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Somersworth firefighters' toy drive spreads Christmas cheer

SOMERSWORTH — Although wrapping a toy dinosaur or a bike may be challenging, knowing it will make a child happy is more than worth the effort.

On Friday, about 100 residents volunteered to help firefighters wrap close to 450 presents for local children in need as part of an annual toy drive that has been a tradition for more than three decades.

Jessica Plante, who helped organize efforts, said the event gets bigger each year. While more people are in need, she added far more volunteers are helping out.

"Even though it's hectic – it's going smooth," Plante said.

Long-time firefighter Bill Staples said the extra help was welcome as he recalls wrapping presents until the early morning hours — sometimes as late at 2 or 3 a.m. — in the past.

"It's become a ritual for some families," Staples said.

While many students volunteered for school requirements, many other residents came to have some fun together.

Marie Ainaire, 21, of Somersworth, who is a junior at the University of New Hampshire, said she wouldn't miss out on the tradition of wrapping presents with her family.

"One of the first years I did this, it was the highlight of the year," Ainaire said, adding she's been helping out for the past six or seven years.

Ainaire's mother, Betty, said "the Christmas spirit makes everything nice."

Heather Whitcomb, 16, a junior at Somersworth High, said this was the fifth year she helped wrap presents to give back to those in need.

"When I was little, I was signed up for stuff like this," Whitcomb said, recalling the joy it brought her as a child.

First-time volunteer Johanna Jones, 13, of Somersworth, said she was glad to have the chance to help out other children while spending time with her friends. Jocelyn Howard, 13, of Somersworth, who has been helping for the past few years, said more people volunteered to wrap presents than before. Rachael Wattimena, 13, of Somersworth, and Rachel Gatcomb, 12, of Rollinsford, said they enjoyed wrapping presents together even though a few items – like stuffed elephants – proved to be challenging.

Although residents who signed up for the assistance picked up the wrapped presents Saturday, firefighters continue to collect unwrapped toys and clothing as part of the ongoing year-long effort to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

Donations can be mailed or delivered to Somersworth Fire Station, 195 Maple St., Somersworth, 03878. For more information contact the Somersworth Professional Firefighters at 692-3456.


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