Pelham Good Neighbor Fund Provides Hope to Needy Families
by Karen Plumley
Good Neighbor Fund members, from left, aren’t looking for notoriety: Jim Roche, Vice President Jean Robarge, Gerty Sousa, President Frank Sullivan, and Treasurer Mary Ann Roche.
It all started more than 30 years ago. The Pelham Good Neighbor Fund was established in 1969 by Pelham residents who wanted to provide assistance to local families in need during the holiday season.
This devoted group of individuals that included Bill Bradley, Dot Hardy, and Avis Fairbanks, started modestly, providing food for the less fortunate at Christmastime. Soon, however, the fund expanded and began providing clothes, toys for children, and other miscellaneous items. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Pelham Good Neighbor Fund again expanded their goals to provide financial assistance 52 weeks a year to families who were unable to pay for rent, heat, electricity, and other expenses. Today, a committee of 12 dedicated individuals volunteers their time to the fund’s noble cause.
Good Neighbor Fund President Frank Sullivan has been a member of the committee since 1974 and became the group’s president in the late 1970s. “When I joined we were meeting at the firehouse,” said Sullivan, who describes the group as “very low-key.”
There is no website, no official meeting place, and information about upcoming fundraising events is passed on by word of mouth through schools and churches and occasionally in the local newspapers. With little or no overhead, every cent that is earned through fundraising efforts is spent on a local family in need. In addition to the low-key management, the group maintains some anonymity, preferring to go unnoticed and letting their accomplishments speak for themselves.
The group holds many fundraising activities throughout the year, including their annual golf tournament in August. A relatively new addition to their roster, the golf tournament celebrated its 11th year in 2005, raising approximately $10,000 through raffles and ticket purchases. The fund also continues with its highly successful Christmas Drive held in December. During the drive, food is collected at the Pelham Plaza for the Pelham Food Pantry and donations are also accepted. Last year, the food collected for the pantry was somewhat less than in the past, but the amount of funds collected was one of the highest ever and reached an astonishing $14,000. “The people in this town are extremely generous. We can’t overemphasize how generous these people are,” enthused Sullivan.
During the holiday season, the group also organizes their popular “Sponsor a Child” program. Established in 1991, the program is run by an exceedingly devoted group of ladies headed up by Bonnie Ward. Gerty Sousa also helps to coordinate the project. “It has turned into a very large undertaking. We started by sponsoring about 15 families. Last year we sponsored over 50,” described Sousa. They receive many of the names of potential families from school nurses, who will make an initial phone call to see if the families are willing to accept help from the fund.
“Most people who are in need are somewhat embarrassed to accept our help. Many are also overwhelmed with their situations. They have to be treated with compassion and very delicately,” described Sullivan. According to him, many circumstances even require a bit of counseling. And of course, the names of the families being helped remain anonymous.
In addition to these larger drives, the fund also coordinates an annual Spring Food Drive with the local post office in May. Sullivan was quick to give credit to Phil Blanchette and Romeo Croteau for providing trucks and staffing for the project which last year collected almost a ton of food, filling at least seven large donation bins.
A lesser-known service performed by the group is their annual scholarship to a needy child graduating from high school. The scholarship has been provided now for four years. Last year, the amount reached a generous $2,500. “We wanted the amount to really make a difference and allow a child the chance to go to college,” described Fund Treasurer Mary Ann Roche. According to Sullivan, the student had “no inclination that it was going to be given.” The scholarship is presented in a completely confidential manner in the guidance office.
The Good Neighbor Fund volunteers have experienced many ups and downs in the course of their work. On the one hand, the situations that they have had to deal with can be very hard. “One of the hardest situations I’ve ever dealt with was that of the Kelly family. It was just one thing after another for them,” described Sullivan. A well-known tragedy in town, the family lost their mother to an aneurysm and an unsuccessful heart transplant, and their father then suffered a stroke.
They have also seen many sad circumstances with single mothers, the disabled, people living out of their cars, and the elderly having to choose between food and their medications. “After visiting them, we leave with a completely different perspective and appreciate how fortunate we really are,” described Sullivan.
On the other hand, they have witnessed many miracles. Sullivan shared one amazing story. He described a phone call he received from a man who could not get a job because he had no form of transportation. On the very same day he received that call, he received a second call from another person who was looking to donate a car he had. “We had to ask him what kind of shape the car was in, and it turns out it was in great condition. So, we turned it over to the man in need. Problem solved!” described Sullivan.
