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John's Story

Spend an hour with John Nitanga and you'll be inspired. His family survived the genocide in Rwanda and spent 13 years in a refugee camp in Tanzania. After enduring deplorable conditions, John's family had the opportunity to come to the United States. Arriving here as a young student, John had never spoke English before. Soon, he enrolled in the Bring It! program that he credits with changing his life. He learned the English language, benefited from the specialized program for refugees and excelled in soccer.

After graduating from high school and becoming a United States citizen he became a Loaned Executive for Granite United Way. "I am happy to give back to the community that gave me so much," said John. "There are many stories like mine. I want to make sure there is access to programs and services so that other young people have the opportunity I did."

He's not showing any signs of stopping. This fall he's enrolled to obtain his Bachelor's degree at Southern New Hampshire University. We can't wait to see how bright John's future will be.

 

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Pammy's Story

The Upper Valley is home to a unique community initiative that is aimed at promoting workplace stability for low to moderate wage earners. Eleven companies have joined the Work United program, offering it as an added benefit to their employees. Workers have access to skilled, on-site, Resource Coordinators who are on hand to help them navigate life’s tougher issues that could potentially derail them on the job and put them out of work.

In addition to one-on-one time with Resource Coordinators, Work United offers employees access to emergency funding through a Loan/Savings Benefit program. Employees in good standing (and having worked at least one year in the company) may borrow up to $1,000, to be paid back through payroll deduction. When the loan is paid off, unless the employee stops the process, their payroll deduction continues, funding a savings account for that individual. A thousand dollars isn’t necessarily like winning the lottery, but in an emergency, it can be a real lifesaver. In one case it not only saved a life but completely turned it around.

Three years ago a local worker, Pammy, contacted Work United Recourse Coordinator, Pru Pease, with a dire situation. She had recently been promoted in her job to a management level position and relocated to a new city. While she was doing quite well on the job, things in her personal life were dissolving quickly. Without warning, her partner of seven years broke off their relationship putting Pammy out of their apartment. Despite her success at work, she did not have sufficient savings to move into a new apartment nor did she have friends and family close by to help out. (Landlords typically ask for a deposit plus first and last month’s rent for new tenants. That can be a financial burden of over $2,000!) In the blink of an eye, Pammy was left homeless, living out of her car.

Fortunately, her employer was participating in the Work United program and Pammy was able to access an emergency loan of $1,000 to help her secure a place to live. With the housing crisis managed, she was able to maintain stability at work and continue to build a new life for herself. A year later she contacted Pru again to request another loan. This time was less dire but important, nonetheless. Her first loan had been paid off, but the housing crisis of the previous year left her in credit card debt and she hoped this new loan would be a way to pay down her cards and rebuild her credit. She was granted her new loan and began her journey toward a debt-free life.

This past summer, Pammy contacted Pru again to request what was to be her third loan. Pru was baffled – what could she need another loan for? Things seemed to be going well for Pammy – she’s rebuilt her credit. She’s paid off her debt. She’s thriving at work. What’s the problem? 

This time the emergency wasn’t a crisis, it a happy situation. This time she needed help paying for the incidental expenses that come from buying a new home. In just three years, Pammy went from homelessness to homeowner. 

You don’t need to win the lottery to win your life back. Sometimes you just need a little boost to get you through – when life happens.

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CAPHN Team Vaccinates over 1,300 Educators in One Day

When it comes to getting things done, the Capital Area Public Health Network (CAPHN) knows how to deliver. 

And deliver they did when they pulled together a large-scale vaccine clinic and vaccinated over 1,300 local educators and childcare providers.

CAPHN is an initiative of Granite United Way and is one of the three public health networks the organization oversees. On Sunday, March 21, 2021, educators and childcare staff entered the former Sears store at the Steeplegate Mall in Concord to receive their long-awaited shot. Hundreds of local school system employees were able to access the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“This was a tremendous effort to bring the vaccine to our school systems,” said Shannon Bresaw, Vice President of Public Health for Granite United Way. “Our public health network team has been working closely with the state to ensure distribution of the vaccine as quickly and efficiently as possible. This clinic is an exceptional example of how we have been able to put years of planning into motion.”

