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Local "elves" make the rounds during Christmas Fund deliveries



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Mike Cullen and Scott Hilliard (left to right) loaded up the final truck to deliver food baskets to seniors last Saturday morning for the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Christmas Fund. The fund assists a number of families and seniors in the three communities each year with warm clothing, food for a holiday meal and toys for children. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
December 21, 2011
TILTON — At 7:30 a.m. last Saturday morning, Santa's special helpers in the Winnisquam region loaded their "sleds" and headed out to make the holidays a happy time for 256 local households as deliveries for another successful year of the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Christmas Fund got underway.

Tom Gallant, who organizes the fund each year, was happy to see the vehicles loaded with gifts, meals and clothing, all heading out for their final destinations. Warm clothing and food were delivered along nine designated routes from the TNS Fund's central storage center while across town the Tilton-Northfield Rotary handled the toy deliveries for the children.

"We had a lot of great help once again this year. In fact, Mix 94.1 FM just stopped by this morning and graced us with a very generous check," Gallant said.

The radio station's Cash-N-Cans drive, he said, had a very good year thanks to local support, and the station was able to generously share that support with the TNS Fund.

The money, Gallant said, would help offset costs already incurred by the organization, and should there be any money remaining, it will go toward next year's efforts.

Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard was among the many helpers on Saturday, and said he has been involved in the annual deliveries for at least 15 years. Hilliard and his 18-year-old son, Tyler, teamed up with Mike Cullen to do the final round of food basket deliveries at a senior housing complex, and were met with many thank you's and holiday wishes from appreciative recipients. Tyler was participating in his ninth year of volunteerism to the fund.

"I just grew up helping out since I was nine-years-old, and it's great. I do it every year now," he said.

Cullen's father was the founder of the TNS Christmas Fund, and he and his family have been lending a hand to other local families for more than 25 years. Starting from their basement with only family members and a few neighbors and friends, the fund has now grown to help many more people in all three towns, something they are all happy to do each Christmas.

"Why did he start it? That's just who my father was," said Cullen.

In addition to more volunteers, many businesses have also stepped up to support the fund since those early days in the mid-1980's. Gallant, who has helped head up the clothing and food drive for the Cullen family since they began, said he was most appreciative. Market Basket gave the group discounted prices on food items so every home on their list could receive a turkey or chicken, depending on the size of the household, along with fresh eggs and all the fixings for a holiday meal. Pike Industries once again held a one-on-one food and cash drive for the fund, where the corporation evenly matched all donations from their employees. Students of the Winnisquam Regional School District's three elementary schools even saved their pennies, and donated over $1,000 to benefit their friends.

A recent weeklong Toy Drive and Raffle provided $600 from the raffle alone, while money and toys continued to come in up until the very end.

"We're very grateful for everyone who helped make Christmas a little brighter for people in the three communities," Gallant said.

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