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Salvation Army, Sun-Star begin fundraiser

"A Helping Hand at Christmas" got under way this week, and its organizers hope the holiday relief program resonates once again with the community.

This is the 21st year the Merced Sun-Star and The Salvation Army have collaborated on a donation program to make the Christmas holidays more enjoyable for less-fortunate Merced County residents.

John Wainwright, Helping Hand chairman, said a $65,000 goal has been adopted for this year's campaign, He hopes that's a realistic figure, given a tight economy and a tough year in the real estate market.

"This (Helping Hand) helps an awful lot of people," Wainwright said. "The needs are still there like it seems they always are. We are looking forward to another good year of the community responding."

Hank Vander Veen, Merced Sun-Star publisher, said with the community's support, he hopes Helping Hand will be very successful again this year. Each year the program has grown and the Sun-Star is proud of be part of it, he added.

Wainwright said the main needs are food, clothing and assistance with rents, utility bills, house and car repairs. Last year $72,870 was raised during the contribution period which begins at Thanksgiving and stretches through the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or