Many local families have all they can do to put a meal on the table at the holiday season, and that is where the Derry Community Fund comes in, with its mission to strengthen and enrich the lives of those in need in the community, especially during the holiday season.
And the rooms at the Marion Gerrish Community Center assigned for the Derry Community Fund shopping experience for parents who applied for assistance this year were stuffed to capacity with clothing, toys, and personal care items.
The volunteer group primarily relies on donations. This year the fund assisted 160 families totaling 486 people at Thanksgiving, while 131 families representing 253 children received toys, clothes, food, personal care items, socks, hats, mittens and stocking stuffers for Christmas.
Families first make application for help at the Human Services Department at the Derry Municipal Center. The Derry Community Fund reviews the applications and notifies the families if they will be helping. They provide Christmas gifts to families with children up to the age of 15.
Most of those seeking assistance are single parent families, some of them teenage single parents. The disabled and unemployed are also among those helped.
The fund is run by a seven-person board of directors whose members are Maryanne Taylor, Alison Angle, Judy Williams, Sue Linehan, Staci Hartnett, Brenda Corso, and Diana LaGasse.
“Every year the quantity and quality of the contributions gets better,” Taylor said. “We had applications to help 237 children ranging in age from infants to 15 years old. We also have gift cards that we make available for seniors. The local schools pitch in and collect things for this effort.”
She said West Running Brook Middle School collected socks and the other schools collected personal care items. Students at South Range Elementary School made blankets and Peter Gaucher with the Pinkerton Academy National Honor Society collected boxes of food, Walmart gift certificates and toys.
“We give the names of families needing help with food baskets to various groups and institutions looking to participate and they take care of filling those needs and delivering them to the families,” Taylor added. “A group of volunteer young men from the Granite House Sober Living Facility came and helped us carry and distribute boxes, which was a big help for us and for the families who had come to shop.”
Participants in filling the needs for the Derry Community Fund include: Derry/ Salem Elks, Derry Veterans of Foreign Wars, Derry Village Rotary, Derry Cooperative School District, St. Thomas, Pinkerton Academy National Honor Society, Danville Elementary School, Suburban Adjustment Inc., Over the Rainbow Preschool, Town of Derry employees, Derry Human Services Department, Marion Gerrish Community Center Board and employees, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Knights of Columbus, Community Alliance for Teen Safety (CATS), Rockingham Community Action, Aurora Senior Living, Community Bingo Center of Manchester, J&F Farms, Mack’s Apples, Panera Bread, Crystal Avenue Dunkin’ Donuts, The Grind and Hannaford Supermarkets. Herrington Catalog in Londonderry donated 40 bathrobes.