By Sandy Belknap
As I've walked my dog on the cold evenings thru my neighborhood since Christmas night, there is evidence that the 2009 Holiday Season is quickly winding down - just like it does every year:
~The colorful Christmas lights (some with synchronized music!) are being unplugged.
~The huge air-filled, snowglobe-like lawn ornaments are deflated in most neighbors' yards.
~The neighborhood kids are all inside playing with their iPods, Wii, Rock Band, etc.
~And Christmas Trees of all shapes and sizes are out on the curbsides, stripped of their ornaments, though some still have a little sparkle left over from tinsel pieces that blow in the cold winter wind.
But, as I dismantle my own holiday decorations and catch up with friends from across Nashua this week, I've come to realize that this holiday season was actually very different for a lot of people in my community this year. There was a renewed sense that Giving had become more important than ever in 2009.
Personally, the biggest difference for me, was that for the first time in over 10 years, I did not lead a major gift drive for the Nashua Children's Home (NCH) thru my employer. While working at Sun Microsystems, the annual gift drive for the 50 residents of NCH was always something that local employees looked forward to doing. Over the past decade, my colleagues and I contributed over $50,000 in clothing and gifts to ensure that every resident of NCH received a thoughtful, personalized gift.
Unfortunately, a week after delivering the gifts last year, Sun closed its Nashua location and over the past year laid off many of its employees (including me). Fortunately, the NCH had a heads-up far in advance that support from Sun would discontinue. It's something that I didn't think a lot about until the past few weeks. But the departure of a large employer, like Sun, often has long-term and far-reaching impact beyond just the people who may lose their jobs - an entire community is impacted.
Fortunately, others across the Nashua community picked up on the needs that otherwise may not have been fulfilled in Nashua this year:
The local fund raising program called the Santa Fund (sponsored by the Nashua Telegraph), reported a record year of donations. I was holding my breath as I looked at the totals being reported during the weeks leading up to Christmas -- donations seemed slow, but local print and broadcast media really raised awareness about the need for people to give a little this year. There was even a cartoon on The Telgraph's editorial page that showcased this year's spirit of giving via a depiction of the "Three Wise Men 2009" (Instead of 'bearing gifts', these wise men shared thoughts about their donations to food banks and toy programs.)
Additionally, Nashua's supermarkets had food drives to benefit local agencies. Hannafords, where I tend to shop, sold preboxed care packages for $10. During the week leading up to Christmas, the palates beyond the registers were piled high with boxes purchased and donated by the market's customers that were ready for delivery to the Nashua Soup Kitchen.
The Salvation Army's Bell Ringers could be heard all across town, and at every location I passed this year, people were stopping to donate -- some dropping coins, many dropping in dollars of low and high denominations. (I tend to think that the kettles manned by our local fire department seemed to do very well - - they appeared to be the busiest during my excursions out and about town.)
The local Rotary Club took kids shopping in Nashua one evening. Rotarians raised money and were teamed up with kids who each received a $100 gift card to shop for presents to give to their own families. Apparently, the kids as well as the Rotarians had a great night of shopping and local children were able to provide meaningful gifts to their moms and dads for Christmas.
And there are so many other stories like these across Nashua . Stories about Giving. Many stories included Giving by local residents of modest means. And the best thing is that the people doing this Giving are most often the ones who Get back the most!