The clinic was led by Mary Reed, Assistant Vice President of Public Health, and Stacey Elliott, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness & Response for CAPHN.  Both Reed and Elliott have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since it began a year ago.

“We have been working in close coordination with our local, regional, and State public health and emergency management partners on pandemic response efforts.   “Our ability to  leverage partnerships and resources, including recruitment of dedicated medical and non-medical volunteers made the clinic a success and will result in a safer school environment for our educators.”

The clinic mobilized over 65 volunteers who kept everything running smoothly from registration to vaccination and the observation point at the end. 

“This is a momentous occasion, that’s all I could think as I was waiting with everyone here,” said Patti Osgood from SAU24 in Henniker who received her vaccination from Ben Carter of the Loudon Fire Department. “We are all so grateful.”

David and Morgan Salathe were among those participating in the clinic on Sunday. They are husband and wife team who work at Proctor Academy. “We are so thankful this is available, and thankful for the volunteers helping out today!”

Donna Zecha from the Concord School District was beyond excited to be receiving the vaccine. “We have all been taking selfies today. This means more than you can imagine to our staff!"


To learn more about the important work CAPHN is doing in the community, visit www.capitalareaphn.org.

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A Volunteer Story: Pastor Shannon Keeney

Senior Pastor Shannon Diana Keeney of First United Methodist Church in Littleton, NH views Granite United Way as “one of those organizations that stands out as a positive force in our communities.” She sees United Way as the backbone of many non-profits.
 
“As a clergy, I notice that Granite United Way has taken some of the roles the church used to hold and has become a place of refuge and support. Today is a different, complex world, and we need so many entry points to address the overwhelming obstacles people face. Addiction, poverty, illiteracy, the list can be overwhelming, but United Way is about more than surviving, it is about thriving. The very name "United Way" reminds us we cannot make our neighborhoods better on our own; we need each other to thrive.”
 
Pastor Shannon began her journey with United Way by volunteering. When serving on the Board of the Littleton Chamber of Commerce, Pastor Shannon heard an engaging presentation by a local United Way representative. Upon learning about United Way's work, Pastor Shannon realized that she wanted to be a part of its mission to bring hope to the North Country.

Pastor Shannon’s volunteer experience with United Way furthered her understanding of the network of social systems in our communities. “Sometimes as a leader of a care organization you forget you aren’t in this alone. Granite United Way says ‘let us help you’, which can be a shock to a non-profit. United Way has, once again, reminded me that we are parts of a body and it isn’t our job to ‘save everyone’ but together we can ‘help quite a few.’”
 
Working on Granite United Way's Upper Valley CIC has brought much joy to Pastor Shannon. “To be able to give money instead of always seeking money is refreshing. It is so soul nurturing to listen to how people and groups are giving back and to say ‘yes, we need to help fund their cause.’ The CIC allows the other board members and me to share in the joy.”
 
“United Way isn’t afraid of being positive. There are too many groups which send people away and it is nice to see a team that welcomes them in.”

 

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Summer Baseball in the Upper Valley: America’s pastime saves the day

One local mom recounts a game that reconnected her community and boosted spirits for young and old alike.

It was so great to have summer baseball back again. Who would have thought we would miss waking up at 6:00am on a Saturday, sweating at the baseball diamond all day, only to wake up and do it all again on Sunday? But a great group of kids pulled together a team we didn't think we would have this summer to pull of the game of their lifetime. It’s the story the Lebanon All-Star team will be telling at their 20-year reunion.

It was a hot day; the kids had been at the field for over eight hours and unfortunately two of their best players were unable to attend the game. We were down by one run, going into the bottom of 9th inning, which is three extra innings in little league. They had played so hard and were so tired, they were out of pitchers (little league has strict pitching rules), but they were cheering their hearts out for each kid that got up to bat and the parents were cheering even harder. 

