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Miss New Hampshire Samantha Russo sings the National Anthem during the Union Leader's 2013 Santa Fund Luncheon to benefit The Salvation Army at the Radisson in Manchester on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Annual Santa Fund drive kicks off with luncheon


MANCHESTER — Cheyenne, a 17-year-old Manchester High School Central student, told those attending the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army kickoff luncheon that she knows first-hand what the Salvation Army and the Santa Fund do.
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In a video and in person, Cheyenne talked about the help she has received from both. The Salvation Army provides a safe haven, she said, especially important when families are struggling and spltting up, like hers did.
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She freely admitted that when she began high school: "I did a lot of slacking." But after she began going to the Salvation Army for Teen Night, Friday and Saturday nights, she changed. Her goal now is to graduate from high school and then college. She said she loves going to Boston and Cambridge, Mass. "I just want to be there (in college)," she said.
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Attending Teen Night is fun, she said. "I feel like I'm doing something with my time."

The Salvation Army is also a place to do homework and to get support that isn't always available elsewhere. "It gives me peace of mind," she said, and she wants to share that experience of a "safe haven."
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Cheyenne said her family struggled and eventually broke up. The Santa Fund was very important. "My Santa Claus was this, the Salvation Army," she said. Because she appreciates what the Santa Fund did for her, she said: "I want to be the one who gives back."
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New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher and President Joseph McQuaid said Cheyenne's words reinforce the notion behind the Santa Fund, which has been helping the community at Christmas since 1960. There is never a financial goal set because the idea behind the Santa Fund is to have people give what they are comfortable giving to assist those who are less fortunate.
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Gov. Maggie Hassan and Mayor Ted Gatsas also spoke at the Santa Fund Luncheon, with Gatsas later outbidding himself in order to buy two dozen of what emcee Mike Morin said were his own Deerfield Fair blue-ribbon-winning Chocolate Infinity Cookies.
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As Gatsas had last year — when he bought Morin's box of Twinkies that was auctioned off as it was announced the baking company was ending production — the mayor again resold his dessert purchase, divided the cookies into smaller "lots."
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Last year, Gatsas was able to raise $1,000 for the Santa Fund with his Twinkies auction, but he outdid himself this year, raising $1,400. Buyers, called on by Gatsas, included McQuaid, who said he was buying on behalf of himself and the governor.
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A silent auction of several dozen gift baskets, created by various businesses and organizations, raised money for the Santa Fund at the luncheon, as did the sales of the "Manchester Yesterday and Today" calendars and a children's book, "The Christmas Coin," written by Union Leader reporter Mark Hayward, both published by Keystone Press.
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The calendar and book will be available for sale at a number of location, including Keystone Press, 9 Old Falls Road, and the Union Leader, 100 William Loeb Drive, during the holidays, The children's book, illustrated by children ages 7-14 who attend Salvation Army programs, is also available online at www.goshopNH.com.
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The Santa Fund provides toys in the annual Toy Shop, and gift cards for grocery stores to families can enjoy a festive holiday meal and more.It also pays for warm clothing for hundreds of children, sends some of them to a week at the Salvation Army Camp Sebago in Maine, and enables others to attend summer day camp at little or no cost.
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The Santa Fund also supports Kids Cafe, Thanksgiving baskets, visits and small gifts to the elderly and infirm, and a Thanksgiving dinner with live music and singing for seniors.

To donate, visit www.unionleader.com/santafund.
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