“There are rewards for doing what we do,” stated Fund Vice President Jean Robarge, who went on to describe the many times they have witnessed people getting back on their feet after having been helped by the fund.
Sullivan then used one of his favorite quotes, stating, “It is in giving that you receive.” “The Fund is here to help get people over the hump. We are committed to helping people in emergency situations,” described Sullivan.
And it has successfully done that in the almost 40 years since its establishment. Its reputation speaks for itself. And the group of devoted members works tirelessly in order to achieve their goals of providing financial assistance, food, clothing, and other basic necessities that most of us take for granted. But they offer so much more than this. They offer hope in a world that can sometimes seem so cruel and unrelenting. They do this humbly without complaint or fuss, and without any willingness to take too much credit or sing their own praises.
Golden Brook’s Teddy Bear Picnic Evokes Lots of Smiles
by Lynne Ober
Parents and students enjoyed a fun-filled evening at Golden Brook’s Teddy Bear Picnic. The evening was filled with teddy bear-themed activities.
In the music area students learn teddy bear songs and simple dance movements to the songs.
Entering the school children saw a round table set for tea with teddy bears as guests. Students were divided into four groups.
As the evening progressed each student would partake of the four different activities – movement, teddy bear cookies, teddy bear music, and teddy bear art. It was an evening of fun, giggles, and lots of happy smiles.
The gym was divided so that the movement group could work on one side and the music group on the other side – both groups emphasized movement.
“Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around. Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground,” sang happy voices in the music area. Parents were given the words to the whole bedtime song so that students could sing it at home.
In the Teddy Bear Cookie Room, students made large teddy bear cookies out of smaller cookies, decorations, and frosting. When they finished their cookies, they could make teddy bear headbands.
In the art room, students with the help of parents worked on teddy bear book bags.
Every student makes a teddy bear book bag.
Windham Finance Director’s Position Changed
by Tom Tollefson
Windham’s financial director has now become the assistant town administrator. This newly named position has more responsibilities, as well as increased authority.
At the Windham Selectmen’s meeting on January 30, selectmen approved changes to the finance director’s job description and title. The new title will be “assistant town administrator.” This was recommended and presented by Town Administrator Dave Sullivan whose reasoning was so that someone would be able to have a position of authority and provide backup when he was away.
The current town Financial Director, Dana Call, will officially become the assistant town administrator on February 1 and receive all rights, responsibilities, and privileges of this position.
The new job description reads, "Provide overall management and delivery of financial services under the general supervision of the town administrator. Serve as the chief financial advisor for the town administrator, which includes analysis and recommendations of town financial policy, position, and procedures. Handle the responsibility of the town administrator in his or her absence."
The administrative responsibilities for the position will be to coordinate the daily operations of the finance and personnel divisions of the Administrative Department, oversee the daily payroll and accounts payable activities, and contribute to the staff evaluations performed by the town administrator for those areas. The assistant town administrator will also conduct research on certain legal matters, and handle citizen complaints.
The financial and accounting responsibilities are to assist the town administrator in coordinating and evaluating the purchasing process of the town and coordinate the publication of advertisements and legal requirements for bid proposals for departments and committees. He or she will be in charge of working with the information technology director to effectively administer and manage the financial computer systems of the town including general ledger, accounts payable, payroll, tax collection, as well as budget and cash management. In the town administrator's absence, this position will approve purchases on behalf of the town administrator in accordance with the town's purchasing policy.
As the occupant of this newly created position, Call will deal with personnel responsibilities as well. Call will participate in union collective bargaining, and assist Sullivan in overseeing the reconciliation of salary administration to ensure that compensation is managed according to collective bargaining agreements and employee evaluations.
As Assistant Town Administrator, Call will also assist the town administrator and human resources coordinator in interpreting counseling and advising town staff, supervisors and managers regarding personnel regulations, policies, and procedures.
Selectman Margaret Crisler agreed with the changes and believes that it's "Always good to have backup personnel."
In contrast, a highly active Windham citizen believes the promotion is "out of focus" and that it would be better to hire a part-time official to help the Town Administrator with his duties.
Over the next two years, Call’s salary would increase until it is equal to that of the second in command in both the fire and police departments.
Early Start Children’s Center Kids Sing with Heart
Ms. Mary Jo’s preschool class invited their friends and families for a special Valentine’s Day presentation at Early Start Children’s Center. The program featured “Songs from the Heart” and silly Valentine jokes that had the audience laughing and smiling with pride!
