This Special Season – Of Caring and Giving
Karen and Jay share thoughts on this special time of the year when families come together, and communities unite in the spirit of giving.
It’s that wonderful time of the year again! It has finally arrived – Christmas is now here upon us and families unite to share this special season. Whether yours is a young family with children who are gleefully awaiting Santa, or perhaps in your family, the children are older and returning from school or whatever the situation may be – it’s ‘Christmas Time’ – and ‘Family Time!’ A time to rejoice. A time for memories. A time to share joy and the spirit of giving, especially with the ones you love.
And, we’re especially grateful this year in that for the past few weeks, there’s been some amount of uncertainty as to whether or not our Christmas festivities and traditions as we’ve known them in years past will be able to carry on. In this season of giving, while things may have once again been interrupted, one thing that has stayed consistent throughout communities across New Hampshire and New England is the charity which people have continued to share. It’s a remarkable thing to witness how regardless of the circumstances, the goodwill of people still manages to prevail. And as we celebrate Christmas this weekend, it carries even more meaning.
A story from Vermont was shared with me this past week about an anonymous gentleman, dressed in a New England Patriots Jacket and asked to be referred to only as ‘Kris Kringle’, who walked into his local Wal-Mart and helped pay for items that local residents had put on layaway. One mother of three said she heard about it but, “Just thought it was a rumor.” Turns out, when she went to the store, her over $800 worth of items had been taken care of. It’s unknown how much he spent, but over the course of the day, multiple families would leave the store with their gifts and items paid for. Julie-Ann Gates, who was one of the fortunate shoppers said, “I just can't put into words how much that man has done for so many people. He is the true meaning of Christmas." At a time when many people are in need but still want to maintain the joy that comes with Christmas, the selfless actions of this one man exemplify the true spirit of this season.
I have another close friend who told me a remarkable story of giving. He and his wife are part of a small community in New Hampshire. Along with their children, they decided that rather than spend their Christmas money on gifts to themselves, they would actually use their funds to help the less fortunate. In a true act of kindness, they went around to numerous local businesses and bought gift certificates – for meals, for cloths and for a variety of other items. Then, in partnership with the local food pantry, these certificates were anonymously given to those in need. Such a selfless initiative – boosting the many small businesses in the community, helping the less fortunate and bringing joy and the spirit of Christmas to so very many.
Like everyone, I love the pageantry of the Holidays. The Christmas tree with its decorations and its shimmering lights, the holiday songs, and of course all the treats. But most of all, it’s a time of year where we see the best parts of the human spirit on full display. The acts of the gentleman in Vermont and my friend in the small town in New Hampshire are just two examples of the many that occur all across the country during this season, and while the majority may not get the recognition they deserve, they still make an incredible impact on the lives of others, demonstrating the value of what it means to be truly giving. As we celebrate Christmas this weekend, I am so wonderfully encouraged by the generosity so many have shown this season even as we contend with the uncertainty of the present moment. And while Christmas may come to a close, I know it’s a spirit that will be forever present as we go into a New Year. Merry Christmas to all!
Jackson, New Hampshire – 'Best Kept Secret’
Jackson, New Hampshire is the northernmost town in Carroll County and has a small population of just over 1,000 people. Residents consider Jackson to be ‘New Hampshire’s Best Kept Secret’ as the Jackson area includes the picturesque villages of not only Jackson, but Intervale, Bartlett, Glen and Hart’s Location. Jackson offers a splendid small-town community – while being only 8 miles from the restaurants, shopping and the other attractions of North Conway in one direction – while also being the ‘Gateway to Pinkham Notch’ with easy access to the 750,000 acres of the White Mountain National Forest in the other direction. (There’s also an interesting story behind how Jackson got its name – please keep reading below.)
Jackson is a true ‘New Hampshire’ style town with a covered bridge that has become a ‘must stop’ for the many couples who get married in its local high-steeple church. Jackson is so beautiful, in fact, that it has become a sort of artist hub in the White Mountains and has a long history of painters coming to the town to capture the landscape on canvas. This has been enshrined in Jackson’s old town hall which now serves as a historical museum and art gallery of sorts!
Interestingly, Jackson is one of the ‘newer’ towns in New Hampshire as it was not incorporated until the 1800. Originally called New Madbury after Madbury, New Hampshire where the settlers of the town were from, the town was renamed to Adams after President John Adams. That name didn’t stick either as town residents voted (and the reason remains unclear) to rename the town to Jackson after President Andrew Jackson. What is known is that it was not a highly debated topic at the time as only one town member voted against the change. Jackson’s ‘name journey’ did not end there, however, as just two years ago, residents of the town gathered once again to address the name and voted to rededicate the town to a local geologist whose last name is Jackson and move away from the former President citing issues with Andrew Jackson’s history.
If you get a chance to visit Jackson, you’ll definitely enjoy the friendly small town feel and the natural beauty of this picturesque village. Hopefully, a wintertime trip to Jackson, NH is sometime in your not too distant future!
