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Volunteer Sara Peppler, a St. Anselm College student, helps Jarolyn Rodriguez, of Manchester, pick out new shoes during the Salvation Army and the Union Leader Santa Fund's Warm Clothing event at JC Penney in Manchester Sunday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Warm Clothing event at JC Penney brings Santa Fund Christmas cheer


MANCHESTER -- Christmas may be over a month away, but one look at the overflowing bag of new clothes in his hands made William smile like it was that magical morning.

"This is exciting," he said.

Thanks to the Salvation Army and the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, William and 299 other area children were at JC Penney at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester Sunday, shopping for warm clothing. Chaperoned one-on-one by 85 volunteers, 50 children per hour went shopping at JC Penney using gift cards provided by money raised during last year's Santa Fund.

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"This is probably our eighth or ninth year of hosting this here at our location," said Store Leader Mary Pat Smolinski of the Warm Clothing event. "Our team loves this event. Our employees love being a part of it," she said.
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She added: "It's wonderful — the kids look like they are coming out with bags of clothes bigger than they are."

This year, each gift card was worth about $100, but because the stores give about 20 percent off each purchase as well as special offers, the youngsters were able to get about $135 worth of clothing.
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Andrea, a Manchester mom who took her two sons to JC Penney, is grateful for the program.

"I work full-time and basically all of my income is to take care of the children," she said as she waited for her sons to finish their shopping. "I actually have no extra money for Christmas to get anything for the kids, so this is going to help a lot."
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"They are wonderful people to help people like me get warm clothes for my kids," said Jeannette, another Manchester mom.

Among the 85 volunteers taking children through the store was Ariana Franggos of Manchester.
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"The parents fill out a list of items, ranking what the child needs most from one to 10," said Franggos, who has volunteered at the event the past five years. "They provide sizes, then we take the kids around and find the items they need."
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Franggos meets a child at a check-in table, looks over their list, then takes them around the store looking for as many matches as she can find.

"The kids are awesome, I love them," said Franggos, as she helped guide William through the boys' department hunting for pants, socks and a jacket. "Sometimes they want novelty shirts, but we try to get them to stick with warm clothing items they can really use."
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Franggos brought William to a register, where the items collected totaled $12.93 over the shopping limit. Franggos chipped in the rest.

"I always bring extra money to put in; a lot of the chaperones do," said Franggos. "How can you not want to help these kids, at this time of year?"
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She then went back to the check-in table, where she was paired up with Denilya, a young girl shivering in a coat, dress and sandals.

"Let's get you a pair of boots, OK?" said Franggos.

"That sounds great," said Denilya, who had two sisters in line behind her waiting to shop as well.
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Tickets are now available for the annual luncheon that kicks off The Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.

The Santa Fund assists needy families during the holidays. The luncheon on Friday, Nov. 22, in the Armory at the Radisson Hotel, offers an opportunity to support the Santa Fund.
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The program begins at noon, but those interested in the gift baskets are welcome to begin viewing them and placing bids starting at 11 a.m.

Luncheon tickets are $35 each or $325 for a table of 10.

For more information, contact Shannon Sullivan, Union Leader Community Relations Manager, at (603) 206-7833 or ssullivan@unionleader.com
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