Through some hits and walks my son, Andrew, got up with bases loaded. The team needed him to score these runs. The team was running on empty and both kids after him had struck out all day. The energy was high with parents and players of the other teams joining in to see what everyone was cheering about. It was a huge crowd. Andrew immediately got 2 strikes and then fouled off the next few pitches. Finally, he hit the ball to right field, the right fielder tried to make a diving catch, but it was the perfect hit and both runners scored, winning the game on a walk-off. 

They went on to lose the next game of the tournament, but that game, when they were down going into the last inning, never giving up and cheering their hearts out for every player, is what we missed during covid. The parents reconnecting and spending time together every weekend, even the early mornings or in New England, the cold evenings, we appreciated being together even more after the past year of not being able to sit together at games.

 

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Donor Spotlight: Henry Peterson

Henry Peterson learned about United Way when he started his first job right out of college. When filling out his paperwork with Human Resources, he came across the workplace giving option. HR explained to him that this was optional, but 100% of the employees at the company participated in United Way’s workplace giving. From that day on, Henry chose to donate to United Way for 64 years and counting.

Throughout his career, Henry worked in several banks across Connecticut and New Hampshire. He continued to donate, serve as a chairman of the board, a member of several committees, and was a participant in the Loaned Executive program where he assisted with United Way campaigns. 

Since Henry was a kid, his father always encouraged him to be involved. “Since I remember, my Dad would tell me that if I live a good life, I should make other people’s lives good too.”

Henry recognizes the importance of the work that United Way does and encourages others to give as well. “United Way supports so many organizations. If you are looking to give back, donating to United Way is a great way to reach the needs in your community.” 

Granite United Way is honored to have a donor like Henry Peterson who has been one of our longest-giving leadership donors to date. His generosity throughout the years has provided United Ways across Connecticut and New Hampshire the support to make a difference in our communities.

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Joe Kenney: Teaching Leadership Across Generations

Meet Joe Kenney.


He is a husband, father of three, and a Penacook resident with a long professional career in banking. Do not let his title as a Senior Vice President, Commercial Lending Officer at the Provident Bank fool you, Joe is no stranger to understanding what it takes to drive youth success and community well-being for residents in Merrimack County. With more than thirty years of giving back and volunteering with United Way, Joe has kept his thumb on the pulse of complex community needs and is committed to being a part of the solution by volunteering his time and talents. He has seen how United Way has grown and adapted over the years to continually improve the way it serves and supports residents of Merrimack County, much like his own personal journey as a volunteer. 


Joe gave his first gift in 1996 and got outside of the office to volunteer at a local nonprofit during United Way’s “Day of Caring.” Joe volunteered at the Penacook Community Center where he developed a profoundly new and meaningful perspective of the service it provides and how many people it supports. The Penacook Community Center provides high-quality education and development programs for people in every age and stage of life.  He was shown that there was a deep need for these programs in his home community and that the Center continued to serve more and more people, even when facing very limited resources. For Joe, one day of volunteering evolved into a longer-term commitment to the organization and a position on the Center’s board of directors. 


Becoming inspired and invested in the mission of a nonprofit begins to reveal how significant volunteers, donations, and grants are to the sustainability of the organization. Joe could see how his contributions to United Way changed and improved the lives of families who relied on the community center. He then volunteered for two years as a United Way campaign chair, helping to educate, connect, and grow the number of people and businesses who support local nonprofits by contributing through Granite United Way. Joe then moved on to volunteer on United Way’s Community Impact Committee, where he joined a team of volunteers who oversee and determine exactly how the United Way will steward and strategically invest Merrimack County’s contributions so that it can make the most meaningful impacts in the community. 


What began as simply contributing a gift and signing up for a day of volunteering blossomed into an entire lifestyle committed to understanding and addressing the complex issues for an entire community. Joe shared with us that he has seen how Granite United Way has shifted its working model to focus on building collaborative partnerships that drive impact and long-term solutions. He see’s his role on the Community Impact Committee as being a trusted investor of the community’s grant dollars and takes the responsibility of using those dollars to change people’s lives for the better, very seriously. 


