Published November 19, 2020


NORTH READING — For the 31st consecutive year, the Transcript has launched its Christmas appeal, the Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund (NHNF), which supports the volunteers at Christian Community Service (CCS).

This locally grown nonprofit organization is most well known for creating and operating the North Reading Food Pantry. But this all-volunteer group provides more than groceries to over 100 households in town. Its mission is to provide assistance to local residents in need in the form of emergency financial support combined with the resources provided by the food pantry to help clients get through hard times.

Providing holiday dinners at both Thanksgiving and Christmas is also a key part of their mission. Holiday gift baskets of food are provided to families who use the food pantry. CCS volunteers also partner with the Horseshoe Grille each year to make and deliver over 20 hot Thanksgiving meals to shut-ins on the holiday.

And the CCS Take-a-Tag program ensures that local children in need receive Christmas gifts from their wish list as well as warm clothing and other essentials. There is a Take-a-Tag tree in the lobby of the Post Office at 174 Park St. The concept is simple: purchase the item described on the tag for a boy or girl and return it attached to the gift. CCS volunteers will ensure that Santa delivers it to the right child.

Lastly, CCS provides school-age children in need with backpacks filled with school supplies each September.

Comprised of representatives from each of the town’s churches, CCS members also help run ecumenical events in town, including Christmas on the Common for the past 40 years and an Easter Sunrise Service.

All services provided to community members by CCS are offered on the basis of financial need, not religious affiliation, in any.

Reader support crucial

For three decades, the readers of the Transcript have ensured the success of CCS through financial support and we are hopeful that this generous spirit will continue.

This has been a tumultuous year for us all and many more families are depending upon the food pantry to make ends meet during this pandemic.

Back in 1990, when the Transcript created this neighbor fund, the world was in crisis too. We were at war in the Persian Gulf, the men and women of the National Guard were being deployed to the Middle East and yellow ribbons of support were tied around every tree, worn on lapels, and as magnets on cars. Unemployment was high and the state’s economy was struggling.

Against this backdrop, Annie Didsbury, the chairman of CCS at the time, came to the old Transcript office on Bow Street and appealed to publisher Albert E. Sylvia Sr. to print a few stories requesting funds to “make the Christmas season a happier time for many North Reading families.”

Any donations would be used by CCS to “buy food for Christmas dinners and needed clothing for children.” The Transcript agreed to acknowledge each donation in the paper and give the donations to CCS in the name of the donors. “Time is very short so we appeal to all those generous neighbors to please make a donation as soon as possible. Please don’t feel shy about donating a single dollar if that is all you can afford, every donation will help,” Sylvia wrote.

The Transcript pledged the first $100 to the “helping our neighbors fund.” After the first week, $650 dollars was raised; by the second week it had increased to $1,576. By the third and final week, it had closed out at $2,306.67.

Those 1990 donations benefitted 44 families and 66 children, with money left over to help some families with their oil heat bills.

At the time, neither Al Sylvia or Annie Didsbury could have envisioned the partnership between the Transcript and CCS would have lasted this many years or grow into an annual appeal. It would be another six years before CCS would open its first Food Pantry, in a vacant second floor office behind The Hornet’s Nest. Prior to 1996, all food CCS collected went directly into the holiday gift baskets or cupboards of the recipients.

We’re proud of the partnership we’ve fostered with CCS over the years and remain extremely grateful to the generous readers of this newspaper who have supported the Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund for the past three decades. In 2019 alone, the fund raised $31,532.

How to donate

As promised, the Transcript will acknowledge each donation received in print and pass them on to CCS. All donations are tax deductible as CCS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Those who donate $250 or more will be automatically mailed a tax receipt. CCS will provide receipts upon request for donations under $250 if the donor provides a name and address.

If you wish to remain anonymous, or dedicate your donation to a loved one, please include a note with your check.

Please make checks payable to “Christian Community Service” or “CCS,” not to the newspaper. Checks may be mailed to the North Reading Transcript “NHNF” at 26 Albion St., Wakefield, MA 01880. You may also drop donations off in person at our office at the above address in downtown Wakefield (a night drop box is located opposite the front door for contactless donations).

Those who wish to drop off their donation in person may do so at the North Reading branch of the Reading Cooperative Bank, 170 Park St. (next to Ryer’s Store). Please specify to the bank teller your intention to donate to the Transcript’s “Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund” to ensure it is recorded on the tally sheet as you would like it to appear in print. The bank forwards these sheets to us for acknowledgement in the newspaper.