‘She & Me’ Celebration Encourages Teamwork, Strengthens Bonds of Friendship
by Karen Plumley
Scouts feed their partners in a race to see who can eat their pudding the fastest while remaining neat and clean.
Pelham Daisies, Brownies and Girl Scouts attended the annual “She & Me” celebration on Saturday night at Pelham Elementary School. Accompanied by moms, big sisters, grandmothers, or other important female figures in their lives, the Scouts got busy with various games and activities such as picture frame decorating, barnyard hopscotch, pudding eating contests, and Barbie doll races. The festivities lasted until 9:00 p.m., and everyone in attendance enjoyed the evening that ultimately brought Scouts closer to their “partners” and to each other in an unforgettable bonding experience.
Plenty of giggles could be heard during a contest to see who could wrap up their partners the fastest.
Voters Speak Out on School District Warrant Articles
by Diane Chubb
The February 8 session held at Pelham Elementary School was a forum for Pelham voters to discuss, amend, and ask questions about the school district warrant articles that will appear on the ballot on March 14.
All of the school and town warrant articles, an explanation, as well as all of the supporting materials are available for review on the Internet at the Pelham town website at www.pelhamweb.com.
School Board Chairman Mike Conrad and School Board Vice Chairman Cindy Kyzer at the Deliberative Session.
Article 19 –Pelham High School Addition and Renovation
The potential plan for expanding Pelham High School seemed to be foremost on everyone's mind.
Kevin Steele and Darren Martin briefly presented on Article 19, which asks voters for $16 million for building an addition to, and renovating PHS to accommodate the growing number of students. They believe that their plan is a cost-efficient way to meet the immediate needs of the high school.
Many voters expressed their concerns that there is no architectural back-up supporting the feasibility of the plan. There was discussion of wetlands permitting and abatement, as well as the placement of a septic system. Steele repeated that the final decisions would be left to the school board as to how to pursue the actual building. His plan was simply to demonstrate his belief that it could be done.
Calling the plan nothing more than a ”napkin sketch,” School Board member Steven Tello said that he could not support asking voters for $16 million for the addition and renovation. According to the estimates that the school board has already received, renovation costs alone are more than $19 million. Further, the plan does not take into account wetlands permits and abatements, possible asbestos removal, and other problems at the high school.
Bill Scanzani, Chairman of the CIP, also spoke against the warrant article. He acknowledged the petitioners' right to have the warrant article on the ballot, but expressed his concerns with a plan that has no engineering back-up. Voting “yes” on Article 19 goes against all of the studies that have previously been done, studies that the voters had already asked to have done. He believes that no one is properly using the facts already collected. “Don't be surprised if they (architects) come back and say it can't be done,” he warned.
Other voters, such as Jennifer Pendergast, questioned whether the new addition and renovation of the existing building could be done for the $16 million in the article. If Article 19 passes, architectural plans will be drawn up, and then submitted to building contractors for bidding. But what if no bids came in for the $16 million?
Gordon Graham, who is legal counsel for the school district, answered that the school board would be forced to go back to the voters to request more money.
Because of the wording of the warrant article, the school board may not use the money for anything less than a 50,000 square foot addition to PHS.
The school board was also advised by Graham that there was a legal issue with the wording of Article 19. Graham recommended that the last sentence regarding the override of the 10 percent limitation be deleted. However, removing the language would render the article null and void.
A bond request cannot exceed the entire school district budget by more than 10 percent. Article 19, which requests $16 million, does exceed the budget, and, therefore, requires an override. Because the Budget Committee did not recommend Article 19, it was his opinion that there could be no override. Thus, the article would be void.
The governing statute, RSA 32:18-a was only passed in 2000, however, and has not been challenged in court. RSA 32:18-a states, “The legislative body of any municipality described in RSA 32:18-a, I, may approve a bond request despite the 10 percent limitation provided in RSA 32:18 in the following manner:
(a) The governing body shall place the following statement at the beginning of the warrant article for such bond request: "Passage of this article shall override the 10 percent limitation imposed on this appropriation due to the non-recommendation of the budget committee." Immediately below the bond request on the warrant shall be displayed (1) the recommendation of the governing body and (2) the recommendation of the budget committee, as included in the budget forms for the annual meeting pursuant to RSA 32:5, IV.