His commitment must be contagious, because Joe’s daughter, Logan, crafted her senior high school project to volunteer on Granite United Way’s grant review team. She spent many hours reading grant applications from local nonprofits and attended meetings discussing Merrimack County’s community needs and the merits of each application. Joe did not participate in that year’s grant review team and was proud that his daughter committed to the process. He shared that the experience gave her a new perspective on the needs in her community and gave her valuable insight when she later worked in a WIC dental clinic. 


Here at Granite United Way, we are thrilled to support a culture of philanthropy in New Hampshire and Vermont’s families and to provide the opportunity for any citizen to give back and get involved. This year Joe Kenney takes his next step in partnering with Granite United Way by joining our board of directors. Thank you, Joe, for your significant contributions and commitment to the United Way family!

 

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Northern NH Families Benefit from Granite United Way and Headstart Partnership

Head Start, a Tri-County Community Action Program (TCCAP), is a federally funded preschool for 3-5-year-old children in low-income households. This program offers preschool experiences that develop school readiness skills such as emergent literacy, problem-solving, and decision making. With 217 families served in Carroll, Coos, and Grafton county, they provide ongoing support to these children and their families in areas of literacy, continuing education, and personal and family development. 

When COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, Headstart transitioned to a remote and hybrid model. For many of their families, the pandemic raised concerns about food insecurity, mental health, and homelessness due to job loss.

TCCAP has pivoted to address these needs and fully support families where they need it the most. While remote, staff and volunteers had prepared and delivered meals to Headstart families to ensure they were receiving breakfast and lunch. In July, they had a 6-week program for the children that were moving up to kindergarten to make sure they were prepared for the transition. 

TCCAP has remained a strong partner with Granite United Way over the years. In the fall of 2020, the Headstart programs received Velcro blocks from a generous donation received by Granite United Way from Velcro. 

“The Velcro blocks helped with motor and tactile skills for our Headstart children, as well as helping build their imagination,” Sue Blanchard from TCCAP of Berlin, NH says. “Each child was able to have their own set in the classroom and will be able to bring it home at the end of the year.”

The Headstart program also received breakfast food items from Granite United Way’s Smart Start Cereal Drive, a food drive launched in September of 2020 to help reduce food insecurity throughout New Hampshire. 

“With the Smart Start Cereal Drive donations, we were able to feed all of our families,” explained Blanchard. “These donations came at a time of need where food insecurity was a big piece during COVID-19.”

Almost a year later and their family workers and teachers continue to keep a strong relationship with the Headstart families. From checking in during drop-off and pick-up times to a scheduled Zoom meeting, each staff member is there to ensure that the families are receiving the support and services they need.

For more information about Headstart or the other programs and services offered by TCCAP, please visit www.tccap.org.

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How one small business makes a big impact in their community

Lucien Blais of Bisson’s Sugar House was introduced to Granite United Way about 45 years ago. In the 1970s, Lucien worked as an adult services social worker for Health and Human Services in Berlin, NH. It was then that he heard about Granite United Way, the work that they do, and how he could start to give through payroll deduction. 

In 1988, Lucien left his employment to take over his family business but continued to have an interest in helping others. For 15 years he has served on the Board of Directors of the then Berlin United Way, Granite United Way’s Northern Region Community Impact Committee, and has continued to be a strong supporter in the Northern Region. 

Blais shared that he and his wife, Muriel, always felt a need to give back and to be a part of their community.

“We have been blessed with education, employment, and good health,” explained Blais. “We always felt a need to give back what we received from our community and Granite United Way has provided us with a way to do that.” 

Along with serving on multiple boards, Blais volunteers for Granite United Way events as much as he can. He has been involved in several Days of Caring, community clean-ups, and food drives over the years. He and his wife also took their passion for gardening to the next level to give back to their community. Calling it their “Ministry Garden”, they grew and sold vegetables to their community members during the pandemic. And what did they do with the profits? They were donated to two local food pantries.

Blais shared that during the pandemic, the community of Berlin struggled with food insecurity.

“We are very isolated in the North Country and have been considered a ‘food desert’,” says Blais. “But during the pandemic we had the NH Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry come several times and provided a substantial amount of food to our community, school bus drivers delivered food to families when school went remote, the Community Café serve about 300 families per week, and the two local food pantries continue to serve anyone that comes through their doors.”

