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Hosptial Auxiliary hosts annual Tree of Love service

LACONIA — The Lakes Region General Hospital Auxiliary's annual Tree of Love Service of Remembrance was held at the hospital Thursday afternoon.
The event was held at the Tree of Love, which was set up near the hospital's gift shop and the tree was adorned with angels crafted by local school children to honor and remember living and lost family and friends.
During a brief ceremony, which opened and ended with prayers delivered by Rev. Michael Graham of the Gilford Community Church, members of the auxiliary read the names of the 321 people who were represented by the angels on the tree.
Scott Clarenbach, chairman of the board of trustees of LRGHealthcare, said that the annual ceremony is ''a great holiday tradition which is very beneficial'' and is a true reflection of the auxiliary's ''care, compassion and community.''
Following the reading of the names, the auxiliary provided light refreshments and punch to those who attended, many of whom were relatives of those whom were being remembered.

Rev. Michael Graham of the Gilford Community Church speaks at the annual Lakes Region General Hospital Auxiliary's annual Tree of Service of Remembrance held at the hospital Thursday. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 12 December 2014 01:45

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VFW's Christmas tree generosity appreciated

LACONIA — Susan Karr says that she is overwhelmed by the generosity being shown by the Laconia Post 1670 VFW, which earlier this week bought a Christmas tree for her and her grandsons and has invited them to attend a special Children's Christmas party at the post on Saturday afternoon.
''I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for helping us with a tree for the holidays. It's just wonderful what they've done for us and the children in the area,'' says Karr.
She and her grandsons, Tyler Fournier, 10, and Alex Fournier, 7, were brought to the post Wednesday by a friend, Nathaniel Spooner, to pick up their tree.
''They're so excited. They attended last year's party and they still talk about it. They can't wait for the party on Saturday.''
Spooner, who is a single father and also received a tree for his family, says that he really appreciates the help provided by the VFW.
Post commander Bill North says that the post has been hosting a party for between 80 and 100 kids for the last several years and that 94 will be attending Saturday's party, which gets underway at 1 p.m. 20 pizzas from Lakeside Pizza followed by a make-your-own sundae buffet will be featured.
North said that Santa will arrive around 1:30 p.m. and will pass out personalized presents for each one of the children at the party.
''The girls from the auxiliary went out shopping on Black Friday to get the best deals for presents for the kids,'' said North, who expects that parents as well as grandparents will show up Saturday to witness the big smiles on the faces of the children as they get to open their presents.
He said that the post has been putting a lot of effort into community causes and last month raised $5,700 to assist homeless veterans at its annual Queen B Mania event.
''It's hard work but we hope that it will help us attract new and younger members. We're doing a lot of things to make the post more attractive for families, including getting rid of smoking at the post,'' said North.


Susan Karr , left, and her grandchildren Alex Fournier, 7, and Tyler Fournier, 10, and a friend, Nathaniel Spooner, were at Laconia VFW Post 1670 to pick up Christmas trees for their families which were provided by the post, which is holding a Christmas party for young people at the post Saturday afternoon starting at 1 p.m. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 12 December 2014 01:33

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Santa's Village opens today in Bristol

by Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — Those who missed attending Laconia's 39th annual Christmas Village — as well as those who were there but want to relive the magic — have an opportunity to experience the original attraction that served as its inspiration when Santa's Village opens this Friday at the Tapply-Thompson Community Center on North Main Street, Bristol.
Dick Tapply of Gilford, who launched Christmas Village during his term as Laconia's recreation director, recalled his childhood when his father decided to do something to make Christmas special for the Bristol community.
Richard "Wink" Tapply and his wife, Ruth, were creative and innovative people, Dick said. "One of things that Dad and Mom, being creative, loved to do was celebrate Christmas," he said. "He came up with the idea of having a Santa's workshop and a Christmas village, where Santa from the North Pole could come down to the community center sometime prior to Christmas and share the wonders of the holiday with all the children and their parents at the community center."
Wink Tapply was the first director of what then was known as the Bristol Community Center, and he and Ruth did the decorating, making it a family affair. As children, Dick and his brother, Charlie, were always involved in whatever their parents were doing, so they became elves — Dick creating objects from wood and Charlie operating a train set.
That was the birth of Santa's Village which this weekend, Dec. 12 - 14, will mark its 60th anniversary.
In the beginning, Santa's Village was quite simple, with Santa handing out simple toys to the children coming to see him. Then they created a chapel to bring in the spiritual side of the holiday. Gradually, more buildings were added and Santa's Village become more elaborate, with a ski slope, bake shop, and other activities. Soon a single floor was not enough, and the event came to fill all three floors of the community center.
A large mailbox outside allowed children to drop their letters to Santa, and Wink and Ruth would make sure that all letters were answered. Today, while waiting to go upstairs to see the village, children get to write their letters and see the Post Office elf stamp the envelope to be sure it makes it to the North Pole.
Over the past two weeks, volunteers, including local Boy Scouts and a contingent from J Jill in Tilton, have been setting up the village and decorating the community center in preparation for the event. A new lineup of elves has been training for the important roles they would have, and adults have transformed the building into a magical land for this weekend's opening.
While Santa Claus remains the main attraction, the centerpiece of the village is just outside his cottage: a two-track train set that Doug Williams has been operating since 1987. With mountains and tunnels set at a perfect height for young eyes to observe, the railroad attracts as much attention as the cookies and crafts that the elves are working so hard to supply.
Santa's Village will be open on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. and continue on Saturday and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 December 2014 01:27

