MeredithMay2017

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Let me introduce you to the St. Vincent de Paul Society team

To The Daily Sun,

2016 marks the 25th year that the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Laconia has been serving the people of the Lakes Region by providing food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, disaster relief, and children's programs to those in need. Jo Carignan, Jeanette Buckley, John Peavey and I received 25 year service awards at our annual volunteer dinner in May.

In May 2002, I had the honor of being elected the fourth president of the Laconia Conference. While I will continue to volunteer with the organization, I am stepping down as its president. It's time for some "new blood" to head up our efforts. My husband (a former president also) and I moved to New Hampshire in 1991 and became involved with the society that same year. I will continue to manage the Thrift Store. I believe wholeheartedly in the organization and the work it does for our communities.

Let me introduce the other officers and their programs. Jo Carignan, with the able assistance of John Peavey and McKee Jack, manages our food pantry. The program served more than 6,000 people in 2016 in the Lakes Region. Food donations include meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, cereal, paper products, diapers, soap, detergents, and toothpaste. Most of the food is donated during the holidays.

Jeanette Buckley, Betty Gonyer, Bebe Lahey, and Sue Martino are my able supervisors in the Thrift Store. All items from the store are donated by people in the Lakes Region. While we sell most of these items, we do give away approximately $25,000 in furniture and clothes each year. The proceeds from the sales go to support our other programs.

The largest of our programs in terms of financial outlays is our financial assistance program. Under the able coordination of Bill Johnson, teams of 20 SVdP volunteers reach out to help more than 300 families in the Lakes Region with dental, medical, daycare, rent, utilities, car repairs and fuel assistance. They meet personally with all applicants to support them with financial help, budgeting, emotional support, encouragement and guidance with decision choices.

Long-time SVdP volunteer, Sue Page, monitors the society's Children Foundation. This program works with school nurses, guidance counselors and daycare centers to provide education-related assistance to children on the school's free and reduced lunch program. This includes our Christmas Program, "Project Pencil" school supplies in September, camperships in the summer, as well as sneakers, diapers, daycare, book scholarships, field trips and head lice shampoo during the school year. The Children's Foundation is a benefactor of the Children Auction's in December.

Supporting all of these programs are our financial gurus, Treasurer Neil Ahern and Assistant Treasurer Mary Beth Moran. They are responsible for keeping the books in order, complying with federal and state reporting requirements, making out checks to help others, and paying our general bills. Daryl Twombly cares for our building and grounds.

I hope this brief resume gives a little more light into our organization and its activities. As its outgoing president, I urge you to continue your support of our volunteers and our mission. Volunteers are always encouraged — call 524-5470 to discuss how you can help. Many thanks for your support.

Erika Johnson, President

St. Vincent de Paul Society

Laconia

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The lies that depression tells can exist only in isolation

To The Daily Sun,

Mr. Charles Wibel of Wolfeboro recently suggested that my political "rantings" seemed to indicate that I was on the verge of some form of collapse — possibly suicide. His letter hit me hard, not simply because of the ludicrousness of it, but because of my brother Tom's death back at the end of January. Tom suffered from depression and he committed suicide. My funny, sarcastic, generous, successful, helpful, and loving older brother couldn't see any of that in himself ... and it killed him. His depression created an impenetrable fortress that blocked the light, and prevented the love of his friends, his family, and any sense of comfort and confidence from reaching him.

My devastation and terror upon learning his fate that Friday morning was nothing compared to the absolute isolation that depression must have imposed on Tom. And while I have tried my best to respect his privacy — even in death — I have to tell the truth.

Depression lied to my brother, and told him that he was worthless. A burden. Unlovable. Undeserving of life. I imagine these lies were like a kind of permanent white noise in his life — a running narration of how unworthy he was. After years of the lies and the torment, my brother believed that his depression told him the truth. He'd tried killing himself two years earlier, and I was grateful that he reached out to me then. He sought help. I thought he was better. But he wasn't. He was simply hiding his embarrassment at having failed at even suicide. And internally — in the darkness of his thoughts — he fell apart, and shattered into a million pieces that he managed to keep secret because no one was looking. He was so wrong. Depression lied, but I will tell the truth.

Here is the truth: My brother was amazing. He exuded life and made my life millions of times better just by existing. Tom was a good friend. I hear that he was a good boss, and a great co-worker. I read his work reviews, and his bosses depended on him. I know that any time I needed help, any time I was struggling, any time my work overwhelmed me, Tom was there. Any time I had a good day, I'd share it with him. He was my role model. He was my idea of a true adventurer and I always wished I'd been able to hike or climb or sail with him. Tom and I had a relationship the likes of which I'll never have again. But his depression stole decades of our lives together. Depression lied, but I have to tell the truth.

My brother's depression fed on his desire to keep his life secret and hidden from everyone. I could not save my brother. God knows I tried. I don't think anyone could have. I could not reach my brother through his secrecy and his depression. Tom slipped from my grasp and I cannot bring him back. I can only urge others to distrust the devastating voice of depression. I can plead for people to seek help and treatment. I can talk about depression and invite others to the conversation. I can tell everyone that will listen that depression lies. I still have to tell the truth.

The lies of depression can exist only in isolation. Brought out into the open, lies are revealed for what they are. Those lies are the stories that depression makes up in your head about everything you do. Everything you ever thought you failed at. Even at those things you succeeded at. It will do its damnedest to devalue who you are for yourself and for the world.

Here is the truth: You all have value. You all have worth. You all are loved. Trust the voices of those who love you. Trust the enormous chorus of voices that say only one thing: You matter. Depression is a liar, but we must ALL tell the truth.

My initial letter was not published by The Sun, perhaps due to the sensitive nature of the topic. But if we don't talk about it, if we joke about it, if we let it lie hidden, if we sweep it under the rug, then more families will suffer and more siblings will lose someone important. I hope that The Sun will publish this letter and allow it to serve as more of a public service announcement at a time of year where this sort of thing is far more prevalent.

Alan Vervaeke

Gilford

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