Stories of Extraordinary Giving – Right Here in New Hampshire
Currently in the Lucas house, Karen is cooking and wrapping like crazy. Kids are here, and friends are coming by to visit – nonstop. The organized chaos is one of my favorite things about this time of the year, and it warms my heart. What also warms my heart even more, however, are those groups and individuals who go above and beyond – with their generosity and selfless giving to ensure that everyone has a Merry Christmas.
In southern New Hampshire, the Homeland Heroes Foundation has stepped up with their support for military veterans and their families. Last weekend, they provided Christmas dinners with all the fixings as well as toys to 50 families. Through the support of their members, partners and community businesses, the dedicated team at Homeland Heroes created such an amazing activity that has truly made a difference for the families they support.
Over in Seabrook, 11-year-old Jordan Weaver organized a hot chocolate stand to raise money to support the Seabrook Fire Department’s Toy Drive as well as support the mission of the House of Hope. As we all know, by supporting our children, we support their ability to do great things, both today and in the future! Way to go Jordan, you are an inspiration to us all!
Down in Nashua, the folks at St. Joseph Hospital are doing their part to help families in need. Despite the ongoing struggles and extra-long hours being worked by the staff due to the pandemic, the team at St. Joseph Hospital still found time and created holiday gift baskets filled with toys, food, and gift cards that will help 60 families in the Greater Nashua Area. Caregivers have already gone above and beyond these past two years and have found a way yet again to step up and help despite the challenges of the pandemic.
And, how about my friends at the Beacon Building on Elm Street in Manchester and their ‘Tower of Toy’s!’ This is the 10th consecutive year of collecting unwrapped children’s toys, sports equipment, art supplies, cosmetics, movie certificates, and gift cards to benefit children and families in need. Last year they donated over 2500 toys, plus nearly $1400 in gift certificates and raised more than $15,000 in donations – helping to make Christmas a happy and special occasion for more than 1500 children in the Greater Manchester area.
For this great effort, we extend a major thanks to Brian and Laurie Lawrence, owners of the Beacon Building, Brian Hettrick and the sponsors and leaders who make all this happen - the Red Arrow Diner, Angels Sewing and Quilting, the Beacon Building, Colliers, Cross Insurance, Dick Pratte Cabinetry, Downdog Flow Yoga & Pilates, Flexecution, Inc., JDS Flooring, Just Flow Events & Marketing, Melanson, and NHCIBOR Cares. And, by the way, if you do visit the Beacon Building during the Christmas Season, you really will see a ‘Tower of Toys’ all piled up in every direction!
Last, let me give a shout out to my friends BJ Perry, Andrew Provencher, and Craig Stevens for organizing Bedford Santa. These three dads for the second year in a row drove around town with Santa Claus so kids across town could say ‘Hi’ to Santa. As an added bonus, they organized a toy drive to support Bedford PD’s campaign. The end result was over 100 toys collected and hundreds of children getting a chance to see the man in the big red suit! Innovation, creativity, and spreading holiday cheer. Can't ask for much more than that!
Christmas is a special time of year and a time, as the song goes, ‘one that’s merry and bright. I truly love our community coming together to ensure everyone can celebrate and feel that special warmth of spirit in the Christmas Season!
Positive Profile of the Week: Erik Lesniak
Giving back and ‘stepping up to the plate’, these words define our Profile of the Week, Erik Lesniak.
Erik serves as Vice President of Business Development for the NH Fisher Cats, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Double A-affiliate. Erik has been with the organization since 2004, and on game days you’ll see him along with the team greeting fans, ensuring everyone they meet has a memorable experience at the ballfield. The family spirit and the warm atmosphere at the stadium – that Erik helps foster are key reasons that this baseball club is such a vital and successful member of the New Hampshire community. But it’s not only his role with the team, Erik is also a great contributor to the community in a number of other ways as well.
Erik is an active member of the local rotary, he coaches little league, serves in Kiwanis, and volunteers his time hundreds, if not thousands, of hours year after year. Even on a very cold weekend, you might well find Erik standing outside being a bell ringer and raising money for the Salvation Army. In fact, his efforts for the Salvation Army have been so extraordinary that there is even a bell inscribed with his name on it. On any given night, Erik might also be seen serving hot meals to those in need or attending community events along with his family. And, every Friday, he has made it a practice to serve meals at lunchtime to those in need in conjunction with New Horizons for New Hampshire and Families in Transition.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2009, Erik received the Good Samaritan Award by the Pastoral Counseling Services Organization. He was recognized for his endless commitment to the community, working to ensure those he works to support can live a better life.
This Holiday season I thank all those who volunteer their time to help those we know and don't know. And a special Thanks to Erik for all he has done, year after year. We all look forward to seeing you this spring for another season of Fisher Cats baseball!
Positive Quotes of the Week: Christmas Time
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
“The day you stop getting excited about Christmas is the day you become officially old.” ― Stewart Stafford
“Christmastime is when love and kindness shine at their brightest.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich, Being Bold: Quotes, Poetry, & Motivations for Every Day of the Year
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” ― Norman Vincent Peale