47th annual Item Santa drive kicks off today

LYNN – Today fundraising begins for the 47th Annual Salvation Army Item Santa drive, and your help is especially needed since, due to the much later Thanksgiving this year than last, there are six fewer collection days before Christmas.Beginning today and into the New Year, donations of any amount are greatly appreciated to help ensure thousands of Lynn and Lynn area children in need will not be forgotten on Christmas Day.The annual drive, with the help of major sponsors including GE Good Neighbors, Connell Limited Partnership and David Solimine Sr.?s Santa Island collection teams, has raised more than $100,000 for 17 consecutive years. All of the money goes directly to provide for families in need – toys for children, a holiday meal for every family approved for assistance, and garments and shoes for some.Item Santa had its biggest fundraising year in 2002, with donations of $144,880, topping 2001?s total by just $10. The last several years, even as the region slowly recovered from recession, more than $110,000 has been raised in each. That?s quite a difference from 47 years ago when the first Item Santa drive raised $3,269 – just $23,564 in 2013 dollars – to provide holiday meals to families in need, delivered by a handful of Item managers and volunteers.The Item Santa drive grew exponentially after The Item teamed with The Salvation Army about 10 years into to the program.Last year, Item Santa received $110,591.04 in donations, again proving that generosity abounds in Lynn and Greater Lynn. The 2012 drive provided gifts to 3,241 children; 1,625 families received a holiday dinner (a large turkey); food baskets were given to 250 families; and garments and shoes were provided to 375 people.As of Wednesday morning, on the last day to apply for assistance from Item Santa this season, 950 families had registered. Salvation Army Capt. Marika Payton of the Lynn Salvation Army office, 1 Franklin St., said she anticipated more than 1,000 families to register by the end of the day.?This year we ordered even more toys than last, as it looks like that every year we are distributing toys for more and more children,” Payton said. “So, this year we will probably spend $10,000 more on toys than last year, just because we do not want to run out of toys for different ages.”While The Item spearheads fundraising and publicity for the drive, the Salvation Army runs the program and distributes age-appropriate children?s gifts to parents and guardians (two toys per child), during a weeklong distribution period in mid-December. This year distribution will be by appointment from Dec. 16-18. Again this year, each family approved for help will also receive a voucher for a large turkey from Stop & Shop.?People have consistently shown great generosity to the Item Santa Fund,” said Peter H. Gamage, publisher of The Daily Item. “We look forward to everyone who has the means to contribute whatever they can.”The cause has greatly benefited from several major donors in recent years, but most of the money raised is from those who contribute small amounts in memory of a loved one, in the name of a family member or friend, or in lieu of trading gifts with family and friends.Every donation is listed in The Item and every donor, regardless of the amount given, may have a message printed as well.Meanwhile, collectors and collection teams are being scheduled for Santa Island on Broadway and Wyoma Square, which was founded 17 years ago by David Solimine Sr.?We?re scheduling people to collect during daylight hours. We really don?t want anyone out there after 4 p.m. because after dark it?s too dangerous,” Solimine said.Several years ago Solimine expanded the Santa Island effort to sell Item Santa stockings in restaurants, pubs and other businesses. Green stockings are available for a $1 donation; red for a $5 donation, and the stocking with donor?s name is posted on the wall of the participating business through the season.?We?ve had some restaurants, bars and social

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