Santa and his elves take an icy plunge into Lake Opechee for the annual Turkey Plunge on Saturday. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — With nine teams participating, this year’s Turkey Plunge exceeded its fundraising goal by raising $11,109 for the Salvation Army’s charitable giving during the holiday season.
Don Morrissey, who has been with the Turkey Plunge since its inception 13 years ago and now serves as event chairman, said there is a potential for an additional $3,000-$4,000 from a December promotion by T-Bones Restaurant that earmarks money for the Turkey Plunge.
Capt. Scott McNeill of the Salvation Army’s Laconia Corps said the teams were much larger this year, many of them double the size of past years’ teams. In all, there were 68 “plungers” who braved the cold waters of Lake Opechee to support the cause.
Last year, pledges and donations to the Salvation Army allowed the local corps to provide 10,000 meals at the Friendly Kitchen, which offers free meals on Tuesdays through Saturdays and the last Sunday of each month; 9,300 days of transitional housing at Carey House; 6,500 grocery orders; and toys for more than 1,000 children during the holiday season.
The UPS team led the Turkey Plunge in pledges, raising $3,135 for the cause. The Salvation Army was second, with $1,671; and Belknap County was third, with $1,660.
The plunger raising the most money was Jim Gentile, with $2,000, followed by Hunter Taylor at $1,325 and the Salvation Army captains at $1,240.
The teams with the most plungers were Laconia High School, Bank of New Hampshire, and T-Bones. Kellen Mitchell was named the plunger showing the most spirit.
“We’re energized this time of year,” McNeill said. “The only time we [he and his wife, Nora] swim is in November. The Turkey Plunge is a lot of fun. It’s a great community event and a grassroots fundraiser, with good people and good conversation. ... When you’ve got a group of people like that, you want join in that energy and enthusiasm.”
The Salvation Army sees a growing need for assistance, with Nora McNeill noting that there are a lot more single residents coming for help from the food pantry.
“We continue to see large numbers in our soup kitchen,” said Scott McNeill, and he said there is always a need for more people to help out by cooking, serving, and cleaning up after the meals. Several groups and individuals pitch in, including churches, a Rotary club, and a law firm. One person volunteers one day a month and a couple prepare the meals one Saturday a month, McNeill said.
“We’re always looking for people to volunteer. Two or three people can handle a lunch,” McNeill said.
The Salvation Army has taken applications from families seeking toys and other help, and McNeill said they are still accepting hardship applications from those in emergency situations.
“An important part of the year for us is the bell-ringing tradition,” he said. The first collection kettles went out on Nov. 16, and McNeill said they get volunteers from businesses, the Rotary and Lions clubs, and other members of the community.
“We’re having challenges in finding bell-ringers,” he said, inviting anyone who is interested to stop by the Salvation Army headquarters at 177 Union Avenue, Laconia, or call the office at 603-524-1834.
“The Main Street location is especially important to us,” he said. “People wait for the bell-ringers to show up and they really rally around it. We’re grateful for the people who make it their ‘holiday toll.’”
UPS package car driver Jimmy Gentile and Laconia center manager Tony DeBlaise try walking on water during the annual Turkey Plunge at Lake Opechee on Saturday. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Belknap County Attorney Andy Livernois, Sheriff Mike Moyer and finance director Lori Sharp take the plunge. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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