The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Groups helping kids

• Big Brothers Big Sisters (25 Lowell St., Manchester, 669-5365; 33 Main St., Nashua, 883-4851, is a nationwide organization focused on mentoring youth, primarily children from single-parent homes. Volunteers spend a minimum of four hours a month with the child they are matched with.

• Boys & Girls Club (55 Bradley St., Concord, 224-1061,; 40 Hampstead Road, Derry, 434-6695,; 555 Union St., Manchester, 625-5031,; 56 Mont Vernon Road, Milford, 672-1002,; 47 Grand Ave., Nashua, 883-0523,; 3 Geremonty Drive, Salem, 898-7709, provides youth development programs for children ages 6 to 18 after school and during the summer.

• Boy Scouts of America (571 Holt Ave., Manchester, 625-6431,; Bedford,; Merrimack,; Nashua,; Salem, is an organization dedicated to instilling values in young men and preparing them to make ethical choices.

• Child and Family Services of NH (464 Chestnut St., Manchester, 518-4000, focuses on the well-being of children by providing social services. The organization also offers support groups for parents and families.

• The Cinderella Project of New Hampshire (266 Deerfield Road, Allenstown, 210-1415, collects donated new and gently worn formal dresses and distributes them to financially disadvantaged high school students so they can attend their high school formal in style.

• Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) (138 Coolidge Ave., Manchester, 626-4600, recruits volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children. Volunteers work with families, social workers and the justice system to put children in safe, permanent homes.

• Girls Inc. (39 Green St., Concord, 223-0087; 340 Varney St., Manchester, 623-1117; 27 Burke St., Nashua, 882-6256, is a nonprofit organization that empowers young girls and needs volunteers to read, share talents in class, tutor or help with homework.

• Girl Scouts (One Commerce Dr., Bedford, 627-4158,; Bedford,; Chester,; Pelham, is an organization that strives to build courage, confidence and character in girls.

• Goodwill GoodGuides (Manchester, 625-5471; Concord, 369-3010) recruits volunteer mentors to work with youth ages 13 through 17 who are at risk for making harmful choices such as dropping out of school or are at risk for delinquency.

• Make A Wish (814 Elm St., Suite 300, Manchester, 623-9474, grants wishes to eligible children ages 2½ to 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

• March of Dimes NH (228-0317) focuses on research, community services, education and advocacy to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

• Nashua PAL Bingo Anyone who can spare one Wednesday night per month to benefit Nashua’s inner-city kids can volunteer at Nashua PAL Bingo. The dollars raised sustain the programs offered to kids at the Nashua Police Athletic League (PAL). Call the PAL volunteer coordinator at 566-4515 or e-mail

• Special Olympics (650 Elm St., Manchester, 624-1250, hosts athletic competitions and provides year-round sports training for children (and adults) with disabilities. The Special Olympics also offers a Young Athletes Program designed for children ages 2 to 7.

• Speedway Children’s Charity (New Hampshire Motor Speedway, 1122 Route 106 North, Loudon, 513-5738, raises money to help children in need, whether it be educational, financial or medical, lead productive lives.

• Spiral Scouts (588-4219, is a co-ed scouting group that promotes the idea of children and parents working together. The club also focuses on religious tolerance, interfaith cooperation, personal responsibility and ecological education and conservation.

• YMCA (30 Mechanic St., Manchester, 623-3558,; 116 Goffstown Back Road, Goffstown, 497-4663,; 206 Rockingham Road, Londonderry, 437-9622,; 24 Stadium Drive, Nashua, 882-2011,; 6 Henry Clay Drive, Merrimack, 881-7778,; 15 N. State St., Concord, 228-9622, focuses on youth development, physical health and wellness, healthy living and responsibility.

• YWCA (72 Concord St., Manchester, 625-5785; 6 W. Broadway, Derry, 432-2687, works with at-risk children and their parents and caregivers and offers programs that focus on prevention. The organization also offers two Victim Services programs, one to provide support for victims of sexual violence and another to provide supervised visitation for safe parent-child interaction.

Granting wishes
Kids’ groups seek to make dreams come true


When chief executive officer Julie Baron joined the Make A Wish Foundation NH staff seven years ago, the organization was granting 40 wishes a year. Now the group averages 90 wishes annually and is getting ready to grant its 1,000 wish in January, exactly 25 years after its first wish-granting.

“We’re on a mission not to stop until every child in New Hampshire that is eligible each year gets a wish,” Baron said. “That’s our goal. We’re working toward that and the more community support we get, the more we get to do that.”

Like most youth-focused organizations and charities, the Make A Wish Foundation is heavily reliant on donations from the communities it serves. The organization had a fundraising goal of $1.6 million this year, an amount Baron said it is nowhere near reaching.

