself in those spouses. Many of them were young mothers with their children in tow," Kennedy recalled. "And they were pushing their husband around in a wheelchair."
Upon her return to Londonderry, Kennedy kept in touch with many of the military wives, and when BAE flew several of those families to New Hampshire, Kennedy formed deep bonds with some. Six of those families permanently relocated to the Granite State.
"The whole experience moved me in so many ways," Kennedy said.
As Matt Kennedy prepared to run the "Run To Home Base" race in Boston that spring, Kerri Kennedy said she initially wanted to help him raise the $1,000 fundraising fee to participate.
"During my husband's deployment, I enjoyed having my friends over for tea at my house," she recalled.
Inspired by her impromptu neighborhood tea parties with friends Paulette Young, Sharon Dagosto and Allison Lawrence, Kennedy decided to host a fundraiser on her Londonderry front lawn.
The ladies draped tables in fine linens and served tea on her grandmother's collection of bone china teacups, dropping homemade flyers in neighbors' mailboxes.
"We were shocked by the turnout we had," Kennedy said. "People just showed up."
Over the years, the event continued to grow, with strangers donating their unused teacups along with baked goods and raffle items. By the second year, proceeds from the event had doubled, and the ladies decided to keep the movement going.
"When you're able to give of yourself, that's one of the true gifts of life," Kennedy said. "And sometimes all it takes is showing up."
On Saturday, Dagosto served cups of Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe with the help of her daughter, Maggie, a University of New Hampshire sophomore and artist who donated one of her paintings to the event's raffle.
"It's definitely grown," Dagosto said with a laugh, motioning to the roomful of locals noshing on biscotti and cupcakes.
Lawrence lent a hand by sharing her unique talent: reading tea leaves. She said she learned the craft when she was growing up in England, where young girls would divine their fortunes by looking at the shapes made by the tea grounds in the bottom of their cups.
"It's good fun," Lawrence said. "And it's something I could do to help with the cause."
"We all need to stop and take the time to thank those in uniform," Kennedy added. "That can be as simple as stopping for a moment to enjoy a simple cup of tea."
For more information on the Tea for the Troops program or to offer a donation, contact Kennedy at 913-5500.