Empty Bowls dinner Nov. 17 to feature speakers on drug abuse

LACONIA — Jobs for American Graduates and Stand Up Laconia are hosting an evening of Empty Bowls at the Laconia Middle School on Thursday, Nov. 17, from 5 until 7 p.m. at Laconia Middle School.

In return for a suggested donation of $10 and an item of canned food, guest will enjoy a hearty meal of fresh baked bread and homemade soup provided by Tavern 27 and take home a take home a decorative handcrafted bowl made by art students from the the middle school.

After dinner, several speakers will offer fresh perspectives on the issue of substance abuse and the progress made in the city to spare and change lives. When the program ends, guest will leave with an empty bowl to remind them that every night far too many people in the country go without a meal or a place they call home.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry.

– Michael Kitch

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Woman escapes Weirs Boulevard stand-off by climbing out rear window of home


LACONIA — Police arrested a city man on Tuesday morning, alleging he assaulted a woman at his home and threatened to kill her if she attempted to leave. 11-15 James Patrick CunninghamJames Cunningham, 60, of 223 Weirs Boulevard, was taken into custody at about 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning, following a two-hour stand-off with police.

Laconia Police Capt. Matt Canfield said that the alleged victim, a woman in her 20s, called 911 at 7:49 a.m. on Tuesday and stated that that she had been assaulted several times during the night. Canfield said she told police that Cunningham had an array of weapons in the home, including knives, a sword and several firearms, including a shotgun.

Cunningham was known to police as a member of a gang, said Canfield.

Cunningham refused to leave the home when police first arrived, resulting in a stand-off situation that involved the activation of the Belknap Regional Special Operations Group. Laconia Fire Department was also on scene. Three nearby homes were evacuated, and traffic on Weirs Boulevard was rerouted onto White Oaks Road.

Canfield said that there was no evidence that the alleged victim was being physically restrained, yet said, "She was afraid to leave" due to threats of physical violence. "He said he'd slit her throat." The woman, in a room in the rear of the home, stayed on the phone with emergency dispatchers while police surveyed the home. When the situation seemed safe to do so, about a half-hour after police arrived, the woman climbed out of a window and into the protection of waiting officers.

While Cunningham was uncooperative with police, Canfield said that officers were able to contact Cunningham's attorney, who eventually persuaded Cunningham to exit his residence. However, Cunningham allegedly continued to resist attempts to arrest him, requiring police to use a Taser in order to arrest him.

Canfield said there was no evidence that Cunningham used any of the weapons in an illegal manner, though he confirmed that he had access to them.

Cunningham was charged with domestic violence simple assault, felony second degree assault – domestic violence, criminal threatening and resisting arrest. He is currently being held at Belknap County Jail.

11-15 Cunningham standoff

James Patrick Cunningham was arrested on Tuesday morning after a two-hour stand-off with Laconia Police who were responding to a report of domestic violence. Weirs Boulevard was closed to traffic as Laconia Police and members of the Belknap Regional  Special Operations Group surrounded the home where a 911 call originated. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Boys & Girls Club graduates junior tennis class


LACONIA — It took a few practices, but after some effort, 6-year-old Evi was able to catch a bouncing tennis ball and balance it on her racquet without it falling off.

With the assistance of volunteer tennis coach Kent Hemingway, Evi was one of 13 children Thursday who was able to master a racquet control trick that is part of the early stages of learning to play the sport.

"I like playing tennis because I get to hit the balls," she said matter of factly while she waited for Head Coach Kamal Gusine of the United States Tennis Association to call for everyone's presence at the soon-to-come awards ceremony.

Thursday was the final day of an eight-session, five-week program that brought tennis to the Boys and Girls Club for the first time. The National Junior Tennis and Learning network is part of the overall plan of the USTA to bring tennis to under-resourced youth in the United States.

The Boys and Girls Club indoor sessions are extension of an all-volunteer outdoor program that teaches youths in Laconia, Franklin, Tilton, Belmont, Meredith and Gilford to play a sport that many will continue to play in some form for the rest of their lives.

Thanks to a grant from the USTA obtained by member and Laconia Daily Sun Publisher Adam Hirshan, for two years now volunteers from the area, most of whom are members of Gilford Hills Tennis Club, have been teaching tennis at local tennis courts in cooperation with local parks and recreation departments.

The grant provides age-appropriate racquets, slightly larger tennis balls, lower nets and small miscellaneous items for the children to use while playing. At the end of the session, the participants get to keep the racquets.

According to Hemingway, the program at the Boys & Girls Club is different than the outdoor summer program in that the children participate in an educational component for about 30 to 45 minutes after their arrival at the club but before they all go into the gym to play tennis.

Hemingway said one young man who liked playing chess and doing math problems with him decided he would take up an offer to go upstairs and play some tennis. He been playing ever since.

A few of the Boys & Girls Club participants, like 8-year-old Connor, also play tennis in the summer league and, according to Hemingway, are showing some real aptitude for the game.

According to the NJTL website, students who play tennis are less likely to use drugs and alcohol and are far less likely to be obese. Gusine and his coaches also teach sportsmanship, for which there is an award, team-building, and learning to help others. There are usually four to five adults coaches at each session.

USTA member Bob Rondstadt said the members of the local association will be meeting with the executive director of the Central Boys and Girls Clubs in Concord to see determine if the program can be extended in Laconia this spring and expanded to clubs in Concord, Franklin and Penacook.

11-15 Tennis BGClub 10Nov16304816

Evie gets a high five from Coach Kamal Gosine with Coach Bob Rondstat during their tennis club graduation at the Laconia Boys and Girls Club. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


11-15 Tennis BGClub 10Nov16304822

Coach Bob Rondstat, Coach Carolyn Hemingway, Coach Kamal Gosine and Coach Kent Hemingway with the Laconia Boys and Girls Club tennis players at their graduation celebration Thursday afternoon.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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