“I’m sure I’m in the same spot as everyone else where we need donations to grant wishes,” Baron said. Children ages 2½ to 18, if referred to the program by their 18th birthday, who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition are eligible to have their “one heartfelt wish” granted, Baron said. Wishes costs an average of $10,000 and are granted by the organization every two and a half days.

A play area in a back yard or a playhouse is only one example of a popular wish among the children served by the Make A Wish Foundation. To make the wish a reality, the organization, primarily volunteers, works with the community and contractors to build the playhouse and a reveal party is planned. A playhouse built for a child last summer boasted two floors, a reading room, a kitchen, 14 windows and furniture.

“We try to under-promise and over-deliver,” Baron said. “It’s a memory and something special the children will have that’s all their own.”

Donations to Make A Wish tend to be lower in the winter months as donors often have many charities to choose from, Baron said. The winter months — January, February and March — are also the busiest time for the organization as it tries to plan most of its wishes for February school vacation.

The Concord Boys & Girls Club has been able to raise more money in recent years through labor-intensive methods targeting individual donors “versus one government contract that might come and go,” said Christopher Emond, executive director. And while in the last two years the club has opened a satellite location in Warner and started an environmental services program for high school students, at the end of the day the club still needs more funding, he said.

The philosophy of the Boys & Girls Club is to charge minimal fees to maintain its accessibility to the youth who benefit from its services, Emond said. Many Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States are able to charge as little as $5 a year to its neediest members. The Concord branch of the organization is unable to do that and has instead implemented a weekly fee format.

“It’s OK if you can’t pay but there are a lot of people that are so proud that when they can’t afford the fee, they just stop going,” Emond said. “Those are the ones we worry about the most.”

Emond said this has been the busiest year at the club in a long time but that part of it is a result of successful fundraising, which has allowed for more needy children to enroll in its programming.

“There is a lot of need out there … there are truly some pocket neighborhoods up here that are really experiencing some bad times,” Emond said.

Fees at the club start at $60 a week and in some cases are reduced to $5 a week, an amount that most assume to be affordable but Emond said when users of the club have more than one child benefiting from its services, the financial difficulty increases.

“They literally have to pick and choose which of their kids go to the club,” he said.

The Boys & Girls Club is more than a childcare center, Emond noted. The club is a safe place for children in that it provides a nourishing environment that is safe from bullying and abusive home situations. It is also a place where children can express themselves. The club tries to provide the youth it serves with adult role models and opportunities that they might not have been otherwise privy to ? the club annually awards one student a four-year scholarship to attend Bishop Brady High School.

“When you don’t have a lot of money your world is very closed,” Emond said. “It’s your house, it’s your school, it’s your neighborhood … how you show kids there is a lot more opportunity than just their small little world is by giving them opportunities at the club.”

“People say, ‘Where does your money go?’ Those three areas are what the funds go to support,” he said.

Like the Concord Boys & Girls Club, the YMCAs in Nashua and Merrimack have seen more families needing financial support to take advantage of services and programs.

“Fortunately we can be here to be able to help them,” said Michael LaChance, chief executive officer of the Nashua and Merrimack YMCAs. “We try not to turn anybody away because of their inability to pay.”

The Nashua YMCA has tripled the number of families it serves since opening a new facility six months ago, and LaChance said it has been serving more people with financial needs than ever before.

The YMCA offers a sliding fee scale for struggling families year-round, and during the holidays a giving tree is set up at both the Nashua and Merrimack locations. Members of the community can stop by the facility and select a tag from the tree bearing a gift request (most are in the $20-to-$30 range, LaChance said) for the children of those needy families.

“We typically serve 300 children each holiday season,” LaChance said of the giving tree. “It’s fantastic to see the parents come in a couple of days before Christmas to pick up the gifts that members of the community brought in for their children ? the expressions on their face.”

To be eligible for financial assistance and for the gift drive, families must present documentation to show there is truly a need, LaChance said. “People don’t just wander in off the street,” he added.

When families get busy it can be difficult for them to make sure their children have everything they need in terms of support services, leaving organizations like the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club to step in to provide such services as homework assistance and expand on other basic school skills, Emond said.

LaChance said he has seen an increase in children visiting the facility after school, as their parents have had to pick up an extra job to stay afloat.

“After-school hours are the riskiest hours of the day in terms of trouble,” LaChance said. “Those are the most unsupervised times [for kids].”

The Nashua and Merrimack YMCAs have been able to raise a total of $1 million from members and the community over the last three years to provide financial assistance for those in need, LaChance said.

“There are always more things we could do as youth serving organizations,” LaChance said. “You never have enough money to be able to do everything you want to do.”

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