By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — The holidays are over, but the need to help others continues.
Many local organizations found seasonal donations were down from last year. They are starting the new year with long wish lists from people still needing help.
The Derry News Santa Fund has spent more than 20 years working to raise money to support local holiday efforts in both Derry and Londonderry.
This season, the Santa Fund fell short of its $20,500 goal, raising only $13,840.
It’s a blow to the longtime effort, fund administrator Cathy Dicampo said, when so many people depend on the support.
“I’m hoping that people donated to other causes, like the soup kitchen or Derry Community Fund,” she said. “That would be my hope.”
Maryanne Taylor of the Community Fund said that group had a successful season, but the list of people needing assistance always grows longer.
The Community Fund distributes food at Thanksgiving and toys at Christmas. But the need is a year-long thing, Taylor said.
“And it’s amazing how people pull together,” she said. “We do have a cushion and it always works out in the end, one way or another.”
People who visit the thrift shop at the Marion Gerrish Community Center are not only looking for a bargain, but they are generous with donations, too.
With the holiday rush over, it’s time to restock the shelves, staff say. The shop always needs donations. Proceeds from sales there support the upkeep and care of the community center on West Broadway.
Lynn Donahue works at the thrift shop. She said all types of donations are welcome, not only clothing, but toys and household items.
She said people care a lot about the center and love to help. Right now, there is a need for more cold weather clothing like coats and boots.
Fran Gray, 93, always visits the center on Saturday, and wants to help, always bringing along donations to drop off before her own shopping begins.
“The people that work here, they’ve been like our family,” Gray said.
The Salvation Army also felt the pinch this season with donations down not only with the familiar red kettle campaign, but also with fewer children receiving help through the Angel Tag program.
Salvation Army officials participated in a last-minute, 24-hour kettle drive to bring in much-needed money before the holidays ended.
“We raised $173,000, but our goal was $220,000,” Lt. Kiley Williams said.
She said the Salvation Army nationally saw less money donated.
“That hurts us,” Williams said. “This is the money that helps within the community and with less money, cuts will have to be made.”
She said the shorter time between Thanksgiving and Christmas may have been a factor.
“The weather also plays a factor,” she said, “and even with people carrying less cash and more credit cards, that is also a factor.”
Some organizations report the season was a good one. Warm Homes in Londonderry offers fuel assistance to those in need and organizers said donations were steady.
“We have a great working relationship with the town of Londonderry’s welfare contractor Community Health Services,” Warm Homes’ leader Kathy Wagner said. “We also work with Londonderry organizations and churches in the town. Since Warm Homes is a onetime assistance program for Londonderry residents only, our resources go much further.”
The Sonshine Soup Kitchen works to feed the hungry on a daily basis and depends on volunteers and donations.
Five days a week, roughly 45 people eat at the Derry soup kitchen. That’s up from about 40 a day in November, executive director Cynthia Dwyer said.
The kitchen is housed in the basement of First Baptist Church. Next door, the First Baptist food pantry tries to keep its shelves stocked with food.
Donations haven’t decreased yet, Dwyer said, but that will probably change come mid-January.
“It will slow down pretty quickly,” she said. “We will have to live off the fat for a while.”
Staff writer Doug Ireland contributed to this story