BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Daily News, led by publisher Richard J. Warren, for decades has helped to feed the hungry, clothe the cold, heat homes and provide children with toys when Santa needed help.
Through the Santa’s Helper Fund, created 35 years ago by Warren’s mother, Joanne Van Namee, more than three-quarters of a million dollars has been raised to help the needy, and every cent went to support the local Salvation Army.
For those years of service, Warren and the newspaper were awarded the prestigious Others Award, The Salvation Army’s highest community service award, during its annual volunteer recognition brunch Wednesday at the organization’s facility on South Park Street.
“I’m truly honored,” Warren said after the announcement. Many in the room of 150-plus stood, applauding the achievement.
“The Salvation Army holds a special place for me, my family and the newspaper,” Warren said.
Maj. David Kelly, Northern New England Division leader for The Salvation Army, made the presentation, saying the honor cannot be earned in one year or by half-hearted service.
“The award is presented to those who demonstrate a sincere compassion for an extended period of time … over a lifetime,” he said.
Santa’s Helper is supported by people from all over the region who donate online, mail in contributions, or stop by the newspaper and drop cash and checks in a box on the front counter, often dedicating their donation to a loved one.
The donations, even if anonymous, are acknowledged in print with a colorful Santa logo in the newspaper as a thank you to those who give.
This year’s goal to raise $50,000 was exceeded, with $62,000 in donations coming in, an amazing feat in these hard times, said Capt. Josh Lyle, who runs the local chapter with his wife, Capt. Catherine Lyle.
The Salvation Army’s Bangor chapter served more than 210,000 people in the last year, by providing a number of different services, including a daily hot meal, heating and other types of assistance, clothing, and toys for children, he said.
“That’s a lot of people,” Josh Lyle said. “In 2008, many of our donations are down.”
The Salvation Army runs a thrift store on Broadway in Bangor, offers Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. Christian-based Sunday worship, and offers after-school programs from children and teens.
During the volunteer recognition ceremony on Wednesday, the city’s Lions Club also was honored for collecting $3,153 in donations while running the bell ringer fundraiser during the holiday Kettle Campaign.
April Bowley, director of Working Opportunities Unlimited, was named the Volunteer of the Year and honored along with her seven-member staff, who run the Thrift Store.A new emergency response vehicle and a new volunteer newsletter also were unveiled during the gathering.