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Hill School Board picks Newfound as new home for grade 6-12 students

By Thomas P. Caldwell

HILL — Following an inconclusive public hearing at which residents were divided over which option to recommend, the Hill School Board voted on Dec. 10 to pursue a tuition agreement with the Newfound Area School District, to begin with the 2015-16 academic year.
Hill residents had earlier voted to investigate ending their longstanding Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement with Franklin due to a perceived lack of academic rigor and the financial pressure on the schools from the city's tax cap. Hill would plan to remain with School Administrative Unit 18, but would send students to another school district if it proved feasible.
Initially showing an interest in accepting Hill students were Newfound, Merrimack Valley, and Franklin. Winnisquam did not submit a letter of interest because of time constraints but subsequently indicated an interest in accommodating Hill. Merrimack Valley, however, dropped out of the running.
Newfound had presented the most comprehensive package and the Hill board was leaning toward that district due to geographic proximity and existing connections — Hill families participate in activities at Bristol's Tapply-Thompson Community Center and know many of the families there.
Just prior to Wednesday's meeting, however, the board received bad news financially: Tuition to send 65 Hill students to Newfound would cost $839,917, with tuition to the middle school being $12,294 per student and the high school tuition being $13,243 per student. Hill currently pays $11,191 in tuition for Franklin Middle School and $9,089 for students at Franklin High.
Even more disturbing was the figure coming out of Franklin. Because of an overall decrease in the number of students in Franklin schools, combined with an increase in the operating budget, Franklin's middle school tuition next year would be $11,564.71, while the high school tuition would be $14,195.90, resulting in a total tuition cost of $864,847.32 — the highest of the three districts competing.
Winnisquam came in significantly lower, at $712,918, with tuition rates of $11,953 at the middle school and $10,484 at the high school.
Looking at it from a purely financial angle, Hill resident Paula McDonough said Winnisquam's offer would make the most sense. She noted that the majority of Hill residents are older and on fixed incomes and she said they probably would turn down a proposal that involved Newfound or Franklin.
Others in the audience were more concerned with academic offerings, athletics, and the percentage of students going on to college from the three school districts. When the school board was unable to answer many of the questions, people suggested postponing a decision until representatives from the various schools could be there to answer them.
Chair Shelly Henry pointed out that time constraints make that difficult, since they need to have a tuition agreement ready for budget purposes by mid-January, and to have a warrant article for the school district meeting just weeks later.
Board members later said they also wanted to avoid a "dog and pony show" where the various school districts would be trying to "sell" their schools.
Hopes for some kind of consensus in the audience to help make the school board's decision easier soon faded as speakers chose different schools to support. Many said that, for all its problems, Franklin still provided a good education and that many graduates went on to college and to good careers.
Others supported Newfound for its modern facilities, broad curriculum, and the best test scores of any of the three districts under consideration.
Winnisquam test scores are only marginally behind Newfound's, and the school offers a wider range of classes and more sports than Newfound. While it is more distant than Franklin or Newfound, that additional distance is not much more than a mile.
Some parents were concerned about moving students to a new district. Hill wants to allow students in grades 10, 11, and 12 to remain and graduate from Franklin High if they wish, while students in grades 6 through 9 would be required to attend the new school district. That troubled some who said it would be a big adjustment for the younger children to be thrust into an entirely new environment.
It was for that reason that many supported going with Newfound, since they already have some ties with the Newfound towns. Another reason is a longstanding rivalry with Winnisquam that might make integration there more difficult.
Those concerned about school safety pointed out that both Franklin and Winnisquam have school resource officers, while Newfound does not.
Nancy Coffin, vice-chair of the school board, said having an education leader was important and she noted that Winnisquam's superintendent has been there six years and just signed a new, two-year contract. Franklin has had several superintendents over the past few years and is doing a new superintendent search now; while Newfound's superintendent is in her second year there.
"The stability of the educational leader is important," she said.
Noting that she works at Winnisquam, Coffin said she nevertheless originally supported Newfound. "But I did not expect Winnisquam to come in this low. And they do offer the most educationally."
Resident Gerard Desrochers commented, "In the entire history of the AREA agreement, I've never seen a 50 percent increase. But I have to wonder about Winnisquam's tuition rate, long-term. I'm concerned that their proposal allows for a rate change after their school district meeting. We'll have developed a budget based on the tuition rate they quoted, and if it goes up, what are we to do?"
Desrochers continued, "I'm also concerned about Newfound. Franklin has had a tax cap for years, while Newfound has been under a cap for only two years. They had some severe decisions to make at the start of the year, and were saved because the revenues increased, but that might not happen in the coming year. Their tax cap is not tied to the cost of living, so it could be a big problem."
He concluded, "Maybe the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know."
A straw poll of the audience, after several Franklin supporters had already left, showed six supporting Franklin, nine supporting Newfound, and six supporting Winnisquam.
Superintendent Robert McKenney later addressed Franklin's increase, saying, "I sit here stunned. If we were going to fudge the numbers to win your support, we wouldn't have come up with this."
He said he went over the numbers with Business Administrator Amanda Bergquist to be sure they were right, and then again with Mike O'Neill, the former business administrator, and was assured that the calculation was correct, according to the existing AREA agreement.
Board member December Fortin commented, "I think there's more potential with Newfound. I don't see that emotional connection with Winnisquam."
When Henry finally made the motion to enter into negotiations with Newfound, all three board members voted in the affirmative.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 December 2014 01:22

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