ROTARY CLUB AGAIN HELPING PROVIDE CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR NEEDY FAMILIES

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METHUEN — The Methuen/Salem, N.H. Rotary Club continued its holiday tradition of giving by using the money raised in two 50/50 raffles to supply Christmas food baskets for more than a 100 needy families in the Merrimack Valley.

The $2,300 raffle proceeds benefited the Methuen Arlington Neighborhood, Inc., Methuen Housing Authority, St. Andrew Church and the YMCA of Methuen, along with Mary Queen of Peace in Salem.

Dennis Sweeney, a member of the Rotary Club and chairperson for the event, said he can’t remember exactly how long the club has been doing this, but it’s been at least 25 years.

Members of the Rotary Club took the money they raised, along with a $250 donation from Arthur Demoulas, and shopped for the food at the Market Basket on Haverhill Street in Methuen.

“I’m very pleased to have the community of the Merrimack Valley come together to help those who need to have a bright Christmas,” Sweeney said.

More than 40 volunteers showed up in the cafeteria at Presentation of Mary Academy on Dec. 16 to box up the food.

“Presentation of Mary came through for us,” Sweeney said. “I’m very thankful to Sister Susan for allowing us to use this space.”

Members of the Rotary Club, students from PMA and others started packing up the food at 8 a.m. Sweeney said by 9 a.m. they were finished and cleaning up the trash.

“We finished in about 45 minutes or so,” Sweeney said. “I think that is some sort of record.”

The food baskets included nonperishable items, including pie-crust mix and filling, stuffing, cranberries, a variety of canned vegetables, potatoes, yams, chicken broth and gravy. Each basket also contained a bag of apples.

“Bill Fitzgerald, the owner of Mann Orchard, gave us 12 bushels of apples this year,” Sweeney said. “I am so grateful to him. He gives us apples every year, without question or hesitation.”

PMA had held a food drive and all that was collected — macaroni and cheese, peanut butter among others — was divided into the food baskets for families of five or more.

Each family was also given a $10 gift certificate to Market Basket.

“This way the families can buy whatever else they need,” Sweeney said. “Whether it be a ham or turkey to complete their meal or milk and bread, it’s theirs to use as they choose.”