Friday, July 14, 2017

Water skiing Santa helps bring Christmas in July to Raymond Food Pantry by Walter Lunt

Skiing Santa on Thomas Pond
Donations to the Raymond Food Pantry are typically down during the summer months. This year, however, an unexpected and unlikely, good samaritan in a red suit, showed up at just the right time. It was Santa! In July! On water skis!
“Donations dip during the summer months,” stated Raymond Lions Club volunteer and Food Pantry director Gary Bibeau “This is going to get me over the hump this season.”

He was referring to a sizable load of food and paper goods from the Thomas Pond Terrace Road Association which arrived quite unexpectedly last Sunday.

Bibeau and other pantry volunteers seemed a bit perplexed over the source of their good fortune until Santa’s helpers arrived with a pickup truck full of pantry donations, and an explanation.

It seems about ten years ago several families decided to have an off-season lakeside Christmas celebration, including a traditional turkey dinner, holiday music, festive clothes and Yankee gift swap. Christmas in July. year, a celebrant donned a Santa suit and water skied around the lake tossing packets of Christmas candy to swimmers and children. It became a yearly tradition.
This year, the group invited the entire Raymond shore to participate by donating to a worthy cause. The Raymond Food Pantry was chosen.

Officials of the Road Association sent notices to all residences saying that they could contribute by placing non-perishable foods and paper goods on their docks after the Santa Candy Run. 

Retrieval of the items was achieved by pontoon boat. Vinny Maietta eased his vessel to within inches of the dozens of donor docks while volunteer Ed Dooley, dressed as Santa, picked up and piled the donations onto the boat.

“Lots of young children (were) excited to see us,” said Maietta; “Santa Ed was a huge hit with young and old. We got 50 to 60 boxes and bags of mostly food.” And he continued, “(The) Thomas Pond Terrace neighborhood is such a great community. We enjoyed all the thoughtful comments from the donors.”

Ellie Miller lives on the Raymond shore with her parents and remembers waiting for the annual event when she was six years old.

“When I was little I always couldn’t wait for Christmas in July. I got excited for Santa to water ski by and throw candy.”

Bibeau, the pantry director, said he was particularly pleased with the wide variety of items: “…the
baked beans, egg pasta, macaroni and cheese, salad dressings and jellies and jams. These are items not normally available through the USDA distribution program.”

He explained the Raymond Food Pantry is open to Raymond residents and to seniors who qualify for the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Local donations come not only from families and individuals, but also from: churches, civic organizations, Good Shepard Food Bank and local businesses like Good Life Market and Hannaford Supermarkets. Seasonally, fresh produce comes from the Raymond Library garden and from the Jordan Small School garden, which is maintained by students and staff through the summer. 

“Hannaford, in particular, has been very good to us,” said Bibeau.

“Our patrons are the elderly and handicapped, those that are challenged in various ways or have medical issues and families dealing with break-ups or job loss.”

Numbers served in the month of May, the latest figures available, were 69 households that totaled 171 individuals.
The pantry is heavily supported by the Raymond Lions Club, which also sponsors the annual Christmas Tree Lighting (in December) and the U.S. flags along Route 302.

Skiing Santa prefers to remain anonymous, but issued a brief statement to The Windham Eagle: “This year really felt like the spirit of Christmas. Maybe next year we can expand the effort and attract some volunteers on the (town of) Casco side of the lake.”

Ellie Miller, now 13, echoed the sentiment, “I was always excited to get something, but this year was special because I was able to give something.”

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