Sharing warmth and good cheer
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The excitement of the holidays is unavoidable. When temperatures go down and the trees stand bare, people everywhere make up for the muted landscape with an enthusiasm that you can literally feel in the air. More tangible than the turkeys and potatoes, the candles and wreaths, the big bows and shiny toys, though, is the generosity and joy that seems to pass from person to person.
There are various shelters, churches, schools and organizations in the Monadnock region making efforts to share this holiday cheer. Providing hot meals, warm clothing, and gifts under the tree are just some of the ways these groups are reaching out to others. Take a look below to see what community groups are doing, where you can go for free and open holiday events, and if you’d like, where you can volunteer to help. This list is not all-inclusive, but is meant to offer as many suggestions as possible.
Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter
The Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter, located in Peterborough, is making efforts to connect its residents with local food pantries or churches for the holidays. “What we try and do is connect people with community resources,” said Susan Howard, who has been with the shelter since 2009. Howard also mentioned that people could call up and adopt a family to help give food and other items for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, or even better, all year round.
“It’s really important to do all year,” she said. Donating things like toys, clothing, personal hygiene products, and other everyday products are useful all the time, for children, adults, and the elderly. “We try to cover everybody,” Howard said.
Shelter From the Storm
Residents who stay at Shelter From the Storm in Jaffrey are also encouraged to use their local resources. Linda Harris, who runs the transitional shelter, said, “We send our clients to the food pantry at United Church.” The shelter also takes Christmas wish lists from each client family and each of the Board of Trustees provides for one family. The shelter also tries to provide Christmas trees for each of the five apartments.
Harris spoke about the importance of helping families in need during the holidays. For parents not to worry about buying toys or food for their families at this time of year can bring some peace of mind, according to Harris. “Most of our clients come to us and have very bad experiences, and for them to just get a little joy for the holidays is a good thing,” she said.
Food pantries, churches
Monadnock Area Food Pantry
Located at All Saints Episcopal Church in Peterborough, the Monadnock Area Food Pantry is doing its best to feed as many as they can over the holidays. For Thanksgiving, the pantry will be handing out food baskets Nov. 23, 25 and 26 from 10 a.m. until noon. So far, the pantry has 104 baskets planned. Christmas baskets may be handed out come December, but the pantry is waiting to see how much food they can gather before making those plans.
For now, donations of stuffing in a box, gravy in a can, mashed potatoes in a box, and any other fixings are welcome. And for the winter, pantry director Meredith White said Chunky and Progresso soups, as well as applesauce and children’s snacks for school are all needed.
United Church of Jaffrey
In addition to running its regular food pantry from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, the United Church of Jaffrey has plenty of plans for the holidays. The church will be making Thanksgiving baskets that they are packing on Nov. 22 and will deliver on Nov. 23, and according to Owen Houghton, there are five families who have asked for baskets so far.
The church will also be having their mitten tree, an artificial tree in the church that hold member-knitted hats and gloves that go out for delivery to local schools, daycares, and in the food pantry. There will also be a “Christmas Holiday festival” on Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that everyone is welcome to attend.
Union Congregational Church
The Union Congregational Church in Peterborough holds community suppers every Monday evening at 5:30 p.m., where food and free clothing are given out. On Nov. 25, the church will be holding a special meal. People may volunteer at the suppers.
Dublin Community Church
The Dublin Community Church will be helping host a dinner at Hundred Nights homeless shelter in Keene on Nov. 30, where they will be serving about 60 meals. The church will also put up a Christmas tree on Dec. 1, where tags containing the Christmas wishes of seven families will be available for members to take and help fulfill.
Also on Dec. 1, the church will be hosting an ornament-making workshop after the 10 a.m. church service. In addition to ornament-making, a free soup and bread lunch will be provided to anyone who wants to go.
St. Peter’s Church
Located in Peterborough, St. Peter’s Church is extensively involved in community outreach around the holidays. For Thanksgiving, the church will distribute between 50 and 75 baskets to different families. The baskets will be made on Nov. 25 and distributed the next day. The church also hands out food bags to Greenfield Commons.
For Christmas, the church has several programs set up. First is “Christmas for Kids,” where the church hands out Walmart gift cards to children 15 and under from a list compiled through recommendations made by social services and school counselors and nurses. The next program is the “Giving Tree,” where the church takes wishlists from local families and donates things everyone in the family may want or need, like gas cards, gift cards, coats, toys, and sometimes, things like mattresses. The last Christmas program is run by the church’s Woman’s Guild, which has members personally bring between 90 and 100 poinsettias to Harborside Pheasant Wood Nursing Home in Peterborough, as well as several other nursing homes.
The church also donates regularly to the Monadnock Area Food Pantry and the Peterborough Food Pantry, and does a special summer program called “Christmas in July,” where the church gathers food items need specifically needed by the pantries.
Rindge Woman’s Club
For about 30 years, the Rindge Woman’s Club has been running “Operation Santa,” a program that takes local people in need and asks for a wish list with three toys and three pieces of clothing for each child in the family. According to Rindge Woman’s Club Chairman Ray Duvernay, these items are listed on tags on Christmas trees in the local Walmart and TD Bank in Rindge, where people can pick a tag, get an item, and drop off the gift, unwrapped, under the tree. The gifts are handed out to the families, wrapped and labeled with each child’s name on them, the weekend before Christmas.
Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce
For the past 20 years, the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce has been running a program called “Santa’s House,” a way to provide gifts for children up to the age of 15 for Christmas. “We provide not only toys, but clothing for children,” said Chamber Executive Assistant Becky Newton.
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Though this organization does not do any special holiday programs, Program Director Karen Brooks said the holidays are a particularly busy time of year. “We definitely get more calls from parents,” she said, indicating the organization especially needs volunteers to become a big sibling this time of year.
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