(b) If those voting "yes" on the bond request satisfy the requirements of RSA 33:8, the bond request is thereby approved.
III. If the bond request is approved pursuant to RSA 32:18-a, the governing body of such municipality shall forward a copy of the minutes of the duly posted meeting described in RSA 32:18-a, I to the commissioner of the department of revenue administration.”
Graham's recommendation to delete the last sentence of the article produced emotional reactions from the voters at the session. Some voters quickly accused the school board of trying to take options away from the voters.
Bob Turnquist, former Chairman of the School Board, reminded voters that it was the duty of the school board to look out for the legal interests of voters. By making the motion recommended by legal counsel, the school board was acting responsibly.
Mike Conrad, Chairman of the Pelham School Board, stated that he only brought up the issue because of the advice of legal counsel. In fact, school board members were only informed of the potential problem right before the deliberative session. The school board actually supported retaining the language. The voters present at the session ultimately voted to leave the language in the warrant article.
Voters also commented on some of the other warrant articles that will be on the ballot in March.
Article 5 - Relocatable Classroom Building Units
Conrad presented on the request for $200,000 for the purchase of two double relocatable classroom building units. Each unit would contain two classrooms, for a total of four additional classrooms.
Overcrowding and lack of classroom space is an immediate issue at PHS.
Classes are currently being held in the library, the cafeteria, the in-school suspension room, and some offices. Every inch of space is currently being utilized. Whether the high school is renovated and an addition built, or a new high school is built, neither option would be available for a few years. Long term, the units would be moved to the middle school to relieve problems there, once the high school was addressed.
Conrad stated that no matter what plan voters supported for PHS (addition or new school on a new site), these classrooms were needed immediately. Eleanor Burton added that with enrollment in the town schools only going up, space was definitely a concern.
Students who fail a course might not get the opportunity to repeat it the following semester because of lack of space in classes. Class availability is already limited because of space issues.
Although this article is supported by the school board, the Budget Committee did not recommend it.
Dennis Viger, Vice Chairman of the Budget Committee, explained that the committee had concerns about where the units would be placed at PHS. It was their belief that PHS has enough space.
Article 11 - Technology Plan
Steven Tello presented on the three-year technology plan for the purpose of upgrading the computer technology throughout the school district. The plan will allow centralization of the computer networks, an upgrade of the network infrastructure in the schools, and provide more reliability and security of the computer system.
Requests for computer upgrades had been rejected in the past elections. Voters stated that they wanted to see a more comprehensive plan for consideration. This plan is already in place with the town, and according to Viger, it works well.
The plan is a three-year plan, to ensure that the necessary work can be completed. Right now, voters are being asked to fund the first year of the program, which will cost $188,333. In the next two years, voters will be asked to approve the remainder of the money to complete the plan, which will cost $188,333 for each year. By putting forward a three-year plan, the school district hopes to avoid the inconsistent support of technology upgrades.
The plan introduces “thin-client” technology, which will allow the school district to save money when replacing computers. Further, with the upgrades and centralization, maintenance of the systems will be simplified and more cost-efficient. Conrad reminded voters that with standardized testing now moving toward computers, it was necessary to have the required number of computers available to the students.
The technology assessment, which describes the current computer system, as well as the technology plan, which sets forth the plans for the next three years, is available on the Internet on the town webpage for the public to review.
Article 17 - Child Benefit Services to St. Patrick's School?
Article 17 requests $52,374 to provide certain services to the students at St. Patrick's School in Pelham. These services include a nurse, a substitute nurse, the lunch program, required testing materials, and textbooks. Pelham voters have supported similar articles for over 30 years. There are 152 students from Pelham that attend K - 8 at St. Patrick's School, which is about 2/3 of the total enrollment.
Scanzani wanted to clarify this article for the voters.
Although similar articles have always passed, he noted that the margin by which they passed was getting smaller. He was concerned that voters did not understand what was being requested.
Under federal guidelines, Level 2 services, such as nursing services, must be provided to every student in town, regardless of whether they go to the public school or a private, religious based school. This does not violate separation of church and state laws.
Further, if St. Patrick's were ever to close, due to the lack of support of the town, Pelham schools would have to absorb the 120 students attending grades 1 - 8.
This would require more classes being added to the budget in order to preserve current teacher-student ratios. Given the service being provided to the town of Pelham by St. Patrick's, Scanzani urged voters to support Article 17.
Nearly 100 Pelham residents attended the School Deliberative Session.