Bisson’s Sugar House serves as an integral part of the Northern Region community. The business has been passed down for three generations and will be celebrating its centennial this year. Blais attributes the success of his business to their quality products as well as their family’s local volunteer efforts.

“It’s important to us that Bisson’s Sugar House supports Granite United Way because we see where the money is going. As a committee member, I also get to decide where the money goes,” explained Blais.

Granite United Way is honored to have Lucien Blais and the Bisson’s Sugar House as a supporter and active member in the North Country. We look forward to working together to make our community stronger!

To learn more about the Bisson’s Sugar House, visit www.bissonssugarhouse.com

 

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Reconnection is the boost we all need!

Ask anyone who works for a nonprofit and they’ll tell you that sometimes you need a little boost – a reminder of why you are there and how it’s making a difference. When things shut down in March of 2020 the needs of our communities were magnified. By April, everyone was feeling positively overwhelmed. It was a time when we all needed each other yet we had to stay apart. When it is your job to make connections and build relationships, isolation can be a real barrier.

Sarah McCluskey, Senior Director of Donor Relations at Granite United Way, was excited to finally reconnect – in person – with the donors she’d come to know so well over the years, “It's been so nice to see people in person again... it makes things feel ‘normal.’"

Later in the summer she had a chance to tour three of the Youth Enrichment Partnership agencies to see first-hand the impact of United Way investments. “It really helped to solidify my understanding of the work and reignite my passion!” Sarah said.

How has reconnecting with others helped you? Tell us how you’ve been reenergized!

 

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Half a Century of Giving

Ellie (Goodwin) Cochran, a lifetime Manchester resident, recently celebrated a remarkable milestone. 2021 marks her 50th year as a proud supporter and volunteer for United Way. Ellie’s commitment to her community and public service is inherent. One could say that her involvement with United Way runs in the family.  


Ellie’s parents, the late David and Dorothy Goodwin, were heavily involved with United Way as donors and volunteers. They were members of United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society, a group of donors who generously contribute $10,000 or more annually to the United Way campaign. They also volunteered on several United Way committees and were honored for their efforts. One of Ellie’s earliest memories as a child is helping her parents assemble annual campaign packets for the Community Chest (United Way’s original name).  As she grew up, her parents always encouraged her that “if we stay in the community, we need to be a part of what goes on here.” Ellie says, “United Way made that very easy to do.”


Ellie was introduced to volunteering for United Way during her senior year at the Derryfield School. When she graduated college, she started working for the New Hampshire Telephone Company and began her journey as a United Way donor. It was not long after this that she was invited to join the United Way Loaned Executive Program. Soon after, Ellie was asked to serve as a member of the United Way Board. Ellie and her husband, David, eventually joined her parents and other donors as members of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society.


Ellie organized the United Way campaigns during her careers at both the Derryfield School and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. “I had no idea that my future career would be philanthropy,” she said. “But working with the United Way and being on the Board opened that up for me in a whole different way.”


In addition to her career in philanthropy, Ellie took the values that her parents instilled in her and raised her two children, Sarah and Andrew, with those same values. She acknowledges the importance of encouraging the younger generation to give back and form relationships with members of their community and others across the state. 


Fifty years later, Ellie continues to donate to Granite United Way and encourages others to do the same. She also works tirelessly to give back to the Manchester community in any way that she can. “I feel really lucky to be given the opportunity to give back to my community.”


Granite United Way is extremely honored to have Ellie’s support over the last fifty years. Her hard work and dedication have made a lasting impact on our community. 

Click Here to learn more about Ellie's giving legacy 

 

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Building Bridges with New Neighbors

Have you ever been the “new guy” in the group? You don’t know the rules or how things work – it can be an unsettling feeling. It takes welcoming, understanding friends to help bridge that gap to make you feel comfortable and at ease in your new surroundings.

Building bridges is not new to the Work United team. Most of their client visits involve helping people navigate in new surroundings, learning the ropes, and getting comfortable with unfamiliar situations. It is an important skill for a resource coordinator to have, and the Upper Valley team are experts!

Each year Work United offers one-on-one tax preparation assistance to dozens of clients in need. In many cases, clients are getting back a refund (sometimes quite sizable) that will make a big difference in their household budget. This year was no different except that many of the clients seeking assistance with tax preparation were new Americans.

Remember that “new guy” feeling we talked about – add IRS tax rules and a second language to that and you’ve gone from unsettling to downright terrifying! Paying taxes isn’t unique to the United States, but learning the system is a task that few look forward to in the very best of circumstances. 

Edwin and his family moved to the United States from the Republic of Ghana in late 2019 and was faced with American taxes for the first time this year. His colleague at work introduced him to Pru Pease, the Director of the Work United initiative in the Upper Valley.

“She didn’t do it for me, she guided me and I was able to do it myself,” said Edwin of his time working with Pru. “At first I was afraid I was going to do it wrong – make a mistake - fill in the wrong numbers. But my Pru made it so easy for me. In Ghana, the system is totally different. We only pay income taxes and there is never a refund,” he said.

You can imagine his surprise when he saw the sizable return he got. It was enough to put towards a down payment on a home that he and his family hope to buy next year. Until then, they will keep saving and planning for the big purchase.

Edwin’s story is not unusual. The prospect of facing the IRS for the first time can be daunting for new Americans but Work United was there this year to help. It is their hope that next year, those who were helped this year can go on to help others! 

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Who is that Masked Hero? A story of reconnection in the North Country

Volunteering is an important part of fabric of every community. In the North Country volunteers were making it happen before COVID hit and continued their hard work through the pandemic. The masks went on and the work continued!

Area Manager, Nanci Carney, shared a story of connection (and re-connection) that everyone can relate to. “I've been volunteering with the NH Mobile Food Pantries since the pandemic started. Last week for the first time we were all allowed to stop wearing masks. A food bank employee walked by me, stopped, read my name tag and said ‘Holy cow Nanci! We've been working together for over a year, and this is the first time I've seen you're face!’ It's so good to finally get to see people!”

Many thanks to our masked (and un-masked) heroes out there. Volunteers are getting the job done! Take a minute to share your story with us. How have you reconnected with folks in your community? We’d love to hear from you.

 

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A Champion of the Northern Region

One of the Northern Region’s most consistent advocates has been Corinne Cascadden, who recently retired as Superintendent of the Berlin School System. Her dedication and spirit inspired students across the community to embrace education and leverage the opportunities it brings.


Corinne is a strong partner with Granite United Way, and worked diligently to bring the innovative silent reading program, Reading Plus®, to middle and high school students across the district. This program has been incredibly successful in improving literacy skills in students, with hundreds of students improving two content levels. In just one academic year 20 students went from off-track to on track in reading.


Corinne served the region as an elementary school principal for over 20 years and as superintendent for 10 years. This year Granite United Way proud to present Corinne with the LIVE UNITED Award during their Northern Region Celebration.


“Granite United Way is fortunate to have such an advocate for education in our Northern Region,” said Laura Boucher, Northern Region Manager. “Her dedication to education and the students in our community will undoubtedly affect generations of Northern Region families.”

 

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Raise a “Toast” to Reconnecting!

Everyone has had different ways of reconnecting this summer as COVID19 restrictions shifted and the world became more open. For some it was a face-to-face meeting with a client or coworker. For others it was an evening out with friends. Some folks took it a step farther…Can you imagine waking up on a Saturday morning and sharing breakfast with 300 of your friends? That’s just what folks in the Northern Region did! 


It had been a long time since the community had come together and during the extended quarantine, new neighbors had come to town. What better way to greet old friends and meet new ones than over a stack of blueberry pancakes? The Northern Region Community Impact Committee volunteered at a Community Breakfast hosted by Harvest Christian Fellowship, the Community Cafe , the Feeding Hope Food Pantry and the Salvation Army. Over 300 people were served a Blueberry Pancake Breakfast complete with Bacon, eggs, sausage, home fries and toast. It was a great way for the Community to reconnect and spend some time together.


Did you reconnect with old friends and new this summer? We’d love to hear about your reconnections. Drop us a line and share your story.

 

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